March 30th, 2021
Priority Vaccinations for Food Production Workers
On March 18, 2021, the BC Ministry of Health announced the Provincial Government’s COVID-19 vaccination plans prioritizing front-line workers to protect people in workplaces identified as having the highest risk of COVID-19 transmission, including food processing plants and agricultural operations with congregate worker accommodations, including farms, nurseries, and greenhouses. We now know that many members who have received vaccinations on site.
The Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Henry, is responsible for determining vaccination priority. Booking arrangements for front-line workers have been established in recent weeks and will be communicated to each sector by the Ministry of Health. BCFB has been advised that workers identified as “front-line” and prioritized for the AstraZeneca vaccine should not call into regional health authority call centres at this time.
B.C. COVID-19 Industry Engagement Table
BC Food & Beverage has continued to participate in the BC COVID-19 Industry Engagement Table, which is a forum to gather information and hear plans for the industry. On March 29, we were informed of a new round of COVID-related restrictions in the face of the recent spike in cases, significantly hurting the BC Restaurant & Foodservice industry in particular. They also announced a temporary suspension of usage of the AstraZeneza vaccine, used for our industry immunization rollout program. I have followed up with the Table to seek direction on timelines for resumption as well as guidance on communications for employers whose staff received the AZ vaccine already. More information on the new restrictions – in place until April 19th – can be found here.
UPDATE: On March 30th, BCFB received this FAQ that BCCDC might be helpful in communications with staff who have received the AZ vaccine: http://www.bccdc.ca/Health-Info-Site/Documents/COVID-19_vaccine/AstraZeneca_COVISHIELD_FAQ.pdf
2021 Federal Budget
On April 19, Canada’s federal Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland will deliver the first federal budget in two years. FBC-ABC has provided extensive input to the federal government as part of its pre-budget consultations, including submissions to the Minister of Finance and the House of Commons Finance Committee, as well as appearances before both the Finance and the Agriculture and Agri-food Committees. In addition, on March 26 FBC CEO Kathleen Sullivan and Director Rosemary MacLellan, VP, Strategy & Industry Relations, Gay Lea Foods met with Conservative Finance Shadow Minister Ed Fast to review industry’s federal priorities including economic recovery, addressing industry’s labour issues, and recognizing the key role food and beverage manufacturers played during COVID-19.
Temporary Foreign Workers
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration is holding hearings on the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program. FBC-ABC Co-Chair Daniel Vielfaure, Deputy CEO, Bonduelle Group & CEO, Bonduelle Americas, and FBC-ABC’s Kathleen Sullivan will be appearing before the Committee on April 12 to discuss the need to improve that program to reduce administration and costs and to make it more responsive to the sector’s needs.
Effective March 22, 2021, TFWs in the agriculture, agri-food, fish and seafood sectors are subject to new measures upon arriving in Canada. Asymptomatic TFWs will be able to travel directly to their place of quarantine provided they travel by private (air or land) transportation and are accompanied only by others who travelled with them to Canada. TFWs who need to travel by public means of transportation will be required to stay in Government Approved Accommodation (GAA) for up to 3 days and await the results of their COVID-19 test. We strongly encourage TFW employers to review these new requirements.
COVID-19 Border Restrictions for Technicians
In the face of tightening border measures, several critical industries, including food and beverage manufacturing, are experiencing issues with the movement of essential technicians into Canada. FBC-ABC has been meeting with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), including the office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to discuss these issues and to develop processes for the smooth entry of technicians. If you have questions or issues, please contact FBC-ABC.
Grocery Code of Conduct
Federal and provincial agriculture ministers continue to examine the impact of retail consolidation on Canada’s food system. Agriculture and Agri-food Canada is currently developing a series of case studies examining these issues and is seeking participation from food and beverage manufacturers. Participation is anonymous. The federal government is also inviting food and beverage manufactures to participate in a series of regional roundtables examining issues related to retail fees. For more information or to participate please contact me at email@example.com to discuss.
In related news, the parent company of grocery retailer Sobeys has signed a deal to buy a 51 per cent stake in specialty grocery store chain Longo’s and its Grocery Gateway e-commerce business for $357 million. In addition, the federal House of Commons Industry, Science and Technology Committee is set to launch a study of the country’s competition rules, after several Members of Parliament expressed outrage at how big grocers cancelled their pandemic bonuses for front line workers. The Competition Bureau has indicated it welcomes the study and is ready to offer assistance.
CFIA Consultations on Strengthening Regulations to Support Economic Recovery
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) just closed consultations on how to strengthen the agency’s regulations, programs, and services to help support the economic recovery and resiliency of the agriculture and agri-food sector. FBC-ABC’s comments can be accessed here. This month FBC-ABC CEO Kathleen Sullivan also appeared before the federal government’s External Advisory Committee on Regulatory Competitiveness to discuss the cumulative impact of regulations on Canada’s agri-food sector and the need to ensure a more coordinated approach to regulation across government departments.