Ottawa says it won’t pay for defective masks as feds move to cut ties with Montreal supplier

By | May 9, 2020

The federal government says it won’t pay for masks that fail to meet national standards and is looking into using faulty ones for non-medical purposes, as Ottawa moves to cut ties with a Montreal-based supplier after millions of N95 respirators contained in a shipment from the company were deemed defective.

A government source, who is not authorized to publicly discuss the matter, told CBC News on Saturday that the government is now working out the details to permanently end its relationship with the distributor. The source said there were no plans to solicit future orders from the company, whose name hasn’t been disclosed.

On Friday, it was revealed that Ottawa had suspended shipments from the supplier after approximately eight million masks out of an 11-million shipment made in China didn’t meet federal specifications. 

“There are discussions ongoing with [the supplier] because we will not be burdened with masks that do not fit our stringent requirements,” Trudeau said Saturday following his daily address to Canadians. “But we will not be paying for masks that do not hit the standards that we expect to give our front-line workers.”

WATCH | Trudeau talks suspending PPE shipments:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says ramping up the domestic production of personal protective equipment is key to meeting long-term demands, but added that halting certain shipments is evidence that Canada’s procurement process is working as it should. 1:08

Only one million masks met the requirements, while another 1.6 million are still undergoing testing, an email from Procurement Minister Anita Anand’s office said.

The prime minister declined to state how much Canada paid for the masks, but said that the federal government was in talks with the supplier about whether “alternative uses” for the masks would be possible.

The source said that discussions are now focused on the government getting all or part of its money back from the botched deal.

More federal support coming next week

On Friday, the prime minister said that there will be more support from the federal government to help certain sectors of the economy reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trudeau made the promise, without getting into specifics, as he announced an extension to Ottawa’s emergency wage-subsidy program beyond its early-June endpoint. He said he’d have more to say about that next week.

The pledges followed the unsettling news that nearly two million jobs were lost in April, adding to the one million lost in March, pushing Canada’s unemployment rate to a staggering 13 per cent.

Some new signs of both economic and social life appeared in many parts of the country this week as various provinces took more tentative steps to loosen lockdown restrictions.

But Trudeau warned the reopening of the economy and the lifting of restrictions will happen “very, very gradually,” and transmission of the disease will have to be carefully monitored.

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