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Accelerating standard procedures for specific commodities

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is coordinating centralized purchases of specific commodities (for example, personal protective equipment) on behalf of the Government of Canada and the Provincial and Territorial Governments.

PSPC has initiated a call to suppliers to collect information about products and services that businesses can supply in support of Canada’s response to COVID-19. This includes medical products for prevention, like disposable N95 masks, vinyl gloves and hand sanitizer. It also includes different services, such as security, nursing and food services. The full list is posted on the Calling all suppliers – Help Canada combat Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) web page on Information regarding product specifications is also available.

In an effort to expedite the contracting process to procure life-saving personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies, PSPC is focused on suppliers who have all of the necessary specifications, certifications and licenses to import, sell and distribute PPE and medical devices in Canada.

If a business has other products or services that could help Canada, PSPC recommends that the business subscribes to its free automated Email Notification Service to stay informed of new tender opportunities posted on the website.

Direct awards in emergency situations

Canada’s legal framework for government procurement is based on a number of bodies of rules, including trade agreements, statutes, regulations, case law, policies and custom. The legal rules that apply to government procurement at the federal level are different from those that apply to the provinces, and the rules that apply to public bodies at the provincial level differ from province to province.

At the federal level, the central piece of legislation regulating government procurement is the Government Contracts Regulations (GCRs) issued pursuant to the Financial Administration Act (FAA).

In general, the GCRs require the solicitation of bids before entering into any contract. However, non-competitive contracting processes are available when:

  • the need is one of a pressing emergency in which delay would be injurious to the public interest
  • the estimated expenditure does not exceed CAD 25,000 in the case of a goods contract, and CAD 40,000 in the case of any other contract to which the GCRs apply; the limit may increase to CAD 100,000 where the contract relates to the procurement of architectural or engineering services
  • the nature of the work is such that it would not be in the public interest to solicit bids
  • only one person is capable of performing the contract

A “pressing emergency” may involve an actual or imminent life-threatening situation, a disaster that endangers the quality of life or safety of Canadians, or has resulted in the loss of life, or one that may result in significant loss or damage to Canadian Crown property.

Other options available to contracting authorities

In response to COVID-19, the Government of Canada has launched a whole-of-government effort to combat the spread and impact of the virus. Effective from 20 March 2020, the Treasury Board approved time-limited increases to emergency contracting limits:

  1. Until 30 September 2020, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement’s emergency contracting limit has been increased to CAD 500 million.
  2. Until 30 September 2020, the emergency contracting limit for all other ministers has been increased to CAD 3 million.
  3. Until 31 March 2021, the Minister of Public Services and Procurement will have an unlimited emergency contracting limit for the research, development, acquisition and deployment of vaccines related to COVID-19.

The applicable provisions of the Government Contracts Regulations continue to apply with respect to awarding contracts using emergency contracting limits.

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Baker McKenzie’s Public Procurement World contains more information about the world’s most important public procurement laws and guidance in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic.