April 30th, 2021
BC Essential Worker Vaccination Rollout
This month, many BC food and beverage production facilities have been contacted and received group vaccinations for their staff. Despite a slow-down in the program with the temporary suspension of the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, the program is continuing its rollout. BCFB has been contacted by several companies that have yet to be contacted about the vaccination program and will continue to advocate for more transparency in the program schedule to better support members expectations.
BC Provincial Budget 2021
On April 20, British Columbia released its 2021 budget, which generates a $9.7 billion deficit in 2021/22, dropping to $5.5 in 2022/23 and $4.3 in 2023/24. The budget includes a significant reserve to assist with unexpected needs related to the pandemic. The core budget for the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) was increased by 4.65% from $95.4 million to $99.8 million.
This lift is primarily directed to expand work on the Buy BC, Feed BC, and Grow BC initiatives. In addition to the increase to MAFF’s core budget, Government is also carrying forward $7 million from last year’s budget to support the development of food hubs, farm innovation and food processing. The Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery, and Innovation (JERI) is allocating an additional $7.5 million to Agritech initiatives that applied for funding last January. A full breakdown of the BC Provincial Budget can be found here.
FBC-ABC National Workforce and Recovery Action Plan
On April 12, FBC-ABC launched its National Workforce and Recovery Action Plan which details the critical labour situation facing Canada’s food and beverage manufacturing sector and identifies key steps that must be taken to address worker shortages, a skilled trade deficit and innovation. National Newswatch covered the release, in a story that can be found here. This month FBC-ABC has met with 10 members of parliament and federal government officials to advance these priorities and will continue outreach over the coming weeks.
Canadian Food Industry Code of Practice
FBC-ABC is working with stakeholders from across the food supply chain – including producer groups and Canada’s grocery sector – to lead a collaborative industry approach to develop a Canadian Food Industry Code of Practice for commercial food transactions. On April 20 FBC-ABC and other associations met with the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Agriculture Working Group tasked by ministers to discuss our progress. Following a constructive discussion, we remain hopeful that a Code of Practice will be implemented in the future.
In BC, BC Food & Beverage has been engaging the FPT Working group, as well as participating in the Retail Fair Practice Working Group federally.
Temporary Foreign Workers
FBC-ABC’s CEO Kathleen Sullivan, and Co-Chair Daniel Vielfaure, Deputy CEO, Bonduelle Group & CEO, Bonduelle Americas appeared before the federal House of Commons Citizenship and Immigration Committee to discuss industry’s experience with the Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) Program and to stress the need for greater program efficiency and responsiveness and the need to implement pathways to permanence for these important workers.
New pathways to Permanent Residency
FBC-ABC has been lobbying for greater industry access to foreign workers. On April 14, federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino announced an innovative pathway to permanent residence for over 90,000 Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) employed in health care and other essential services, including “Machine operators and related workers in food, beverage and associated products processing”. Starting May 6, 30,000 applications for temporary workers in essential occupations will be accepted. This includes workers in the skilled trades, transport truck drivers, and machine operators and related workers in food and beverage processing.
Federal Budget 2021
On Monday, April 19, the Minister of Finance delivered the Federal Budget 2021 in the House of Commons. Coming in at a little over 700 pages, the Budget was filled with many programs, including a number of announcements related to skills development and support for industry investment and innovation. These programs directly support two of FBC-ABC’s key strategic priorities and – while details are still in development – are viewed as positive.