A growler of hand sanitizer brewed in Tofino sits on the running board of a fire truck.

Photo Credit: Rick Geddes | Twitter

Feds Forget Local Businesses Who Stepped Up For The Cause

This move could leave us high and dry the next time a crisis hits

They did the right thing for their communities and then got forgotten

We all know that buying local is one of the best ways to boost our economy and communities.

Recently though, Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns brought up how often this idea gets passed over by our government.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, Canada did not have adequate stocks of PPE and frontline workers were put at unacceptable risk,” said Johns in the House of Commons. “While the government scrambled to procure supplies from the global market, it encouraged Canadian businesses to help meet this critical need.”

Small companies in BC immediately stepped up to the plate. Factories that made clothing started making masks. A Nanaimo mill doubled its production of the kind of pulp used to make paper hospital gowns.

And distilleries on VanIsle like Tofino Craft Distillery and Pacific Rim Distilling started making hand sanitizer instead of booze. And they were giving it away. At the time, Pacific Rim owner Luke Erridge told Westerly News, “In times like this, everyone in town needs to come together…I love this place. I’ll pretty much do anything I can to keep everyone safe here.”

Because of this choice to help, small businesses suffered hundreds of thousands in losses.

Instead of supporting these local business, the federal government started spending millions buying sanitizer from overseas.

“Instead of rewarding companies who stepped up during a time of need, the government left businesses out to dry,” said Johns.

“Government awarded contracts to multinationals instead of supporting this emerging domestic industry.”

Small distilleries have been feeling the brunt of this for years now. Tyler Dyck is the president of the Craft Distillers Guild of BC and helps run his family distillery, Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery.

He was upset back in late 2020 when he found out the federal government was outsourcing sanitizer production. “It really is like a sucker punch in the gut,” he told CBC News. “You are bypassing people that have done the right thing from Day 1.”

Because of actions like these, our domestic personal protective equipment industry is sounding the alarms.

“If Canada does not support its own PPE industry, there is a risk it will disappear, and we will once again be caught unprepared in a time of crisis,” said Johns.

If they don’t, the industry won’t be around the next time we need them.

Small distilleries are already wondering whether they’d be so keen to help out in the next crisis.

Clay Potter is co-owner of The Moon Under Water Brewery, Pub and Distillery in Victoria.

“In hindsight, a lot of businesses got themselves into very financially dire straits by doing the right thing for their communities, and they would do it again. Don’t get me wrong,” he told CBC News back in April.

But “[t]hey probably might have scaled it back and not produced as much.”