Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says there will be plenty of time at some undisclosed date to “point fingers” in the COVID-19 pandemic.

While that’s a disparaging way of describing what must be a rigorous, independent and public inquiry to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them in the next pandemic, here are nine key questions that inquiry must address —  based on my research and reporting by the Edmonton Journal, CBC and Globe and Mail:

1) Why did the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and the Trudeau government consistently underestimate the severity of the pandemic from its beginnings in January, up to at least March 10?

That was when a briefing note prepared for Health Minister Patty Hajdu incorrectly advised there were only 12 COVID-19 cases in Canada, “the risk of spread of this virus within Canada remains low at this time” and Canada was “well-equipped” to handle it.

On March 10, there were 117 confirmed cases in Canada — 12 was already two weeks out of date. Six days later, on March 16, Trudeau announced the Canada-U.S. border would close to non-essential traffic on March 20.

2) What was the basis for statements from senior public health officials who repeatedly underestimated the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic?

This includes, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam on Jan. 20: “I don’t think there’s reason for us to panic or be overly concerned”; Dr. Tam on Jan. 29: “For the general public who have not been to China, the risk is low … Canada’s risk is much, much lower than that of many countries. It’s going to be rare …”; Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo on Feb. 26: “We have contained the virus.”

3) Why was Hajdu advised in a briefing note on Jan. 19 that despite media reports coming out of Wuhan to the contrary, “there is no clear evidence that the virus is easily transmitted between people,” based on unverified claims by China’s dictatorial government?

One day later, on Jan. 20, China finally acknowledged human transmission.

4) Why did Canada wait so long to curtail international air travel, rely on passengers to self-report if they were experiencing flu-like symptoms and implement mandatory quarantines, compared to countries that acted faster and had less severe outbreaks of COVID-19? (In fairness, Canada’s outbreak is also less severe than in some countries.)

5) Why did Liberal and Conservative governments fail to implement the recommendations of a 2003 federal study following the SARS epidemic that cited numerous deficiencies in Canada’s pandemic response system?

6) Why did Liberal and Conservative governments fail to implement the recommendations of the 2006 Canadian Pandemic Influenza Plan for the Health Sector, co-chaired by Dr. Tam, which predicted a pandemic almost identical to COVID-19?

7) Why did Liberal and Conservative governments fail to act on recommendations in a 2011 federal audit by the PHAC on stockpiling sufficient pandemic medical supplies, following the 2009 H1N1 pandemic? Ditto a 2018 study warning of a potential shortage of ventilators.

8) Did Canada rely too heavily on the UN’s World Health Organization in developing its response to COVID-19, given that the WHO and director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus are facing international criticism for being too trusting of China from the start of the pandemic?

9) What caused the failure to predict the massive and deadly outbreak of COVID-19 in nursing homes?

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