Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand speaks during a press conference in Toronto, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. Canadian companies that answered the government’s call to produce ventilators and other desperately needed equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic say they’re worried that opposition MPs are now demanding disclosure of the contracts they signed with Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand speaks during a press conference in Toronto, Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. Canadian companies that answered the government’s call to produce ventilators and other desperately needed equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic say they’re worried that opposition MPs are now demanding disclosure of the contracts they signed with Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Companies warn Tory motion could deter domestic production of PPE

They’re warning they’ll be less likely to step up in the future if information isn’t kept confidential

Canadian companies that answered the government’s call to produce ventilators and other desperately needed equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic say they’re worried opposition MPs are now demanding disclosure of the contracts they signed with Ottawa.

And they’re warning they’ll be less likely to step up in the future if they can’t trust the government to keep sensitive business information confidential.

Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative health critic who penned a sweeping motion to compel the disclosure, says the companies are being needlessly worried by a Liberal government that does not want scrutiny of its COVID-19 pandemic spending.

Her motion would order the government to turn over to the House of Commons health committee all records on a raft of issues related to the government’s handling of the pandemic — including the purchase of personal protective equipment, medical devices and pharmaceuticals.

It is poised to pass in a Commons vote Monday, with the support of the Bloc Québécois and NDP.

“We are very concerned with the risk of proprietary, sensitive or confidential business information suddenly being disclosed to the public,” Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters president Dennis Darby said in a letter Friday to Procurement Minister Anita Anand.

One quarter of the CME’s 90,000 members stepped up to help with the COVID-19 response, said Darby, and he is worried that politicizing this process will make them reluctant to do so again.

“If these disclosures are too broad, it will negatively impact business operations for manufacturers in Canada and around the globe. Furthermore, we worry that the reputations of many manufacturers … will be unfairly tarnished.”

Rempel Garner said Friday these concerns are being generated by “complete Liberal spin.”

She said the motion has safeguards to protect national security, personal health information and proprietary contractual data, and the companies should not be concerned.

The parliamentary law clerk would be tasked with ensuring that information is redacted before release, said Rempel Garner.

“I have faith in that process,” she said. “I think this is really just the Liberals trying to delay the production of documents.”

However, the government is concerned that the law clerk does not have the expertise to determine what constitutes commercially sensitive information.

The federal government has spent more than $6 billion on personal protective equipment, medical devices and vaccines in its bid to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of the details of those contracts are secret, sometimes even the name of the supplier.

Anand has said repeatedly that some information has to be kept confidential to protect sources and safeguard the deals Canada is making in a very competitive world where many countries are looking for the same supplies right now.

Opposition MPs are specifically concerned about a $237-million contract for 10,000 ventilators awarded to FTI Professional Grade Inc. That company subcontracted the production of the ventilators to Baylis Medical, a medical-device company chaired by former Liberal MP Frank Baylis. He was president of the company for more than 20 years before he entered politics.

Multiple cabinet ministers have said the contract is with FTI, not Baylis. Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien said that’s only because the Liberals knew a contract directly with Baylis would be noticed.

“Come on, how stupid do they think we are,” he asked in the House of Commons Thursday.

John Power, a spokesman for Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains, said FTI’s was one of four contracts awarded for ventilators, on the advice of an expert panel of government officials, biomechanical engineers, respiratory therapists, medical practitioners and manufacturing-supply-chain experts.

They reviewed 11 submissions by Canadian companies to make ventilators last spring and the four contracts for up to 40,000 ventilators resulted from their advice.

Anand said there was a lot of worry in April that there would not be enough ventilators available to treat COVID-19 patients. Canada had only one company that made ventilators at the time.

A spokeswoman for Baylis said Friday the company is making 10,000 ventilators in Mississauga, Ont., at a cost of $21,000 each, a price that includes funds spent to get Health Canada approval for the ventilator. The Baylis product is a Canadian model of one made by U.S. company Medtronic.

ALSO READ: Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

A written statement from the company said Baylis was approached by FTI to help it make ventilators about a week after the federal government put out its call for Canadian-made machines.

Joanne Langley, the co-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, wrote a separate letter to opposition party leaders expressing concern that the motion demands all records related to the task force’s advice to the government on potential vaccine candidates.

She said to do its work, the task force has entered into confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements with Canadian and international vaccine companies

Langley offered to meet with a small group of MPs to brief them on the task force’s work, provided that the MPs are also subject to the same confidentiality promises.

Her concerns were underscored in a statement from Innovative Medicines Canada, which said several of its member companies have entered confidential agreements with the government to provide potential vaccines.

“The public disclosure of such information could have a negative impact on the very companies that are working to help protect Canadians from the virus,” the group said.

Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association, said that 25 auto parts companies have retooled to produce PPE during the pandemic.

He said he has no concerns about disclosing their contracts but is worried about doing so in a highly politicized environment.

“Nobody signed up to be a football,” he said in an interview.

Volpe warned that some companies “may not feel the same sense of call to action next time because now we’re part of something that is political rather than doing our civic duty.”

Joan Bryden and Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Conservative Party of CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Five trailblazing women stand on top of McIntyre Bluff near Vaseux Lake with Okanagan River below, circa 1930s. (photo courtesy of Doug Cox collection/Okanagan Archives Trust Society and Old BC: The Way it Was Facebook page.)
Trailblazing women from the 1930s take the ultimate selfie in Oliver

Wearing rattlesnake-proof boots, the women stand atop McIntyre Bluff

Paramedic Jason Manuel, dressed in PPE, inspects an ambulance at Station 341 on Nov. 30. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Second wave, twice the anxiety; Okanagan paramedics reflect on pandemic from the front line

‘I don’t know who that (next) person is going to be, I don’t want it to be me or my family’: Paramedic

The aftermath of the 3 a.m. fire in Keremeos. (Keremeos Fire Department)
Fire and explosion wakes Keremeos residents

A motorhome was consumed and a boat severely damaged after the 3 a.m. fire

(Contributed)
Penticton Regional Hospital Auxiliary donates $78k to school breakfast programs

The Penticton Breakfast Club runs programs at Queens Park, Westbench and Columbia Elementary schools

South Okanagan Women in Need Society and TIME Winery will be accepting donations from noon to 4 p.m. at Time Winery Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020 to help women and children in need during their annual “Time to Give” event. (Contributed)
Support women and children in need this weekend at TIME Winery in Penticton

SOWINS has seen more women than ever become victims to domestic abuse this year

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Another 694 diagnosed with COVID-19 in B.C. Thursday

Three more health care outbreaks, 12 deaths

Police responded to W.L. Seaton Secondary after reports of young man attempting to smash car windows in the student parking lot on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (Facebook)
Case of COVID-19 at North Okanagan high school

Member of W.L. Seaton Secondary exposure Nov. 26

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP was called to a report of a fight at an Okanagan Landing Halloween party Saturday, Oct. 31, but issued the homeowner a ticket  under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act for having too many people at the party. (Black Press file photo)
West Kelowna man, dog rescued from carbon monoxide poisoning

The man was quickly transported to the hospital

Good Samaritan Mountainview Village located at 1540 KLO Road in Kelowna. (Good Samaritan Society)
First long-term care resident dies from COVID-19 in Interior Health

Man in his 80s dies following virus outbreak at Mountainview Village

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

The former BC Tree Fruits office building at 1473 Water Street has been sold. (Contributed)
BC Tree Fruits downtown Kelowna office sold for $7.5M

Historic building sold for 44 per cent more than the $5.2-million asking price

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Margaret Holm
HOLM: Better Bicycle Lanes

Margaret Holm writes about solutions to global warming

The newly opened Switzmalph Child Care Centre at Salmon Arm offers culturally enriched programs featuring the Secwépemc culture but is open to children of all heritages. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Video: Switzmalph Child Care Centre shares culture with Shuswap community

New daycare at Salmon Arm offers Secwépemc culturally enriched programs to children of all heritages

Most Read