Kenney to use tests, medications from 'peer' countries, won't wait for Health Canada to play 'catch up'
Canada's top doctor says there are concerns with the quality of testing kits approved in other countries
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is calling out Canada's top doctor for advice she gave Canadians at the start of the pandemic and said he will not wait for Health Canada to approve medications, vaccines or tests before rolling them out if other "peer" countries have already approved them.
"We're not going to wait for Health Canada to play catchup with for example the European Union's drug regulator or the Food and Drug Administration in the United States," Kenney told CBC News Network's Power & Politics.
"The direction I have given our officials is that if we see a highly credible regulator of medications in a peer jurisdiction like the European Union, Australia or the United States, that has approved a test, or a vaccine, or medication, we should pursue that," Kenney said. "We should not wait for Health Canada to catch up."
Kenney said he trusts Health Canada's "credibility as an agency" but is not going to let bureaucracy get in the way of a speedy response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has said that Health Canada verifies the quality of tests being used in other countries to ensure they are accurate, noting that Canada has had some concerns about the quality of tests and medications being produced by other countries.
"We're exploring every single avenue, including tests approved by other countries, but Health Canada does have existing regulations pertaining to urgent public health needs," Tam said Monday.
"There are so many different tests now in so many countries, we do have significant concerns about the quality of some of those tests," she added. "So it is important to have that regulatory review and … the National Microbiology Lab does play a role in some of those testing of those kits, to see, well, are they actually detecting cases?"
Kenney says Canada should have closed borders earlier
Tam said Health Canada's regulatory division is working at "breakneck speed" to shorten review times and approvals.
Kenney said Tam's suggestion that there are problems with testing kits or medicines being approved in the EU or the U.S. was tantamount to saying Canada's allies are approving things that "are dangerous for public use."
"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," Kenney said.
"We are not going to feel constrained under our public health act."
Kenney insisted that he believes Tam is qualified to hold her position as Canada's top doctor but maintains that it was wrong for Canada "not to follow the lead of jurisdictions like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and others who closed their borders from countries with a high rate of infection months earlier than Canada did."