Alberta Ministers flag ‘faux controversy’ for ethics commissioner over mask contracts

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“I hope this letter assures you there is nothing untoward in the selection of vendors for this project,” she said.

Instead of doing a standard request for proposals that could take weeks, the government said it found the two companies to urgently fill the orders in a process steered by the Provincial Operations Centre (POC), which is co-ordinating the province’s emergency COVID-19 response. The POC operates under the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

Timothy Gerwing, press secretary to Madu, said in a statement Monday neither Madu nor LaGrange played a role in selecting the companies.

“I hope you can understand that ordering 10,000 masks from one small company, 20,000 from another, etc. all the way up to 1.7 million wasn’t realistic given we have weeks to deliver to school divisions,” said Gerwing.

The decision sparked suspicion on social media that the move might have been politically inappropriate, and because the province’s Bits and Pieces program, first announced in April, seemed tailor-made to gather small local proposals for pandemic supplies.

Leslie Brooks, owner of Calgary-based manufacturer Hippo Hug, said her company, if given proper notice, could have contributed close to 50,000 masks before school starts.

While filling orders totalling between 60,000 and 70,000 masks for the City of Calgary, Hippo Hug was producing 2,000 per day at its peak, Brooks said. The government’s decision to give the bulk of the order to Old Navy was an “unfortunate” missed opportunity to support local businesses, she said.

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