The Conservative Party of Canada is calling on the head of Canada’s public service to investigate the decision by the Public Health Agency of Canada not to hold briefings to update Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic during the election.
In a letter signed by Conservative MP Michael Barrett, the party alleges the decision not to hold any briefings since the election was announced violates the Caretaker Convention which dictates that public servants should simply be caretakers during a federal election, continue as usual and not make any decision that could influence the campaign.
“Political interference directing the PHAC to change its manner of health briefings, to take into account the fact of the 44th general election, requires an immediate investigation,” Barrett wrote to Janice Charette, interim clerk of the Privy Council.
“Such conduct clearly violates the Caretaker Convention, and importantly, is interfering in a crucial public health function in the midst of a pandemic. Further, it was wrong for Justin Trudeau to presume that he can supplant the PHAC as the source for ‘health briefings’ as he campaigns as a partisan during the election.”
The agency has not yet responded to a request for comment on the letter but in a statement Wednesday, it said Dr. Theresa Tam will keep updating Canadians, but will do so through weekly statements rather than briefings.
“As Dr. Tam notes in her statement issued this morning “with reduced reporting over the weekends and national indicator data being collated over the week, I will release my statements each Friday over the coming weeks,” the agency wrote. “Should there be a need for press briefings, they will be arranged as required.”
Officials with the New Democratic Party said they also question why the briefings stopped and would like to see them resume.
Liberal Party spokesperson Thierry Bélair pointed to comments Trudeau made on the campaign trail Wednesday.
“The public health agency of Canada makes its decisions about how to best communicate in various situations with Canadians and they’ll continue to make sure that Canadians are getting the information they need to stay safe.”
More to come…
Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at [email protected]