Erin O’Toole’s Vaccine Claim Doesn’t Check Out

Greetings to our international readers: today’s post is a deep dive into Canadian federal political communication.

Sorry, eh!

You’ll recall, gentle reader, a couple of short weeks ago, the claim of Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole to have spoken to the “CEO of Pfizer”. This did not happen.

Let’s go back to the beginning: on January 20th, the CPC called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to speak directly to the CEO of Pfizer.

“Next week Canada will receive zero doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Yet, Justin Trudeau hasn’t even called the CEO of this vaccine manufacturing company.

“Describing this as a failure of leadership is an understatement. While leaders of allied countries have had over a dozen calls with this critical vaccine partner, Justin Trudeau has failed to act.

“Vaccines are critical to reopening the economy and securing jobs for Canadians. This lack of action by Justin Trudeau shows that he is failing to make vaccinating Canadians a priority.

“I am calling on Justin Trudeau to pick up the phone and call the CEO of Pfizer. This must be done now. Canadians can’t wait.

CPC press release, Jan 20

Trudeau did, in fact, speak to the CEO of Pfizer within 24 hours, and I confirmed this with Pfizer. That’s when it gets weird.

Some more background about O’Toole and his communications team.

Amusingly, it appears O’Toole’s team does not seem over-fond of him; either that or they have not been blessed with a superabundance of competence. Because this is what they paid to run on television. Yes: a repeated and unfavourable comparison to a more-famous American activist and environmentalist.

The CPC Twitter account essentially just tweets “Liberals, vaccine supply, economy” with a different visual every few hours.

Well, let’s be fair. They may have had to rush something out to push Erin O’Toole’s previous Twitter spot off the collective radar. Why? Because it contains what appears to be a flagrant lie. Sound on.

Here’s the original tweet, from January 21 of this year, the same day that Trudeau confirmed he’d spoken to the Pfizer CEO:

77,200 views, 728 Likes, 183 quote tweets, 162 rt’s, for an engagement rate of 0.014, which is pretty bad, particularly for a professionally-produced media tweet; a good rate is between 0.02-0.09%.

“I just got off the phone with the CEO of Pfizer,” he says as an opener.

Thing is, according to Pfizer, he did not talk to the CEO of Pfizer. Ever. We’re willing to allow performative re-enactments and let slide the claim that he and his tactisexual jacket “just” got off the phone with somebody from Pfizer.

But, being the curious type, I asked Pfizer what actually happened. Here’s their response, unedited.


We can confirm that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla, and that Erin O’Toole spoke to Pfizer Canada President Cole Pinnow.

Thank you,

Christina Antoniou
Pfizer Canada Corporate Affairs

Tue, Jan 26, 5:26 PM

So, it’s entirely possible (if unlikely) that the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada doesn’t know the difference between a CEO and a regional President.

It’s also entirely possible they recorded this video prior to making the call and failing to get through to the CEO, and didn’t want to blow their extensive Twitter Video budget by re-shooting.

It’s also also entirely possible that the Conservatives are hoping that we, the voters, don’t know the difference, won’t investigate, and will be impressed enough to put O’Toole and Trudeau on the same, Prime Ministerial Level in our minds.

Updated to add: nope, the video appears to have been a complete fabrication total time-bending stretcher. Cole Pinnow was not even announced as the new President of the Canadian division of Pfizer until January 23rd, two days after the Twitter video ran.

The real question now is: will they issue a correction? I wouldn’t be holding my breath, although I may be pitching them, because they could sure use some competent political communications help, and I could really use a job.

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