The day after it was announced that Ontario had seen over 300 new cases of COVID-19 in a single day, Premier Doug Ford and members of his cabinet came to the Royal City with some money for a local company looking to shore up any future demands for medical equipment. Linamar, Guelph’s largest corporation, received $2.5 million from the Ontario Together Fund today to help build 10,000 new Ontario-made e700 ventilators.
From the floor of the Frank Hasenfratz Centre for Excellence in Manufacturing, Ford praised “Ontario manufacturing giants” like Linamar who have “stepped up” and, after a few short months, is now developing 10,000 made-in-Ontario ventilators.
“It’s a game changer,” Ford said. “We’ll have 10,000 ventilators for hospitals, long-term care homes and frontline health care workers. And I hope we never have to use them, but thanks to the partnership, we will be prepared for the worst.”
The Ontario Together Fund is worth $50 million, and Ontario businesses are able to apply for money to retool their operations so that they can start producing needed healthcare tech like ventilators, or personal protective equipment (PPE) and materials. The desired effect is to create more Ontario-made materials that would would decrease the need for foreign imports, and to give Ontario companies a way to recall furloughed workers by developing new projects.
“It gave out team something really positive to focus on, something that they and their families could be really proud of them for doing,” said Linda Hasenfratz, the CEO of Linamar, who explained that transforming her plants into ventilator part manufacturing allowed her to recall 600 laid-off workers in Guelph.
“We quickly zeroed in on the ventilator segment as one we thought we could play a role in,” Hasenfratz explained. Her research led to Linamar teaming up with O-Two Medical Technologies in Brampton, who had the expertise in building ventilators, but didn’t have the capacity to ramp up production to build the thousands of ventilators that the province needed.
“In a matter of literally two weeks, we were in production for companies like O-Two, GM Ventec, and Frizell,” Hasenfratz said. “Just a few weeks later, we were production ready to make entire assemblies for Thornhill of their comprehensive ventilator and full life support systems, a complex assembly of more than 1,700 individual components, as well as a UV disinfection unit for Clean Slate to clean cell phones and other electronic equipment.”
At a media availability after the announcement, Hasenfratz was asked if this funding will lead to any new hiring. “We had a lot of people not at work, so this was a really welcome opportunity to get people back to work full time,” she said. “They are now continuing to work on a variety of these projects and back to some of their regular jobs as well.”
Ford praised the speed at which Linamar and other Canadian companies adapted to the needs of fighting the pandemic. “It’s amazing when there’s a crisis how quickly people move, and we need to continue doing this even after we get through this pandemic,” the Premier said. “It’s about collaboration between the private sector, and all three levels of government working together. And forget about all this political strife nonsense because it drives me crazy. Let’s move together as a unit because we’re unstoppable.”
Mayor Cam Guthrie was also on hand for the announcement, and thanked Ford and the Provincial government for their support.
“We know that [Guelph] has tremendous strengths that will help us meet challenges together, and today’s announcement is a perfect example of those strengths,” said Guthrie. “It comes as no surprise to me that [Linamar is] innovating once again, and bringing their world class manufacturing expertise to support Ontario’s health care system.”
Ford called Guthrie an “absolute champ” and said that the number of companies he’s seen considering a move to Guelph is “a tribute to to the people of Guelph.”
“When companies open up, the first thing they scan is the area if there’s going to be great people that are going to be able to work at these companies,” Ford explained. “Obviously all these companies have done the research and there’s quality people right here in Guelph.”
One of those “quality people”, Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner, released a statement supporting Linamar, and the government decision to invest in made-in-Ontario medical supplies.
“I want to thank Linamar and other Guelph-based companies for turning on a dime to alter their assembly lines and manufacture the medical equipment we need to fight COVID-19,” Schreiner said. “One area where I agree with the Premier is that Ontario must have greater domestic capacity to manufacture such equipment.”
“Stocking the cupboards of our health system must be part of a smart recovery from COVID-19,” Schreiner added.
You can watch the full announcement video below.