Evidence of meeting #18 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was masks.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Arianne Reza  Assistant Deputy Minister, Procurement, Department of Public Works and Government Services

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Miller Liberal Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

I submit to you, Ms. Ashton, that this is not how procurement works. We were working with the community already to respond to their pandemic plan. Indeed, were you to ask them, they would say that they are—and I do not purport to speak for them—quite happy with the result right now, but that was something that was well in the works to the best of my understanding.

Again, the surge capacity nature of the procurement was such that these tents—which are very expensive movable structures with a medical purpose that can be used in many ways—are in very high demand in the communities that need them, which we respond proactively to.

Obviously we have to predict for second and third waves, and that's why that procurement occurs on a national scale. We're glad to work with communities that require any of these. The communities that have used them are quite happy. Obviously they're not happy with the conditions that create the need, but it's something that we need to continue moving forward with, and we will.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Sure. Let me just remind both you and the committee that the chief used the word “paternalism” to describe this announcement. These are very serious words to describe what your government did.

Let's move on to other communities—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

There's only 10 seconds left, Ms. Ashton. I'm sorry.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

I'll follow up in the next round. Thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Thank you very much.

We're going to a five-minute round, but I'm modifying it because of the problems earlier. Mr. Viersen will be followed by Ms. Bérubé for two and a half minutes. Mr. Zimmer will be followed by Ms. Qaqqaq, and then we will wrap up the meeting with a vote with regard to our budget.

Mr. Viersen, the floor is yours. You have five minutes.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to our guests and witnesses for being here today.

Minister Anand, the last time we spoke I was asking you about procurement and whether indigenous companies were able to bid on these contracts and whether any indigenous companies had been awarded contracts for PPE with the federal government. I was wondering if you could give us an update on that situation.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Anand Liberal Oakville, ON

Thank you so much for asking me that question again, because in that format we don't have a large opportunity to have an interchange.

As you know, PSPC is very committed to collaborating with indigenous suppliers. We have awarded 12 contracts to 10 indigenous businesses, for a total amount of about $40 million at the current time. In addition, I am very much advocating open competitions or RFP processes in which we can specifically target indigenous businesses, and in that vein, we actually have launched an RFP process for the production of cloth masks. This is targeted specifically to indigenous businesses.

The answer to the question is yes. We are definitely encouraging indigenous businesses and attempting to ensure that indigenous businesses are participating in the procurement process.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Minister, how many employees does your department have?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Anand Liberal Oakville, ON

My department has many, in the thousands. I will turn it over to Arianne Reza, who will respond to that question.

12:40 p.m.

Arianne Reza Assistant Deputy Minister, Procurement, Department of Public Works and Government Services

PSPC has approximately 12,000 employees.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Minister, were you aware that there was an online trivia game hosted by your department on Wednesday for your employees as a morale-building exercise?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Anand Liberal Oakville, ON

I was not aware of that. As you know, the department is run by the deputy minister, Mr. Bill Matthews.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Could you find out for me what that morale-building exercise cost? There are 12,000 employees at PSPC, and there were 400 participants. You can view the video online on YouTube. I'm also wondering if that was a sole-source contract.

Do you think this is a good use of taxpayers' money during a pandemic, when many Canadians are losing their jobs?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Anand Liberal Oakville, ON

I will get back to you on that.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Minister, do you know how many contracts we have signed for masks throughout this pandemic?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Anand Liberal Oakville, ON

We have signed hundreds of contracts, both domestically and internationally, for PPE. Many of those are for masks, as you know, such as surgical masks, cloth masks and N95 masks. We're dealing with multiple different types of masks.

I will ask Arianne Reza, who is in charge of many of these contracts in our department, to speak to your question as well.

12:40 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Procurement, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Arianne Reza

We have bought many masks to meet the front-line needs of health care workers, including a range of N95 masks, surgical masks, non-medical masks and disposable masks.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Minister, there have been reports of contaminated masks, and it seems that they've been diverted from the medical field to other communities. Have any of these contaminated masks ended up in first nation communities?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Anand Liberal Oakville, ON

You are correct that we attempt to repurpose masks and we have done so. None of these have been diverted to indigenous communities.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Do you know what company has been supplying us with the contaminated masks?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Anand Liberal Oakville, ON

I believe the masks you're referring to did not meet the specifications of the Public Health Agency of Canada. However, they can be used in other sectors. Given the negotiations with the supplier at the current time, it would be prudent for us not to disclose the particulars of that negotiation.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Bratina

Sorry, Mr. Viersen, but that brings us to the end of your time.

Madam Bérubé, you have the floor for two and a half minutes. Please go ahead.

June 19th, 2020 / 12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My question is for Minister Miller.

Mr. Miller, in 2018, the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Health and Social Services Commission published a document stating that many grey areas remained with regard to jurisdictions related to first nations health care.

What do you think of the idea of clarifying the legal framework governing the public health practice in non-treaty first nations communities?

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Miller Liberal Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

Thank you, Ms. Bérubé.

This issue affects not only health care, but also a number of other areas. When we look at the Constitution, the areas of jurisdiction and the method of providing social services—and crucial medical assistance—we sometimes see an overlap, but also occasionally shortcomings.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, despite efforts to leave no one behind, we sometimes saw a gap in access, particularly to personal protective equipment and nursing care. This is the responsibility of the federal crown, but also the provincial crown. It's a challenge, I'll give you that.

Take the example of a situation outside Quebec. In La Loche, Saskatchewan, the department proactively responded to the pandemic. A large proportion, or 90%, of the community members are indigenous people. However, the village isn't a reserve. Of course, the community had to coordinate efforts with the province and the surrounding Dene communities.

Rather than conflict, I prefer to speak about co-operation. We must co-operate, despite the philosophical discrepancies and differences that exist in the relationships with the provinces and territories. This is about the health of people living in Canada.

I partly agree with you. However, the lesson that I'm learning from this situation is that we need to better coordinate our efforts to provide the proper health care services that everyone should receive.

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Do you think that the idea of—