Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government Tuesday after Alberta's premier suggested Ottawa is dragging its feet on approving potential screening devices and treatments for COVID-19.
On Sunday, Jason Kenney tweeted that he had directed staff to consider using tests, vaccines or medications "that have been approved by the high standards of at least one credible peer country's drug agency."
That could include products approved by organizations like the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States.
"We won't wait for Health CDA to play catch up," Kenney wrote.
I have directed our officials to consider use of COVID19 tests, vaccines, or medications that have been approved by the high standards of at least one credible peer country’s drug agency, e.g. @EMA_News, @US_FDA. We won’t wait for Health CDA to play catch up https://t.co/eYFSf7bbx2
— Jason Kenney (@jkenney) April 12, 2020
Trudeau was asked about Kenney's accusation on Tuesday and what consequences Alberta could face if it went around Health Canada, though he didn't directly address the premier's statement.
"We are in an unprecedented crisis and that creates a significant level of anxiety so I understand that people can get anxious and impatient about things," Trudeau said. "But as a government we are going to remain grounded in science, we are going to be grounded in our experts who are doing an excellent job in ensuring that Canadians are kept safe and healthy."
Federal officials also addressed Kenney's recent comments in the media accusing Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, of repeating COVID-19 talking points from China in January that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.
Neither Trudeau nor Tam herself responded to the accusation, but downplayed any suggestion of a rift.
"I have had incredible collaboration with the chief medical officers, including, of course, the chief medical officer in Alberta, and we work really well together," Tam said when asked whether she thought Kenney was trying to undermine her. "And all of us are trying very hard, that Canada across the board is giving us our best response."
Trudeau vouched for his chief public health officer in more general terms, saying Canadians have shown "that they have a tremendous level of trust and confidence in our public health officials and in our medical system."
The Alberta NDP called on Kenney to either "back up his attack" on Tam or apologize in a news release issued Tuesday.
“This kind of drive-by character assassination is unbecoming of the Premier,” NDP Health Critic David Shepherd said in a statement. “Jason Kenney is slandering Canada’s top doctor on national TV, in the middle of a pandemic. Dr. Tam is a highly-respected expert in her field. If Jason Kenney has some evidence to support this bizarre claim, he should present it. Otherwise, he owes Dr. Tam a public apology.”
Tam said so far, Health Canada has authorized more than 50 devices related to COVID-19 screening, including 13 test kits and 39 non-in-vitro diagnostic services.
“Jason Kenney is slandering Canada’s top doctor on national TV, in the middle of a pandemic. Dr. Tam is a highly-respected expert in her field."
— Alberta's NDP (@albertaNDP) April 14, 2020