General items: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—April 14, 2021

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Opening remarks


Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, committee members.

Let me begin by acknowledging that I am meeting with you from the territory of many First Nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.

With me are Deputy Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, Bill Matthews, and his team.

I am pleased to be here today to contribute to this committee’s study on the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Procurement of personal protective equipment and medical supplies

Since the first days of the pandemic, my department has worked around the clock to procure essential personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies to protect our frontline health care workers.

Given the rapidly evolving and uncertain nature of the pandemic, we proactively procured a vast range of equipment and supplies so that Canada would be prepared for any eventuality, including worst-case scenarios.

We fought hard in a hyper-competitive global market to secure urgently needed supplies primarily from overseas.

We have procured 2.7 billion items of PPE across a range of items, and 1.5 billion have been delivered.

At the same time, Canadian companies answered our call and began to ramp up domestic production.

N95 masks are now being produced in Canada—for example, at Medicom in Quebec and 3M in Brockville.

40% of PPE contracts by dollar value are with Canadian companies.

Having these diverse supply chains operating simultaneously has been instrumental in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the very best efforts of so many Canadians to follow public health advice and make so many personal sacrifices, we are in the midst of a third wave of this pandemic.

Our PPE procurements prepared our supply accordingly and we will continue to support Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Canadians in this regard.

As long as the threat of the virus remains, our government will continue to do what is needed to get Canadians through.

Vaccine procurement

We know that the only way to conquer COVID-19 is for us all to continue to follow public health advice alongside a successful vaccine rollout.

When securing doses of safe and effective vaccines for Canadians, we took the same aggressive approach as in our PPE procurement.

We initiated a science-based strategy to secure as many vaccine doses as possible.

We approached manufacturers early, negotiating aggressively to build a portfolio of the most promising vaccines to protect the health of Canadians.

My department also procured supplies such as needles and syringes to administer the vaccines, as well as hundreds of freezers for use across the country.

Mr. Chair, we laid the groundwork for the largest inoculation campaign in this country’s history, and our portfolio of vaccine candidates is now delivering for Canadians.

We originally were promised 6 million doses of vaccines before the end of the first quarter. We exceeded this target by 3.5 million doses and reached 9.5 million by the end of the first quarter.

Canada is in the top 3 G20 countries for the rate of vaccination, for the number of people that have received at least one dose, and in the top 4 for total vaccines administered to date by population.

Today, we have seen a total of more than 12 million doses of the Health Canada-approved Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines which have arrived in Canada so far.

With just over 8.6 million vaccines administered to date.

Every day, more and more Canadians are rolling up their sleeves and getting their shot.

At the same time, my department continues to negotiate for earlier and earlier delivery from vaccine suppliers.

Our most recent efforts are bringing significant results. Between April and June, we will now be receiving 18 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine rather than the originally scheduled 8 million.

In addition, Moderna has confirmed that in addition to the shipment we received this week, we should expect just over 1.2 million doses to arrive at the end of April and more than 2.8 million doses in May.

We have also negotiated for millions of AstraZeneca doses to arrive before the end of June.

Mr. Chair, by the end of September, we will have more than enough doses for every eligible person in Canada.


Mr. Chair, the Government of Canada continues to provide information about the number of doses coming into the country which have exceeded our targets, but we are far from finished.

While supply chains are stronger, vaccines are moving directly from production to shipping so any manufacturing issues have a direct impact on delivery timelines.

To help mitigate these potential schedule disruptions, we are working very closely with suppliers and, through the PHAC, with provinces and territories so that information is shared in real time.

As well, the intensity of global demand has raised very real risks of vaccine nationalism. I can tell you that our government continues to work with our international partners to ensure the steady flow of vaccines into this country continues.

And, as I mentioned, I am personally pushing for even earlier delivery of vaccines from our suppliers.

Mr. Chair, our government will keep doing whatever it takes to get Canadians through to the other side of this pandemic.

Thank you.

Media scan


Media coverage from February until April was high, with Government of Canada (GC) / Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) COVID-19 related articles dominating the headlines in Canada. For the most part, the articles published were factual and neutral in tone with numerous articles quoting Minister Anand. The articles also included information from GC press conferences. Press conferences with the Prime Minister, select ministers, and public health doctors continued to be held bi-weekly throughout this period.

Vaccine procurement

On February 2, the Globe and MailFootnote 1 reported that Canada signed a tentative deal with Novavax to make vaccines in Canada at a new National Research Council (NRC) facility in Montreal when the building is finished. Additionally, several outlets reported that the European Union (EU) gave verbal assurances that it would not delay vaccine shipments through export controls. The Hill TimesFootnote 2 reported that the government is preparing a contingency plan should that promise fall through.

CBCFootnote 3 followed up on February 3 with an article stating that Moderna shipments would be further delayed in February, and that the Prime Minister would not answer questions as to whether the number of promised doses would still arrive by month’s end.

The Globe and MailFootnote 4 reported that Canada is the only G7 country to take vaccines from the COVAX fund, up to 1.1 million AstraZeneca vaccines by the end of March and up to 3.2 million by the end of June. The article notes that there is a discrepancy as Canada is shown to only be allotted 1.9 million, and Minister Anand’s office is quoted as saying they are seeking clarification. On February 6, CTV NewsFootnote 5 reported that it is “morally wrong” to obtain vaccines earmarked for poorer countries.

iPoliticsFootnote 6 and the Times-ColonistFootnote 7 reported on a Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies February poll that found 69% of Canadians blame the federal government for vaccine delays as opposed to individual provinces.

The Toronto SunFootnote 8 reported on February 11 that vaccine dose deliveries are set to more than quadruple in the upcoming week, with the single biggest shipment of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech to date and almost 2 million doses expected in the next month.

The Times ColonistFootnote 9 reported on February 26 that, through a deal with Verity Pharmaceutical Canada Inc. and the Serum Institute of India, Canada has secured 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine obtained Health Canada approval on the same day. The Hill TimesFootnote 10 quoted Minister Anand noting that the first 500,000 doses are expected “in the coming days and weeks”.

On March 5, Health Canada announced the approval of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. While this is the fourth vaccine approved for use in Canada, it is the first single-dose vaccine. Multiple outlets, including the National Post Footnote 11 and Ottawa Citizen Footnote 12 reported on the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine noting that Canada has pre-purchased 10 million doses with options to purchase an additional 28 million. Joelle Paquette, Director General for vaccines at PSPC is referenced in the National Post Footnote 11 article that delivery of the newly approved vaccine is not expected to begin until at least April with all 10 million doses scheduled to arrive by September.

Multiple outlets, including National Post Footnote 13, Miramichi Leader Footnote 14 and the Ottawa Sun Footnote 15 reported on Minister Anand stating that Canada expects to receive 36.5 million doses by the end of June. The National Post Footnote 13 also reported that 910,000 doses are expected the week of March 8, with 445,000 doses coming from Pfizer-BioNTech and the remaining 465,000 doses from Moderna.

On March 8, New Westminster RecordFootnote 16 reported on the federal government awaiting more details from Johnson & Johnson regarding doses due to be delivered to Canada after regulators approved the vaccine on Friday. The article notes that Minister Anand stated that the new vaccine would begin to arrive sometime in the second quarter, with an initial order of 10 million doses to be delivered by September and the option of ordering an additional 27 million more.

On March 11, several outlets, (Ottawa CitizenFootnote 17, The Globe and MailFootnote 18, Le SoleilFootnote 19) reported on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement of a new Pfizer accelerated delivery schedule, with 1 million doses arriving each week between March 22 and May 10. The articles noted that Canada has so far delivered 3.8 million doses to the provinces and territories. CBC NewsFootnote 20 reported that Canada is on track to receive 36.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by July.

On March 15, National PostFootnote 21 reported that Canada's Public Health Agency is expecting a smaller shipment of vaccines for the week. The article noted that fewer than 445,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are scheduled for delivery. The article also stated that Minister Anand has said that Canada is due to receive 118 million before September 30.

On March 31, the Globe and MailFootnote 22 and Ottawa SunFootnote 23 wrote that Pfizer will be sending 5 million vaccines earlier than expected this spring, and the first delivery of Johnson & Johnson is due to arrive at the end of April.

On April 1, ReutersFootnote 24 reported that Pfizer is accelerating vaccine deliveries to Canada, and Johnson & Johnson doses are expected this month as well. Prime Minister Trudeau is quoted as saying that “this would place us in a very good situation to say that by the end of the summer, everyone would have received 2 doses.”

Multiple outlets also reported on the 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccines being loaned from the US and which were received in late March. CTV NewsFootnote 25 wrote that deliveries to the provinces were already underway as of April 1.

La PresseFootnote 26 reported that employees at Emergent BioSolutions, a plant making the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, confused ingredients and manufactured 15 million vaccines in a batch that did not meet the quality standards. Johnson & Johnson replied to reporters that the plant is not yet authorised to manufacture vaccines. “The New York Times says that doses of the vaccine currently being delivered to the United States are not affected because they come from the Netherlands. But future shipments were expected to come from this Baltimore plant, which is now experiencing a delay in its approval for production, the newspaper adds."

On April 7, Business InsiderFootnote 27 reported that 62 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine need to be checked for contamination and possibly disposed of. The vaccines are from the same Baltimore factory that already ruined 15 million doses.

Anita Anand, Minister, Public Services and Procurement Canada

Quote from the Hill Times Footnote 10 article:

"We pursued advance-purchase agreements with 7 leading vaccine manufacturers to place Canadians in the best bet possible"

Quote from the Globe and MailFootnote 28 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"

Quote from The Globe and MailFootnote 29 article:

"very well on the way to having more than enough to ensure that every Canadian who wishes to be vaccinated can be fully vaccinated by the end of the summer"

Quote from the City NewsFootnote 30 article:

"Our deliveries of Johnson & Johnson will be beginning at the end of April"

Vaccine distribution

Health Canada officially recognized 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 also requires the use of a specialized syringe—low dead volume—which is in short supply globally. The Globe and MailFootnote 31 reported on February 10 that Minister Anand stated the government had ordered 64 million syringes to be delivered by May.

La Presse CanadienneFootnote 32 reported that Jagmeet Singh, NDP leader, stated the military should assist with vaccine distribution. “The provinces haven't specially asked for that,” Singh said in an interview. “But we've got the capacity to use the military, set up sites in federal facilities and federal buildings across the country. There seems to be this notion that, 'OK, we get the supply, then it's up to the provinces to deliver it.' And I don't buy that.”

With the approval of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Canada currently has 4 approved vaccines for use across the country. In an article from the London Free PressFootnote 33 dated from March 4, Prime Minister Trudeau indicated that he was hopeful that the original timeline of September 2021 to vaccinate all willing Canadians could be moved up.

Following a COVID-19 press conference, several outlets reported on Canada now expecting to receive 36.5 million vaccine doses by the end of June. "We are expecting far more doses by September than there are Canadians, even given that we're only talking about doses from 4 different approved companies right now," Trudeau said. The articles noted that this all adds up to Canadians getting vaccines sooner than originally planned (Miramichi LeaderFootnote 34, National PostFootnote 35, CBCFootnote 36).

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Quote from London Free Press Footnote 34 article:

"We're very optimistic that we're going to be able to accelerate some of these timelines," he said. "We're going to continue to do everything we can to allow our population to get through this challenge as quickly as possible"

Rapid testing

In a February 10 article by the Toronto StarFootnote 37, it was reported that Prime Minister Trudeau was urging provinces to use its supply of COVID-19 rapid tests as vaccinations continue to be administered. The article notes that the Government of Canada has received 40 million rapid tests and of those, distributed 19.6 million tests to the provinces and territories. The Prime Minister was quoted in the article saying "Tests must be deployed. They can't be allowed to expire." Health Ministry spokesperson Cole Davidson has said that the tests distributed to the provinces and territories have a shelf life ranging from 6 months to 3 years. The article states that the provinces and territories have rolled out the usage of the rapid tests in different ways. British Columbia is using the tests in outbreak scenarios, Alberta is using the tests in long-term care facilities, while Ontario is deploying the rapid tests to the manufacturing sector and warehouses. In a Canadian PressFootnote 38 article, it was noted that Ontario is expanding its use of the tests to also include schools, long-term care facilities and essential workplaces.

CTV NewsFootnote 39 and BNN BloombergFootnote 40 reported that Spartan Bioscience, the Ottawa-based biotech company filed for creditor protection on April 5, 2021 following concerns related to the efficacy of its rapid COVID-19 tests. The company is also temporarily laying off 60 to 90 of its employees, as well as laying off students and interns. CTV News reported Spartan interim chief executive officer, Jennifer Ross-Carriere said that due to “performance-related” issues and a lack of resources, the company is “in a position where we have a strain on our cash”. BNN Bloomberg reported that this is not the first setback for the company. The company received Health Canada approval in April 2020 and several weeks later, pulled its test due to issues with the swab. The company resubmitted its test in December and received its second Health Canada approval in January 2021.

Personal protective equipment procurement

In early February, CBCFootnote 41 and the Toronto SunFootnote 42 reported on documents tabled in the House of Commons health committee that showed the federal government missed an opportunity to purchase critical pandemic-related supplies at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The articles note that Canada “missed out” on an offer of N95 masks from Honeywell at the beginning of the pandemic. The articles mention political email exchanges revealing how the government struggled to respond to personal protective equipment (PPE) brokers large and small.

In early April, The Global NewsFootnote 43 reported on 700,000 N95 respirator masks being shipped. The first made-in-Canada mask shipment came in only 8 months after the federal and provincial government reached a 5-year deal with 3M plant in Brockville, Ontario, to provide 55 million respirators annually to meet PPE demands for front-line workers. The Gananoque ReporterFootnote 44 also noted Brockville site's expansion had added 30 full-time jobs to the local economy.

Anita Anand, Minister, Public Services and Procurement Canada

Quotes from the CBC Footnote 41 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"

Quotes from The Gananoque Reporter Footnote 44 article:

"We know that you’ve already delivered more than a million made-in-Canada N95 respirators and millions more are to come," said the minister, adding this is the second supplier to deliver N95 masks domestically

"It marks an important milestone in our domestic capabilities to respond to this pandemic"


Multiple outlets continue to report on the fact that while other countries such has the US, European Union and Israel have released its vaccine contract information, Canada has yet to release any contract details. Minister Anand explained that “Every country is different, given their domestic capacity, for example. And therefore the negotiations with countries and the resulting contracts are not identical.” A consequence of not releasing contract information is the questions it raises, such as penalties for failing to meet delivery targets, as reported in the Toronto StarFootnote 45 or the Globe and MailFootnote 46 questioning if Canada has negotiated any assurances in the contracts. Footnote 47 reported that when asked if Canada’s vaccine suppliers would face any legal recourse if they don’t meet their contractual obligations, Prime Minster Trudeau did not respond.

The Journal de MontréalFootnote 48 and the Globe and MailFootnote 49 reported on a Statistics Canada analysis providing information on the price Canada has paid for vaccines. Using import transactions and the number of vaccines said to be delivered in December, Statistics Canada calculated that Canada has paid $37.72 per dose. It is noted that the government would not comment on the analysis and despite evidence that other countries have paid less, Canadian contract details have not been released.

The Toronto StarFootnote 50 reported on the “fragile” global supply chain for special “low dead-volume” syringes required to extract the sixth does from the Pfizer vaccine vials. As a result of the global demand for the syringes, Canada is keeping key contract details secret. Minister Anand was quoted in the article noting that similar to the situation in March with N95 masks, details on the suppliers have not been released “because we actually are in a tight race to procure these syringes.”

Several outlets including the National Post Footnote 51 and iPolitics Footnote 52 reported that opposition members of Parliament (MP) passed a motion requiring the government to release the 7 contracts signed with vaccine manufacturers. Conservative MP John Barlow tabled the motion on February 19 in the House of Commons which also compels the parliamentary law clerk to prioritize the translating and publishing of the 7 contracts. The contracts would be reviewed to remove any information that could possibly jeopardize national security or compromise the contracts themselves. Minister Anand maintains in an article by the Toronto Sun Footnote 53 that releasing contract details would be a potential breach of contract and would risk receiving further vaccines. Minister Anand explains in a National Post Footnote 51 article that all countries are different and despite others releasing contract details she states that "every country is different given their domestic capacity for example, and therefore the negotiations with countries and the resulting contracts are not identical."

The Globe and MailFootnote 54 reported that despite the federal government being resistant to release any vaccine contract information, citing commercial confidentiality, Novavax has published its agreement with Canada to provide 52 million doses of its vaccine. The published contract which was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission indicates that the final deal was signed on January 19. The article notes that the Prime Minister had previously stated that the contract was inked last August however it is not specified whether that was a tentative agreement or the final contract.

In an April 6 interview with La PresseFootnote 55, Minister Anand reiterated her position on not disclosing any vaccine contract information such as price per dose and amount spent to-date. The Minister indicated in the article that she was not willing to jeopardize vaccine deliveries to do so. While other countries have released vaccine pricing information, Minister Anand noted that pricing information may be available when the budget is tabled in April.

Anita Anand, Minister, Public Services and Procurement Canada

Quote from CBC Radio Footnote 47 article:

“I realize that there is the desire to see these contracts. I just want to emphasize, as a former law professor, that contracts are bilateral agreements made between 2 parties and therefore, the government of Canada cannot simply take a unilateral decision to release our contracts without putting in jeopardy our entire vaccine supply”

Quotes from La Presse Footnote 55 article :

“We’re working with the [companies] right now to try to provide more information about the contractual arrangements. But I will not release this information without making sure [they] agree”

“As long as I’m minister, I will do everything in my power to meet my legal obligations [...]. It’s extremely important to me”

John Barlow, Conservative Member of Parliament (Foothills)

Quote from National Post Footnote 51 article:

Barlow said Friday it's become apparent "that other countries have negotiated some better commitments and penalty clauses into their contracts that we have not. I think those contracts should be made public, or as public as public can be. And Canadians deserve to know that"

Concerns expressed by provinces and territories

In early February, some outlets reported that several premiers across the country floated the possibility of side-stepping Ottawa and signing their deals with suppliers because of all the federal vaccine program delays. The Globe and MailFootnote 56 reported that Manitoba was the first province to pursue its vaccine contract outside of the federal government’s efforts. The contract is with Canadian company Providence Therapeutics for their vaccine candidate, currently undergoing human trials. The Journal de MontréalFootnote 57 also mentioned that Premier Brian Pallister accused the federal government that has agreed with the large commercial companies that they cannot sell vaccines directly to the provinces.

In March, several outlets reported that Ontario Premier Doug Ford criticized the federal government’s procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines. Ford stated that the province does not have enough vaccines from the federal government and that “it’s a joke.” Ford made the comments after being asked about discrepancies in Ontario’s efforts to distribute vaccines to local public health units on a per capita basis. (Global NewsFootnote 58, The Canadian PressFootnote 59) Following Ford’s statement, The Hill TimesFootnote 60 reported that Minister Anand responded in an interview on CTV’s Power Play. The Minister noted that she was surprised by Ford’s comments “because they’re not supported by facts”. 

CNNFootnote 61 reported in March that the province of Ontario declared that it was at the beginning of a third wave pointing to evidence of increasing case counts, hospitalizations and the spread of variants. Officials across the country are concerned that the federal government will not distribute the vaccines in time to avoid a significant number of hospitalizations and deaths.

Anita Anand, Minister, Public Services and Procurement Canada

Quote from The Hill Times Footnote 60 article:

“I'm actually surprised by those remarks because they're not supported by the facts”

She pointed to the fact that 9.5 million vaccine doses were set to have been delivered to Canada as of the week of March 30, including the Moderna doses Mr. Ford referred to, and said the government has been transparent about delivery schedules. More importantly, she said in Ontario supply currently outpaces the delivery of vaccines

Doug Ford, Ontario Premier

Quote from Global News Footnote 58 article:

Ford said the “root cause” of any vaccine shortage at the municipal level is the federal government’s procurement process

“We do not have enough vaccines from the federal government and it’s a joke,” the premier said. “Fifty-fifth in the world”

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