question period — Health

COVID-19 Pandemic

December 15, 2020

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, my question for the government leader today concerns a photo op this morning at the Civic Campus by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health. All campuses of the Ottawa Hospital are under full visitor restrictions with the exception of essential care partners and paid support workers.

Leader, people in Ottawa are told that they cannot support family members when they require hospitalization. Those seeking medical attention, emergency surgery and cancer patients must go to the hospital alone in stressful times as they are asked to respect COVID measures.

Yet, leader, the Prime Minister and Minister Hajdu, their staff, security and media walked around the Ottawa Hospital for a photo op. Now, I need to clarify, leader, that I am not blaming the media, as they are required to cover the Prime Minister.

Leader, what is the Prime Minister’s message to Ottawa families who cannot visit or support their hospitalized loved ones about this photo op this morning?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)

Thank you for your question. I haven’t seen the photo and am not aware of the particular event, so I’m not prepared to characterize it as simply a photo op.

I would offer this in response to your question: We are at the beginning of an important phase of both the distribution of the vaccines, which we have been able to procure, and their administration throughout the country.

It is a regrettable fact, but a fact nonetheless — and an understandable one in some cases — that some Canadians are hesitant to receive the vaccine. They have expressed so in polls, perhaps out of a concern — however well or not well-founded — with the speed at which they were developed. Others, and clearly regrettably, are opposed to vaccinations for reasons which I do not believe, and this government does not believe, are well-grounded in science.

Having not seen this event to which you referred, I would venture to say that it is a legitimate objective of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health to communicate to Canadians that, indeed, vaccinations have begun and to reassure Canadians by seeing images of the process unfolding. This is to demonstrate that it is not only a safe and appropriate step for Canadians to look forward to and take, but one that is encouraged by the government.


Leader, of course, the photo op wasn’t about the Prime Minister receiving the vaccine, so I’m not sure where that answer was leading.

The Prime Minister has said he wants to lead by example by staying home in his cottage; maybe that’s where he should have stayed rather than going to the Ottawa Hospital.

The Prime Minister’s photo op this morning showed poor judgment, leader. Residents of Ottawa with loved ones receiving end-of-life care or with babies in intensive care are being granted hospital visits for exceptional purposes. How must they feel about seeing this?

Minister Hadju said today that she was emotional now that vaccines have arrived in Canada. Families and patients have been emotional for months as they face serious medical issues alone while respecting COVID-19 protocols at the hospital, which are meant to keep us all safe. Is this morning just another example of one rule for the Prime Minister and another rule for everyone else?

Senator Gold

Thank you for your question. The short answer is no. I will repeat, it is important for the government to indicate and exemplify the processes that are underway to keep Canadians safe. We all, in our own personal lives and our circles, are deeply affected by the isolation that our loved ones, especially those in hospital or long-term care homes, are forced to endure, in a most immediate way; including my family, and I’m sure most of ours. It is not for a lack of concern or compassion, and it is certainly with understanding of how we all, here in Ottawa and elsewhere, must go through this most difficult time that I offer this answer. I hope that it is satisfactory to you.