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Results: 1 - 30 of 1836
View Robert Kitchen Profile
CPC (SK)
Welcome to meeting number six of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
The committee is meeting today from 6:34 to 8:34 to hear from the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, and the officials, on the main estimates for 2020-21.
The committee will meet next Wednesday, on November 18, from 3:30 to 5:30 and will hear witnesses as part of its study on the Nuctech security equipment contract. Officials from Public Services and Procurement Canada, Global Affairs Canada and the Communications Security Establishment will appear on that day.
Pursuant to the motion adopted by the House on Wednesday, September 23, the committee may continue to sit in a hybrid format. This means that members can participate either in person in the committee room or by video conference, via Zoom.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules as follows.
Interpretation in this video conference will work very much like in a regular committee meeting. You have a choice at the bottom of your screen to select the floor, English or French. Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When you are ready to speak, you can click on the microphone icon to activate your mike. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute. To raise a point of order during the meeting, committee members should ensure that their microphone is unmuted and say “point of order” to get the Chair's attention.
In order to ensure social distancing in the committee room, if you need to speak privately to the clerk or analysts during this meeting, please email them through the committee email address.
You should all have received the speaking notes that were distributed 20 minutes ago, including the speaking notes from the minister.
I will now invite the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to make her opening statement.
Minister, go ahead.
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
It's a real pleasure and honour to be here with all of you this evening, which is my fourth appearance before this committee this year.
Before we start, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that we are on the unceded territory of the Algonquin nation.
With me today are Bill Matthews, Deputy Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, James Stott, Assistant Deputy Minister, as well as other departmental officials.
Today, I am pleased to appear before you to discuss our requests for funding in the main estimates and supplementary estimates for 2020-2021.
In our main estimates, PSPC is requesting $4 billion. Just over $3 billion of that amount will be spent on property and infrastructure, including the parliamentary precinct. Of that, $316 million is for payments in accounting; $170 million for government-wide support programs including the Translation Bureau—merci beaucoup; $206 million for the purchase of goods and services; $4 million for the procurement ombudsman; and $281 million for internal services.
Mr. Chair, I will also address our supplementary estimates (B) in which we are asking for an additional $720 million, with the bulk of those funds supporting Canada's important response to COVID-19. For the last several months, PSPC has been working non-stop to procure vital PPE and other medical supplies for front-line health care workers. More than two billion individual pieces of equipment have been procured. More than half of that has been delivered. We are increasingly turning to competitive processes wherever feasible. Equipping health care providers remains our priority, but the needs for PPE are also significant especially as we approach and are involved in this second wave.
This is why the department launched the essential services contingency reserve. This emergency backstop allows organizations to apply for temporary, urgent access to PPE and other supplies on a cost recovery basis. Today, we are requesting $500 million in our supplementary estimates (B) to support this important initiative.
Additionally, our government has delivered to the provinces and territories more than four million rapid test kits in the last few weeks. This is from the total of 38 million rapid tests that we have procured to date.
We also continue to aggressively pursue vaccine candidates. Canada now has agreements with seven of the world's leading vaccine developers and has the most diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates in the world. We know that logistics associated with vaccine distribution can be complex, which is why we are not waiting to act. We are moving quickly on this. We have begun to put contracts in place for end-to-end logistics solutions.
Another priority is pay.
Mr. Chair, while our COVID-19 response is my number one priority, there is a lot of other important work taking place at PSPC.
On public service pay, I am pleased to say that we have made significant progress in stabilizing the Phoenix pay system and eliminating the backlog of transactions. As of October 18, the backlog of transactions with financial implications has decreased by 71% since the peak of January 2018.
Mr. Chair, I will now turn to another major file where work is continuing even through the pandemic, which is our portfolio of crown-owned real property.
Building on the successful completion of the West Block and the Senate of Canada buildings, PSPC will continue to advance important work on the Centre Block and the West Memorial building, which will allow it to accommodate the Supreme Court of Canada during that building's renovations.
I will note that through the supplementary estimates (B), we are requesting $285 million to support operations, repairs and maintenance across all of our buildings. Some of these funds will be used to increase cleaning services to keep employees safe throughout and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
I will now turn to the file on revitalizing science infrastructure.
Mr. Chair, at a time where we are all looking to the expertise of our public health officials to guide us through the pandemic, the work of the government's science departments and agencies is especially important to our daily lives.
As part of PSPC's work on the government's Laboratories Canada strategy is our long-term plan to revitalize Canada's science infrastructure.
We have asked for $101 million in our budget for expenses in this regard.
Mr. Chair, I have outlined some of the important work being led by our department, which has performed admirably during this pandemic. The portfolio is broad and diverse. The department's work is vital to support this government and all Canadians in many different ways, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am so looking forward to speaking with you this evening and working with parliamentarians, our client departments, Canadian suppliers and the employees at PSPC to continue to respond to COVID-19 and provide other essential services to government and Canadians.
I would now be pleased to take your questions. Thank you.
Meegwetch.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for joining us today, Madam Minister.
I want to remind you that we are here to talk about the main estimates. We will see you again soon on supplementary estimates (B).
Minister, Davie shipyard is important to Quebec. However, it is still in the prequalification stage and we are awaiting final qualification for inclusion in the national shipbuilding strategy.
Will we have the answer before the end of 2020, yes or no?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much for the question. It's very important.
First, I would say that Davie is a strong and reliable partner that is working hard to help our government get results for Canadians.
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Of course we are undertaking a fair and transparent process to add a third Canadian shipyard. The process is being overseen by an independent fairness monitor. We are aiming to have a decision in the next few months. We hope we will be able to be timely in this regard.
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's correct. We have been working very hard on this process. I will say that the Davie shipyard has benefited considerably over the last years. Regardless of the third shipyard qualification, we value the work that Davie does. I will be working very hard with my department to render a decision in this regard shortly.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
We hope it will happen quickly.
Right now, there are three major shipyards in the country: Seaspan Shipyards, Davie, and Irving Shipbuilding.
Madam Minister, which of those shipyards is capable of building a polar icebreaker like the John G. Diefenbaker?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
I appreciate the question about the polar icebreaker. We do have very well-equipped shipyards as part of our NSS. We're very pleased to be working with them. As you know, we have a process in place regarding the polar—
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Excuse me, Madam Minister, but my question is clear.
Do you know which of the three major shipyards in Canada are capable of building a ship like the John G. Diefenbaker? Which shipyards are capable of doing so?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
As you know, perhaps, all Canadian shipyards were able to participate in the request for information, which closed on March 13, 2020. Those responses were received by our department. We are now reviewing those responses regarding how best to proceed so that the polar icebreaker can be delivered in the most timely and most efficient manner.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Okay.
During question period in the House of Commons, I asked you a question about the $237 million contract awarded to Frank Baylis, and you answered that there was no contract between the federal government and Baylis Medical.
Do you still maintain that position?
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
A few weeks ago, during question period, I asked you a question about Frank Baylis and you answered that there was no contract between the federal government and Baylis Medical.
Do you maintain that position?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
As the Minister for Public Services and Procurement, I can say that we oversaw the build-up of domestic industry, and that process was initiated with ISED. The contract that was ultimately signed in this regard was with a company called FTI. That is the contract I was referring to in the House of Commons when we were discussing it at that time.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
I have here, in black and white, a document from the Government of Canada confirming that the government awarded a contract to Baylis Medical. The document comes from Health Canada. I can forward it to you if you wish.
You are new. You were elected last fall. So you may never have met Frank Baylis. However, when the contract was awarded, when you learned that FTI Professional Grade was created a week before the contract was awarded and there was a scheme to award a contract to Frank Baylis, did you, as Minister of Public Services and Procurement, feel any discomfort, or did it seem natural to you?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
I really appreciate the chance to have a conversation about this, because I have no idea who Frank Baylis is. I've never met him. I've never seen him. I couldn't pick him out of a crowd.
The point you are making is well taken. This process of choosing the ventilator companies, which would stand up domestic production at a time when Canada had no domestic production and there was global demand for ventilators, was initiated by ISED under its made-in-Canada initiative.
After an independent process of experts reviewed proposals and chose five suppliers, those suppliers were told to...our department at PSPC, and they continued to go forward with the contracts in this regard. Our government's priority was to build up domestic capacity, and that is exactly what we have done in this area to stand Canada in good stead, to have supply chains for ventilators, in response to urgent needs of the provinces and the territories.
I'll ask my deputy minister if he has anything to add.
Bill Matthews
View Bill Matthews Profile
Bill Matthews
2020-11-16 18:53
I would like to add that—
View Patrick Weiler Profile
Lib. (BC)
Okay, thank you.
First, I want to thank the minister for coming to our committee for the fourth time, and to thank the officials for joining her today.
I'd like to start with something that is certainly top of mind for folks right across the country. It's something I'm hearing about constantly, with the really good news that has come out recently about the Pfizer vaccine.
Minister, related to your comments earlier, I understand that you and your department have been working really hard to make sure that Canadians have access to a vaccine when it is ready. I was hoping you could give us an update on how this process is going.
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
This topic is of extreme importance to Canadians, and we are seeing every day the news, like we heard today from Moderna, coming out.
Let me just provide the context for our vaccine procurements for you and the committee. We have bilateral agreements with seven of the world's leading vaccine candidates, and access to another six vaccine candidates through the international COVAX facility.
This procurement process, which was occupying our attention very much over the summer months, guarantees Canada a minimum of 194 million doses, with options for up to 414 million doses. The agreements cover different types of vaccines: mRNA, protein subunit and viral vector technologies, in particular. The strategy was that we needed to make sure that Canadians had access to a diverse range of candidates, because at this stage we don't know which vaccine is going to cross the finish line—or vaccines, for that matter. We don't know which vaccine is going to get Health Canada approval, and so we need to make sure that Canadians have access to a diverse portfolio, and that's exactly what we did.
We're also working with manufacturing facilities here in Canada. We've invested $126 million in the Royalmount facility to ensure domestic biomanufacturing of vaccines. We've also invested in a Canadian supplier, Medicago, out of Quebec, to make sure we have a Canadian or made-in-Canada solution here as well.
This is a broad-based approach to vaccine procurement. It is ongoing, especially with the logistics now, but that gives you a snapshot of what we are working on at the current time.
View Patrick Weiler Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you for that.
You touched on it a bit, but I was hoping you could speak a little more to the challenges associated not only with the procurement of vaccines, but also with their distribution. Some of the vaccines need to be stored in -70°C, for instance, so I was hoping you could share more information on how these logistical and distribution challenges are going to be managed.
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
It is a very good question, and I think it's a question on Canadians' minds right now.
I've already spoken about the importance of the regulatory approval process, and I want to to set out the stages that we are working on in the logistics process. After regulatory approval, we need to also think about biomanufacturing and fill-and-finish capacity here in Canada, because some vaccines may arrive in vat format that will require filling and finishing to occur here in Canada. Once that occurs—and we're hoping that we will have a Canadian facility here to do that to some extent in the Royalmount facility in Quebec that I mentioned—there's the distribution process.
As for your attention to the need for storage or refrigeration at -75°C for the Pfizer vaccine, that is part of the distribution process. We have put in place contracts for deep freeze and refrigeration to enable us to meet the needs of the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. For example, we will have the ability to store 33.5 million doses at a time in the freezers for ultra-frozen and frozen vaccine storage that we just put in place last week.
In addition to the distribution of vaccines, we are also working on supporting the provinces and territories in the administration of the vaccines. In that regard, we have procured 90 million syringes, 100 million needles, Sharps containers, 90 million alcohol swabs, 75 million bandages and gauze strips. This is very much a collaborative approach with the provinces and territories. We are placing orders based on indications and orders that are coming from the Public Health Agency of Canada. It is not just PSPC deciding what should be ordered. Based on the vaccine task force and the Public Health Agency of Canada, we are putting in place the logistics and the distribution systems.
View Patrick Weiler Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, Minister.
I'm not sure if my last question would fall under your ministry. How will we determine which Canadians get access to the vaccine first, and will Canadians have access to the vaccine once it's ready?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
You're right that that's not truly within my portfolio. It is a cross-government discussion about who will get the vaccines first, but we will take note that the national advisory committee on immunization released preliminary guidelines at the beginning of the month to guide the development of priority plans.
Minister Hajdu is engaging directly with provinces and territories on prioritization. The provinces and territories themselves have the best knowledge of the health care systems in their jurisdictions, so they will be making the final decisions in that regard.
Thank you.
View Julie Vignola Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for being here, Ms. Anand.
As part of the national shipbuilding strategy, Irving Shipbuilding delivered the first of six new Arctic and offshore patrol ships to the Royal Canadian Navy on July 31, 2020. The total cost of the project is $4.3 billion.
The ship HMCS Harry DeWolf had an unexplained breakdown.
As part of the national shipbuilding strategy, do procurement agreements, and in particular the contracts with Irving, include terms and conditions to ensure that any performance issues are resolved quickly at the shipyard's, not the government's, expense?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for the question.
As minister, I take the contracts, every single contract, very seriously, including issues relating to the costs that Canadian taxpayers are bearing under this strategy.
By the same token, I believe that the NSS does offer significant benefits to the broader Canadian economy, so these are the things that we are balancing at the current time.
We are making sure that our investments in the AOPS for the Coast Guard are allowing the delivery of important services for Canadians and creating good middle-class jobs.
View Julie Vignola Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay.
I have no doubt that you are making sure that the budgets represent the costs well and so on.
If there is a problem, is it fixed at the expense of the shipyard or of the government?
View Anita Anand Profile
Lib. (ON)
As you can imagine, these are massive issues. They are large contracts that extend over multiple years. They're long-term contracts, so we are constantly engaged with each shipyard regarding its ability to perform under the terms of the contract.
I have asked my department to be very serious in its conversations with the shipyards to make sure that we are maintaining their compliance with the terms of the contracts, and in that regard, I will ask my deputy minister to provide some more details.
Bill Matthews
View Bill Matthews Profile
Bill Matthews
2020-11-16 19:03
I will just add that the ships are complex and large, and they do come with warranties, so anything that happens during the warranty period is absolutely covered by the shipyard. Beyond the warranty period is obviously a different question.
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