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Privacy commissioner investigating personal data collection at cannabis stores

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P.E.I.’s information and privacy commissioner has launched an investigation to see if the new government run cannabis stores are collecting personal data from customers — and how they’re using any information collected. 

Commissioner Karen Rose said she decided to investigate after being informed by a member of the public that the stores are using electronic ID scanners. 

Why is that practice not taking place at the liquor stores or with people purchasing tobacco?— Kara MacRae

« Our investigation will include any and all personal information which is being collected by the cannabis outlets, » Rose said in an email to CBC News Friday. « We are also investigating how that personal information, if any, will be used, and whether, and how, it will be disclosed. »

Rose said she’ll also look in the security measures that are in place to protect customers’ personal information. 

Data found stored in device

In an email to CBC Friday, Cannabis Management Corporation (CMC) said an IT specialist examined the scanner after concerns were raised and found some data was being kept for 24 hours inside the device.

Customer privacy is a priority, said Zach Currie, director of the province’s cannabis operations. He said that no data is collected about anybody who visits or purchases anything at the new retail stores. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

« This data was immediately wiped and settings have been changed so nothing can be kept in the future, » the email said.

« The privacy commissioner has been in contact with the Cannabis Management Corporation and CMC will be fully briefing her on this matter. »

However, later on Friday CMC announced it would be pulling the scanners from the stores. 

‘Standalone device’

Zach Currie, the director of cannabis operations for CMC, said the scanners were merely a tool to flag fake IDs and not intended to collected personal information from customers.  

Privacy commissioner Karen Rose says she decided to investigate P.E.I.’s cannabis stores after hearing they’re using electronic ID scanners. (Krystalle Ramlakhan/CBC)

« Our core pillar of our customer service piece is ensuring customer confidentiality, so we don’t retain any data, » said  Currie. 

« Those ID scanners are not connected to any sort of internet. They are not connected to our Wi-Fi. They are essentially a standalone device that our folks use. »

Currie said the scanner is an industry standard used in other jurisdictions to validate a wide variety of national and international identification cards.

He says staff have been instructed to scan every person’s ID entering the store, even people who appear to be much older than 19 — the legal age for purchasing cannabis. 

Cannabis stores ‘overdoing it’

Currie acknowledges the scanning practice has prompted several questions and concerns from Islanders, including Kara MacRae, who emailed P.E.I.’s finance minister. 

Valid photo identification cards must be verified by a staff member at every P.E.I. Cannabis location to ensure that no one under the age of 19 enters the store. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

« I question the scanning. What is being done with the information they’re collecting off the ID? Where’s it going? Who has access to it? Is it protected under privacy laws? And why is that practice not taking place at the liquor stores or with people purchasing tobacco? » MacRae said.

Currie said given how new the legal cannabis industry is, and the concerns around young people getting their hands on pot, the province may be « overdoing it in some circumstances to ensure we’re thought of as a retailer very focused on social responsibility. »

He said the practice of using scanners and IDing everyone will be reviewed, and may be changed « in the months ahead. »

The privacy commissioner hasn’t said how long her investigation will take. 

More P.E.I. news

With files from Steve Bruce

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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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Anglais

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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