Ottawa inks deal for 30,000 made-in-Canada ventilators

Agreement comes amid concerns over Canada's domestic supply of medical equipment

Ottawa has landed a deal with four organizations to produce 30,000 ventilators within Canada’s borders.

The agreement with Victoria’s StarFish Medical (StarFish Product Engineering Inc.), CAE Inc. (TSX:CAE), Thornhill Medical (Thornhill Medical Research Inc.) and Ventilators for Canadians comes amid heightened anxiety over the country’s dependency on foreign suppliers.

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“We need a sustainable, stable supply of these products and that means making them at home,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday (April 7) during his daily media briefing outside his home in Ottawa.

“While we’re working to secure critical equipment from Canadian sources, we’re also in touch with other suppliers around the world who want to sell to Canada.”

U.S. President Donald Trump last week invoked the Defense Production Act to prevent Minnesota-based 3M Company (NYSE:MMM) from exporting medical masks to Canada. 

But the White House and 3M struck a deal Monday, allowing 3M to continue shipping American-made N95 respirator masks to Canada while also tapping its facilities in China to meet demand.

Trudeau said Canada expects to accept a delivery of 500,000 masks from 3M on Wednesday.

“We’ve had constructive and productive conversations that have assured that this particular shipment comes through but we recognize that there’s still more work to do,” he said.

“We’re going to continue to highlight to the American administration the point of which health-care supplies and services go back and forth across the border and it is in both of our interests to ensure that we continue working together.”

While the order of 30,000 ventilators is expected to be produced in the coming weeks, the prime minister said any extra units that don’t need to be deployed throughout Canada will be shared with countries in more dire need.

The recent medical-supplies row brings into question Canada’s reliance on foreign manufacturers — even ones with which the country shares a free trade agreement — for essential gear.

The federal government launched a new program March 20 to help domestic companies shift manufacturing capabilities and expand production of medical supplies needed during the COVID-19 crisis.

To date, 5,000 Canadian companies have stepped forward to address the COVID-19 crisis

Ottawa is also redirecting its Strategic Innovation Fund to deliver direct support to larger companies and research institutions, while the National Research Council is expediting 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.

The Vancouver-based Digital Technology Supercluster is now fielding 130 proposals aimed at tackling the impacts of the pandemic, with projects ranging from the development of platforms to help deal with mental health issues and rebuild community engagement, to data-sharing related to the genes of the virus.

Innovative Solutions Canada, meanwhile, will be helping companies commercialize products faster as part of the effort.

Meanwhile, Tuesday marks the second day since applications opened for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

The CRA is accepting applications any given day based on the month of someone’s birth.

Tuesday’s applications are open to those born April, May or June.

The CERB offers $2,000 a month to workers for up to 16 weeks and is pegged at a cost of $24 billion.

The measure was introduced as a means to take pressure off the Employment Insurance (EI) system and help self-employed or contract workers, as well as those in quarantine or caring for family member hit by the virus, who would have otherwise fallen through the cracks.

Canadians who apply for direct deposit can expect payments in three to five days, while those receiving cheques can expect payments in 10 days.


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