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Demand for winter tires in Quebec shorts Northerners

Guy Quenneville
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, November 26 2008

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - Anyone looking for an 18, 19 or 20-inch winter tire in Yellowknife is straight out of luck, according to several tire shops in town.

Due to a new law in Quebec that made winter tires mandatory by Nov. 15, Yellowknife tire suppliers have had to contend with a reduced supply of large-sized winter tires this year, and what little supply they received has already been exhausted.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Ken Pich, owner of Westown Tire Service Ltd., said anyone seeking an 18, 19 or 20-inch winter tire this season is out of luck. Due to huge demand for winter tires in Quebec, Yellowknife - like many cities across the country - has been left with a short supply of tires that has already been exhausted this winter. - Guy Quenneville/NNSL photo

"A lot of tires went to Quebec this year," said Ken Pich, owner of Westown Tire Service Ltd.

"When something like that happens, that really gives a shit-kicking to the supply."

Pich placed his orders in August with five brokers in Edmonton and Calgary.

"I started getting them right away, but half of them didn't show up," said Pich. "Soon as you find that out, you start looking through all your brokers and try to pick tires all over the place."

Despite his best efforts, he still came up dry.

"I think Quebec had a head start on everybody," he said. "I was talking to Discount Tire, a broker I deal with in Edmonton - they pre-sold their tires before they even had them."

"Our supplies are all out as well," echoed Darwin Rudkevitch, owner of Tirecraft. "Quebec's gobbled everything up."

There are options, granted drivers can suspend their preference for their favourite brand of tire, he added.

"If they're looking for a particular brand, then they're out of luck," said Rudkevitch. "But if they were to take anything that's available, they might get lucky and there'd be something there."

That might prove a tough sell for some, however.

"People are particular about what they want," he said. "Some prefer Michelin, some Good Year. It's the same as anything. Some people go for coffee at Tim Hortons instead of somewhere downtown."

Drivers might also consider downsizing their tires, said Rudkevitch.

"Instead of putting on a 20 or an 18 (-inch), they could go down to a 17 or 16," he said.

Those who mix and match when it comes to replacing tires may be in trouble, however, according to Warren Pariseau, owner of Canadian Tire, which specializes in passenger car tires but has had some trouble meeting supply on some popular sizes.

Due to increased pressure from the tire industry, Canadian Tire, like many other operators, insists that all cars must be affixed with tires of the same type - no mixing.

"If you're replacing same for same, you have to put sets of four on," said Pariseau.

If there's any consolation in all this, "I think this is probably just going to be a one-year anomaly," said Pariseau. "Once everybody in Quebec gets their tires on, we'll have better forecasting for next year. It's not going to be an issue."

But Pich hates to imagine what will happen if other provinces follow Quebec's lead in making winter tires law.

"If Ontario goes for it, holy man, we're really in trouble," he said.