Big box: risks in store for local food producers

If Central Saanich allows big box stores, it could hurt food producers on the Peninsula

Re: Beckoning the big box (News, Feb. 17)

Reading the report on the issues surrounding the looming presence of a big box store in our area, I was pleased to see the balanced responses to the situation on the part of our Central Saanich council. Please keep thinking clearly and fairly about this.

The one thing I would like to remind all of our residents about is the case for our regional economy.

We as a population in our area produce a finite amount of money amongst ourselves over time. This finite amount of money is what we all have in common to work with. The more we have to work with, the better.

How we spend our money determines how healthy and viable our regional economy remains. When we spend our money with locally owned businesses it is fair to say more of our money stays within our region – depending on the nature of the local business.

Locally produced foods purchased from locally owned retailers is a slam dunk example of successful regional-multiplier economics. The money stays within our region and goes around and around. Imported consumer goods are another matter. Try not to buy something from Asia and you’ll see what I mean. Even Harley Davidson motorcycles have Chinese components.

So if we are buying imported goods anyway, why not buy them from a big box store and save money? If the big box store was locally owned it would be less of an issue. If the big box store paid living wages that could support a mortgage and send kids to college and contribute to retirement security – terrific.

But big box stores don’t do that. The money leaves our region. Local businesses are disadvantaged by crippling competition. Our tax base is left with only big box taxes and wages to show for the drain on our money.

What do big box stores sell that local stores cannot sell you? Nothing, really.

If you ask Fairway or the Co-op for big packages of soap, toilet tissue, pork-chops, giant bottles of salsa etc., they can get them.

If there is sufficient demand they can get them at a discount. Do we ask? Or do we wait until someone from out of town shows up and just presents them for our consumption?

Our Island spends an average of $5.35 billion per year on food. Approximately 15 per cent of that is available from locally produced foods. Do the math.

After paying local overhead that is still a staggering amount of our money that we will never see again unless it comes back in the pockets of tourists. And the next year the same again.

We have to come up with more fresh money to buy imported food. Think about it carefully.

The power is in the pockets of each of us. We make a difference by the choices we make.

Brian Trotto

Central Saanich

Peninsula News Review