$6.1 million in federal funding improves safety of southwestern Ontario workers
By Greta Chiu
By Greta Chiu
Ottawa says $6.1 million from the Emergency Processing Fund (EPF) has gone towards supporting 34 projects at food processing companies in southwestern Ontario to keep their employees safe.
In a media availability last week, Neil Ellis, MP of the Bay of Quinte and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, said these projects have included “modified processing lines to accommodate distancing, new bunkhouses for workers, automatic shoe washing units, touchless punch clocks, and personal headsets for long distance communication on noisy floor shops.”
Funding has generally been used for emergency COVID response initiatives, such as enabling social distancing, purchasing reusable personal protective equipment (PPE), implementing biosecurity measures, installing handwashing stations and protective barriers and developing employee training.
Others used the funds for strategic investments. “Companies were also able to add new production capacity and technologies such as greenhouse lighting. This will help them move to year round production displace imports and meet growing local and export demand. Of course it will also help them to hire more workers, not to mention the multiplier effect of jobs for local contractors hired to complete the projects,” said Ellis.
According to the EPF website, emergency COVID response initiatives were funded with non-repayable contributions, while strategic investments were funded with repayable contributions.
Under Sun Acres Inc., a greenhouse operation that produces sweet bell peppers in Staples, Ont. is receiving up to $149,034.
“We were able to construct a biosecurity entrance at our facility that ensured all entrants to the facility were properly sanitized before entering,” said Lucas Semple, general manager of Under Sun Acres in Staples, Ont. The greenhouse operator was able to use the EPF allocation to install a number of measures. This has included mandatory hand sanitization, as well as shoe washing and sanitization units prior to entering the facility. They’ve also installed thermal scanning cameras that scan each person for symptoms of fever when entering the building.
“It’s been a great help. It’s really taken a lot of pressure off of us and it’s helped to keep our facility and all our workers here safe for the past year,” said Semple. “Thank you very much to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada for their support.”
Lakeside Produce Inc., a family-owned produce company and greenhouse grower in Leamington is receiving up to $1,172,632.
Sudeshna Nambiar, Chief Operating Officer, at Lakeside Produce Inc, said the EPF was essential to their biosecurity program. “My world comprises [of] my people. So we wanted to take every precaution possible to help them feel safe and comfortable in the workplace. The support we received in such a short period of time has made all the difference to our people.”
“We are truly humbled by the generosity and the selflessness of our funders, especially our federal and provincial ministry, in agriculture and agri food Canada for their support. They’re wonderful. On behalf of all of us here at Lakeside Produce, thank you for your unwavering dedication to supporting our world, our people in our community. Thank you all from my bottom of my heart,” she added.
Federal support of safe voluntary isolation site for TFWs
Ellis also highlighted how the federal government is supporting the operation of a safe voluntary isolation site for temporary foreign workers in Windsor-Essex. “This critical federal funding will provide local public health officials with a reliable isolation site for those who are unable to quarantine safely.”
According to a release dated March 30, 2021, “the funding of $17.8 million, over 12 months, will allow the City of Windsor to operate a 125-room site to accommodate temporary foreign agri-workers in Windsor and Essex County who are unable to safely self-isolate at their usual place of residence.”
The federal funds will also provide further support for the Isolation and Recovery Site currently operated by the Canadian Red Cross, with funding provided by Public Safety Canada.
The federal government said they are providing $100 million in funding to municipalities and health regions to establish Safe Voluntary Isolation Sites across the country.
Dedicated call centre and email channel
A few weeks ago, the federal government extended mandatory isolation support of up to $1,500 per migrant worker until April 21.
“We’ve made special provisions for asymptomatic workers to be able to travel directly from designated airports to their place of quarantine, provided a plan is in place and there is private transportation,” said Ellis.
Ellis added that a new dedicated call center and email channel is now available for to help with COVID-19 tests administered on day 10 of isolation for workers. “We are working closely with provinces and with Switch Health to ensure that required 10-day COVID-19 tests for temporary foreign workers can be administered in a timely matter, which also allows workers to continue to arrive and stay safely in Canada to support the sector.”
“Combined, these measures have helped thousands of workers arrive in Canada well ahead of last year’s pace and more charters arriving this month. We’ve also partnered with Ontario to extend agri-insurance coverage for production losses due to worker shortages for the ‘21 season, and to invest 11.6 million to help you invest in equipment to keep your workers safe.”
With files from AAFC