PMO sends readout of Trudeau scolding O'Toole over 'COVID misinformation' in phone call. But the call hadn't happened

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau scolded Conservative leader Erin O’Toole over “COVID misinformation” in a telephone call on Friday afternoon, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office. Except the call hadn’t happened.





According to a “readout” of the “call” sent at 4.34 p.m. by the PMO, Trudeau updated O’Toole on several issues. Then, “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.”





Shortly afterwards, Melanie Paradis, director of communications for O’Toole, tweeted, “This is awkward. The call isn’t until 5.15pm today,” adding that she was at that moment sitting with the Conservative leader.





Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner also posted, “I was literally just sitting with @erinotoole and can verify he was not on the phone with @JustinTrudeau.”





Other parliamentarians were more scathing of the premature release.





“This is truly the most deceitful government this country has ever had,” said Quebec senator Leo Housakos. “And Justin Trudeau is truly the most deceitful Prime Minister. They are constantly focused on propaganda rather than dealing honourably in the manner befitting the office he holds.”





The alleged misinformation centred on a Toronto Sun story that revealed that data from the Alberta government showed that 76.3% of people who had died of COVID-19 in the province were dealing with three or more underlying conditions.





“Only 2.3% of deaths – 11 people – were otherwise healthy persons, dying without any underlying conditions. And those 11 include people who were very advanced in age,” said the Sun story.





Alberta Conservative MP Rachael Harder later posted the column on her Facebook page, prompting Patty Hajdu, the health minister, to accuse the Conservatives in the House of Commons of spreading “fake” and “dangerous” misinformation.





The readout put out by the PMO said, “Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole. The Prime Minister updated Mr. O’Toole on President-elect Biden’s incoming administration. The Prime Minister highlighted our priority of fighting COVID-19, as well as several key issues and opportunities including climate change, trade, NATO, support for Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the Keystone XL project, and Buy America, which the Prime Minister raised in his conversation with the President-elect.”





The PMO later confirmed the readout was sent out because of “a mistake by staff.”





Before the call between the two leaders, O’Toole sent a letter to Trudeau outlining his priorities. The letter touched on many of the issues raised by the readout including COVID being the top priority.





However, after COVID O’Toole said dealing with the threat posed by China was the next major issue, and Canada should seek to join an existing dialogue among the U.S., Australia, India and Japan to oppose Chinese military expansionism.





With files from The Canadian Press

Read more: https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/p...

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