OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is acknowledging that Canada has been having problems with incomplete or non-existent deliveries of critical supplies for its fight against COVID-19 — and he’s singling out the United States in particular.
Under persistent questioning Monday, Trudeau admitted that shipments coming into Canada from all over the world have been held up or stopped, but that those emanating from the U.S. have been especially problematic.
“We have recognized over the past weeks a number of situations in which shipments coming from different countries around the world have been delayed, (or) haven’t arrived with as many products as we were hoping to see,” the prime minister said during his daily briefing outside the front door of his residence at Rideau Cottage.
“This continues to be an ongoing problem — specifically with the United States. We are working with them to ensure the orders Canada has placed get delivered. We expect those shipments to come.”
The comments followed Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s interview with Citytv, in which he revealed that a shipment of three million masks destined for the province had instead been redirected at the Canada-U.S. border.
The Trump White House has invoked the Defense Production Act to compel U.S. manufacturers of the equipment, such as 3M and Honeywell, to prioritize domestic orders co-ordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The White House insisted late Friday those orders wouldn’t interfere with exports that are in the national interests of the United States — a late-day caveat that came after 3M expressly disclosed that the administration asked that it stop sending masks to export markets in Canada and Latin America.
Earlier in Monday’s briefing, Trudeau tried to strike a more conciliatory tone, saying he remains confident that Canada’s orders of protective gear will be properly filled and delivered.
He said Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne had a conversation earlier in the day with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and noted that lower-level talks between the two countries have been ongoing.
He called those conversations “productive” and said the U.S. administration understands that trade with Canada is a two-way street that includes the raw materials that American manufacturers need in order to produce gowns and masks, including the all-important N95 respirators.
— Follow James McCarten on Twitter @CdnPressStyle