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The Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay, Ontario, on November 07, 2019. David Jackson for The Globe and Mail.

David Jackson/The Globe and Mail

Bombardier Inc. is helping to produce 18,000 ventilators for the Ontario government at its temporarily shuttered plant in Thunder Bay, Ont.

The plane-and-train maker says it will carry out sanding, painting and assembly work on the equipment for Brampton, Ont.-based O-Two Medical Technologies, which manufactures respiratory care products.

O-Two found its supply chain disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and started hunting for help to churn out portable ventilators amid a looming shortage in Canada, Bombardier said in an e-mail.

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The plant expects to start work on April 27, drawing on between 40 and 50 employees – most of whom had been temporarily laid off – over three to four months.

The Montreal-based company, which has furloughed 70 per cent of its Canadian work force due to the pandemic, had suspended operations at the plant as non-essential work ground to a halt across the country.

Employment at the factory, which counted 1,100 workers last summer, now hovers at around 420 after two of its major contracts – for Toronto Transit Commission streetcars and Metrolinx GO Transit rail cars – wound down over the last few months.

The fresh work will include assembling display screens and installing battery boxes along with inspecting and shipping to O-Two, which will carry out final assembly and testing.

Bombardier shares have hovered above 40 cents over the past three weeks, remaining near 25-year lows amid credit downgrades and a daunting US$9.3-billion debt.

The company will be reduced to a single revenue stream – business jets – after announcing the sale of its rail division to French train giant Alstom SA in February, just as demand for private planes falls away amid the broader economic slowdown triggered by the outbreak.

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