Greg Layson, Automotive News Canada
March 16, 2020

Canada’s parts suppliers are being challenged to source or even manufacturer medical equipment that could be in short supply due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus virus.

Flavio Volpe, head of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA), on Monday publicly called on members to “do our part and step up,” citing the industry’s ability to solve problems through innovation.

Volpe is attempting to head off potential shortages of necessities to fight and treat COVID-19, such as ventilators and face masks. He is also concerned that other countries will soon implement export control over high-demand items needed to deal with the virus.

For example, the European Union on Sunday imposed strict limits on exports of face masks, visors and other protective items.

“The industry is in discussion with all levels of government about what are the things the public sector will need to manage this public-health crisis,” Volpe told Automotive News Canada. “If we can be part of the war effort, so to speak, we’re definitely going to do our part and step up.”

Volpe tweeted his call to arms — followed by a link to a Bloomberg News story on export controls — early Monday. He considered that some people might view the tweet as alarmist, but Volpe said the intention is to rally the industry.

“I purposely put this out early as a challenge to everyone to step up, if they can. We don’t mess around. We get involved with a sincere effort with a high level of due diligence.”

Volpe said Canadian parts makers might not ultimately be the source for the medical items.

“But we’re going to make damn well sure we’re going to answer that question practically and not hypothetically.”

Immediately following Volpe’s tweet, Automotive News Canada was in contact with a spokeswoman at Tier 1 supplier Magna International who was unaware of the initiative or any company involvement.

“You’ll get that answer early if you ask around.” Volpe said. “We’re in the very early stages and the solution will have to come from member companies.”

Volpe said that if Canada’s suppliers can answer the call, they have “scale that far outstrips the need of any other market place.”

The APMA was a significant influence during the renegotiation of NAFTA, advising Canadian politicians on trade en route to the recently ratified United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“I’m in constant contact with senior officials and I have been for some time,” Volpe said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Monday said there are some “rough waters ahead,” but the government is prepared to do whatever it takes to slow the spread of COVID-19 and provide financial assistance to residents.

The province over the weekend announced it was drafting legislation to ban employers from requiring doctor notes for those in self-isolation or quarantine. It will also ensure protected leave for workers who have to take unpaid time to isolate themselves or care for others, such as children who are not in school.

Many employees at Tier II and Tier III suppliers in Ontario are not unionized and do not have benefits beyond provincial minimums.

Ontario reported 32 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total in the province to 177.

With files from the Canadian Press and Bloomberg.

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