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

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read