In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, the former federal health minister weighed in on the emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic taking place across the country, including the long wait times seen in cities like Toronto and Ottawa, among others.
“I think the provinces that have got it right are the ones that have really raised their testing capacity, have really brought on a lot of testing in the last six months since COVID hit and provinces that haven’t been able to do that are really suffering, and that’s too bad,” she said.
“I hope that we can see more testing ramp up. Look – we can’t keep kids in school, we can’t send people back into the workplace, we can’t keep daycares open if we don’t have a good testing regime, and waiting in line for eight hours is not a good testing regime.”
Overall, 7.9 million people have been tested since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in Canada.
In Ontario, the province is testing roughly 40,000 people each day — but it has a backlog of 90,000 tests, leading to long waits for results, long lines at testing centres, and some turned away entirely.
Last week, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said a shortage in diagnostic technicians was contributing to the testing difficulties, along with a shortage globally in the chemicals used to process the tests.
The federal government has also said it plans to create a rapid response unit to help provinces facing testing difficulties on an as-needed basis, as part of a throne speech that provided few clues about any plans to rein in the deficit.
Ambrose said while federal spending to support Canadians has been needed, there are important questions that will need to be asked about how to rein that spending in.
“I think at the federal level we need to support people economically, and that has happened. Now, of course, we’re all worried about the amount of spending going out the door,” she said.
“This spending is necessary. At some point, we have to see past this COVID emergency and what comes next. We have to think about that bottom line and the debt that we are collecting.”
The federal government has not published a budget this year but has issued one fiscal “snapshot” that forecast a deficit of $343 billion, while the parliamentary budget watchdog last month predicted that will hit closer to $330 billion.
Since then, the government has provided no information about how it plans to rein that in despite warnings from parliamentary budget officer Yves Giroux that the current level of spending will be “unsustainable” if not slashed within one to two years.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has argued low interest rates mean the government can keep spending.
One credit ratings agency cut the government’s rating this summer over the lack of a plan to rein in spending, while others have expressed concerns, citing “sustained deterioration in fiscal policy discipline”
Ambrose took on the interim leadership of the party after former prime minister Stephen Harper’s defeat in the 2015 election, but did not run in either of the two leadership races since.
She is currently promoting a new book about International Day of the Girl published by Kids Can Press, a subsidiary of Corus Entertainment — the parent company of Global News.
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