Old Navy and IFR Workwear awarded $4.2M contract to make masks for Alberta students
Alberta directly reached out to vendors instead of putting out a request for proposals for the contracts
Alberta has placed two orders for 1.7 million masks for students as they return to in-person classes this fall.
The contracts, valued at a total of $4.2 million, were placed with Old Navy and IFR Workwear.
Old Navy is a clothing company owned by U.S. multinational The Gap. It brought in $4 billion in revenue last year. IFR, according to the company's catalogue, is a family-owned business founded in 2005, and two of the founders are Métis. The company is based in north Red Deer, which is Education Minister Adriana LaGrange's riding.
LaGrange said in an emailed release on Saturday that "some have recently questioned the ability" of the provincial government to purchase the needed number of masks in time for the start of K-12 classes this September.
LaGrange said when a decision on how students would return to class was announced on July 21, a decision on masks was still pending, so Alberta Education and the Provincial Operations Centre began preparing in case masks were made mandatory.
On Tuesday, LaGrange and Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced that all Alberta school staff and students from Grade 4 to 12 will be required to wear masks — and that all staff and students will be given two reusable masks from the government.
"Given the expediency required, the [Provincial Operations Centre] has directly approached experienced, established vendors to fulfil personal protective equipment (PPE) needs for school reopenings," LaGrange said.
"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."
LaGrange said the province appreciates the eagerness of local businesses that have offered to help with the effort, but that often those businesses manufactured non-PPE products before the pandemic and/or have limited production capacity.
Timothy Gerwing, a spokesperson for the minister of municipal affairs, which the Provincial Operations Centre falls under, said companies had to meet both quality requirements and the demands of filling such a large order in a manner of weeks.
"The primary goal is getting the masks into the hands of Alberta families for the resumption of classes," he said in an emailed statement.