November 16, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced the establishment of Supply Ontario, a centralized procurement agency for the Government of Ontario. According to Premier Ford, the new agency will improve the efficiency of Ontario’s procurement while also supporting small and medium-sized business by simplifying processes.
Premier Ford was joined by Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Vic Fedeli, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Lisa Thompson, President of the Treasury Board, Peter Bethlenfalvy, and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media regarding the province’s ongoing response to COVID-19.
Earlier today, the government announced a strategy to prevent COVID-19 transmission in the agri-food sector, in order to protect workers and the province’s supply chain ahead of the 2021 growing season.
Launch of Supply Ontario
This afternoon, Premier Ford, Minister Fedeli, Minister Thompson, Minister Bethlenfalvy, and Minister Elliott announced the establishment of Supply Ontario, the Government of Ontario’s new centralized procurement agency. The new agency will support procurement for the entire public sector, including schools and hospitals, as opposed to the previous fragmented approach.
According to Premier Ford, the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated the gaps in Ontario’s previous procurement process. Throughout the second and subsequent waves, Supply Ontario will ensure that frontline health care and other workers continue to have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical supplies.
Supply Ontario is part of Ontario Onwards: Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan for a People-Focused Government, which was announced last month to improve the convenience, reliability, and accessibility of government services.
The main objectives of Supply Ontario include:
- Delivering the best value for high-quality goods;
- Stabilizing access to critical products, such as PPE;
- Stimulating job creation and economic growth by purchasing more Ontario-made goods;
- Driving innovation of emerging technologies; and
- Connecting small businesses and entrepreneurs to government and its customers by acting as a first purchaser for emerging technologies.
By placing an emphasis on bulk purchasing, Premier Ford expects Supply Ontario to save taxpayers between $1 billion to $2 billion per year. The agency is also intended to reduce the administrative burden, so that it is easier for small and medium-sized businesses to work with government.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
In response to questions about Ontario’s plan for distributing and storing COVID-19 vaccines, once available, Minister Elliott assured reporters that a team within the Ministry of Health is working on a distribution plan, so that the government is prepared once a vaccine as available. The team includes logistical experts focused on transportation, as well as ethicists to ensure that the vaccine is distributed fairly and equitably.
COVID-19 Holiday Season Guidelines
When asked whether the government would provide guidelines to help Ontarians safely celebrate the upcoming holiday season, Minister Elliot confirmed that these would be available shortly. She added that Ontarians may need to look at the holiday season differently this year, and emphasized the importance of celebrating safely and shopping online to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Closing of Schools
When asked what threshold would be used to determine whether re-closing Ontario schools would be necessary, Premier Ford said that this would be a measure of last resort. He added that Minister Lecce will soon present a plan for schools over the holiday season.
In response to questions about COVID-19 transmission in long-term care homes, Minister Elliott pointed to high rates of community transmission as a contributing factor to the increased spread of the virus within long-term care. She noted that rapid testing of frontline health care workers in long-term care will be important to protect the sector from further spread.
COVID-19 Strategy for Ontario’s Agri-Food Sector
Earlier today, the government also announced a strategy to prevent COVID-19 within the province’s agri-food sector, and to protect workers and the food supply ahead of the 2021 growing season. The strategy, Prevention, Control and Outbreak Support Strategy for COVID-19 in Ontario’s Farm Workers, was developed in consultation with a sector leadership group established in the summer by Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Ernie Hardeman.
The strategy includes guiding principles on how to ensure enhanced prevention and control in farm operations, farm worker safety and wellness, and maintaining the sustainability and viability of the agri-food sector. Actions related to prevention and containment are grouped into three pillars, including actions to be take before getting to the farm, on the farm, and within farm worker housing.