The federal government is looking for more than a dozen pest control contractors across Ontario for potential inspection and treatment work after bedbugs were found in 31 of its office buildings in the last year.
Each of the companies chosen could then be hired to inspect and treat federal buildings, employee vehicles, and homes for bedbugs if needed, according to a request for tender that closed in late January.
Most of the 31 federal buildings treated for bedbugs in the past year are in Ottawa, 25 in total, with another three in Toronto, two in Hamilton and one in Waterloo, according to Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC).
In a statement, PSPC told CBC Toronto the majority of those buildings only had a few bedbugs, and that none of them had “a high level infestation issue.”
Each pest control provider selected through the tender could be contracted to work within a 50-km radius of a federal office building. Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Windsor and Sudbury all have a building, and surrounding area, on the list for potential work.
The Toronto building listed is at 4900 Yonge St., just north of Yonge and Sheppard. It’s one of the three buildings in the city where bedbugs were found last year.
Amanda Doggart works there, and says “everybody certainly felt itchy” when they found out.
Even though the building has since been treated, Doggart is still worried about what might happen if she ever brought bedbugs home to her condo building.
“I have 300 neighbours. So for me, I’m concerned about them,” Doggart told CBC Toronto. “What would happen if I were to bring something home and it spreads beyond me? You don’t really have that same ability to contain it.”
Since the beginning of 2019, the government says three PSPC employees’ homes in Ontario have been inspected for bedbugs, but the bugs were only found in one of those residences, and it was treated.
Generally, bedbugs travel from place to place by stowing away in luggage, purses or on clothing.
The union that represents federal public service workers still thinks the government should be doing more to deal with the problem.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada’s national health and safety officer told CBC Toronto that the government’s move to have pest control services at the ready if needed is a step in the right direction, but not enough to stop bedbugs from spreading.
“The more bedbugs you have, the more you might have to rely on pest control products, which can have negative health effects,” said Andrea Peart.
“Let’s nip it in the bud, get sniffer dogs to proactively inspect every federal government building, coast to coast to coast.”
Outside Ontario, Peart says bedbugs have also been found in federal buildings in Gatineau, Que., Montreal and Winnipeg.
The federal government told CBC Toronto “swift action” has been taken in response to reports of bedbugs and the PSPC continues to hold “the health and safety of our building occupants, employees and visitors as a top priority.”