The federal government is reaching out to the private sector in an urgent hunt for “big ideas” that will help the Canadian economy bounce back from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada has invited 20 large accounting firms, management consultants and the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management to bid on a contract to “undertake analysis of key strategic industrial sectors at a national and international level, model scenarios and spark ‘big ideas,'” the request for proposals says. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented shocks to the global economy,” the RFP says. “A contractor is sought to provide global sectoral analysis to support government/industry collaboration on economic stabilization and resiliency, to support strategic sectoral strategies that increase innovation, digital adoption and sustainability.”

The proposal states that any contract that results from the request cannot exceed $3.75 million. The deadline for proposals is today, Thursday, at 2:00 p.m.

The firm that wins the contract will be expected to provide modelling on the medium- and long-term impacts of the pandemic, and assess “opportunities and vulnerabilities for Canadian industry.”

The federal government said it wants to know how leading countries around the world are rebuilding their economies so Canada can learn from their experiences. 

“The contractor must have access to global experts and case studies and must be able to provide rich pre-reads and presentations on issues such as corporate debt and liquidity, workforce disruptions, re-establishment of supply chains, building consumer confidence, agile regulation, digitalization and sustainable growth,” the RFP states. 

Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux told CBC News he is surprised the federal government is calling on the private sector because the federal government has thousands of public servants who have very good ideas and can also lean on the opposition parties in a minority parliament. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Innovation said that reaching out to private firms was normal practice and was in no way subcontracting out the work of civil servants.

Giroux also said the sooner a recovery plan is presented to Canadians, the better, because it will allow businesses and individuals to regain the confidence required for the economy to have a life after the pandemic. 

President of the Treasury Board Jean-Yves Duclos said any recovery will first have to follow the advice of Canada’s health experts to ensure a second wave of COVID-19 does not further harm Canadian business. 

Conservative MP Gérard Deltell told CBC News that efforts to ensure the economic recovery must be taken, and his party would like to see a formal stimulus strategy by the start of 2021.

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