The federal and Ontario governments are hailing the first N95 masks to roll off a domestic assembly line as a step toward better pandemic protection for Canada now and into the future.
The masks are being produced by 3M Canada following a multimillion-dollar deal between the federal government and Queen's Park announced last August by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
The agreement saw the two levels of government kick in $23.3 million each to help 3M expand production at its plant in Brockville.
Both leaders said at the time that the deal was intended to ensure Canada was never again at the mercy of unreliable foreign suppliers of personal protective equipment.
Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand underscored that aim during a virtual event with provincial ministers marking delivery of the first masks, which are now destined for front-line workers.
The deal will see 30 million masks delivered to the federal government and 25 million to Ontario each year for the next five years.
“Our objective in striking this deal from a federal government perspective was to make sure that we had PPE supplies in place in Canada in the short and the long term,” Anand said
“These are masks the Canadian public and front-line health-care workers need, not just for today, but in the months and years to come, given that we do not know whether another pandemic will befall this country.”
The new masks come as a third wave of COVID-19 sweeps across the country faster than Canadians get their vaccines.
Dr. Ann Collins, president of the Canadian Medical Association, says member surveys suggest doctors and other health-care professionals are continuing to face shortages of personal protective equipment.
“Clearly it's a critical piece of kit in the battle against this virus,” Collins said in an interview.
“We have to be very thankful that we've got this assurance going forward, because we're going to need these masks, it would appear for a very long time.”
Collins added that what would also be good to see is domestic production of vaccines, “particularly now with this very aggressive third wave.”