Industry will be looking to a new program from Ottawa to shift manufacturing capabilities and expand production of medical supplies needed during the COVID-19 crisis.
“This initiative will help companies that are already making things like masks, ventilators and hand sanitizer to massively scale up production,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Friday (March 20) outside his home in Ottawa.
“We also provide support for those who [wish] to retool their manufacturing facilities to contribute to this fight.”
Trudeau cited outreach from the auto sector asking how they could assist with the pandemic.
Major car-makers ceased production across North America this week.
“Our health care professionals really need support, so our government will help these companies shift production from auto parts to medical supplies,” he said, adding the government is also hoping to reach agreements with Thornhill Medical (Thornhill Medical Research Inc.), AMD Medicom Inc. and Spartan Bioscience Inc. as part of the new initiative to bolster the medical supply chain.
Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said later in the day the objective is to increase domestic supply and “swiftly create pathways to deploy resources to Canadian businesses who want to help in this crisis.”
“This is a co-ordinated strategy that will leverage our industrial base to rapidly scale towards more Canadian production in the products that we need to fight COVID-19,” he said.
Ottawa will also be redirecting its Strategic Innovation Fund to deliver direct support to larger companies and research institutions, while the National Research Council will expedite research and development for small- and medium-sized enterprises.
The government is also calling on its innovation superclusters to tap into its network of 1,800 members to come up with ways to address the pandemic.
Innovative Solutions Canada, meanwhile, will be helping companies commercialize products faster as part of the effort.
“Funds will be deployed on an accelerated basis with wider flexibility to be able to tackle COVID-19-related problems,” Bains said.
Ottawa has received 5,800 submissions to date from Canadian companies providing information on what goods and services they can provide to fight the pandemic, according to Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand.
Trudeau also revealed during his briefing that 500,000 Canadians have applied for employment insurance this past week, up from 27,000 a week ago.