Ideological blind spots hamper vaccine rollout
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/03/2021 (809 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Vaccine rollout is the single-most important pillar to getting life back to normal. That said, the rollout has not gone smoothly.
We have seen the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives drag their feet on hiring a rollout co-ordinator and fail to make vaccination appointments easily available in our communities. I hope that by the time you read this, there will more options for seniors who may have difficulty getting to the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
Federally, we fell far behind our allies in rolling out vaccinations. Even as big pharmaceutical companies asked for funding and special tax treatment, the Liberals continued to defend keeping purchase agreements private.
New Democrats have called for a transparent federal strategy that includes deploying our military across the country to assist in administering the vaccine as quickly as possible.
Of course, that can’t happen if we don’t have enough doses, and Canada has not had vaccine production capability since publicly-owned Connaught Labs was sold by the Mulroney Conservatives.
This is where political differences translate into concrete practical consequences. Among the three main national political parties, the NDP stands alone in calling for a publicly owned domestic drug manufacturer.
This would allow Canada to produce vaccines that would serve Canadians first and make us less dependent on international supplies that can be diverted by governments trying to serve their own populations.
It would also give less leverage to pharmaceutical corporations seeking preferential treatment, even though they are among the most profitable companies in the world already.
Another way Liberals have been putting drug companies ahead of the public interest is by withholding support at the World Trade Organization for an initiative that would relax intellectual property rights around the vaccines so that more countries could begin to produce it for themselves.
Joining the effort at the WTO might frustrate big pharmaceutical companies, but it would help increase the international supply of vaccine at no cost to Canada and may even make it easier for Canada to produce vaccine domestically.
The ideological commitment by Liberals and Conservatives to privatization and free markets put Canada on a vulnerable footing heading into the pandemic, and it is standing in the way of some pretty common-sense solutions that other countries have already adopted
New Democrats don’t suffer from the same ideological blind spots. We are the voice in parliament of Canadians who believe Canada should be looking after its own with publicly owned manufacturing and helping other countries by relaxing intellectual property rights, especially since much of COVID-19 research was paid for with public funds.
Elmwood-Transcona constituency report
Daniel Blaikie is the NDP MP for Elmwood-Transcona.