Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ottawa spent $250M on sanitizer from China, ignoring Canadians distributing it for free

Millions spent on foreign-made hand sanitizer that dozens of distillers churned out for free | CBC News - Yvette Brend:

This story is part of The Big Spend, a CBC News investigation examining the unprecedented $240 billion the federal government handed out during the first eight months of the pandemic. 

December 8, 2020 - "When the prime minister called on Canadian industry to retool to produce protective equipment in the early panic of the pandemic, dozens of distillers switched from making spirits to hand sanitizer. At the time, it was scarce on store shelves. So dozens of Canada's distillers scrambled to produce tens of thousands of litres for free. 

"At the height of the shortage, about a dozen distilleries in B.C. alone were supplying hospitals, government offices and emergency workers all over the province. As the months wore on, some distilleries began to charge to cover the cost of making the sanitizer, but many continued to donate thousands of litres to people and organizations in need, being careful not to profiteer in a time of crisis.

"CBC News has learned that, during that time period, the federal government spent hundreds of millions of tax dollars procuring sanitizer from outside Canada. In total, more than $570 million worth of hand sanitizer has flowed into Canada from outside countries since March, according to Statistics Canada data. Of that amount, Canada paid directly for at least $375 million's worth. BYD Canada Co., a China-based car maker with a few employees and offices in Canada, was paid $252 million for sanitizer manufactured in its retooled Chinese factories....

"That millions of tax dollars were paid out confounds distillers who were producing sanitizer for free. Many assumed that expedited changes to tax requirements and regulations to allow sanitizer production held promise that the government would continue to encourage at-home manufacturing. They requested compensation for supplies and in some cases consideration for longer-term contracts. But none of that materialized for the smaller players. 

"The government of B.C. did buy about 700,000 litres of sanitizer, about a million dollars worth, from Parallel 49 Brewing Co. in Vancouver. But soon after, the province began shipping in sanitizer through a federal supply source, according to provincial officials.... Canada eventually signed agreements to make millions of litres of sanitizer with large Canadian companies: Fluid Energy Group in Calgary, Hawktree Solutions in Ottawa and Irving Oil in New Brunswick.

"Meanwhile, distillers like Tyler Dyck spent nine months making and donating the disinfectant. He's the president of the Craft Distillers Guild of B.C. and helps run his family distillery in Vernon and Kelowna ... Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery. Dyck and others in the industry ... were never compensated for the effort even as the government paid foreign suppliers to meet the demand distillers say they could have handled domestically.... His company spent about $200,000 donating sanitizer....

"In Toronto, the Spirit of York Distillery was the first to distribute sanitizer. The owner says he got numerous calls from brokers looking to resell his raw alcohol and turn a profit. 'We couldn't get a contract with the [federal] government no matter how hard we tried. It's actually very disappointing,' said Gerry Guitor....

"Scot Stewart is the head distiller at True North Distillery in Grand Forks, B.C., another ad hoc hand-sanitizer maker.... His bid to get a contract to keep supplying — or compensation for the $103,000 he's spent — has been ignored." 

Read more: https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/distillers-hand-sanitizer-pandemic-1.5813509

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