OTTAWA — An attempt from the Prime Minister’s Office to send a warning message about COVID-19 misinformation backfired Friday after a readout of a call with Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was sent to media before their scheduled meeting.
A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said the premature release of the readout — an official statement summarizing topics covered by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his official calls — was a “mistake by staff,” sent to reporters early. HuffPost is not disclosing the name of the official because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The mistake was pointed out by O’Toole’s director of communications.
Early release of the readout, sent approximately 45 minutes before the two leaders’ scheduled call at 5:15 p.m. EST, gave O’Toole’s team a glimpse at the prime minister’s agenda for the planned meeting.
It covered topics including U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration, climate change, NATO, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, American protectionism and the Keystone XL pipeline.
The last line was more critical, taking opposition MPs to task on peddling misinformation — a point neutralized by the early release of a readout for a call that had not yet happened.
“The prime minister also raised concerns around COVID-19 misinformation being promoted by Conservative members of Parliament, given Conservative MPs recently downplayed the deaths of Canadians in Alberta due to COVID-19 and compared COVID-19 to the flu.”
A new readout was released by the Prime Minister’s Office after the two leaders spoke to each other. It did not include any mention of misinformation.
In the past two weeks, Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre has pushed the “great reset” conspiracy theory and Tory health critic Michelle Rempel Garner suggested Canadians may not get vaccinated by 2030 — despite health officials saying COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available in early 2021. O’Toole has also suggested that Canadians won’t receive their doses until 2023.
Frustration has been recently building over the lack of clarity over expected timelines for when the first limited round of COVID-19 vaccines will be made available to Canadians.
Trudeau has taken to blaming Conservatives for Canada’s whittled biotech industry and reduced domestic manufacturing capabilities to produce a novel vaccine, despite being in government for five years.
Last month, Trudeau accused the Alberta government of fuelling “political division” during a pandemic.
“There is a bit of a political division that unfortunately sometimes takes the place of everything else,” he told Edmonton radio station 630 CHED Mornings.
Earlier Friday, the prime minister addressed Canadians outside Rideau Cottage and spoke about the explosive growth of COVID-19 cases in Ontario and Alberta.
He urged Canadians to “hold on tight” with the upcoming winter ahead.