CALGARY (660 NEWS) – The province has placed two orders with two different retailers to get masks for students and staff going back to school, but not everyone’s happy with the contracts.
The $4.2 million deal includes around 1.7 million masks expected to arrive before September.
The companies awarded the contracts include Red Deer based outfitter IFR Workwear and California retailer Old Navy.
The latter has sparked criticism online with many people asking why the province isn’t looking at local places to supply all of the masks.
Among those critical of the move is the leader of the opposition, Rachel Notley who said the deal with Old Navy is costing Albertans’ jobs as the province decides to hire an out-of-province company rather than one of the ready and willing suppliers here.
The UCP's 11th hour back-to-school plan is costing Albertans' jobs when we need them the most. They're sourcing masks from a multi-billion dollar out-of-province company when we have Alberta based businesses ready and willing to help. #ableg #buylocal https://t.co/V30FUzOHDe
— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) August 9, 2020
Others online mocked the government reaching out directly to vendors rather than accepting proposals for the massive contract.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange defending the decision, saying it’s a time-sensitive procurement, and they’re aiming to get two reusable masks for every student and teacher – as well as hand sanitizer, face shields, and thermometers – before school starts.
She added given the expediency required for the masks, the Provincial Operations Centre approached experienced, established vendors to fulfil PPE needs for school reopenings.
Government of Alberta contracting policies allow for this expedited process in urgent situations, as a standard request for proposal tendering process would not allow the government to fulfil our schools’ needs in the timely manner required. #abed #ableg 6/11
— Adriana LaGrange (@AdrianaLaGrange) August 8, 2020
“We understand the eagerness of some local businesses to help with the effort. Often, these are businesses that manufactured non-PPE products prior to the pandemic and/or have more limited production capacity,” LaGrange said on Twitter.
“We sincerely appreciate the enthusiasm of those wanting to help. That said, our primary objective is ensuring the large volume of reusable masks can be obtained and distributed in time for the start of the school year.”
Last week, LaGrange announced masks will be mandatory for all students and staff from grades 4-12. The masks are required in common areas such as hallways and cafeterias but not in classrooms while class is in session.