Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing back against Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s accusation that the federal government’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines is a joke.
Trudeau took a poke at Ford during a virtual Liberal fundraiser Wednesday night with Procurement Minister Anita Anand, who is in charge of securing vaccines for Canada.
He praised Anand for doing “an incredible job” that has resulted in Canada receiving millions more doses ahead of schedule.
Indeed, Trudeau said the country is on track to have “most Canadians” injected with at least one dose of a vaccine “by the end of June, so we can have a better summer.”
Until now, wary of further production interruptions like those that delayed Canada’s supply of vaccines in February, Trudeau has been unwilling to go beyond his months-old promise that all Canadians who want a vaccine will get one by the end of September.
Earlier this week, Ford blamed the federal government’s inability to secure sufficient doses on a reliable timetable for the fact that Ontario has distributed vaccines unevenly across the province. Some cities, including Ottawa, have complained they’re not getting a fair per capita share of available doses.
“We do not have enough vaccines from the federal government and it’s a joke,” Ford complained, accusing Trudeau’s government of “dropping the ball majorly.”
But Trudeau told Wednesday’s fundraiser that “one of the easiest things to do is to try and point fingers and deflect.”
While he can take criticism, Trudeau said: “I want to take a moment to defend you, Anita.”
He said he promised all premiers “many, many months ago” that Canada would get six million doses by the end of March. That promise was greeted with some skepticism, he added.
“I said, ‘No, no, Doug, you can count on that, we’re going to get them because Anita has told me we will,”’ Trudeau said.
“Well, I guess to a certain point he might have a point that we didn’t get six million doses by the end of March. We are … going to have about 9.5 million doses by the end of this week.
“We’re well beyond the six million doses we promised.”
Earlier Wednesday, at a joint federal-provincial announcement on funding for a vaccine production facility in Toronto, Ford declined to expand on his criticism of COVID-19 vaccine procurement.
“Are we going to have as a big family a few differences? Sure we are,” he said, preferring to concentrate on how collaboratively all three levels of government have been working since the pandemic hit Canada more than a year ago.
By Wednesday evening, however, Ford was tweeting that Ontario received 809,000 fewer vaccine doses in March than it had been promised.
“That’s 809,000 Ontarians who could have received a shot but didn’t. We need more vaccines!”