Feds knew ventilator program was ‘a waste of money’ months into pandemic

By Fall 2020, it became apparent the Department of Public Works possessed an oversupply of ventilators, according to a 2022 department memo. Taxpayers handed out at least $720 million for pandemic ventilators it mostly never used.

Feds knew ventilator program was ‘a waste of money’ months into pandemic
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld and The Canadian Press / Darren Calabrese
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The Department of Public Works knew its pandemic ventilator program was a complete albatross within months of launching, internal documents acknowledge. 

“In the fall of 2020 it was becoming apparent that the quantities contracted by the Department of Public Works coupled with the quantities procured directly by provinces and territories indicated Canada would have an oversupply of ventilators,” said the January 18, 2022 memo. 

“In response to this Canada proceeded to reduce the quantities required by terminating contracts for convenience with domestic manufacturers,” it added.

The memo contradicts testimony by then-Public Works Minister Anita Anand, who said favoured contractors were paid cash “prior to the information coming forward.”

Access To Information records show the department continued to take delivery of unneeded ventilators into 2021 and 2022, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. Suppliers typically received $20 million in advance with the remainder provided on delivery.

The Department of Public Works ordered 37,500 ventilators, but only 27,499 were delivered, according to the memo. 

The department earlier claimed it ordered 40,456 ventilators it mostly never used. During the pandemic, they deployed just 500 ventilators nationwide.

As many as 25,000 devices were considered “useless.” Cabinet received no refunds for the faulty ventilators. 

Minister Anand in 2021 testimony at the government operations committee said her department prudently  managed the ventilator program. She claimed it took staff a year to realize they had wasted millions.

“At the beginning of the pandemic it wasn’t clear how many ventilators would be necessary to prepare for any eventuality,” testified Anand. “These contracts were put in place a year ago prior to the information coming forward that we may now know.”

Hundreds of disassembled units were sold early last year, according to records.

The Public Health Agency on April 22 confirmed it sold unused $22,600 ventilators as scrap metal for as low as $6 apiece. Federal agencies have yet to explain why they could not find buyers for the products.

The memo Ventilator Procurement denied any political interference. Companies were “invited to send proposals,” it said. 

However, the memo contradicted internal records showing then-Minister Anand was personally involved in contracting. 

An April 17, 2020 staff email to Thornhill Medical, a Toronto manufacturer, confirmed Anand’s involvement. “Minister Anand is looking to touch base with you to speak about your needs,” it read. 

Ventilator Procurement clearly said: “Proposals were reviewed by a panel of experts.” None were named.

A 2021 submission to the Commons Health Committee said the $720 million pandemic ventilator program also went to CAE Inc. of Montréal ($282.5 million), Baylis Medical Company of Montréal ($237 million), and Thornhill Medical ($200.5 million). 

The $237 million contract belonged to one-term Liberal MP Frank Baylis, who decided not to run for reelection in September 2019. FTI Professional Grade, an obscure company formed one week before the contract was awarded the following March, later subcontracted it to Baylis Medical.

Rebel News requested details on the ventilator contract to Baylis Medical, but were stonewalled by the federal government circa December 2020. 

Minister Anand in 2020 testimony at the Commons government operations committee denied any knowledge of Baylis though he served in the Liberal caucus.

“I have no idea who Frank Baylis is,” testified Anand. “I have never met him,” she added. “I have never seen him. I could not pick him out of a crowd.”

Thornhill Medical is based out of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s riding. Almost all of their ventilators never left their Ottawa warehouse and remain unused over failing to meet “technical requirements.”

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