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

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

(Photo submitted)
Bentley couple celebrates 60th anniversary

They still laugh, hold hands, play crib and fish says daughter

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

.
Alberta confirmed more than 1,500 COVID-19 cases Sunday

Central zone active cases slightly up

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer. (Photo submitted)
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

Ilaria Rubino is shown in this undated handout image at University of Alberta. Alberta researcher Rubino has developed technology allowing mostly salt to kill pathogens in COVID-19 droplets as they land on a mask. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Alberta
Alberta researcher gets award for COVID-19 mask innovation

The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval.

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Most Read