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British Columbians urged to stop panic buying amid supply chain issues

You may have seen photos and videos of empty store shelves and closed gas stations in recent days, but British Columbians are being assured those working in the industry are doing what they can to make sure the supply chain isn’t completely cut off.

There’s no doubt the supply chain has been affected by the recent floods and associated road closures, but Dave Earle with the BC Trucking Association assures goods are going to get here.

“We’ll find other ways. This is what the industry does, we’ll find ways, we’ll make it happen, we will find options to get the goods that everybody relies on to be where they need to be,” he told CityNews on Sunday.

Earle says it’s “all hands on deck” right now to ensure British Columbians have access to the goods they need, with coordination happening at all levels.

However, he warns there will be disruptions, though he stresses there is no need for people to be stocking up on household items and food.

“It’s going to be a little bumpy, things aren’t going to get there exactly when you need it, but we’re not going to runout,” Earle said, adding there are also backlogs the industry is dealing with. “But as that clears, the supply chain will be able to run more and more efficiently. But we’re a long way from being where we were.”

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He is joining many others in calling for patience, urging British Columbians to only buy what they need.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, is echoing those calls, saying we shouldn’t run out of goods if people only take what they need.

“There is enough supply in terms of equipment, in terms of goods. But we can’t keep hoarding and bulk buying. People are living paycheck to paycheck and not everyone can afford to bulk buy,” she explained.

“We just need to make sure that we’re taking care of each other in the advent of roads that are not able to be accessible to certain communities.”

Earle says while he understands many people may be anxious at the moment, he is encouraging British Columbians to “take a step back and dig deep.”

“And think, you know, there are tens of thousands of British Columbians who are displaced, who have been evacuated, who can’t go home. There are those who just managed to get there. Let’s just take a step back for a moment and realize what we have, and take a look around and think, ‘Do I really need to go do that?'” he said of panic buying.

The same goes for filling up your car, Earle says, adding gas is on the way.

A Chevron gas station is seen with tape up closing off pumps amid a fuel shortage

A Chevron gas station in Vancouver is seen with tape up closing off pumps amid a fuel shortage. (Paul James, CityNews Photo)

“This is part of the calls that we’re working on this weekend and this week, to figure out what it looks like, what we can get, where we can get it from. We’re cascading more in from Alberta and now that the highways are open coming across British Columbia, we’re able to move it that way. We’ll be moving some in through rail,” he explained, adding marine options are also on the table.

Meanwhile, Huberman anticipates some industries will be harder hit by flooding and its supply chain impacts than others, noting retail and hospitality have already been struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governments have said they are working to free up supply chain routes affected by highway closures and flooding. Exemptions are in place at the Canada-U.S. border, allowing some transit to take place through America.

Some of B.C.’s major highways have also reopened, with people being encouraged to only travel for essential reasons.

Exemptions also exist to allow for British Columbians to travel into or through the U.S. during these exceptional times. The CBSA says in an email to CityNews that given the current situation, “travellers and essential workers who must travel to or through the United States to get to their residence in Canada, access necessities such as food and fuel, or ensure that essential services and economic supply chains continue, are exempt from the COVID-19 pre-arrival test, the test in Canada, and quarantine requirements.”

The exemptions “do not apply to those engaged in discretionary (non-essential) travel.”

The CBSA notes it “can only respond to questions related to entry to Canada” and that it cannot speak on behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Canada’s Border Services Agency adds it is working closely with the CBP “to facilitate passage during these exceptional times.”

Coalition to address supply chain recovery

The BC Trucking Association is “heavily involved” in supply chain recovery plans, says Earle, who adds the goal for the coalition is to try to figure out how best to move goods around.

“We’re going to have to get a little creative. In fact, we’re going to have to get a lot creative when we start looking at moving goods and being more attune to different ways of doing business and different efficiencies,” Earle outlined.

“Looking at different combinations, multi-modal combinations of transportation so it’s not just rail, or just truck, or just marine, but really starting to find ways to move goods across those different modes of transportation, and that’s what that discussion is really about.”

There are two parts to the coalition’s role — the first is to help with current recovery, and the second is to take what we’ve learned and apply it to the future, so we don’t find ourselves in a similar situation.

-With files from Robyn Crawford

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