Jeremy Patzer, Member of Parliament for Cypress Hills—Grasslands participated on Canada’s Industry Committee along with his parliamentary colleagues. The committee met in the morning on Thursday, April 30th, to continue its ongoing consideration of the national response to COVID-19. Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains agreed to appear before the committee after it passed a motion insisting that he appear by April 30th.
“We have been waiting to hear from the Innovation Minister since the opening of Parliament,” said Patzer. “With increasing struggles for the economy during this pandemic, it is even more important to know what exactly the government plans on doing.”
The meeting began with opening remarks from Minister Bains. “Over the past month, we have put the full weight of the federal government behind a plan to recalibrate industrial policy and supply chains,” said Bains. He noted that “companies of all sizes and all types from every region of the country have stepped forward” for the national effort. There have been nearly 6000 Canadian companies offering to help.
“We all just want to get the job done,” concluded Bains. “That is, after all, the Canadian way.”
Members of the committee asked several important questions to the Minister. As representative for southwestern Saskatchewan, Patzer focused on industrial production in Canada. He specifically raised the question of regional engagement in how the government has been dealing with Canadian companies.
For the nearly 6000 Canadian companies which have come forward, it remains unclear how many of them have been working with the government to date. “I can get back to you with specifics on that,” Bains told the committee.
Patzer is looking for a full, detailed list of businesses to be made available to the public.
“The majority of these well-known companies are located in either Montreal or Toronto,” Patzer noted for the Minister. “I have been looking through several of your announcements and through a lot of the contracts trying to find companies out here in the Prairies who in fact are participating. I’m having a hard time finding any.”
Bains stated that his department would provide the names of western companies involved.
Taking as an example Medicom’s new mask production facility in Montreal announced for July, Patzer went on to say, “there are several companies here again in the Prairies who would love to help out and would be able to help out and have PPE produced long before July.”
Following the meeting, Patzer plans to press the government for detailed information related to how it is coordinating and partnering with Canadian industries.
“There is always a basic need for transparency and accountability,” said Patzer. “Beyond that, I am concerned about how effective the government’s response is.”
Patzer has consistently mentioned manufacturers in his riding or wider region which have not been retooled or utilized since approaching the government
“The reality is we do need a Team Canada approach, but so far we are not seeing it from this government,” said Patzer. “I find it odd that the Minister says the Canadian way is getting the job done, but the government is apparently not working with businesses that can get it done right away instead of those who might be delayed for months to come.”
The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology is set to meet again twice this week.