President & CEO Perrin Beatty, P.C., O.C., issued this statement to the network on January 7, 2022:
As we enter our third year of the pandemic, we should all be grateful for the resilience and strength displayed by our front-line health care workers who continue to deliver care and services to Canadians, despite major challenges that include a much more transmissible variant, the need to get millions of people vaccinated and boosted, growing staffing shortages and a testing system that has become overwhelmed.
For our part, the Canadian Chamber Network has played a key role in getting rapid antigen test kits into the hands of local businesses across Canada. Over 175 local chambers of commerce and boards of trade have been working diligently to help protect workers in local businesses. In short, our network of chambers is helping to keep workplaces safe, operational and productive as we reboot our economy.
In what began as a pilot project this past spring that was led by the Cambridge and Kitchener-Waterloo chambers, we have collectively built a rapid test kit distribution program in five provinces that has delivered over seven million test kits to small businesses, and we’ve been able to source over $5 million in direct financial support from the government to offset the added expenses in chamber operations. Working collaboratively with local and regional public health authorities, national and provincial/territorial governments, and provincial/territorial chambers, we’ve demonstrated the power of the Canadian Chamber Network, not only as a voice for businesses, but also as a helping hand to ensure their survival and success.
We are now in a new phase of the pandemic. As the Omicron variant spreads exponentially, we are seeing serious shortages of rapid test kits, not just in Canada, but internationally as well.
As a result of your efforts, businesses have turned to chambers for assistance, to the point where our network has become one of the most effective distribution channels. We welcomed the news this week that the Government of Canada is procuring an additional 140 million rapid test kits and we’re urging the federal government to send them quickly to provincial and territorial governments for their use. Now we must continue to work in good faith in urging provinces to continue to prioritize this valuable chamber distribution channel.
These supply chain constraints are being felt differently in various jurisdictions within Canada. The impacts range from those areas like Nova Scotia where the provincial government has paused distribution to businesses to those that are considering new distribution criteria, like New Brunswick and Ontario, to less severe supply delays experienced in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Our commitment to you is that we will continue to prod the federal government to acquire more tests to be distributed to the provinces and territories as rapidly as possible. We will also work with our provincial/territorial chamber colleagues in their efforts to ensure provincial and territorial governments prioritize the delivery of test kits to chambers, along with financial support to offset your operational expenses for distributing the kits. We will reinforce with governments at all levels how effective this distribution system has been and why small businesses need to be on the priority list.
This collaboration of all three levels of the Canadian Chamber Network is unparalleled in our history and is clearly yielding results for our businesses and for communities across Canada. We will do all we can to support and strengthen this important initiative.