Surrey companies have manufactured more than 10,000 fabric face masks, 100,000 face shields, 300,000 litres of disinfectants and hand sanitizers, and 700 barriers in answer to the pandemic, according to the City of Surrey.
A press release issued Monday from the city indicates that 16 local manufacturers have retooled to participate in the Surrey Makes PPE program and so far have sold more than $4 million in personal protective equipment. Twelve more companies are in the process of retooling to join the effort.
Meantime, Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis wants to see a national personal protection equipment, or PPE, manufacturing site and “centre of excellence” in this city. To that end, she presented a notice of motion to council on May 25, but Mayor Doug McCallum wouldn’t allow it.
“I have to say that our economic department has been working on that, exactly that, for the last three or four months,” McCallum explained at that council meeting. “There is also a committee that’s working on this.”
“We are currently aware of 16 businesses manufacturing PPE in Surrey, there’s 11 businesses currently retooling to produce PPE. I have a report of all those companies,” he noted at the time. “The problem with your motion is that these companies are throughout Surrey and we do not want to get into a special area for PPE because we then get into the position where a lot of them that are working in Surrey are in not that particular area that you want to do, so I’m not going to allow it as a motion but I will suggest to you that you put your question to the economic department to get your answer, which will be public, so I’ll leave it at that for now.”
Annis noted Surrey is “land rich” in comparison to other cities in the Lower Mainland and should provide long-term leases for this.
“We’ll be doing something good for our country and ourselves, and creating jobs right here at home while we continue to own our own land,” she explained in a press release issued before the council meeting.
“During the height of the pandemic we saw Canada bidding for supplies against other countries, safety products that were returned because they were defective, and President Trump telling 3M not to ship masks to Canada. COVID-19 has been a big wake-up call. The health of Canadians should never be left in the hands of foreign governments or manufacturers, and we can correct that by producing what we need right here at home.”
Annis said after the council meeting she will work to “press” city staff to “look beyond just refitting smaller companies to produce PPE.
“The solution to Canada’s PPE needs isn’t just refitting small manufacturers, that’s a good start, but the capacity is limited. We have a need and an opportunity to seriously ramp up production to national and international levels with additional permanent, large-scale manufacturing for PPE products that are going to be needed for years to come,” Annis explained.
“Most of the world’s PPE supply is produced in China, and other countries have restricted exports of mask, gowns and gloves in the hope that they can provide for their own countries,” she said. “Canada needs its own reliable supply and that means local manufacturing, so why not a major national production centre right here in Surrey?”
Annis said she wants the city create a national manufacturing site to “complement existing firms here in Surrey, and a centre of excellence for what is going to be a major growth industry going forward.
“We can lease the land for a dollar a year while retaining ownership, and create jobs here at home while we make sure Canada has the supplies it needs. Right now, we’re relying too heavily on foreign suppliers. We’re at their mercy, which puts Canadians at risk. We really need made-in-Canada supplies and a reliable Canadian supply chain, something we can trust and something other countries can count on if we decided to export supplies once we’ve met Canada’s needs.”
Meanwhile, McCallum stated in Monday’s press release that it’s a “testament” to Surrey manufacturers “for their ability to pivot so quickly to meet the critical needs of our health-care professionals, frontline workers and essential businesses.
“There’s no question there is a big demand for high-quality made in Canada PPE,” he said.
It’s expected in coming weeks that Surrey companies will start producing surgical and N95 masks as well as disinfectant wipes.
John Merrick, owner of Plastec, says his outfit has been serving Surrey for 34 years and is “grateful for the opportunity to help people in Surrey and across Canada during this time.
“As demand for barriers, intubation boxes and face shields have been increasing, we are actively expanding our production capacity and looking to hire additional staff,” he said.