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Trudeau talks COVID-19 regrets, vaccines, and possible election in year-end exclusive

Last Updated Dec 16, 2020 at 8:23 am PDT

Summary

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Citytv for an exclusive year-end interview Wednesday

Trudeau talked about the regrets he has in his government's COVID-19 response

TORONTO – The prime minister says he has some regrets about how the federal government handled the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking with Citytv in an exclusive year-end interview Wednesday morning, Justin Trudeau talked about his government’s response to the health crisis, vaccines, and the possibility of an election next year.

He admitted that if he could change something, he would have acted quicker in buying personal protective equipment.

“If I went back, when Dr. Tam starting telling us about the potential of the concerning news coming out in January, coming out of China, we would have immediately turned around and started to procure lots of PPE because that scramble in the begging of the pandemic, in March and April, where there were real concerns about frontline health workers who were reusing masks and having to bring them home and wash them — that is something that I would have loved to have been able to avoid, and that’s certainly something we’re learning going forward,” Trudeau said.

He noted that Canada is “fine now” when it comes to its supply of PPE, but said we needed to be more prepared in the first few months, at the onset of the pandemic in Canada.

“We’re going to make sure that going forward, Canada is never caught without equipment to protect our frontline workers again — that’s certainly something that we can focus on,” he told Melanie Ng.

However, Trudeau said the government learned from this delay, pointing to the quick arrival of vaccines to the country. “That’s how we ended up in such a great situation on vaccines,” he said.

The first batch of the Pfizer drug arrived in Canada on Sunday — earlier than originally expected due to a deal with the manufacturer to secure up to 249,000 doses by the end of the year. Canada has also secured a deal with Moderna for up to 168,000 doses of its drug — pending approval — by the end of December.

Earlier this year, information obtained by The Globe and Mail found supplies of PPE in the federally managed emergency stockpile were only a fraction of what was needed. Experts called the lack of supply ridiculous, especially after recommendations made following the SARS outbreak well over a decade ago.

It was then reported that the government was warned about the shortage a month before pandemic-related closures began, and weeks before the government actually started to top up its supply.

When asked on Wednesday, Trudeau could not say how much of the population needs to be vaccinated before the government considers COVID-19 under control. On whether he plans to get the shot himself, the prime minister assured he wouldn’t be cutting any lines.

“When there’s a time for healthy people in their 40s to get their vaccine, when it’s our turn, I will be as close to the front of that line as I can get,” Trudeau said.

“I am super enthusiastic about getting vaccines and I certainly want to show people that they’re safe and that we trust our doctors. But there are a lot of vulnerable people who need to get these vaccines much quicker than I will and we’re going to make sure that they get it first because that’s the priority.”

The prime minister defended the hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency supports his government started doling out when the country shut down.

“It was better for us to go into debt so that Canadians wouldn’t have to,” Trudeau said.

There was some levity in the exclusive interview with Citytv, with Trudeau being asked to reflect on certain moments that went viral.

He laughed when the clip of his “speaking moistly” comment was played, but pointed out it got the message out.

“I’ll take it, I’ll take the mockery if it’s saving lives and helping people get through this to any degree,” he told City’s Dina Pugliese.

Related video: Edmonton artist auto-tunes PM’s ‘speaking moistly’ comments

Trudeau singled out frontline health workers who have put themselves at risk going to work every day, saying “they have been the first order heroes.”

He also thanked others, such as teachers, grocery store workers, transport workers, farmers and more, for their efforts over the past several months.

Looking ahead to 2021, Trudeau admitted we may have an election.

Insisting he doesn’t want one, the prime minister said opposition parties have the ability to take out his minority government.