Conservatives want emergency committee meeting on federal Omicron response

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says his MPs are moving to hold an emergency meeting of the House of Commons Health Committee to examine what he called “critical gaps” in the federal government’s ability to manage COVID-19’s continued spread in the wake of the Omicron variant.

He said that while lockdowns and “restrictions of liberty” were required earlier in the pandemic, now that Canada has a high vaccination rate and access to COVID-19 testing and other tools, it shouldn’t be necessary for the country to be starting 2022 under a new series of restrictions despite record-breaking case counts.

“Millions of children are once again doing school from home. Parents, small business owners, and everyday Canadians are once again being asked to put their lives on hold, to sacrifice their personal liberties, and to deal with more anxiety and uncertainty,” O’Toole told reporters Thursday.

“In a population that is now largely fully vaccinated, in fact the action and inaction by the Trudeau government is normalizing lockdowns and restrictions as the primary tool to fight the latest COVID-19 variant. It didn’t have to be this way,” he said.

O’Toole, who received his COVID-19 booster this week, said that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should be doing more than giving “pep talks” to the country—a reference to his national COVID-19 update press conferences, the latest of which took place on Wednesday— saying that in his view the federal Liberals have failed to learn lessons from earlier pandemic waves.

“Canada desperately needs federal leadership to get our lives back. We need to ensure that all of the provinces, all communities, all schools, all workplaces, have the tools they need to help manage COVID to ensure we can return to normal as quickly as possible and keep things there,” he said.

The House of Commons is not scheduled to resume until Jan. 31, however, if at least four members of a committee from at least two different political parties call for an emergency meeting, one can be convened, so the Conservatives will be looking to their opposition counterparts for backing in order for this emergency meeting to become a reality.

O’Toole said his party wants the committee to look at why Canada is unable to “effectively manage COVID-19 variants despite the high vaccination rates we now have as a country.”