A decision to pull a lucrative passport printing contract from a Cornwall firm is getting political.
NDP public works critic Linda Duncan, an MP for Edmonton-Strathcona, told Seaway News Thursday she plans on grilling Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose at the first opportunity when the House of Commons resumes next week.
Duncan said her office is still trying to determine why a contract to produce Canadian passport covers was pulled from Cornwall's Columbia Finishing Mills and given 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.
"I'm concerned," she said in an interview. "To the best of our information this company in Cornwall was providing good services."
Columbia Finishing Mills has been producing the passport covers for more than 30 years, but will stop this spring when Canadian Bank Note in Ottawa takes over the contract.
Canadian Bank Note is headquartered in Ottawa and has plants and offices in nine other locations around the globe.
The move means as much as 30 per cent of Columbia's bottom line will be lost.
"This is particularly dire given how hard hit Ontario has been by the recession," said Duncan.
When the company sub-contracted the work to a firm in the Netherlands, Duncan criticized the decision, accusing the Conservatives of using Canadian symbols for political gain.
"Why three decades later is a company losing that bid?" said Duncan. "Is it to save a few pennies?"
Duncan plans to raise this issue in the House next week.
Brian Lynch, president of Columbia, said in an interview he expected the groundswell of support the company has received to date - but added it likely won't help.
"In some ways it's good, but I don't think it will do any good," he said. "Now the writing is on the wall."
Lynch has been in touch with MP Guy Lauzon off and on over the last 18 months on this subject, but was told since the issue involves a tendering process, the local Conservative's hands are tied.
Lauzon could not be immediately contacted for comment.
Lynch explained the greatest frustration he has is that his company has made what he was told was a "competitive" offer to keep the passport business - but has heard virtually nothing since then, only that the contract is no longer his.
"They're pulled the rug out from under our feet," he said.