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Ottawa, Apr 15 (Canadian-Media): Accelerating rates of pandemic among Canadians could impair Canadians' quality of life by creating labour shortages in essential services which could affect food supplies and undermine Canada's critical infrastructure including power grids, banking and telecommunications, according to an internal government document prepared by Public Safety Canada, media reports said.
Public Safety Canada. Image credit: Twitter handle
According to a federal source there is a concern that some workers in essential services, including prison guards, will refuse to work for safety reasons.
Justifying the workers' decision not to work due to safety concerns, Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff said securing more personal protective equipment could calm fears across a number of sectors.
Some parts of Canada are already experiencing the instability of supply chains.
Oceanex Inc., one of Newfoundland and Labrador's largest shipping companies, said Monday that it might have to cancel shipments due to pandemic-related financial losses.
In Alberta, the union representing some workers at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River, about 60 kilometres south of Calgary, is demanding the closure of the facility for at least two weeks to come up with a plan after 38 workers there tested positive for COVID-19.
In a briefing on Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says that although she's confident Canada has enough food but acknowledged labour shortages on farms and outbreaks among workers at processing plants could affect the food supply and result in
higher prices and less variety in grocery stores this year.
Yussuff said the government has to ensure the safety and health care of temporary foreign workers, who travel to Canada for the spring planting.
The briefing document was prepared as part of the federal government's consultations with the regions on the Emergencies Act, a step the prime minister has said he'd prefer not to take as invoking of the act could empower the federal government to order qualified people to provide essential services.
Yussuff said he also opposes invoking the never-before-used Emergencies Act to force essential workers to stay on the job.
"I think if people are naturally concerned about their health we should listen to them because nobody should risk their life having to do their work," he said.
The document says that so far opposing of deployment of the emergencies Act by the collaborative efforts between the provinces and territories has been effective.
Although Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has promised to send personal protective equipment to Ontario and Quebec, the two hardest-hit provinces.
But with the worsening of the crisis, the document said, there is a growing need for more measures and greater intervention.
"The Emergencies Act is not going to solve the problem. What will solve it is collaboration and cooperation," said Yussuff.