Liberals giving $23 million to manufacturing giant 3M in effort to bolster domestic COVID-19 mask supply

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OTTAWA — The federal government is giving $23 million to 3M Canada Company to establish protective mask making capabilities in Ontario, as the country seeks to lock down domestic supplies of personal protective equipment.

Industry Minister Navdeep Bains is set to make the announcement on Friday alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to sources. The public dollars will go toward a roughly $70 million expenditure, split three ways between Ottawa, 3M and the Ontario government, according to people familiar with the matter.

The public funds will be used to expand manufacturing capabilities at 3M’s existing operations in Brockville, Ont., where the firm currently manufactures tape and other supplies.

Masking tape moves down the line at the 3M Canada plant in Brockville, Ont. Handout

American firm 3M is the same company that was ordered in April by U.S. President Donald Trump to stop sending its N95 masks to Canada. Trump ordered the firm to stop sending the respirators to Canada under the Defence Production Act, citing a domestic supply shortage, but the company said days later it would continue to supply Canada as per its contract.

People familiar with the plans say 3M will begin manufacturing N95 masks that have been in short supply since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will meet demand for a substantial chunk of Eastern Canada.