A paper bag full of groceries, surrounded by of fruits, vegetables, sausages and canned goods

Two ferries away from Vancouver Island: No food or gas shortages on Cortes Island

The panic buying that swept throughout Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland last week has not reached Cortes Island. 

Eva, from the Gorge Harbour General store suggested that, “People on Cortes are probably better prepared.”

The only place she noticed the shortage was gasoline, because the provincial government was limiting sales to 30 litres.

Curt Cunningham, from the Squirrel Cove General Store, believes that rationing boosted his gasoline sales 50% – because most people purchased up to the limit!

Photo credit: There is only one way for vehicles to reach Cortes Island – Photo by Roy L Hales

Meg, from the Cortes Natural Food Co-op, said while she had received notices of a possible shortage from one of her suppliers, another was trying to find buyers for produce that couldn’t be shipped to Alberta.      

There were actual shortages two ferry trips away.

A Campbell River woman told CTV News that the milk and meat shelves at Walmart and Superstore were picked clean. 

 Cst. Maury Tyre, of the Campbell River RCMP, said the rains “left Campbell River relatively unscathed,” but “fears of supply shortages have created an unnecessary buying fury in many of the gas stations and grocery stores in the area, thereby creating actual immediate shortages.” 

The crisis began a week ago, when  up to 252 millimetres of rain battered communities in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Interior. There were reports of flooding, road closures and local states of emergency in numerous communities. This included central Vancouver Island, where a local state of emergency was declared in areas of the Cowichan Valley Regional District, the Municipality of North Cowichan, City of Duncan, Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation and Penelakut Tribe.

On Wednesday, November 17th, the province of British Columbia declared a state of emergency.

There were grocery shortages as far east as Manitoba, where the Brandon Sun reported, “Businesses face dire issues with shipping unpredictability because even now it is difficult to guess what will happen with the roads and rail lines in B.C. that have been affected by natural disasters.” 

Rains washed away part of Highway #1 connecting Southern Vancouver Island to the gas storage facilities in Chemainus and Nanaimo. Panic spread through the Greater Victoria area Wednesday, as gas stations began to run out of fuel. A trickle of fuel trucks started making it over the Malahat Thursday morning, and by Friday two way traffic was restored

This crisis appears to be something Cortes Island residents learned about through the media.

The Squirrel Cove General Store is probably selling 20% more groceries than usual.

“Supply has not been an issue. My pickups are on Mondays and last Monday there was no problem with supplies,” said Cunningham. “Same with fuel. I put an order in today and they do not anticipate a problem for Tuesday’s delivery.”

Constable Tyre explained, “The issue is not supply shortage, it’s how businesses order.”

This is based on normal sales volumes. When people panic buy, they put unexpected demands upon the system.

“So please, put down the 3 – 24 packs of toilet paper (you’ve probably got some stashed away from Covid panic buys anyway), re-shelf the 15 packs of ground beef in your cart, and put away the extra jerry cans you are bringing to the gas station,” said Tyre. “Hoarding will only create a temporary shortage that fuels people’s fears. If people just shop in their normal way, things will be fine.”

Top photo credit: Bag full of groceries – Photo by Marco Verch Professional Photographer via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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