Top Liberal staffers debated removal of webpage recommending essential workers wear COVID masks

DM

Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office complained it was “totally unacceptable” for the Public Health Agency to offer medical advice without first checking with political aides. Internal emails from 2020 found staff debated whether to request a web page’s removal recommending essential workers wear COVID masks when federal agencies knew masks were in short supply. “None of us were aware,” Sabrina Kim, then an advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office, wrote in an April 20, 2020 email. Kim said aides “should try to take it down and put it back up after we’ve given a heads-up to stakeholders.” “We should try to get our ducks in a row first,” wrote Kim. “I have made it clear to Health Canada that it is unacceptable this has happened,” replied a colleague. “Have relayed displeasure,” wrote a third. Aides cautioned that it was improper to remove web pages of the Public Health Agency. “We can’t take down public health advice,” wrote Samantha Khalil, deputy director of issues management. The Public Health Agency recommended essential private-sector workers such as cross-border truck drivers wear non-medical masks though federal authorities had failed to stockpile adequate supplies.

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