Canadian company outsources passport covers to Netherlands
Published Wednesday, October 10, 2012 2:40PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 11, 2012 11:09AM EDT
An opposition MP is outraged after the federal government awarded a contract to produce Canadian passport covers to an Ottawa-based company -- which then sub-contracted the work to the Netherlands.
Passport Canada awarded the contract to produce the new ePassport covers to Canadian Bank Note after a competitive bidding process last year.
Canadian Bank Note is headquartered in Ottawa and has plants and offices in nine other locations around the globe.
When the company sub-contracted the work to a firm in the Netherlands, NDP MP Linda Duncan criticized the decision, accusing the Conservatives of using Canadian symbols for political gain.
“They’re waving the flag, but in the meantime they’re undercutting Canada by outsourcing the manufacturing of our most important icon,” she said.
Rick Roth, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said the government awarded the contract to a Canadian company, and had nothing to do with the decision to send the work overseas.
"Our contract is with Canadian Bank Note Inc.," Roth said in an email to CTV News.
He added: "This Canadian company was awarded the contract to produce Canadian passports because it was the only company capable of printing the documents in Canada."
Previously to Canadian Bank Note, Columbia Finishing Mills had produced the plastic covers for about 30 years.
The firm, located in Cornwall, Ont., will stop making the covers this spring.
Company president Brian Lynch said the lost contract would cut about $1 million from the company’s bottom line.
Columbia Finishing Mills sales manager Dan Ploure told CTV News the company was surprised to hear that being Canadian would have no bearing on the bidding process.
“We were told from the beginning when tender came out that Canadian content had no bearing,” he said. “I was very, very shocked about that.”
The company says it will have to lay off staff as a result of the lost business.
The decision has infuriated Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce President Rick Shaver, who believes all parts of the passport should be Canadian-made.
“Every Canadian has a passport, we carry that, we travel with that, and it was made in Cornwall,” he said. “Now it’s going to an overseas company to make. What’s next, our currency?”
In response to the lost contract, Shaver penned an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging him to overturn the decision.
“The Chamber’s concern focuses on three issues with respect to the passport: Canadian pride, economic impact, and job erosion,” wrote Shaver.
“The Canadian passport is a document respected around the world and is carried with pride by millions of Canadians. While many of these passport holders will likely be unaware of the government’s intention, the Chamber believes they would be deeply troubled to learn that the document’s cover has been ‘sold-out’ to a foreign country where it will now be manufactured.”
In the letter, addressed to Harper and local Conservative MP Guy Lauzon, Shaver writes that while the government has always touted job creation in Canada as one of its central priorities, its actions would indicate otherwise.
“Your intention to outsource the passport covers appears to contradict the intent of those discussions,” Shaver wrote.
Meanwhile, Shaver says Columbia Finishing Mills is taking steps to make its contract bid more competitive, but that the government has not responded to its overtures.
“The Cornwall Chamber, speaking for the business sector at large and Columbia Finishing Mills in particular, urgently requests that your government take the necessary steps to rescind this foreign contract and invest instead in Canada, Cornwall, and the local firm,” he wrote.
Officials from Canadian Bank Note could not be reached for comment.