'Canada needs to have a planned and coordinated approach in place so that federal, provincial and municipal agencies know what part they will play in managing a crisis.' - Sheila Fraser.
Ottawa (4 Nov. 2009) - Auditor General Sheila Fraser has blasted the Harper government for dropping the ball in preparing Canada for pandemics and other national emergencies, a critique that coincides with criticism of the national H1N1 flu vaccination program.
In her annual fall report, Fraser said a federal emergency response plan remains unimplemented – still languishing in draft stage – after almost six years of waiting for Public Safety Canada (PSC) to get it approved.
"We found that the plan has not been formally endorsed by the government or other federal departments," Fraser told reporters. "I have no idea as to why the plan is not approved. I think that would be an excellent question for government."
Her report says PSC, established in 2003 to give Ottawa the ability to respond to emergencies, has not exercised the leadership necessary to coordinate emergency management.
"Canada needs to have a planned and coordinated approach in place so that federal, provincial and municipal agencies know what part they will play in managing a crisis," she says. "For H1N1, coordination ... is not as efficient as it could be."
Ottawa has reassured Canadians for months that there would be enough H1N1 vaccine. However, Canadians have faced delays and long line-ups trying to get shots.
"Until it is clearly established how Public Safety Canada will work with other departments, it will be difficult for it to truly coordinate the federal response to an emergency situation." Fraser adds.
The report also questions the government's ability to respond to the aftermath of a chemical, biological or nuclear attack because of a lack of coordinated response and training, and questions why there is no specific plan to protect critical infrastructure such as water treatment plants or power grids.
"Public Safety has provided no guidance to departments to ensure that they determine what critical infrastructure needs to be protected," the report says.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has urged the government repeatedly to do more to prepare the country and health care workers to deal with pandemic emergencies.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE