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B.C. distillers concerned about lack of government support for hand sanitizer donations

Click to play video: 'Distilleries want government support for hand sanitizer donations' Distilleries want government support for hand sanitizer donations
WATCH: B.C. distilleries stepped up to produce hand sanitizer early in the pandemic when there was a critical shortage. Some even gave it away. Now there is concern governments haven't done enough to support their efforts – Dec 15, 2020

B.C. distilleries stepped up to produce hand sanitizer early in the pandemic when there was a critical shortage.

Some even gave it away.

Now there is concern governments haven’t done enough to support their efforts.

When COVID-19 hit British Columbia earlier this year, Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery felt it was the distillery’s duty to pitch in.

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The business temporarily switched to only producing hand sanitizer.

“We thought if we are not here to protect our communities, if we just go on making whisky in a time of need, we are going to be on the wrong side of history on this,” said Tyler Dyck, CEO of Okanagan Spirits.

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So far, Okanagan Spirits said it produced more than $700,000 worth of hand sanitizer, some of which was sold to pay to manufacture more of the cleaning solution but a substantial portion of which was donated.

“(We) donated about a half-million dollars of sanitizer into our communities. We’ve covered everything from ambulance to fire to all community health care workers,” Dyck said.

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Dyck, who is also the president of the Craft Distillers Guild of B.C., said other distilleries in the province were also donating sanitizer.

He’s been calling for the government to cover the businesses’ costs of production for the donated hand sanitizer.

“When they are out there giving away their spirits to protect their community, I think it is the imperative of government… to cover those base costs because these were public institutions that we were donating to that had no other access to this,” Dyck said.

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Neither the federal nor provincial governments have committed to covering the cost of the donated sanitizer.

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B.C. said it issued a policy directive allowing brewers and distillers to produce hand-sanitizer and it has other programs designed to improve manufacturing capacity.

The issue has caught the attention of an Okanagan Conservative MP who is concerned that, although distillers have received little support to supply their communities, the federal government has spent hundreds of millions on sanitizer that was not made in Canada.

North Okanagan – Shuswap MP Mel Arnold said the government spent the money internationally, “without looking within Canada at the Canadian jobs and the Canadian manufacturing and agriculture that could provide that service to Canadians.”

“It’s a travesty,” said Arnold.

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In a statement, the federal government defended its approach saying it secured hand sanitizer in bulk “both domestically and internationally…to meet the urgent requirement in a time of worldwide shortage,” of hand sanitizer.

Public Services and Procurement Canada said that slightly more than half of the supply it has sourced has come from Canadian suppliers.

The B.C. government said early on it bought hand sanitizer from a B.C. brewery, “and then by June began receiving shipments from the Government of Canada. The priority was to ensure British Columbians had a consistent source of PPE available in significant quantities.”

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