Photo by Adam Scotti, Prime Minister Trudeau visits Pfizer Manufacturing in Brussels Belgium, June 15, 2021
By Pierre Little and Jayna Smith
The Toronto Star reported May 25th on a study in vaccine clinical trial and procurement transparency by the University of Toronto and Transparency International by one of it's co-authors, Jillian Kohler, and she said “The government is not being forthcoming with how much it’s paying, what it’s negotiating and why,” “There is no barrier in terms of making this public,” she added. “It’s just a political decision to do so.”
Many have criticized the Trudeau government for the vaccine contract secrecy and for not providing sufficient funding to allow prompt availability of vaccinations for Canadians because of the country’s slow rollout of the vaccines. Some question why a nation like Canada could not afford 1.89 billion dollars which is the cost for double dose of Pfizer at $25.60 CAD per dose for 37 million citizens? [Cost prices confirmed by Observer Media and converted to Jan 2021 CAD/US exchange rate]. To that, Taylor said the chamber had no influence on contract negotiations or arrangements with regards to vaccination availability.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will keep the border with the U.S. closed until 75 percent of Canadians receive at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine and nearly 20 percent of the country is fully vaccinated against the virus.
By mid-June, just over 64 percent of the total population received at least one dose, while only about 13 percent have been fully vaccinated.
Many on both sides of the border have felt the negative impact of the closure, especially those cities and towns that rely on cross-country tourism. The border has been closed since March of 2020.
New Brunswick Business Journal reached out to The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Canada’s largest and most representative national business association, to learn more about its involvement and concern over the border closure and the impact on the Canadian economy.
Phil Taylor, managing director of The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario, acknowledged the economic consequences of the continued border closure. “Canada is a trading nation, with 75 percent of our economy being generated through trade activity,” he explained.
“Of that, the vast majority is trade with the U.S. There can be no doubt the border restrictions have had, and continue to have, a significant economic impact, particularly in the services sector.”
With fewer vaccines available in Canada, the country has been behind the U.S. in second dose administering. Taylor added that the national business organization had no input to the federal government’s lack of providing more liquidity to purchase vaccines more swiftly.
“We put all of our focus on advocating for/working with the government to help shape the wage and rent subsidy programs [during the pandemic] for businesses everywhere who were shut down through no fault of their own,” Taylor said.
With the slow rollout of the vaccines in Canada, Taylor believes economic recovery in Canada will undoubtedly be delayed and “potentially diminished” when compared to that in the U.S. His outlook is positive, however. “The vaccine deployment is rapidly accelerating, so we’re on a better track now to full vaccination,” he said.
“The consequences going forward are putting businesses at unnecessary financial risk by not having a clear reopening plan. It is much easier to shut down businesses and borders than it is to reopen them. Businesses will need time to ramp up and prepare, and they really need for the government to focus on publishing guidance on what vaccinations will mean for workplace and consumer environments.”
Taylor believes restrictions on crossing the Canada/U.S. border should come only from medical advisement. “The government has their Expert Panel report that outlined fully-vaccinated travelers should not be subject to quarantine. This report was completed by medical experts, not businesses, and should be the basis for our border reopening,” he said.
“We need a robust system in place for domestic contact tracing and rapid testing to mitigate risks of breakouts, independent of whether it is linked to travel. It is all about multi-layer approach.”
For now, to advocate for Canadian businesses during the vaccination efforts, particularly with respect to the border reopening, Taylor said The Canadian Chamber of Commerce “has been engaging with a plurality of officials in different departments to advocate for the adoption of the Expert Panel report.”