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North Cowichan looks to strategies to aid beleaguered food industry

Bankruptcies in industry increased 48% in B.C. in last 10 months
North Cowichan Coun. Bruce Findlay wants the municipality and senior levels of government to step up and assist the ailing food industry in B.C. (Citizen file photo)

Debt from the pandemic, skyrocketing inflation, labour shortages, cost pressures and other issues are taking a devastating toll on the province’s food industry, and at least one member of North Cowichan’s council wants local and senior levels of governments to throw the industry a lifeline.

In January, the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association and Restaurants Canada launched a new campaign, called “Save BC Restaurants”, aimed at raising awareness of the challenges facing restaurants and food-service vendors in the province, and wrote a letter to North Cowichan outlining the issues and suggesting courses of action that could be taken to help.


North Cowichan Coun. Bruce Findlay, who owns an eatery in North Cowichan, pointed out that there has been a 48 per cent increase in bankruptcies in the restaurant industry in B.C. over the last 10 months, with several of them in North Cowichan.

“It’s devastating to the owners and the people that work there,” he said at a recent council meeting.

“The statistics also indicate that 50 per cent of all these businesses in B.C. are unprofitable. It’s a fact that 6.5 per cent of all workers in the Cowichan Valley Regional District work in food service and accommodations, and that’s a significant proportion of the local work force.”

Findlay said that while there may not currently be many new restaurants opening in North Cowichan, having the municipality streamline its approval processes for new applications and championing the fight against controllable cost increases such as carbon tax, alcohol tax, WorkSafe premiums, and increases to the minimum wage would help relieve some of the stresses local and provincial food establishments are facing.


“At some point, we’re going to get to the point of $25 burgers and $10 pints (of beer), and that’s just not sustainable and it’s unpalatable as well,” he said.

“I’d also like to put forward a motion (at a future meeting) to write a letter to the provincial and federal governments requesting reductions or freezes on new taxes, premiums and wage increases in the industry.”

Findlay asked council if, as the owner of a food establishment, he may be in a conflict of interest in putting forward the notice of motion, and was informed that he is advocating for the broader food sector and not just his own business, so it’s not a conflict of interest.

Mayor Rob Douglas said he discussed the recommendations from the food industry regarding speeding up permit-processing times, and it’s also come up at North Cowichan’s economic development committee and is part of the staff’s work plan for this year.

“We have also applied for provincial funding to look at ways to streamline our development-approval process,” he said.

“Obviously, the big focus (of that process) is on residential development, but it could benefit commercial businesses as well.”

Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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