Ontario Prefers to Define Pandemic Preparedness On Its Own


Ontario is allowing the provinces to determine the pace and scope of additional pandemic preparedness measures, Premier Doug Ford said on Friday, responding to Premier Justin Trudeau’s concerns that his counterparts in Ontario and Quebec have delayed taking steps to stockpile drugs and vaccines for when a flu pandemic hits.

“We are insisting that, from this point forward, it’s going to be Ontario and our provinces that are charged with doing it, with doing this and with having the expertise to be doing it,” Mr. Ford said, speaking at a news conference following a summit on influenza in Ottawa.

Mr. Trudeau has in recent weeks said that he spoke to Premier Doug Ford of Ontario, saying that Ontario’s response was disappointingly inadequate and pledging that Ottawa would provide $85 million to improve preparedness. After the summit, Mr. Ford said that his government would review his province’s pandemic response and that officials were “making some changes.”

Mr. Trudeau said on Thursday that officials from Quebec, which took more steps against pandemics before an outbreak there began in 2012, would be meeting soon with Health Canada, which is responsible for pandemic preparedness, to talk about improving measures in that province.

On Friday, Mr. Ford said that a meeting could be arranged for him with Mr. Trudeau.

As Premier of Ontario, which has the third-largest economy in Canada, Mr. Ford has an opportunity to push back on Ottawa.

Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Ford and Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, who also spoke at the summit, had agreed that a stockpile of pandemic-preparedness medicines and vaccines had to be set up in time for a pandemic. They also agreed that hospitals and clinics should be prepared for a widespread outbreak of influenza.

An agreement at a summit in 2010 called for a stockpile of flu vaccines by the middle of 2015.

The documents agreed to by the premiers at the summit last week show that the stockpile will be set up, with the assistance of Health Canada. But a copy of a letter released by Mr. Trudeau on Thursday about the agreement says that it is up to provinces and territories to provide details of their preparedness plans.

One of the complaints from provinces and territories is that Health Canada is not giving them access to funding to help support the stockpile.

Health Canada, which was criticized by the provinces and territories for moving too slowly to provide an adequate stockpile of flu vaccines, said on Friday that it was ready to provide as much as C$18 million to provinces and territories in advance of a pandemic.

Quebec, one of the provinces criticized for taking steps to address pandemics, said on Friday that its flu-strategy meeting scheduled for next week would make “a first step” to boost its pandemic preparedness, which it said it had already done.

It added that discussions were ongoing with Mr. Trudeau on matters related to pandemic readiness.

It was among the provinces and territories that signed an agreement on Jan. 15 at a conference in Regina, Saskatchewan, to prepare for a pandemic.

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