Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Conservative party of denying the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic and opposing masks, but a True North fact check found this to be false.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the Conservatives have not denied the pandemic’s existence and had actually supported mask-wearing before the federal government officially recommended it.
Trudeau made the accusation during a Wednesday Question Period exchange with Conservative MP and health critic Michelle Rempel Garner, who Trudeau accused of stoking suspicion of the science behind the virus.
“We’ve all seen Conservative politicians casting doubt on science, casting doubt on experts, saying ‘the pandemic isn’t real, you shouldn’t wear masks,’” Trudeau said. “It is really concerning to hear that kind of suspicion around what scientists and experts say from the Conservative health critic, however, knowing what the Conservative Party’s approach is on science, we shouldn’t be surprised.”
Included in Trudeau’s statement is the claim that Conservative politicians cast doubt on science and experts by claiming that the pandemic isn’t real, and that people shouldn’t wear masks.
A search through parliamentary records revealed that on the matter of the pandemic’s existence, Conservative MPs had raised concerns about a possible pandemic as far back as January 2020, nearly two months before the World Health Organization declared it.
On January 27, 2020, Conservative MP Matt Jeneroux asked the Liberal Health Minister if Canada had “enough antiviral drugs in the national emergency stockpile to address a possible broader outbreak?”
About a month later, Conservative MP Steven Blaney also raised concerns about a possible pandemic.
“The World Health Organization is talking about a possible pandemic, but what is the government doing? Nobody knows. Radio silence. This situation is very worrisome. This is a serious, high-risk issue, but the Liberals are twiddling their thumbs. What is the government’s plan for helping Canadians protect themselves from the coronavirus?” said Blaney.
In total, since the pandemic began Conservatives have addressed the coronavirus crisis as a “pandemic” at least 2439 times in various committee meetings and House of Commons affairs.
As for Conservative views on mask-wearing, records show that CPC MPs have been promoting or talking about the use of masks to combat the coronavirus as far back as January 2020, even while the federal government was specifically advising against masks.
During a Commons health committee meeting on January 29, 2020, Conservative MP Robert Gordon Kitchen advocated for the use of masks at border crossings and airports at a time when Health Minister Patty Hajdu was claiming that border closures were ineffective at curbing the virus.
In total, Conservatives discussed masks at least 405 different times since the pandemic began.
Neither former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer nor current leader Erin O’Toole ever denied the existence of the pandemic. O’Toole also came out in support of masks before the Public Health Agency of Canada recommended them.
“Yesterday, the U.S. Center for Disease Control suggested everyone should wear a mask. Every country that has a handle on the crisis appear to have more universal mask wearing. Canada should attempt this as well. Every measure helps,” tweeted O’Toole on April 4, 2020.
Scheer pointed out in an April 15, 2020 tweet that it was the federal government which had been inconsistent on mask advice.
“Right now there is no need to use a mask for well people,” said Dr. Theresa Tam said during a March 28 briefing.
“What we worry about is actually the potentially negative aspects of wearing masks where people are not protecting their eyes or, you know, other aspects of where the virus could enter your body, and that gives you a false sense of confidence,” she said, two days later.