By Don Horne
The Ontario government is protecting people against future unforeseen emergencies by introducing legislation to ensure that a healthy and robust stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) and critical supplies and equipment (CSE) is available at all times.
The first legislation of its kind in Canada, the Personal Protective Equipment Supply and Production Act, 2022 (PPESPA) will impose requirements for the province to maintain a significant minimum level of critical goods, ready to be deployed to withstand the challenges of extraordinary events without having to rely on unstable foreign supply.
A part of Ontario’s Plan to Stay Open, the PPESPA will shore-up the domestic production of critical supplies.
At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario faced the stark reality of a hollowed-out stockpile of critical and emergency supplies left behind by the previous government, with the vast majority of remaining materials in an unusable state, either rotting or expired. Coupled with the fact that all of the province’s supplies at the time were purchased from international sources, the province was left with a serious challenge of sourcing PPE and CSE when production shortages hit and border restrictions were imposed.
In response, the government supported increased domestic production and established a reliable and centralized supply chain for PPE and CSE that needs to be maintained over the long-term to withstand the challenges of everyday and future extraordinary events. The PPESPA will guarantee that no future government is saddled with empty shelves in their warehouses and can adequately equip its frontline workers with the tools they need in time of crisis.
“Never again will Ontario be caught flatfooted and forced to rely on uncertain foreign supply for PPE in times of emergency,” said Ross Romano, Minister of Government and Consumer Services. “With this legislation, we’re getting done what previous governments failed to do – keeping a healthy stockpile of quality critical supplies, made in Ontario whenever possible, to ensure the preparedness, safety, and security of Ontarians for whatever future crisis might face us.”
The PPESPA would also require annual reporting by the Minister of Government and Consumer Services on the state of the province’s stockpile. In an effort to bring much needed transparency and restore Ontarians’ trust, information about the quantity, quality, and source of origin of supplies will be publicly disclosed.
“Building up our own supply of domestically-produced PPE and critical supplies and equipment will ensure that Ontario’s safety never again depends solely on outside sources,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, President of the Treasury Board. “It is a vital part of Ontario’s Plan to Stay Open that will protect our province’s progress and safeguard our access to the critical supplies families and businesses rely on.”
Further, the PPESPA includes provisions that would protect Ontario consumers by making it illegal to offer to sell or sell government-supplied PPE or CSE provided without charge or payment of a fee, with fines of up to $20,000 for individuals and up to $250,000 for corporations. These protections would discourage product hoarding, hold bad actors accountable, and make critical supplies more accessible to where its needed most, ensuring that those who would seek to take advantage of hard-working people who play by the rules will face stiff penalties for their actions.