OTTAWA — The federal government paid a courier to drive 10 hours to collect a COVID-19 test sample Friday from a Manitoba man, who argues that money could have gone to local health care.
"When I see the blatant misuse of taxpayers’ dollars in this way, it just angers me," says Swan River insurance broker Curtis Cook.
"It’s feeding into this whole COVID frenzy and it just disturbs me."
Cook and his wife crossed home to Canada Thursday after a short visit with relatives in the U.S. Border agents at the Coulter crossing in the southwest corner of the province told the pair they had been randomly selected for a take-home COVID-19 test.
Cook and his wife are triple-vaccinated, and had a PCR test done in the U.S. within 48 hours of returning to Canada.
They were given supplies for a nose-swab, which they performed Thursday night during a video link with an employee of Dynacare, which Ottawa pays to administer the program. She told them that the tests, which go into a package the size of a tissue box, could be sent via Purolator. Otherwise, someone from Dynacare would phone to arrange a pickup.
Cook lives on a farm, and Purolator mostly serves addresses in more-populated areas. In the video call, he said he’d send the parcel through his insurance office in Swan River. That’s because asymptomatic, vaccinated people tested under the program are permitted to continue going about their business.
Hours after he sent the parcel from his office, a man arrived, explaining he had driven 500 kilometres from Winnipeg to pick up the tests for Dynacare, a trip that takes about five hours.
"This young fellow, I think he said he made a special trip up here for these (tests)," said Cook.
"How much carbon did he put in the air to drive this far, whereas that money could have been used at our local hospital here much more efficiently?"
When asked how often Dynacare makes such journeys, and how much they cost Ottawa, the company referred Friday afternoon queries to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Cook contacted his MP, who was unimpressed by the situation.
"This is another example of Justin Trudeau’s Ottawa-knows-best approach, that does not take into account the concerns and realities of rural Canadians," wrote Dan Mazier, the Conservative MP for the riding of Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa.
Mazier was particularly troubled that triple-vaccinated constituents who already had a negative test result still had to go through the hoops of submitting a test.
"We need to have policies that are effective and make sense," he said, emphasizing he has no wish to add fuel to the COVID-19 fire that has caused so much bitterness and angry debate across the country.
But knowing the federal government is paying for testing supplies, a video consultation with a health worker, a courier and lab resources — all of it unnecessary — is aggravating, Cook said.
"What’s the point of this test at the border?" he said. "I’m at work paying taxes like everybody else in this country, and for them to blatantly waste valuable resources like that… just really angered me, to be honest."
The Free Press has requested comment from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Parliamentary bureau chief
In Ottawa, Dylan enjoys snooping through freedom-of-information requests and asking politicians: "What about Manitoba?"