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Trudeau announces support for manufacturers to make medical supplies

REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The Canadian government unveiled new measures to support manufacturers across the country producing medical supplies to fight the spread and impact of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that the government will help companies that are currently producing medical supplies – such as masks, ventilators and hand sanitizer – to “massively scale-up” production. Ottawa will also provide support for companies that have offered to pivot their manufacturing facilities to produce medical equipment.

“We know that Canadian companies are among the most innovative and agile in the world and we are very confident that we’re going to be able to work with them to respond to the pressing needs in our healthcare system,” Trudeau told reporters on Friday.

Manufacturing companies across the country are in the midst of discussions with various levels of government about using their facilities to help produce medical supplies and equipment.

The federal government said Friday it has signed letters of intent with three companies to ramp up production of medical supplies and equipment – Medicom, Spartan BioScience and Thornhill Medical, which produces much-needed ventilators. It has also held discussions with the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association about re-tooling production facilities for different purposes.

“Our healthcare professionals really need support, so our government will help these companies shift production from auto parts to medical supplies,” Trudeau said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that he spoke with executives at two Canadian auto parts manufacturers – Magna International and Martinrea – about using their production facilities and staff to produce ventilators and other medical supplies. Ford said Martinrea has 400 people ready to work on the production line if the province is able to obtain designs needed to produce the ventilators. He said Magna’s chief executive Don Walker has also offered to help. The government also held meetings with Canada Goose to discuss using the company’s sewing production make medical gowns.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains said various programs will be refocused to prioritize the fight against the coronavirus, including the Strategic Innovation Fund, the National Research Council, Innovation Solutions Canada and the government’s Superclusters fund.

Bains said that companies that want to offer assistance can get in touch with the government through his ministry’s website. The government has posted a call to action on its website, and advises companies that can manufacture supplies or have skilled workers who can respond and be available to work to send a short summary of their offer to ic.mid-dim.ic@canada.ca.

“We want healthcare professionals to be able to focus on doing their life-saving work, without worrying about the supply of medical equipment,” Bains said. “We want Canadians to know that as solutions are offered, we will invest to make sure that more domestic capacity is online as quickly as possible.”

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