Production of PPE will create jobs and protect frontline workers

December 9, 2020


TORONTO — The Ontario government is investing more than $5 million through the Ontario Together Fund to help three companies create jobs by designing and producing respirators and surgical masks for frontline and healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure we are prepared for future challenges.

“As our fight against COVID-19 continues, we need Ontario’s top-notch entrepreneurs and innovators to continue to work with us and help mobilize our manufacturing and innovation might,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “That’s why we are supporting companies like O2 Canada, RONCO and Swenco to provide a made-in-Ontario solution to reduce our dependence on foreign supply chains, strengthen our domestic capacity and be better prepared for the future.”

Ontario is investing more than $1.8 million in Kitchener-based O2 Canada to design double-filtered, soft-sealed and reusable respirators that will help healthcare and frontline workers fight COVID-19 by filtering particulates, bacteria and viruses. The project will create 50 new jobs at O2 Canada and 25 at Barrie-based Jomi Technical Services, who partnered with O2 to manufacture the respirator.

“We’re thrilled that the Government of Ontario has identified O2 Industries as the organization to bring high-grade medical respirators to healthcare professionals on a mass scale,” said co-founder and CEO of O2 Industries, Peter Whitby. “With a global shortage of PPE, Canadian healthcare workers need access to premium respiratory protection produced here at home. This grant will support production and distribution of an Ontario-made medical respirator designed to keep healthcare workers safe, without compromising on comfort or breathability.”

“O2 Canada’s respirator is a prime example of the ingenuity and innovation that thrives here in Waterloo Region,” said Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris. “I am pleased that our government is supporting this game changing Ontario-Made product and partnership between O2 Canada and Jomi technical services in Barrie.”

“This announcement is a great tale of two cities – Barrie and Kitchener – coming together,” said Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin. “After years of research and development, O2 Canada from Kitchener partnered with Jomi Technical Services in Barrie to produce a game-changing piece of protective equipment that allows a person wearing the device to breathe easily while offering excellent protection. I am grateful that Jomi could retool their space to hire more staff and make this comfortable piece of equipment that is also environmentally friendly.”

Ontario is also investing $1,475,000 in Concord-based RONCO to help the company establish the production capacity to manufacture surgical masks and respirators at its Ontario plant, replacing production that is currently happening in China. With Ontario’s support, the company will establish three surgical mask production lines to make more than three million masks monthly and will add one N95 respirator production line to make up to 260,000 respirators monthly.

“RONCO always had plans to bring PPE manufacturing back to Canada. The Ontario Together Funding program has helped accelerate our plans,” said Ron Pecchioli, President and CEO of RONCO. “This will provide a boost to our economy through the nurturing of internal talent, knowledge sharing and technological innovations; in turn creating jobs and better future for our coming generations.”

“This grant will help support the domestic production of PPE at a time when it is needed most,” said Gila Martow, MPP for Thornhill. “This is just the latest example of how our government is committed to protecting front line workers while ensuring Ontario can safety remain open for business!”

Ontario is also investing $2 million in Kitchener-Waterloo-based Swenco Ltd. to help the company establish a new production facility to make ASTM level 1, 2 and 3 surgical masks. It anticipates creating 24 new jobs with the project.

“Swenco Limited has been in business in Ontario for over 58 years. Like many Canadians and Canadian businesses, we were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Paul Sweeny, President of Swenco Limited. “We decided that we needed to come forward and be a part of the solution. With the incredible support from the Ontario Together Fund, we were able to open a state-of-the-art mask production facility in Waterloo and with this expansion we hope to continue supporting our community for years to come.”

“Waterloo Region continues to play an important role in our province’s economy and in our fight against COVID-19,” said Kitchener-South Hespeler MPP Amy Fee. “Swenco Limited has a history of providing Personal Protective Equipment and I look forward to witnessing their expansion into locally produced surgical masks.”

Through the Ontario Together Fund, the government is delivering targeted investments that will increase the province’s stockpile of Ontario-made products and PPE. This new manufacturing capacity will help the province to combat the current COVID-19 outbreak and prepare for potential challenges in the future, while supporting local businesses during the safe and gradual reopening of the province. 


Quick Facts

  • The government launched the $50 million Ontario Together Fund to help businesses retool their operations to produce PPE and develop technology-driven solutions and services for businesses to reopen safely.
  • Businesses and individuals looking to help in the fight against COVID-19 can submit their proposals through the Ontario Together web portal.
  • Since launching in July, the Ontario Made program has been helping the province’s manufacturing base regain and recover revenues lost due to COVID-19 by encouraging manufacturers and producers to register and promote their products on the SupportOntarioMade.ca and use the Ontario Made logo.
  • The Workplace PPE Supplier Directory provides businesses with information on personal protective equipment (PPE) suppliers.
  • O2 Canada’s respirator has an internal filter, plus an external filter that can be replaced without removing the base respirator, making it a reusable and sustainable piece of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Swenco’s facility will house eight machines to make the ASTM level 1, 2 and 3 masks with nanofibers as the filtration medium. The project will also add testing machinery to conduct filter testing and equipment for bagging, boxing and laser marking.