B.C. COVID-19 Industry Engagement Table
BC Food & Beverage has been invited to join the new provincial COVID-19 Industry Engagement Table to represent the interests of our members and the food and beverage processing industry with the BC Government.
The Table, chaired by Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation Ravi Kahlon, will focus on ways to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in workplaces, and to provide input and advice to the government on the impacts and effectiveness of new public health measures and restrictions. The Table will also feature as members Dr. Bonnie Henry, WorkSafeBC, the Minister of Labour, and the Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport.
Vaccine/Rapid Testing for BC Food Production Workers
BC Food & Beverage and Food & Beverage Canada have been continually advocating for industry prioritization for access to vaccinations and rapid testing kits for food production workers. With the outbreak of COVID-19, food and beverage manufacturers took on the incredible challenge of managing worker health while meeting the imperative – as an essential service – of maintaining Canada’s food supply.
It’s estimated that the industry has invested close to $1 billion nationally to protect workers. But despite these measures, businesses, cannot protect our workers outside our walls.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended that essential workers – including food processing workers – be prioritized for vaccine access. But these are only recommendations. Last week, BC announced its vaccine rollout plan – a plan that fails to prioritize food and other essential workers over the general population.
SFU also recently released a report suggesting Essential workers should share top priority with B.C.’s oldest residents under the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan: CLICK HERE TO READ
BCFB was interviewed by Business in Vancouver Magazine about the SFU paper and the importance for production workers to receive priority access: CLICK HERE TO READ
We have been encouraging the provincial and federal government to utilize whatever levers it has to ensure provinces follow the recommendations of the NACI. Barring that, the federal government should coordinate vaccinations for those sectors like food that it has designated as critical infrastructure.
Grocery Code of Conduct
Following months of lobbying by FBC, BCFB, other provincial association members and colleagues across the agri-food sector, in November 2020 Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture committed to examine the impact of grocery retailer fees on Canada’s food system. We are pleased to report that the ministers have created a working group co-led by the federal and Quebec governments to lead work on this issue. FBC has been tapped as one of the key associations the working group will look to for input, and in late December FBC had an introductory meeting with working group leads. FBC has formed a Task Force of Members to focus on this critical issue and has undertaken over 20 lobby meetings with Federal Members of Parliament to stress the need for a Code. To ensure the industry in BC is represented, BCFB is participating in the industry Retail Fair Practices Group.
Federal Food Processing Capacity Study
FBC CEO Kathleen Sullivan appeared before The House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food as part of that committee’s study into Food Processing Capacity (starting time at 16:51). FBC focused on labour, front-line worker health and retail fees. FBC continues outreach with MP’s on these important issues. Having wrapped up a set of 20 lobby meetings in November and December, FBC has launched a new round of winter 2021 meetings.
Government of Canada invests $162.6 million in CFIA
The federal government has announced $162.6 million for the CFIA over the next five years, with $40 million per year on an ongoing basis to “maintain the integrity of Canada’s food safety system, protect the health of plants and animals to safeguard the food supply, and provide ongoing support to Canadian businesses in their export and import activities to overcome pandemic interruptions and global trade volatility.” It is not yet clear whether this funding will focus on ensuring continuity of CFIA service or whether it is intended to add additional regulatory compliance requirements.
Safe Food for Canadians (SFC) Regulations Licence Renewals
A reminder that licenses under the SFC Regulations are only valid for two years. With that, the first wave of SFC licences began to expire on January 15, 2021. If you have a SFC licence, it can be renewed online through your My CFIA account. Submit your request for renewal as soon as possible to allow sufficient processing time. You can do so up to 120 days before the expiry date of your licence. No matter how early you apply, your renewed SFC licence will be valid for two years from the original expiry date. If your licence expires, your business will no longer be permitted to conduct licensed activities in accordance with the Safe Food for Canadians Act and may be subject to enforcement actions and removal from export eligibility lists. You will then need to apply for a new licence and be issued a new licence number, which may further disrupt your business activities including the ability to request export certification.