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True to form, Jason Kenney has dug himself a hole by saying that Alberta will circumvent Health Canada in the pursuit of treatments and tests for COVID19.
“We’re not going to wait for Health Canada to play catch up with, for example the European Union’s drug regulator or the Food and Drug Administration in the United States.” Kenney said in an interview with the CBC. Unsurprisingly, Andrew Scheer has come out in support of Jason Kenney and his desire to bypass regulatory measures meant to protect Canadians if there is a legal way to do so, saying “often Canada is the last to get drugs for individuals or products for other types of industries as well.”
Kenney said that he trusts Health Canada as an institution before criticizing Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam saying, “This is the same Dr. Tam who is telling us that we shouldn’t close our borders to countries with high levels of infection and who in January was repeating talking points out of the [People’s Republic of China] about the no evidence of human-to-human transmission”.
This statement is deeply concerning because it mirrors the kind of dog whistle statement we see from Donald Trump who has been promoting not only untested and potentially dangerous treatments, but also conspiracy theories and xenophobic propaganda to rile up his base.
Timothy Caufield, a noted UofA Health Law Professor says that Kenney’s comments are fueling misinformation circulating on social media that claim that regulators are withholding COVID19 treatments from the public.
I’m not shocked that the premier would make such problematic statements, implying that the federal government is slowing the process of accessing tests or treatments, after all, he isn’t well educated nor does he seem to adhere to any kind of ethical standard as far as we can see.
Kenney seems to have missed the fact that Canada has been lauded for our response to the COVID 19 pandemic and the fact that by law, Alberta is subject to the Canada Health Act and the regulatory overview of Health Canada. Provinces don’t have their own regulatory bodies, nor do they have the ability to import drugs that aren’t federally approved. While provinces can bypass the Health Products and Food Branch of Health Canada, they can only do so under the Special Access Program, which only allows the use of devices or treatments not yet approves if the need is legitimate, conventional options have failed and the test or treatment is being provided under the supervision of a physician.
I suppose the silver lining to all this is that Jason’s approval rating is the lowest of any premier in Canada, sitting at approximately 40% overall with 54% of Albertans saying that they believe that Rachel Notley would do a better job managing the pandemic. Of course, polling isn’t always accurate, but it does give me some hope.