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

Chrystina Barnard, owner of Lucky’s Pet Supply, has made it her mission to visit as many patios in Penticton as a way to promote restaurants. Here she is enjoying an eggs benny with her best fur friend at Loki’s Garage in Penticton. (Facebook)
Penticton foodie commits to 19-day patio crawl to promote local restaurants

The small business owner wanted to help out eateries hurt by the new restrictions

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Penticton fire truck
Residents evacuated after apartment fire in Penticton

The fire started in an apartment on Government Street Saturday night

Lori Jantz snapped this picture of a fight between a bald eagle and an osprey above Osoyoos Lake on Friday. (Lori Jantz photo)
Battle in the sky erupts above South Okanagan lake

Bald eagle and osprey fight mid-air in Osoyoos

This garbage bin behind a strip mall in Skaha Lake Road was set alight on Friday night at 11 p.m. The foam from firefighters can be seen on the ground. (Facebook)
Dumpster fire comes too close to Penticton seniors’ complex

One resident worries Penticton might have a fire bug

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

Most Read