Window-blind makers ask Health Canada for rules delay as COVID snarls supply chains

Window-blind makers ask Health Canada for rules delay as COVID snarls supply chains
Photo credit: Wade Lambert/Unsplash

An association of window-blind makers is warning of a steep financial hit to companies, and potentially the loss of thousands of jobs, in a few weeks unless Health Canada delays enacting a new set of safety rules.

Ralph Vasami, executive director of the Window Covering Manufacturers Association, says his members want to see their products made safer, but are facing a new set of hurdles to meet the upcoming requirements.

The changes would alter how blinds are tested as part of a years-long effort by federal regulators to prevent children from strangling themselves on cords.

Vasami says supply-chain disruptions have meant that manufacturers aren’t able to get parts or materials to have finished products ready for May 1 when the new regulations take effect.

He also says that major retailers are similarly unable to source new products on time to replace stock that will no longer be permissible to be sold in a few weeks.

Health Canada says the industry has had three years to prepare for the coming regulatory change, far more than the usual six-month time frame for new rules to take effect.

The plea from the association is similar to one it made a year ago, which yielded a one-year extension.

Vasami’s pitch to the government echoes a slew of other requests provided to the House of Commons finance committee in advance of this year’s federal budget.

What they have in common is that they don’t ask for new spending to help their organizations or industries survive and thrive over the coming years.

Instead, several submissions ask the government to reduce, eliminate or rejig existing regulations and programs to provide an economic boost without a parallel increase in federal spending.

For example, the Canadian Airports Council asks the government to modernize customs rules so their members can offer duty-free sales to arriving passengers, while the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers Association is looking for greater regulatory alignment with our North American neighbours.

Vasami said he doesn’t see how his association’s ask would increase government spending, arguing that costs would instead be incurred by his members.

He estimates that total losses for manufacturers would amount to $800 million in lost economic output, and potentially cost more than 3,900 jobs. For retail, Vasami estimates the drop in economic output could amount to $755 million and cost a further 6,100 jobs.

The association and some of its members have offered the government suggestions on how the regulations could still address safety concerns, but Vasami says they have been repeatedly brushed off.

“Just have a science-based approach to this that leads to the outcome that everybody’s really looking to lead to, which is safe products, and there’s no opposition on that,” Vasami said in an interview.

“How do we get there that allows for an industry to remain viable is really what we’re looking for.”

The rules were to take effect last May, two years after they were publicly posted, but the government granted a one-year extension because of pandemic-related supply-chain impacts.

“Over the past three years, many manufacturers have complied with the new regulations and already discontinued certain types of blinds or have made changes to provide safer options,” Health Canada said in a statement.

Jordan Press/The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2022.

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