Some Canadian manufacturers who made major investments last year to re-tool to provide badly-needed PPE now say they are being abandoned by governments. Typical of these is Barrie-based Mediguard Systems of Canada. When governments started scrambling for PPE, Mediguard completely retooled a factory and installed a Class 100,000 (100,000 particles per cubic feet) clean room. The company also went out and bought up a stock of raw materials.
Mediguard chief executive officer and director of operations John Bond told Barrie Today “These companies, such as ourselves, have invested hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars into retooling, raw materials, certification of our finished products, clean rooms, rent, research and development and training without so much as a dime in assistance,” Bond said. “All in order to respond to the public health crisis and establish businesses in the wake of losing our old ones due to this pandemic.” But now he says, government is falling back on the offshore suppliers that they used before the pandemic hit.
“We have been put in a bad position. They needed Canadian manufacturers and they needed them quickly, so we invested in that. We built that infrastructure and we did it with our own money in a pandemic, “ said Bond. “We are being held out to dry.”
Kitchener Company laid off workers
It’s a similar story in Kitchener where a local manufacturing company The Canadian Shield laid off dozens of employees. The company’s CEO said last week that the company has millions of masks and face shields on shelves because of red tape in the supply chain. NDP MPP Catherine Fife noted that Canadian Shield was one of the stops on Premier Doug Ford’s media tour last year. He toured and praised The Canadian Shield over the summer, going as far as packing a box of PPE. “That box, unfortunately, is still sitting on a shelf, not keeping doctors safe, nurses safe or essential workers,” Fife said.
The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services officials said they’ve launched Supply Ontario, a centralized supply chain agency to stabilize access to critical products, including PPE, across the province. “Supply Ontario will take advantage of Ontario’s manufacturing might, create opportunities for businesses, and stimulate economic growth right here at home,” a statement from the ministry said in part. “In fact, 74 per cent of the forecasted PPE spend for the next 18 months will be with Ontario or Canadian based manufacturers.”
Canadian clothing Icon, Stanfields lost out
In Atlantic Canada Stanfield’s Ltd. of Nova Scotia, famed for its long johns and boxer shorts, switched to making medical gowns for front-line health workers at the outset of the pandemic. After it quickly retooled its factory last spring to make personal protective equipment it now finds itself laying off 150 workers after failing to win a new federal contract.
Jon Stanfield, the chief executive of the fifth-generation family firm, said he is disappointed in the tender process. The company was first to step up when the need arose for a domestic supply of medical gowns and has continued to invest in equipment, training, fabric and maintaining its factory in a ready state, Stanfield said. Rather than lay off workers last fall when its contract ended, Stanfield’s continued to make medical gowns and now has about 300,000 stockpiled.
“We wanted to keep our readiness factor high,” he said. “We’re also in rural Nova Scotia where jobs aren’t plentiful and I wanted to keep people employed through this process.”
When the company announced it was hiring workers to make medical gowns last spring at an hourly wage of $17, Stanfield said the clothing manufacturer received about 600 applications.
“People wanted to support the cause and had great passion and the wage would help their families.”
Truro-area MP Lenore Zann said she’s “terribly concerned and disappointed” to hear of layoffs at Stanfield’s.”Our community stepped up when our country was in crisis,” she said