Conservative leader Erin OÕToole asks a question during question period in the House ofd Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Opposition pushes for sweeping parliamentary probe of COVID-19 response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is calling on the minority Liberals to release a vast trove of documents about the government’s response to the first wave of COVID-19 so that Parliament can draw lessons and better respond to the ongoing second wave and future waves of the pandemic.

O’Toole, who heads Canada’s Official Opposition, has introduced a motion calling for a probe by the House of Commons health committee into the government’s handling of the pandemic. If passed, the motion would force the Trudeau government to handover thousands of documents, emails, briefing notes and other records from various government departments, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office.

“The Liberals’ response to COVID-19 needs to be reviewed,” O’Toole told reporters Thursday morning.

“We want to offer the government a chance to work with all parties, improve its approach and act with transparency.”

The Liberals, who survived a confidence vote on Wednesday, counter that the range of documents demanded by the Conservatives is so broad and massive that the workload to locate and produce them to the parliamentary committee would simply paralyze government operations in the middle of the pandemic.

The motion would also direct the health committee to look at the government’s reliance on World Health Organization recommendations on travel restrictions and mask use, its efforts to approve rapid COVID-19 testing, federal health transfer payments to the provinces, and the partial shutdown of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network early warning system.

The motion is expected to be put to a vote on Monday.

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