General items: Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology—February 4, 2021

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Opening remarks for the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology

Opening

Thank you for inviting me to appear before this committee. Before we start, I would like to thank everyone who continues to work so hard behind the scenes to make these virtual meetings possible.

I also want to thank our interpreters and translators for playing such an outstanding role in ensuring Canadians have the latest information.

Joining me today is my Deputy Minister, Bill Matthews.

Public Services and Procurement Canada response to the pandemic

In the face of intense pandemic fatigue and strain, Canadians have pulled together to curb the spread of the virus.

I know I speak for all parliamentarians when I say how proud we are, particularly of the doctors, nurses and healthcare providers on the frontlines.

Their work is crucial, and that is why since the start of this pandemic, my department, Public Services and Procurement Canada, has worked non-stop to procure vital personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies for front-line health care workers.

Domestic production

I am also immensely proud of the Canadian suppliers who have stepped up to help the fight against COVID-19.

Many Canadian companies increased their levels of production to provide vast quantities of the items we so urgently needed.

Protecting our frontline medical professionals was and continues to be a top priority. Early on, we finalized a long-term contract with Medicom out of Montreal to produce tens of millions of N95 respirators and surgical masks annually. We have already taken delivery of more than 18 million made-in-Canada surgical masks and more than 5.7 million made-in-Canada N95s from Medicom.

Throughout the pandemic, more and frequent testing has been critical in order to prevent future isolated cases of COVID-19 becoming renewed outbreaks. LuminUltra, a leading biotechnology company based in New Brunswick, stepped up to produce large quantities of reagent to support COVID-19 tests right through to March of this year.

Retooling

While many businesses ramped up existing production capacity, some Canadian companies completely retooled their production lines to meet the country’s needs.

Bauer in Quebec switched from making hockey equipment to making face shields for front-line medical workers.

Toronto Stamp pivoted from making signage to kick-starting a project involving more than a dozen small Toronto businesses to manufacture face shields.

The Calgary-based chemical processing and manufacturing firm Fluid Energy stepped up to produce millions of litres of hand sanitizer to ship across Canada.

Stanfield’s based in Nova Scotia set up to provide us with 100,000 medical gowns a week. Irving Oil based in New Brunswick retooled their lines to produce hand sanitizer.

And many Canadian companies came up with innovative ideas to help out. For example, Québec city manufacturer, TSO3, used their existing technology to sterilize and decontaminate N95 masks. This meant that with this technology, hospitals across the country would be able to use the masks up to 3 times before disposal. A real game-changer during a time of such shortages.

Madame Chair, these companies are just a handful of the many innovative and dedicated firms across our country that have worked around the clock to help out.

Small and large enterprises have pulled together to help protect us all.

Vaccine procurement approach

We know that the quickest way to get to the other side of this pandemic is to follow public health advice alongside the continued, accelerated rollout of vaccines.

And while our government is investing in the future of domestic vaccine production, my department continues to fight the pandemic today with a strategy that is getting authorized vaccines into the country as soon as possible.

Madame Chair, from the start, the government’s objective has been to secure safe, effective vaccines for Canadians as rapidly as possible.

Our work is guided by our COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force, the work of which was a key element of our government’s vaccine strategy.

In all, our government managed to gain access to up to nearly 400 million doses of potential vaccines from 7 different manufacturers, as well as our participation in COVAX, resulting in one of the most robust and diverse portfolios of COVID-19 vaccines in the world.

Through the establishment of these agreements, we negotiated the quickest delivery options possible.

Following the Health Canada approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, we have received and distributed more than 1.1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the provinces and territories.

Between Pfizer and Moderna alone, we remain on track to have enough vaccines for everyone in Canada who wants to be vaccinated by the end of September.

In addition, through the COVAX initiative, Canada will receive at least 1.9 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Pending authorization, deliveries could begin arriving before the end of March.

Madame Chair, we also continue to work closely with the 5 remaining manufacturers with which we have bi-lateral agreements:

Our goal is to get more Health Canada-approved vaccines into Canada as quickly as we can.

Vaccine supplies

While vaccines are critically important, my department has also worked hard to secure supplies needed to administer them.

For example, we have secured more than 170 million syringes of varying sizes from a range of suppliers. This includes 64 million of the low-dead volume syringes, which are in extremely limited supply around the world. 

The first delivery of approximately 1 million of those specialized syringes is arriving in Canada this week and deliveries will continue through May 2021.

Closing

Throughout the pandemic, every single time we have asked Canadian companies for help, they have without question stepped up and delivered.

Their inventiveness and drive has helped immeasurably as Canada continues to navigate through this crisis.

Making sure that we have made-in-Canada PPE and medical supplies is meeting a critical need right now.

Keeping ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe right now is a critical part of making sure that as many Canadians as possible will benefit from the vaccine rollout.

Thank you for your time, and I am happy to take your questions.

Opening remarks for the Standing Committee on Health

Note

The opening remarks were prepared for the Minister’s appearance before the Standing Committee on Health on February 5, 2021 and can be found within that binder.

Media scan

COVID-19

Note

Vaccine procurement

Overall media coverage has been extensive and mostly balanced regarding the government’s agreements with Pfizer and Moderna. Specifically in mid-December, coverage was positive with outlets stating that the federal government has “underpromised and overdelivered” with the vaccine rollout commencing within days of approval by Health Canada.

In early December, the Toronto SunFootnote 1 reported in a negative tone that the federal government’s reasoning as to why Canada would receive vaccines later than other countries was unclear and, in parts, false. “Remember that the United Kingdom is already booking appointments to vaccinate high-risk populations this month, possibly within days. The United States will begin vaccinating within days of approval and a shipment of Pfizer's vaccine already flew from Brussels to Chicago on Monday. Here in Canada, we not only can't get a firm date, which is understandable, we can't get anything beyond 3-month timelines even as the government tells us all is fine.” The Vancouver SunFootnote 2 also reported that the Conservative Party accused the government of “dragging its feet” on negotiating deals, while Prime Minister (PM) Trudeau asserted this is not the case and that Canada was one of the first to order vaccines.

On January 12, the federal government announced it had secured an additional 20 million vaccines from Pfizer to arrive in April or May, with a remaining 36 million that could be purchased should the need arise, and that the government is pressing hard in negotiations for early deliveries. It was also expressed in the same press conference that the provinces were free to pursue their own negotiations for vaccine purchases, should they wish to attempt to obtain earlier deliveries than what the federal government can provide. Global NewsFootnote 3, Journal de MontrealFootnote 4 and CTV NewsFootnote 5 reported that Canada passed on an additional 16 million vaccines from Moderna due to a delivery date past the expected completion of vaccinating the population.

CBCFootnote 6 reported on January 14 that Canada will receive 1 million doses per week beginning in April, with as many as 20 million people fully vaccinated between April and June. The article notes this figure is dependent on other vaccines, beyond Pfizer and Moderna, being approved. Multiple outlets quoted Minister Anand on January 14 and 15 as saying that Quebec’s plan to use all their doses, and pushing the timing for the second dose far beyond the advised timeline (42 days maximum), means it could get harder to convince vaccine makers to ship more quickly.

On January 16, Pfizer announced shipments would be delayed while they upgrade their European facilities, a report which garnered extensive, negative media coverage. The Globe and MailFootnote 7 reported that Canada will wait longer than Europe for the Pfizer vaccine, though Pfizer initially stated the delays would be equal. The Miramichi LeaderFootnote 8 reported that the Minister has assured that the slower arrival of vaccines will not impact the goal of September for full inoculation. The Globe and MailFootnote 9 reported that the delays, while the government states do not push back the overall end goal, mean more people will have to wait longer and potentially miss the timing for their second dose. On January 19, it was announced that Canada would not receive any of the promised vaccines the following week. “Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she is pressing Pfizer and other vaccine suppliers to speed up their deliveries and increase shipments destined for Canada, but all she would commit to are existing contracted timelines which would see enough vaccine in Canada and available for distribution "by the end of September."” (Toronto StarFootnote 10)

On January 29, it was reported that Moderna will also be reducing its shipment of vaccines to Canada by 20% to 25% in February. Canada expected 230,400 shots to be delivered in the first week of February and will instead receive 180,000, while the further 249,600 shots expected late February will also be reduced. CBCFootnote 11 quotes the Prime Minister as saying "This temporary delay doesn't change the fact that we will still receive 2 million doses of the Moderna vaccine before the end of March, as we've been saying for months."

Pierre Poilievre, Conservative member of Parliament

Quote from Vancouver SunFootnote 12 article:

"There's no question that other countries landed priority on vaccines ahead of Canada while Trudeau was dithering and spinning his wheels in the middle of last summer”

Anita Anand, Minister, Public Services and Procurement

Quote from CBCFootnote 13 article:

"We heard throughout this crisis from various premiers that they were looking to procure their own personal protective equipment (PPE) or vaccines now, as the case may be. And we, as a federal government, are in no way inhibiting or blocking them from doing so"

Quote from the Globe and MailFootnote 14 article:

"Our engagement with vaccine developers, including my personal contact with them, continues on a daily basis in order to press for Canada's delivery schedules to move up, for the receipt of additional doses earlier"

Vaccine distribution

Coverage has been extensive, mostly factual and increasingly negative regarding vaccine distribution, which has been reported to be slow. In early January, provinces stated supply was the biggest barrier to the COVID-19 immunization campaign, though outlets reported that federal data showed that only half of their current supply had been administered. However, by mid-January, several provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec) have explained that they have either already run out of supply, or will do so within a week. Minister Anand is referenced as saying Canada continues to push for more and swifter shipments.

National PostFootnote 15 reported that “you might be confused” if you listen to federal ministers regarding vaccine rollout strategy and timelines. The journalist writes that Minister Anand is not consistent with her talking points regarding whether new vaccines need to be approved in order for the entire population to be vaccinated on schedule, by fall of 2021.

On January 27, outlets continue to report on the shortage of Pfizer vaccines and potential further delays with “politicians everywhere becoming vaccine nationalists.” (National PostFootnote 16) Multiple outlets reported on various countries’ efforts to increase vaccine deliveries, with court orders, export freezes and other options being discussed (CBCFootnote 17), among them Germany’s possibly limiting AstraZeneca exports (National PostFootnote 18, Moncton Times & TranscriptFootnote 19). German officials are quoted as stating that the European Union (EU) contributed billions of dollars to the research and development of these vaccines and the pharmaceutical companies must deliver on their “obligations.”

The Globe and MailFootnote 20 reported that Pfizer is pressing for Health Canada to officially recognize that each vial contains 6 doses of its vaccine as opposed to 5. In addition to reducing the number of vials that the company would send to Canada, this approach would also require the use of a specialized syringe—low dead volume—which is in short supply globally. Minister Anand is noted as saying she cannot comment until Health Canada makes a decision.

Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta

Quote from CBCFootnote 13 article:

"But as I've pointed out, our capacity [to administer vaccines] by that point, at the end of March, will far, far outstrip the incoming supply"

Rapid testing

Media coverage relating to rapid testing in Canada was high and for the most part factual, covering topics such as the Spartan Bioscience Inc. rapid test, the Spartan Cube, as well as covering how and where the rapid tests are being used. The tone of the articles was vast and ranged from neutral to negative.

Several articles were published relating to the recalled Spartan Cube. Coverage on this topic was mostly negative. The Winnipeg SunFootnote 21 reported that the federal government ordered approximately 2 million tests without confirming the effectiveness of the test. Following an initial delivery of approximately 5,500 tests, it was discovered that the tests failed clinical trials on May 1, 2020. The tests were voluntarily recalled, though Health Canada had already ordered 120,000 kits for June 2020 and an additional 200,000 tests per month from July until March 2021. The article notes a contract value of $149,048,550 and questions why testing was not done prior to placing a large order. In mid-December 2020, Spartan Bioscience resubmitted the rapid test for Health Canada approval and in an Ottawa Business JournalFootnote 22 article, the company compared the Spartan Cube to “one of the most sensitive lab-based COVID-19 tests on the market today,” adding the studies were “successfully completed”. The Ottawa CitizenFootnote 23 reported that shipments to the federal government are expected to start as early as the week of January 25 with provincial shipments to follow. As production of the test increases, 200,000 rapid tests per week are expected to be produced by Spartan.

The remainder of the articles highlighted how provinces are choosing to use the tests provided by the federal government. Victoria Times-ColonistFootnote 24 reported that the federal government distributed 7.4 million rapid tests across Canada. The majority of the tests were used in hospitals, long-term care homes, rural and remote areas and airports.

With the recent news of a COVID-19 variant found in the United Kingdom (UK), provinces are calling for more rapid testing at airports to limit the spread of the variant, which is said to be faster spreading than the original form of the virus. Moncton Time & TranscriptFootnote 25 reported that a rapid testing pilot program has been in place at the Calgary International Airport since November, but has yet to be rolled out in other airports across Canada. Ontario Premier Doug Ford stated in the article that the Ontario Government was going to step in if Ottawa continued to stand by.

Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer

Quote from BNN BloombergFootnote 26 article:

"While the Spartan system, the device, performed very well in a laboratory setting—along the specification the manufacturer had provided—it was in the clinical setting, the real-life setting, where it didn't perform well"

Roger Eacock, Chief Executive Officer, Spartan

Quotes from BNN BloombergFootnote 26 article:

“Our team has worked incredibly hard to deliver an accurate, easy-to-use, on-site rapid COVID-19 testing system”

“After conducting clinical trials, we are confident our efforts have paid off”

Personal protective equipment procurement

Coverage has been somewhat low in December and January regarding PPE procurement. Since the beginning of the pandemic, some media negatively reported on contracts awarded to companies for the supply of personal protective equipment in Canada. The articles raised that at least 35 contracts were awarded to foreign companies for a total of 607.7 million, instead of prioritizing Canadian companies. The federal government also awarded a 371-million contract to secure personal protective equipment to Proline Advantage Inc., a small company said to have no prior experience in PPE procurement. This contract has drawn media attention and raised some concerns among Conservative members of Parliament (MP) and some supply chain experts. The articles also mentioned Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner’s motion calling on the federal government to release details regarding procurement contracts. Despite the critics, CBC NewsFootnote 27 reported that Proline Advantage Inc. delivered the goods and fulfilled its contract obligations by August. (CBC NewsFootnote 28CBC NewsFootnote 27, Global NewsFootnote 29)

In January, CBC News MarketplaceFootnote 30 published the findings of an investigation on poor working conditions in some Malaysian PPE factories supplying Canadian hospitals with nitrile gloves. The story reported that the production line, filled mostly with migrant workers, is cramped and COVID-19 protocols like sanitizing, physical distancing or mask-wearing, meant to protect against the spread of the virus, do not seem to be enforced. There are indications that forced labour may be taking place in these factories. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) Minister Anand is mentioned in the article stating that the department is looking at the companies with federal contracts for nitrile gloves imported from the 5 Malaysian companies Marketplace investigated.

Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Quote from the CBC NewsFootnote 31 article:

"If we go ahead and release information, that will undermine our supplier relationships," PSPC Minister Anita Anand told CBC News Network's Power & Politics, explaining that disclosing sensitive business information could threaten the government's ability to negotiate future contracts

Quotes from the CBC NewsFootnote 32 article:

"This company [Proline Advantage Inc.] is a small business and ensured that their gowns were made available as soon as possible by renting the largest plane in the world until all of their gowns were delivered"

"This company stepped up at the beginning of the crisis when this country had no gowns, gloves, masks and the like. We need to respect the ability of small and large businesses across this country to step up for Canadians"

Quotes from the CBC NewsFootnote 30 article:

"We are working with our suppliers to investigate these allegations to verify that their supply chains are indeed free from forced labour"

Anand said her objective as Minister "is to ensure the timely delivery of goods to support Canada's COVID-19 response while ensuring ethical business practices throughout the supply chain”

Transparency

Several articles were published regarding the lack of contract details with vaccine makers and the price paid for vaccines. The articles were negative in tone, suggesting that it is not clear where and how money is being spent.

With the early arrival of vaccines, the question of price was frequently reported. The Prime Minister did not say if the early arrival came at an increased cost and Minister Anand stated that Canada has paid “fair market value”.

The Toronto StarFootnote 33 reported that on top of the $1B spent on vaccines, Minister Anand said that the government has now paid an unspecified extra amount to obtain early doses last month.

Globe and MailFootnote 34 stated that Canada has not yet disclosed how much Canada will be paying per dose for vaccines. In a separate Globe and MailFootnote 35 article, it was revealed that Israel reportedly paid $30 per dose for the Pfizer vaccine, while the United States paid $19.50. The article explained that it is not known if Ottawa “dropped the ball” during negotiations due to PSPC releasing so few details in terms of the contracts signed with vaccine makers.

CBCFootnote 36 reported on Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner’s motion requesting the disclosure of all pandemic-related information from emails, documents and other notes and records detailing the purchase of PPE related items as well as vaccine contracts. Minister Anand offered that information could be found on the PSPC website detailing 6 billion of emergency-related procurement to date. Maclean’sFootnote 37 reported that information found on the PSPC website was not clear, information was missing and names and values were hidden. The article noted that at that time, 41 company names were hidden, as well as the values of approximately a dozen contracts.

CBCFootnote 38 reported that during an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday, January 26, the opposition stated that the vaccination plan for Canadians was not sufficiently detailed and called for the release of all contracts signed with vaccine manufacturers. The federal government cited that the contracts “are necessarily confidential”.

Anita Anand, Minister, Public Services and Procurement

Quotes from The Hill TimesFootnote 39 article:

“We're working with a number of complicated variables, in a very expeditious manner with systems put in place"

"There is a continued negotiation about the deliveries of these vaccines and the terms of the deliveries and as we push for earlier deliveries for Canadians... during this crucial time, we are paying fair market value of these vaccines"

Quote from Globe and MailFootnote 40 article:

"We did put price on the table, of course, as well as a number of other factors. And it is as a result of our very strong position at the negotiating table that we were able to sign with Pfizer and Moderna first, that we were at the front of the line for Pfizer and Moderna"

Concerns expressed by provinces and territories

Coverage was relatively high in December regarding provinces’ feedback over vaccine distributions. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister expressed that he is seeking clarification from Ottawa regarding vaccine distribution, specifically with regard to whom will receive the vaccines first. The premiers of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut have all said they are waiting on the Moderna vaccine since it is easier to store. Because of logistics around the Pfizer vaccine, these provinces were concerned that the early round of December vaccines would not reach the territories. However, some articles mentioned that the first shipment of Moderna vaccine arrived in Yukon and Northwest Territories at the end of December. The first doses were administrated in early January. (Radio-CanadaFootnote 41, Yukon NewsFootnote 42, Global NewsFootnote 43).

In early January, it was reported that provinces and territories were "at odds" with the federal government regarding vaccine distribution. Federal data showed that only half of their current supply had been administered. Many articles stated that it seems less a distribution issue and more of a poor administration strategy. Premier Doug Ford said Ontario is about to exhaust its current supply, and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has compared available supplies to a "squirt gun." Premier François Legault stated that Quebec could vaccinate 250,000 per week if it was not for the short supply. Some provinces, like Quebec, have been examining whether to space out their doses in order to vaccinate more of the population while waiting for deliveries, delay second doses, or administer half doses in order to ensure adequate supply. However, this is noted to be a risky strategy as modified doses have not been studied for their efficacy. CBCFootnote 13 also reported that Alberta is considering making agreements with vaccine makers. The article highlighted that provinces were free to pursue their purchase agreements. 

Following Minister Anand’s announcement in mid-January stating that Canada will see a reduction in the deliveries of the Pfizer vaccines for the next couple of weeks, some provinces, like Ontario expressed their concerns and frustrations. Some articles mentioned that Ontario’s Premier appealed directly to US President Joe Biden for help securing more COVID-19 vaccines in his press conference. (Canadian PressFootnote 44, City NewsFootnote 45)

Anita Anand, Minister, Public Services and Procurement

Quote from The Globe and MailFootnote 46 article:

"Every country wants to have the same products, the same doses, and so we have to negotiate very hard for Canada to have more doses as soon as possible and that's the job for me and my team every day"

Quotes from CBC NewsFootnote 13 article:

"We heard throughout this crisis from various premiers that they were looking to procure their own PPE or vaccines now, as the case may be and we, as a federal government, are in no way inhibiting or blocking them from doing so"

"Suffice it to say that we have procured enough vaccines to inoculate all Canadians, and indeed we have the most number of doses per capita of any country in the world" 

Phoenix pay system

Media coverage relating to the Phoenix pay system has been low since December 1 with most of them mentioned negatively. Only one article from Times & TranscriptFootnote 47 reported a bit more in depth on it writing that between August and September, the pay centre in Miramichi saw additional files beyond its normal workload. PSPC stated that this was largely due to seasonal peaks in intake. However, the general downward trend in caseloads since 2018 is expected to continue.

The coverage started to be moderate in mid-January when a letter provided to the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) by the Treasury Board Secretariat stating that the Canadian Revenue Agency had concluded that the settlement agreement to pay up to $2,500 in general damages were to be taxable. PSAC said that the letter was not a formal tax ruling and will contest it. (National PostFootnote 48, La Presse CanadienneFootnote 49, Radio-CanadaFootnote 50).

National Shipbuilding Strategy

Media coverage has been moderate and factual with most articles reporting in a more negative tone.

Several articles (Radio-CanadaFootnote 51, CBCFootnote 52, Journal de MontréalFootnote 53, MacleansFootnote 54) reported on a “heated interprovincial battle” over whether Davie Shipyard or Seaspan Shipyard will be given the contract to build the John G. Diefenbaker Icebreaker, the biggest ship to ever be built by the Canadian government, which is now estimated at over 2 billion. The Radio-CanadaFootnote 55 article, which was published on December 9, notes that a decision on which shipyard will get the contract is set to be made in the coming weeks. Le SoleilFootnote 56 article criticized the federal government by saying the only reason the contract would be awarded to Seaspan Shipyard is for political reasons.

St. John’s Telegram JournalFootnote 57 wrote a lengthy piece on Canada’s National Shipbuilding Strategy and how it has progressed over the years. The article touched on the Canada surface combatant (CSC) project, and how the expected cost has changed from 14 billion to roughly 70 billion, the most expensive military procurement in Canada’s history. The article noted that although the official launch of the project was in 2012, “there is no actual contract yet for the construction of even 1 warship, let alone 15 vessels. So far, the contracts awarded, mainly to Irving, have totalled $521.8 million.”

Ottawa CitizenFootnote 58 reported that an unnamed company is in the middle of a lawsuit over the CSC, alleging procurement was “bungled”. The article noted that the next hearing was scheduled for January 13.

On December 22, Radio-CanadaFootnote 59 reported that the federal government awarded a contract for 36.16 million to Elbit Systems Ltd. for the acquisition of an Israeli drone for Arctic maritime surveillance. The article was factual and positive and no one from our department was quoted.

On December 23, CBCFootnote 60 reported that the parliamentary budget officer is set to deliver an assessment of the Royal Canadian Navy’s frigate replacement program in early 2021. The article is written in a somewhat negative tone and anticipates a “major political battle over defence spending, the likes of which haven’t been seen in almost a decade.” The article noted that Alan Williams, a former senior defence official, estimates that the cost for construction and lifetime operating and maintenance expenses for the new fleet of 15 warships could be between 213 and 219 billion.

A few outlets (Journal de QuébecFootnote 61, Le SoleilFootnote 62, Journal de MontréalFootnote 63) reported on the federal government allegedly investing roughly $3B to expand the existing docking space at the Esquimalt Graving Dock in British Columbia. Conservative MPs Steven Blaney (Bellechasse-Les-Etchemins-Lévis) and Jacques Gourde (Lévis-Lotbinière) are calling this an injustice to Davie Shipyard. They allege that the improvements to the Esquimalt Graving Dock Shipyard are to benefit Seaspan Shipyard located on the West Coast while paid with taxpayer money. The articles noted that it has yet to be decided if Davie Shipyard or Seaspan Shipyard will obtain the contract for the John G. Dienfenbaker Icebreaker.

The Miramichi LeaderFootnote 64 and CBCFootnote 65 reported on a major “milestone” at the Irving Shipyard in Halifax. On January 22, the large centre section of the HMCS Max Bernays, its third Arctic patrol vessel, was rolled out of the waterfront assembly plant. It is reported “as a proud moment” for the shipyard following many COVID-19 related delays.

David Pugliese (Ottawa CitizenFootnote 66) reported that due to ongoing delays in the delivery of the joint support ships, the Canadian Navy is currently leasing a supply ship, MV Asterix from Federal Fleet Services (associated with Chantiers Davie). The lease, originally set for 5 years is expected to increase by $71 million due to the frequent usage. The cost of the lease has now increased to $691 million. The article quotes a Department of National Defence (DND) spokesperson noting that no decision has been made with regard to extending the lease.

Jody Thomas, Deputy Minister, Department of National Defence

Quote from the Ottawa CitizenFootnote 67 article:

"I think there's still too much noise from unsuccessful bidders that makes my job and Bill's job very difficult," (referring to Bill Matthews, Deputy Minister at PSPC)

James Fitz-Morris, spokesperson, Public Services and Procurement Canada

Quote from the CBCFootnote 68 article:

"No final decision has been taken on where any potential icebreaker will be built"

Marc-André Charbonneau, spokesperson, Public Services and Procurement Canada

Quote from the CBCFootnote 67 article:

"Given the importance of icebreaking capacity, the government is exploring options to ensure the polar is built in the most efficient manner, but no decisions have been [made] yet"

Steven Blaney, Conservative member of Parliament

Quote from the Journal de QuébecFootnote 60 :

“It’s inconceivable that taxpayers would finance a private company when Chantier Davie already has the necessary production capacity,” says Steven Blaney

Future Fighter Capability Project

Media coverage has been relatively low and mostly negative in regards to the defence industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ottawa CitizenFootnote 69 reported that after spending more than $2B with American companies, the Liberal government wants to give a major boost to Canadian defence firms by moving ahead on projects that can purchase defence equipment for the military. The December 3 article noted that the 4 major military procurement purchases over the last several months have been with US based companies. DND spokesperson Dan Le Bouthillier confirmed options are being examined to help minimize the impact of COVID-19 on the defence industry.

Murray Brewster (CBCFootnote 70) reported that only 3 of the 7 used F-18 fighter jets purchased from Australia have been integrated into the air force so far. The article noted that this slow introduction as well as the lack of precise timeline has the opposition Conservatives questioning the value of the interim fleet, which is meant to boost Canada’s existing fleet of CF-18s.

Dan Le Bouthillier, spokesperson, Department of National Defence

Quotes from the Ottawa CitizenFootnote 68 article:

"We are looking at ongoing procurement projects to determine what we may be able to prioritize in order to ensure our defence industry partners are supported"

"This is ongoing at this time, though no decisions have been made at this point"

Parliamentary Precinct and the Long Term Vision and Plan

Media coverage has been moderate, mostly factual and positive regarding the media tours held on the 2, 14 and 15 of December and the major restoration work taking place at Centre Block.

Rob Wright, Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) at PSPC, told reporters that no changes would be made to the remaining bullet holes from the 2014 gunfight. That being said, National PostFootnote 71 reported that parliamentarians had been divided on the preservation of bullet holes in the aftermath of the attack, and some of them have already been repaired as items in the building were replaced when necessary. There had also been debate as to whether the bullet holes, as well as the shooting in general, should be mentioned during guided tours of the building. The Library of Parliament, responsible for the tours, ultimately decided not to include it as it is not related with the working of parliament.

CBCFootnote 72 reported that the renovations were cited to take 10 years from start to finish but many observers predict that it will take longer, given its complexity and historical value. ADM Wright pushed back against that timeline, saying that they never said it would be a 10-year project.

CTVFootnote 73 reported that “officials said that right now the work is ahead of schedule. However, the final budget and timeline isn’t expected to be completed until the first quarter of 2021.” The article also reported that the next big challenge will be the masonry restoration on the Centre Block’s outer walls, which is projected to take between 5 and 6 years to complete. The Hill timesFootnote 74 reported and later issued a correction mentioning that 40% of the demolition and abatement work has been completed. It also clarified that 655 million was initially allocated for the Centre Block renovation, but 119.6 million has been spent to date. On December 15, ADM Wright said PSPC is projecting demolition and abatement will be completed by the end of 2021 or early 2022, with both that work and excavations expected to be 2-year processes in all. That being said, PSPC has not yet committed publicly to a schedule and a budget for the project, but ADM Wright said the department is getting close.

Ottawa CitizenFootnote 75 reported that excavators were caught off-guard when peeling back the first layers to find that it had been built atop a rubble foundation. ADM Wright mentioned that it was completely unknown and that is one of the challenges with Centre Block because it did not come with plans. Another major challenge is balancing the restoration and conservation with the modernization of the building.

Rob Wright, Assistant Deputy Minister, Public Services and Procurement

Quotes from the CBCFootnote 76 article:

"We've never articulated that it's a 10-year project"

"The media have indicated that it's a 10-year project"

"I think in the end, we should be in a good position in the first quarter of 2021 to really establish a baseline budget and schedule"

Interpreters’ health and safety concerns

A few articles were published in January regarding concerns raised by interpreters covering parliamentary debates. Articles mentioned in a neutral tone that interpreters have experienced acoustic incidents that forced them to go on leave for recovery. According to the Canadian chapter of the International Association of Conference Interpreters, a recent survey found that 70% of its members suffered acoustic injuries since the start of the pandemic due to the use of virtual platforms such as Zoom. In addition, the association states that Canada's official languages cannot be properly translated due to technical problems arising from the use of digital platforms during the pandemic. Coverage notes that the Translation Bureau has adopted measures aimed at reducing the risk of hearing injuries to its interpreters. (Le DroitFootnote 77, Times ColonistFootnote 78, The Hill TimesFootnote 79, Radio CanadaFootnote 80)

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