Justin Trudeau's office reportedly requested and then signed off on a series of responses in preparation for a news story from last May that sounded the alarm about the importation of 9.8 million faulty medical masks from China.
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The PMO's press secretaries worked late writing and tweaking lines in anticipation of the news that Canada was short millions upon millions of masks — and that many of the masks that did arrive to our shores were faulty.
9.8 Million Masks Not Up to Standards
As reported in a May 27, 2020 report in the Toronto Sun,
As of May 19, data posted by Public Services and Procurement Canada showed that upwards of 104 million masks have been ordered, but it received slightly less than 12 million, the Canadian Press reported. Of those received, 9.8 million didn’t meet Canadian standards.
Testifying at a Commons government operations committee on May 22, Canada’s chief public health officer said the Public Health Agency had few readily available N95 masks.
“There was definitely a small amount,” Dr. Theresa Tam said. “It wasn’t a lot.”
And now, exclusive emails from the Office of the Prime Minister shows that all hands were on deck in preparing a response.
“Sabrina for PMO” Requests “Responsive Lines” for PMO
An email sent on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 at 11:17pm by press secretary Cecely Roy mentioned that the lines were requested by the PMO:
See responsive lines on KN95 supplier below for your review. Sabrina for PMO has asked for these tonight ahead of PM presser tomorrow. Tristan pulled this together and we reviewed together.
“Nicely done,” responds former CBC journalist and current Liberal staffer James Fitz-Morris after another secretary made “tiny tweaks.”
PMO “all the way up to Katie” signed off
As Roy notes in a Thursday, May 21 email sent at 2:15pm:
PMO all the way up to Katie signed off on the lines this morning apparently, so helpful when we get this into them.
Katie likely refers to Trudeau's chief of staff Katie Telford.
“Updated Lines” from Press Secretary to Address Upcoming Story
In an email sent at 10:44pm on Friday, May 22, 2020, Roy outlined the following as final “updated lines” for facing the “story coming out tomorrow”.
We are not paying for masks that we cannot use.
We have suspended further shipments of KN95 masks from this supplier, and have no intention of taking delivery of any additional masks.
We received 10.9 million KN95 masks from the supplier and approximately 9.8 million did not meet Canadian standards for this type of mask for medical use.
As a result, we are exiting the relationship.
While we received masks that do not meet Canada's standards for medical use from the supplier, close to 2 million have been redirected to organizations outside of the health system, and we expect to deploy more in the near future.
We are looking at the real value for what we have received and recuperating payment based on that.
If pressed on why this supplier was contracted & due diligence:
The contracting process was initiated when the distributor submitted a proposal through the Buy-and-Sell website following the call-out to suppliers for goods and services needed in Canada's response to COVID-19.
Submissions received through Buy-and-Sell are reviewed and actioned by a team of procurement specialists within the Department of Public Services and Procurement Canada.
The ability of the supplier to deliver large quantities of masks quickly was a significant consideration -always subject of course to meeting Canada's testing and standards.
This was one of the earliest contracts signed for this product in very high demand, at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.
We received 10.9 million KN95 masks from the supplier and approximately 9.8 million did not meet Canadian standards for this type of mask - for use in the health system.
As a result, we have suspended deliveries of KN95 masks from this supplier and we are exiting the relationship.
To be clear, we are not paying for masks that we cannot use.
If pressed on quality assurance:
This was one of the earliest contracts signed for this product at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis.
Since that time, we have continued to adjust and refine our procurement approach.
We have in place a rigorous quality assurance system beginning at the point of manufacturing.
Our rigorous approach is the reason why none of these masks that failed to meet our standards have entered the health system. • N95 masks continue to be in high demand around the world, and our work to bring them into Canada continues.
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