As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in B.C. and across Canada, West Coast leaders are working around the clock to take care of their communities.
Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns said he is soliciting the federal government to establish a bailout package specifically for tourism and the hospitality industry.
He urged businesses to hang on during the unprecedented crisis.
“To lose a week at this time of year is absolutely devastating and hard to recover. To lose a month? I mean, we have never seen anything like this before,” said Johns.
“I am going to make sure that all levels of government are working together collectively on finding ways to support those businesses in the best way possible. But there is no real answer right now. We don’t know how long this is going to take. In the short-term, the government needs to role out money much quicker than they are promising. People can’t wait until April or May.”
On Tuesday, March 24, Canada’s Parliament met to pass an $82-billion aid package, which includes $27 billion directly to Canadians and another $55 billion in tax deferrals for both businesses and individuals. Canada’s big six banks announced on March 18 they will defer mortgage payments for up to six months for those facing financial hardship due to the coronavirus.
Tofino Co-op general manager Michael Tomilin said food supply on the West Coast is fairly stable.
“There are certain items which we will not get in needed quantities such as toilet paper, sanitizer, wipes. [Staple] food items such as rice, pasta, flour will be limited. Dairy, meat, produce are all good for moment, but there will be shortages of certain items for example potatoes,” said Tomilin in an email to the Westerly News on March 22.
“Federated Co-operatives Limited is treated us as a remote location and allow us to order more product than other Co-ops due to only two trucks a week. Coldstar, our produce supplier, is doing a great job in sourcing us product, also they bringing our dairy and commercial bread,” he said.
He said staff has gone above and beyond in everything they do.
“I’m very proud of them and community should be proud of them also. Would ask all patrons to follow the new operational procedures not only their safety, but safety of our staff. We all need to be calm and orderly through out this pandemic,” said Tomilin.
Ucluelet Co-op general manager Laurie Gehrke concurred.
“I would like to commend our staff at the Ucluelet Co-op for their strength and their bravery. They are incredible and they are doing an incredible job. I’d like to thank the community for jumping in wholeheartedly to the online delivery service,” she said, adding if more people order online, it will reduce the in-store stress.
Food Bank on the Edge Society is preparing for an inevitable increase of clients, according to executive director Cris Martin.
“Our inventory is not huge, I don’t know what lies ahead. It’s a week-by-week thing,” said Martin.
Emergency food hampers with staple items like potatoes, onions and carrots, are available as usual on Tuesdays between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the West Coast’s Food Bank facility located at the seaplane base. Clients can only take one hamper per month. Clients are not allowed in the building at all.
Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel said the district is working on a process to support those needing food.
“The food bank is the usual go-to and this time is different nothing like before. The numbers will increase and we will support the food bank to ensure all households have the basics,” said Noel in a March 21 social media post.
The public Facebook Page ‘COVID-19 Coming Together (Tofino, Tla-o-qui-aht territories)’ was launched last week as a hub to provide mutual aid to the communities.
Tofino Fish and Loaves president John Enns is collaborating with the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild to get food to people.
Enns said the weekly hot lunch is cancelled, but free food will be given out at the Tofino Legion on Tuesdays starting at 11:30 a.m.
“We encourage people to prepare for this for weeks and even months. [Fish and Loaves] does have a buffer in the bank. We are hoping we won’t be depleted by time this is over,” he said.
Enns noted that Fish and Loaves tries to help everybody in need, including the non-residents that cannot leave due to travel bans.
“Some people are literally stuck here. They are kind of in no-man’s land,” said Enns.
Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne urged people in a March 20 social media post to not shame people.
“They’re in our family now, and we are going to treat them the way our friends and loved ones are being treated in the places they are staying put in,” said Osborne.