Trudeau’s office botches press statement calling out O’Toole for spreading misinformation

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to call out the Conservative Party for promoting misinformation about COVID-19 stumbled tonight when PMO staff sent out a draft statement that itself contained misinformation.

Trudeau and Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had a call scheduled for this evening. The usual practice after these calls is for both parties to put out a statement — a “readout” — describing what was discussed during the call.

Shortly after 4:30 p.m. this evening, the Prime Minister’s Office issued just such a note saying Trudeau “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.”

The call with O’Toole was not scheduled to take place until 5:15 p.m. 

O’Toole’s director of communications Melanie Paradis saw the message and was quick to tweet out an image of the PMO email with the caption, “Why is the PMO pushing out misinformation? This is very concerning.”

The premature press statement also said the pair spoke about U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration, the fight against COVID-19, climate change, trade, NATO, support for Canadian detainees Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in China, the Keystone XL project and the Buy America policy. 

A spokesperson for the PMO told CBC that staff typically draft a readout before the call to act as a placeholder, updating it once the meeting is over.

The spokesperson said a member of the prime minister’s staff accidentally sent out the draft readout early. The edited readout is expected later this evening.