The Canadian Forces Health Service Centre, housed within the Monfort Hospital in Ottawa, was the scene today for an announcement by the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, the Honourable Carla Qualtrough, of the awarding of three contracts totalling $310.9 million for the provision of health care services to Calian Ltd. Also present at the announcement were the MP for Ottawa-Vanier, Mona Fortier, the Parliamentary Secretary for the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Sherry Romanado, the CEO of Calian Ltd, Kevin Ford, along with several representatives from the military wing of the hospital.
In making the announcement, Minister Qualtrough said that “All Canadians deserve a high standard of health care but perhaps none more than those who make great sacrifices to serve and protect us.”. The three contracts are so Calian Ltd can “… provide and manage health care services for the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).”.
Parliamentary Secretary Romanado stated that “… these new services will directly support the health and resilience of our men and women in uniform and help ensure a smoother transition to civilian life. The new agreement will supplement the current health care services and ensure continuity of care when medical (sic) personnel are deployed, they go on training, or are on extended leave.”.
Calian Ltd. has held the contract to provide health care support to DND since 2004 and this new contract is for four more years with optional extensions for an additional eight years beyond that. This announcement also adds contracts for the RCMP and VAC for Calian, who has partnered with Bayshore HealthCare, also for four initial years with an optional eight years. The potential dollar value of the contract, should it run for the full 12 years, is $875 million for DND, $60 million for the RCMP, and $55 million for VAC. Kevin Ford, CEO of Calian Ltd iterated that “These are not just contracts to us. At Calian, this [health care for CAF members, veterans, and RCMP] is a passion.”.
One point of concern is that the government has directed Calian Ltd. to direct some of their sub-contracting as “… we [the government] are also committed to creating economic opportunities for Canada’s indigenous peoples and these contracts include clear obligations on the part of Calian to sub-contract with indigenous businesses (Qualtrough)”. I have no quarrels with indigenous groups and I have indigenous acquaintances so please read on before sending hate mail.
In an attempt at full disclosure, let me say that I was a procurement officer in DND during the 1980’s and worked on the Canadian Patrol Frigate Project as well as the CF-18, CP-140 Aurora, and a host of smaller procurements. It is my observation that in almost every major procurement the government was more concerned about redirecting capital equipment procurement funds away from procuring equipment and more into providing Regional and Industrial Benefits (RIBs), always to the detriment of the procurement. In trying to get RIBs, the government, generally, wound up paying more for the equipment or getting less of it because the procurement money was redirected to setting up infrastructure, building plants for foreign companies so they could produce product in Canada, supplementing salaries of workers in new plants, providing tax breaks to foreign companies, etc. A lot of money necessary for RIBs seemed to come from the initial procurement budget for equipment and it was the men and women of the CAF who suffered. I still see this in the helicopter replacement projects, the Canadian Surface Combatant Project, and the CF-18 Replacement Project.
How does this link in with contracting with indigenous businesses? It doesn’t. What it does though is show the same pattern of the government directing money from a procurement objective (health services for CAF, veterans and RCMP) to serve another objective (bolstering indigenous businesses which could be considered a RIB). If the indigenous business can provide the same service at the same cost as any other potential contractor, then sure, why not, give it to them. BUT, if the CAF, veterans, and RCMP are paying a premium so that an indigenous business gets sub-contracts at the expense of their health care dollars, then I believe the affected groups would be annoyed.
Just so there is NO MISUNDERSTANDING, I am not advocating that indigenous businesses be excluded from sub-contracting, that they are not capable of providing the services, nor even that they not get preferential treatment. What I am saying is that every sub-contractor should be on a level playing field and that in the event of a tie, award the sub-contract to the indigenous group. That would be the best use of the money as the CAF, veterans, and RCMP get the best health care at the best possible price, indigenous businesses get a bit of a boost, and there is no additional cost to the taxpayer. Win-win all the way around.
So, the above point aside, it’s good to see the government providing more funding for the health care of CAF member, veterans, and the RCMP, and let’s hope some of it actually gets to where it’s needed.