Saturday Feb 04, 2023

Supply-chain crisis hurts Northwestern Ontario | The Star – Toronto Star


THUNDER BAY — Andrew Scribilo isn’t really going to drive all the way to Winnipeg in a snowstorm just to buy a smoked ham for the holidays.

But he admits he thought about it.

The Kenora chamber of commerce president says the fact he can’t buy a Christmas ham in his city at the moment is not only frustrating; it’s another symptom of the widening supply-chain crisis that is impacting the availability of everything from food to kitchen stoves.

“You go to a hardware store, and the bins for the thing you need are empty,” Scribilo said. “I’m hearing it, and seeing it. But you can’t blame the retailers — they try, but they just can’t get things in.”

In Thunder Bay, long-time home-heating dealer Rob Spakowski said he’s got access to brand-new furnaces that he could install for a customer this week.

But replacement parts for existing units can be hard to come by, said Spakowski, especially if they have to come from the U.S., which is also facing a supply shortage of its own.

“It was the same thing for air conditioners this summer,” said Spakowski. “Some days I just went fishing.”

A global shortage of essential computer chips has been putting a crimp on sales of furnaces and automobiles.

Dealers of used cars and trucks say they’re holding their own — but customers have to act quickly. Vehicles aren’t staying on lots very long, and prices are up by about 20 per cent.

“We’re surviving because we’ve been around for 25 years, but we’ve been operating with only 50 per cent of what our inventory would normally be at this time,” said veteran Thunder Bay dealer Randy Salamon.

Salamon said the supply issue affecting new vehicles inevitably trickles down to his business, which largely depends on local trade-ins.

“We try to buy local, but some of our trucks have come in from western Canada (during the pandemic) which is having problems of their own,” he said.

Scribilo said it’s difficult to find a new car or truck in Kenora at the moment. He said Canadians need to contemplate the prospect of paying a little more for a variety of products in the long term, if that’s what it takes to ensure goods are manufactured in North America.

“We should be self-sufficient,” he said. “Maybe that means paying $25 more for something.” He added: “I buy all my vehicles in Kenora.”

In the Lakehead, “we have a lot of businesses that have highlighted a significant impact of supply-chain issues over recent months —from construction companies to retailers to office equipment,” said Thunder Bay chamber of commerce president Charla Robinson. “It’s a wide-ranging problem.”

Local grocery stores have been short of dairy, fruit and vegetable staples that would normally come in from British Columbia, which has been ravaged by floods, Robinson noted.

Thunder Bay ski retailer Steve Scollie said he views the supply-chain conundrum from different vantage points.

His supply of skis wasn’t affected because they’re shipped to Montreal from Europe “where they seem to have control of their situation.”

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