Feds warns PPE contracts would be jeopardized by probe of pandemic response

Feds warns PPE contracts would be jeopardized by probe of pandemic response
Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 6, 2020 in Ottawa. Anand says Canada has received a first shipment of 100,000 rapid tests for COVID-19.

Canada’s procurement minister says federal contracts for personal protective equipment, vaccines and rapid test kits are in jeopardy due to a proposed parliamentary probe of the Trudeau government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The probe could trigger the release of commercially sensitive information, scaring off manufacturers and drug companies that would otherwise do business with Ottawa and ultimately placing Canadians’ health at risk, Anita Anand said Monday.

“It’s not just a question of violating existing contacts that, for example, may have confidentiality clauses in them; it’s also a question of undermining current negotiations,” she said at a news conference.

“This is not the time to threaten and weaken our relationships with our suppliers, on whom Canadians’ health and safety depends.”

Opposition parties are poised to approve the probe this afternoon despite growing objections from industry and experts.

A Conservative motion would order the government to turn over to the Commons health committee all records on a raft of issues related to the government’s response to the pandemic.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Canada is the latest to express concerns, asking to know how its commercial secrets will be protected.

In a letter to a senior Health Canada official obtained by The Canadian Press, Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow says his company has questions about a requirement in the motion that the government produce documents related to the production and purchase of a vaccine for COVID-19.

He goes on to say that while the company is seeking legal advice, it wants to hear from Health Canada what process will be used to vet sensitive information before it is released to the committee.

Anand said the House of Commons law clerk “wouldn’t have the necessary expertise in procurement” to properly redact records that would surface through the probe. “And yet the law clerk will be the one making all decisions regarding redaction.”

The Conservative motion is expected to pass with support from the federal New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois, who have insisted there is sufficient protection for industry while accusing the Liberals of stoking fears.

Unlike a somewhat similar Conservative motion defeated last week that would have created a committee to look into the WE controversy, the government has said the health committee motion will not be a confidence vote.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct 26, 2020.


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