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Ontario Premier Doug Ford issued a call for the province’s businesses to step up and find ways to manufacture medical supplies to help the province, and Canada, cope with imminent shortages.

“I can’t rely on the rest of the world right now," Mr. Ford said Saturday at a press conference announcing a web portal that will allow companies to fill out a questionnaire on their capabilities to supply ventilators, masks, gloves and even hospital beds.

Mr. Ford said he’d been on the phone with major global companies as recently as Friday, seeking ventilators from General Electric Co., Medtronic plc and Koninklijke Philips N.V., Tyvek chemical-resistant coveralls from E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., and gloves and masks from 3M Co. Ontario has 12 million surgical gloves and one million N-95 respirator masks on order right now.

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“We have to start doing these items here - we want manufacturing here in Ontario, we have the capabilities," Mr. Ford said. "When you have the manufacturing base we have here in Ontario, that can produce absolutely anything, absolutely anything, here in Ontario, we’re gonna start that engine, we’re gonna go full steam ahead. I don’t want want to rely on the five or six companies down in the U.S.”

“If you can retool your business, we need to hear from you right now,” Mr. Ford said.

Mr. Ford said Ontario needs to produce the goods for the entire country. “They’re relying on us to make sure we ramp up, we make enough for everyone in Canada. This is the Team Canada approach. We’re all working shoulder to shoulder."

The Ontario effort comes at Canadian businesses continue to push governments at all levels for action in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Friday, the federal government revealed that a half-million Canadian workers filed for Employment Insurance benefits in four days last week, compared with just 27,000 a year ago. Evidence of the deep job losses related to COVID-19 quickly piled up and companies from a wide range of industries announced even more layoffs. A University of Calgary economist said the losses represent 2.6 per cent of total Canadian employment, “the sharpest negative shock we’ve ever seen.”

‘It’s pretty catastrophic’: Canada has never seen job losses like this before

A group of four national business organizations issued a statement Saturday saying Canada’s plan for a 10 per cent wage subsidy for small businesses was inadequate. Instead, they’re calling for income supports for laid-off workers of as much as 80 per cent, as instituted in places like the United Kingdom and Denmark. They also called for “postponing any increases in taxes, non-essential new regulations, and unnecessary consultations ... businesses and governments need to be focused 100 per cent on the current crisis, leaving other priorities aside until the crisis abates.”

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce reacted to the Ford announcement by saying the portal “will remove barriers and speed up the process for the government to procure required goods and services and share creative solutions.” The page is available at ontario.ca/ontariotogether.

Mr. Ford said he wasn’t ready Saturday to call for a full shutdown on activity in the province, saying most people are behaving responsibly when faced with COVID-19.

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“Eventually I think we may be going down that road," he said. “But we have to listen to the health professionals. We’re ready when they give us the word to start shutting more areas down. But in saying that, I think we need people to use common sense, and 99.9% of the population is doing that."

Ivana Yelich​​, a spokeswoman for the premier, said she didn’t have a specific number of employees who would be dedicated to fielding the queries from the website, but “what I can tell you is this is an all hands on deck approach across all three Ministries – Government and Consumer Services, Economic Development, and Health – with employees managing the call centre, website, and reviewing submissions starting immediately.”

Read the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in Canada for Mar. 21

Government working with airlines to repatriate Canadians stranded amid COVID-19 pandemic: Trudeau

Snapshots of socially distanced life abroad during the pandemic

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