Liberals accuse Scheer of Food Guide 'misinformation,' deny politicizing issue
OTTAWA – Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor is accusing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer of spreading "misinformation" about the Canada Food Guide.
Responding to Scheer's comments, that he would review the new version of Canada's Food Guide if he becomes prime minister, Petitpas Taylor defended the work her government did to update the document and took aim at what she said was Conservative politicians wanting to "impose their ideology instead of relying on facts.
Speaking at the Dairy Farmers of Canada annual meeting in Saskatoon last week, Scheer said he would give the new Food Guide a new look because he thinks it is "not based on sound science." He also went on to say at the industry gathering that he believes chocolate milk "saved" his son's life, as a picky eater.
Scheer's comments have been largely rebutted by health experts and dieticians, saying that Scheer’s position is the one not based in evidence. Some said that Scheer's remarks were made in an attempt to secure the support of the supply-managed dairy sector, which has been credited with helping Scheer secure his positon in a closely-fought Conservative leadership bid.
Facing questions about whether she was further politicizing the issue by raising it again, Petitpas Taylor said the matter of the Food Guide is not a political debate, and that Scheer was the one doing the politicizing.
"We want to make sure that the misinformation that Andrew Scheer was sharing last week that people can see that it is not factual. We have worked hard, our officials have worked extremely hard, to make sure that we present a good tool for Canadians," she said.
The Food Guide was updated in January, for the first time in over a decade after various rounds of consultations. The latest version puts a decreased emphasis on the consumption of dairy and meat, recommends that water be the "beverage of choice," and suggests that plant-based proteins should be consumed more often.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pounced on Scheer’s remarks, accusing him of "declaring war" on the Canada Food Guide, which is most often used in schools and by health professionals.
"Andrew Scheer's opposition to it is just one troubling example of Conservative opposition to facts," Petitpas Taylor said.
'Isn't just about the Food Guide'
During the press conference, Petitpas Taylor was joined by infrastructure and communities parliamentary secretary Marco Mendicino. The pair questioned if a Scheer-led government would walk back other Liberal changes that they say are evidence and science-based, like the long-form census.
As one of their first acts in government, the Liberals restored the mandatory long-form census, which was heralded as a win for informed decision-making. Former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper eliminated the national survey of Canadians in 2010 and instead issued a voluntary National Household Survey that had a significantly smaller response rate.
The revived census, issued in 2016, brought to light new information about Canadian demographics. The next census is scheduled to be conducted in 2021.
"This isn't just about the Food Guide, this is about their positions when it comes to science and evidence," Petitpas Taylor said.
In an emailed response to the Liberals' accusations, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre said that the Conservatives "will not do any of the things the two Trudeau Liberal MPs alleged." He described the Liberals' claims as "a bunch of baseless allegations."
With files from CTV News' Ryan Flanagan