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Ontario’s Solicitor General defends sole-source deals in wake of Spartan Bioscience failure

Ontario’s Solicitor General defends sole-source deals in wake of Spartan Bioscience failure
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Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has defended the use of sole-sourced contracts during the pandemic, after Star reporting revealed the province paid $10 million to a now-insolvent company for unproven COVID-testing devices.

Under questioning Thursday from opposition MPPs during a hearing of the select committee on emergency management oversight, Jones categorically denied the contract was given to Spartan Bioscience Inc. because of lobbying from Wellington Advocacy, a company with links to the government of Premier Doug Ford.

Jones said the pandemic required speedier decision-making than the standard competitive bidding process, which includes a formal request for proposals.

“When we use sole-sourced contracts, it is because we need to acquire things quickly in order to protect the people of Ontario,” said Jones.

In an emailed statement after the hearing, NDP deputy leader Sara Singh said she wasn’t impressed by Jones’ answers.

“Solicitor General Sylvia Jones’ talking point didn’t address the question: Why this test from this company? Did the fact that Ford’s inner circle benefitted financially from this decision play any role in their choice?” asked Singh.

The $80-million contract was awarded in March 2020 to Spartan Bioscience after pressure from Wellington Advocacy, which employs several former Conservative insiders. As revealed in a report by the Star’s Richard Warnica, Public Health Ontario agreed to pay Spartan an immediate $10-million deposit upon signing the contract.

After several on-again, off-again Health Canada approvals for Spartan’s COVID-testing unit, It owed just under $73 million.

In a list of creditors filed as part of the proceedings, Public Health Ontario was listed as the company’s second-biggest creditor, with Spartan still owing the government agency $9.8 million of its initial $10-million deposit.

Casa-Dea Finance Ltd., one of the company’s other major creditors, is seeking court approval to buy Spartan.
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