question period — Health

COVID-19 Pandemic--Rapid Testing

December 16, 2021


Hon. Michael L. MacDonald
[14:49]

Honourable senators, I have a question on the important issue of rapid testing.

In response to the Omicron variant, many provinces are rolling out rapid tests. The federal government has allocated $1.7 billion this fiscal year for those tests, but in November 2020, Minister Freeland was asked about the use of rapid tests to support the reopening of businesses, and she responded by stating:

. . . We cannot peddle snake oil to Canadians . . . .

Senator Gold, why would Minister Freeland compare the provision of rapid testing to peddling snake oil?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
[14:49]

Senator, thank you for your question. Without being fully apprised of the context within which the question has been asked and the answer given, I’m reluctant to speculate on why the minister answered that way.

It is clear that rapid testing is one of the important tools to help us cope with the ongoing pandemic. We know that rapid tests are not a substitute for the molecular tests, but they are an important tool. That’s why the federal government has invested significantly and made them available to all provinces and territories.

How they are used by the provinces and how they are understood or misunderstood by the population is a separate matter, but I’m afraid I cannot answer your question without really knowing the context in which it was posed and answered.

[14:50]

Senator, I appreciate your serious approach to this question. I find it hard to believe that a minister of the Crown would make such a flippant remark about such an important issue.

Are you not concerned that the Government of Canada has put out such a poor communication strategy with this type of rhetoric on such an important health issue?

Senator Gold
[14:51]

It’s the position of the government that the work done to make rapid testing kits available to all provinces and territories was a significant and positive step forward.

Again, I am confident that the Government of Canada and the ministers responsible take this important issue very seriously and will continue to do so.