Opening remarks: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—July 23, 2020

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Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, and thank you for inviting me back to speak to the committee.

I’m joined today by:

Since I was last here on June 16, we’ve seen a gradual easing of restrictions across many provinces. However, while there may be fewer active cases overall across Canada, we must remain cautious and prepare for a potential second wave.

The members will be aware from previous appearances before this committee that the Government of Canada has used a 2-pronged approach for procuring personal protective equipment and supplies—purchasing and importing from overseas suppliers, and fostering a domestic supply chain with eager and willing Canadian manufacturers.

Despite many challenges, our approach has shown signs of success.


I have spoken before about the volatile market and intense competition for personal protective equipment (PPE) around the world. Our experiences early on led us to adjust our approach on the ground in China to secure our supply chains and ensure that products, particularly those from new suppliers, were meeting Health Canada’s standards.

A steady flow of orders has made its way to Canada, with more than 100 flights of supplies from China, along with maritime shipments of items such as hand sanitizer, gloves and gowns. Although not at the pace we were seeing over the spring and early summer, we will continue to see shipments come through both by air and by sea as long-term orders are fulfilled.

Our overseas orders are being increasingly supplemented by domestic purchases, thanks in large part to a call-out in early March to suppliers for much-needed goods and services during this crucial time.

Our procurement experts engaged directly with thousands of these suppliers, and through the combined efforts of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), the government has entered into 147 contracts, including 137 contracts with Canadian companies.

Companies such as GM Canada, The Canadian Shield and Fluid Energy have stepped up to start making necessary supplies—including completely new products that have required retooling production lines.

Because of companies like these, 44% of the dollar value of our contracts is for goods that are being made in Canada, including surgical gowns, non-surgical masks, face shields and hand sanitizer.

PSPC is now in a much stronger and more stable position, and that has allowed us to shift our procurement strategy to increasing our purchases of domestic supply for key commodities.

With our most immediate needs now filled, PSPC has closed its call to action and is returning to competitive procurement opportunities, where requirements permit. For instance, we recently launched a series of tenders for goods such as non-medical masks and face shields, and these have attracted hundreds of bids.

One of these, a request for proposal (RFP) for cloth face masks, is open exclusively to Indigenous-led businesses, helping to spread economic opportunities to underrepresented groups throughout the country.

Mr. Chair, my department has secured significant amounts of PPE and other medical equipment and supplies to support front-line health care workers across the country—both for short- and long-term needs.

PSPC is also helping meet other needs for PPE, beyond the health sector. In June, the department launched a supply hub to bring together organizations buying and selling PPE. The hub connects Canadian organizations from coast to coast to coast with federal, provincial, territorial and other resources and information about PPE, including important guidance on what PPE is needed for specific occupations and work settings.

And earlier this week, Minister Anand announced the Essential Services Contingency Reserve, which is an emergency backstop that will provide organizations with PPE on a cost-recovery basis. It is intended to prevent significant disruptions in services to Canadians. This contingency reserve will help essential service sectors—such as agriculture, transportation, energy and manufacturing—bridge urgent and short-term gaps to avoid any significant disruptions in services to Canadians.

It is also part of the Safe Restart Agreement recently announced by the Prime Minister, and under the agreement, the government will waive any costs for requests from provincial and territorial governments to use the contingency reserve. The reserve will begin operations on August 3, 2020.

I can assure the committee that my department is working non-stop to ensure that Canada has the supplies and equipment it needs to combat COVID-19.

I also want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to transparency and accountability in our efforts to procure these supplies. To that end, PSPC is working towards progressively releasing a more fulsome account of our efforts in keeping Canadians safe in the coming weeks.


To conclude, Mr. Chair, as the pandemic situation has evolved, so has my department’s strategy. What has remained constant is our priority to do everything possible to protect Canadians and keep them safe. PSPC will continue to ensure that Canada is equipped for any possible scenario.

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

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