Justin Trudeau's photo op at the Big Rig Brewery in Ottawa to praise their hand sanitizer production is raising questions on the speedy licencing granted to the business by the Canadian government.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemics, many liquor producers began producing hand sanitizer to meet demand after applying for and receiving a licence from Health Canada.
Big Rig Brewery applied for, and received their hand sanitizer licence on the very same day that Trudeau arrived to tour the facilities.
Trudeau had previously visited Big Rig with Barack Obama forcing the bar to shut down to the public.
Now, we're learning that Big Rig Brewery applied for and received their hand sanitizer licence on June 26 — the same day as Trudeau's visit.
In a speech at the brewery, Trudeau said:
Big Rig is one of the thousands of companies across the country stepping up to help their workers and their community during this tough time...
Strong words for a brewery which had only just applied for their hand sanitizer licence on the same day as the photo op.
Trudeau's official itinerary for the June 26, 2020 photo-op scheduled his trip to the Brewery at 10:30am ET was released at 7:00 am ET.
The CBC reached out for answers:
When asked about the timing of the licence, the Prime Minister's Office told CBC News in an email that “Health Canada is responsible for approvals of licences.”
Asked by CBC News whether it had checked with Health Canada before Trudeau's visit to see if Big Rig was licensed to produce hand sanitizer, the PMO said it had no further comment.
In March, Saskatoon's Last Mountain Distillery told CKOM News that their production of hand sanitizer was held up by weeks-long wait times for raw materials:
“Hydrogen peroxide is one of those and glycerine, which is really hard to come by — which is why hand sanitizer is really short right now all over the country. We were lucky enough to get our hands on some and it should be here in a couple of weeks.”
At the same time, the Whiskey Advocate spoke to multiple American distillers about their trouble making sanitizer due to “shortages of key supplies.” A few days later, Bloomberg Law reported on manufacturers including Purell facing weeks of shortages.
According to Cosmetics Design, Health Canada loosened ingredient restrictions for hand sanitizer in April due to raw material shortages.
In New Brunswick, the Blue Roof Distillers described their timeline from switching from producing spirits to producing sanitizer:
“Two weeks ago, we decided we were going to do this. From there we reached out to Health Canada to get a licence to produce it and get a product identifier number,” said Strang, the founder and CEO of Blue Roof Distillers. “We ordered bottles and we ordered the ingredients that go in the product...
“We picked up enough to start and got by with little bottles of peroxide and glycerin,” he said. “We went to 15 to 20 pharmacies looking for the materials and they all had limits on because there’s such a high demand.”
Alcohol is an integral part of the process, which is why distilleries have switched their production from alcoholic beverages to sanitizer. It takes about seven days to produce the alcohol from potatoes.