Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says it’s time Canada reassess its relationship with China, amid mounting concerns the country concealed information about the spread of COVID-19 within its borders.
In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Scheer said China’s handling of the pandemic has demonstrated that the “communist regime” can’t be trusted.
"We are now in the middle of a health pandemic where information, being provided to the [World Health Organization], is not reliable, not accountable and therefore it’s having an effect on decisions here," he said.
The Conservative leader has criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in recent days for not publicly condemning China for such accusations.
On Friday, authorities in Wuhan, China -- the original epicentre of the virus -- revised their death toll to a 50-per-cent increase. This comes days after the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report that China had shielded information about the extent of the outbreak domestically.
"It’s becoming more and more clear we cannot depend on China as a reliable ally, as a partner in our values," said Scheer.
"We need to re-think our relationship with China."
When pressed about the update out of Wuhan, Trudeau said his attention right now is focused squarely on fighting the spread at home.
"My job right now is to make sure that Canadians get the best support, the best protection, and are able to get through this as best we possibly can," Trudeau said Friday during his daily press briefing.
"There will be plenty of time to point fingers, to ask questions to draw conclusions and to make ensure that there are consequences for things that different countries may have done during this pandemic right now. My job is to look out for Canadians."
U.S. President Donald Trump this week announced his administration would halt funding to the WHO pending an investigation into the group’s "mismanaging" of the pandemic and not holding China to account.
Since then, Trudeau has fielded questions about whether Canada would follow suit and withhold funds given much of the public health directives applied by authorities domestically have reflected WHO guidelines.
Trudeau and his team have remained steadfast in their support for the WHO but acknowledged there will be questions about the global response once COVID-19 phases out.
"We will continue to work with partners and allies and international institutions and organizations, as we figure out how to get through today and tomorrow. But there will be many questions to ask once we are through this on how various countries behaved," said Trudeau Friday.
Scheer in the same interview said Canada needs to start holding the WHO accountable now "for their dependence or reliance or over-confidence on the information that is coming from China," he said.
"We need to hold institutions accountable, we need to scrutinize their decisions and that’s what the Conservative Party is saying right now. Let’s get these officials before committee, let’s stop vouching for the communist regime in China."
He said the cost of following WHO orders has been severe, pointing specifically to their advice not to impose travel restrictions from China.
"At the time, they were suggesting calls to restrict travel from China were racist. Well, look, we’re talking about containing a virus, we’re talking about ensuring that we have time here in Canada to build up capacity. So clearly mistakes were made."
He recommends the government diversify their sources of information on COVID-19 in light of China’s changing data.
"We have experts here, we have Canadian experts who have called for different courses of action or earlier intervention. There are countries around the world who are implementing different approaches in terms of ramping up their testing and tracing, they seem to have gotten ahead of the curve," said Scheer.
Canada’s ministry of public services and procurement is working closely with companies on the ground in Shanghai to store, screen, and transport personal protective equipment back to Canada.
Minister Anita Anand said this streamlined supply chain was done out of a need to ensure essential materials arrive without delay and interference.