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Pressure increases on Ontario to ban vaping displays to protect teens from addiction

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Pressure increased on the Ontario government to ban displays of vaping gear in convenience stores, where they can be seen by children and teens, as hearings on a bill setting the rules for sales of cannabis and vapour products drew to a close.

The Lung Association and Canadian Cancer Society urged Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives to amend Bill 36 to make it clear vaping materials should be kept from public view just as cigarettes have been since 2005 under law.

Allowing the display and advertising of vaping products in thousands of convenience stores across Ontario will lead to increased nicotine addiction among teenagers, health groups warn.
Allowing the display and advertising of vaping products in thousands of convenience stores across Ontario will lead to increased nicotine addiction among teenagers, health groups warn.  (Steven Senne / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS file photo)

“Let’s not go backwards with vaping,” Sarah Butson of the Lung Association told MPPs on the committee, adding the measure is needed to protect youth.

While it’s illegal for retailers to sell tobacco or vaping products to anyone under 19, health groups fear the displays, often featuring candy and fruit flavours to complement the addictive nicotine, are designed to lure kids into the habit.

“We are talking about more than hooking a new generation on a new product, which is vaping, but potentially a new generation of people who smoke,” she added on the last day of public presentations to the committee.

“We know from our lessons in tobacco that the more that we normalize a product, the more that youth is exposed to a product and that it is readily available, the more it increases the curiousity and the more like they are, actually, to start.”

Vaping displays in convenience stores and gas bars were to be banned starting July 1 under regulations passed by the previous Liberal government under the Smoke Free Ontario Act.

Ford’s PCs nixed the change.

Conservative MPP Robin Martin (Eglinton-Lawrence) acknowledged a number of groups have raised similar concerns to the Lung Association about vaping displays.

“We’re trying to make sure that youth are protected,” she said in an exchange with Butson.

“Vaping products have existed for a few years now and in a fairly unregulated way. This is an issue that we’re just coming to grapple with.”

Health Minister Christine Elliott’s office said earlier this month that displays and promotions are fine as long as they comply with federal law.

The Canadian Cancer Society testified that there has been a “stunning increase” in e-cigaratte use by Ontario teens, with surveys showing 10 per cent of teens puff on them — the same rate as teen smoking of cigarettes.

“It cannot be said that retail displays and promotion for e-cigarettes in convenience stores (is) just targeting adult smokers,” said Rob Cunningham, a policy analyst. “There are e-cigarette displays at retail beside the candy and chocolate bars.

“Kids should not be exposed to such promotions.”

With the legalization of recreational cannabis coming next Wednesday, the government hopes to get Bill 36 passed quickly. MPPs will consider amendments to the proposed legislation Monday as it goes to clause-by-clause examination in committee before going to the legislature for a final vote.

On the cannabis portion of the bill, a lobby group called the Consumer Choice Centre warned allowing municipalities to ban private marijuana stores within their boundaries will create “prohibition zones” where the criminal black market will continue to thrive.

“Waiting up to three business days for a package to arrive in the mail, which you have to be physically present to receive, is not accessible enough,” spokesman David Clement said in regards to the official government online sales channel, the Ontario Cannabis Store.

School boards said they need to be consulted on “buffer zones” between cannabis stores and schools, opposing a one-size-fits-all approach that won’t work given the “geography of school locations is vastly different across the province.”

In a written submission, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association also said exposure to second-hand smoke is a major worry. While toking would be banned on school property, the 20-metre no-smoking zone zone around playgrounds and sports fields is too small.

“Our members suggest this be increased as it is a short distance in which second-hand smoke could easily travel and affect others,” the association wrote.

—with files from Kristin Rushowy

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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