By Cole Parkinson
As the pandemic drags on, Bow River MP Martin Shields has brought forward concerns he’s heard across the riding to the House of Commons.
During the sitting April 22, Shields rose to discuss what he’s been hearing across Bow River, as the pandemic continues well in 2021.
“Words I am hearing from my riding are frustration, anger, hopeless, discontent, confusion, despondency, depressed, isolated, weary. The words we use now are: masks, front-line workers, no masks, family maybe, flu, COVID-19, variants, international travel, no travel, bubble, lockdown, no bubble, restrictions, health care workers, protection, quarantine, border closure, exemptions, hotel quarantine, tickets for being out, businesses open, no funerals, businesses permanently closed, schools open, vaccine passport, mandatory vaccines, shortage, distribution, safety concerns, too few, too many, on and on,” he started.
Shields also pointed to citizens distrusting the media, as frustration continues to mount.
“It is at the point a lot of my constituents no longer trust mainstream media or they are so tired of the negativity that is in it. My constituents are looking for alternate media, looking for alternate things they can find out. They are looking in Google search. They are tired of this and they are weary. Have we lost our social skills because we are lost in Zoom?” he asked.
While an opportunity to get out of the pandemic is found within mass vaccinations, Shields also discussed his issues with rollout in Canada.
He explained the biggest problem within Canada continues to be availability and the long delay between the first shot and the second.
“Then we have the vaccines recently. I had the first shot, and now we are talking about a four-month delay when we have heard we need to have them in a month. South of the border, they get them in a month,” he said. “We talk about the U.S., the U.K., better one day, worse another. We talk about foreign sources. We talk about Canadian sources. We play a crazy numbers game such as we are ranked 42nd, or we are ranked third, or we are ranked fifth. It goes on and on. We talk about science and non-science.”
Shields also highlighted levels of government across the country.
“Governments have and are creating the ultimate fear in our society and people are tired of it. They are losing faith in our government, which is charged with providing a safe and secure society. They are desperate for a different leadership to give them hope. This is not about writing and handing out cheques from taxpayer money, which will be paid in the future by our kids and our grandkids. Parliament has been dysfunctional for 13 months. They are looking for a government to provide leadership, a change. They are tired and weary and living in a world of fear. Canadians want positive direction and hope.”
Targeting the federal government, Shields also talked about getting vaccines in short order.
In looking at other drugs for different medical issues, he stated he hopes in the future they can get quickly approved like several of the COVID vaccines.
“That goes along with Trikafta and cystic fibrosis. We have had drugs approved in a short time. This happens by other companies outside, getting drugs developed and all of a sudden they are in Canada and quickly approved. We have a group of people who are so susceptible to germs like COVID-19. There is a drug that has been approved and used in many other countries that is life-changing. However, what happens in Canada? We get stalled in the federal health bureaucracy of approvals. Then there is the step of working with provinces. However, with the vaccines, we seem to get them approved very quickly and for use in the provinces by their health units. Why can we not get this done with Trikafta? It is a life-saving drug and a really good one.”
In response, a Liberal MP retorted on several of Shields’ comments.
“If his constituents mistrust the media, again, he has a very important role to play in providing them with resources based on science and fact,” stated Jennifer O’Connell, MP for Pickering-Uxbridge.
“There are a lot of conspiracy theories out there. Frankly, there are a lot of conspiracy theories rampant within the Conservative Party and among members in the House. In fact, one of them was removed from the Conservative Party because he seemed to have gone too far. However, there are others in the party who seem to be OK with conspiracy theories. It is incredibly important, that as parliamentarians, we demonstrate to Canadians the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and we have trust in our health regulators. Health Canada is world-renown.”
She also touched on vaccine approvals.
“If we look at hours to hours when it comes to the regulatory review process, they were comparable. Thank God we have the dedicated public servants we do. They put in the incredible work, so that as soon as the pharmaceutical companies were ready with vaccines, they could come forward to our world-renown regulator and get the process going.” she continued. “When it comes to misinformation or disinformation from the Conservative Party, I hope the member opposite will convey to his constituents how safe and effective the vaccines are. They are going to be a major contributor to getting ourselves out of the pandemic, so Canadians can be safe and healthy again.”
Highlighting one last issue, Shields also responded by talking about how the last 13 months have affected the travel industry.
“I am concerned about the health of another group in my constituency: our travel agents. Women make up 85 per cent of these businesses. They are small businesses. They have lost their incomes for 13 months, and it will be a minimum of 13 months before they get money from incoming bookings. They are in a dreadful position,” he said.
“The Air Canada deal does not protect them from past commissions. They are expressing stress, and they are really in trouble — as far as business is concerned. We need to find a way to help travel agencies and address the health of travel agents in Canada.”
“I too have heard these concerns, and they are precisely why the budget announced focused on those who have been adversely affected or most affected during the pandemic, including women,” responded O’Connell. “In fact, our budget addressed this head-on.”