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Alberta hunts for more cannabis producers as demand drains supplies

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Alberta is looking to boost its roster of cannabis producers — and bolster its supplies — as eager consumers continue to deplete provincial stockpiles of popular weed products.

Alberta Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis (AGLC), which sells wholesale to retailers and online to consumers, gets its cannabis from 15 licensed producers across the country.

But the regulator is hunting to add more producers from which it can draw supplies as it seeks to keep up with an unanticipated appetite for legal pot.

« We plan to continue to actively seek additional suppliers going forward, » said AGLC spokeswoman Kaleigh Miller.

« When the industry launched on [Oct. 17] we saw outstanding response and the market demand has been fairly steady ever since. So I think that everyone estimated for this industry to be a success.

« But I think that the success is a little bit more than we anticipated. »

The AGLC says licensed producers are ramping up production, but cannabis takes time to grow. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

By Tuesday afternoon, AGLC’s retail website was sold out of 17 of 81 kinds of dry flower, four out of 10 pre-rolled cannabis products, four of six oils, and of all of its capsules. 

Among the products listed as sold out on the website were Kiwi Cannabis Mango Haze and Riff Subway Scientist.

Miller said the licensed producers with which the AGLC has contracts are being challenged to keep up with market demand. However, the regulator continues to receive shipments daily, she said.

The majority of those shipments are being allocated to licensed retailers.

« Hopefully, as things are selling out, we’re able to resupply somewhat during these first few days and weeks, » she said.

But there’s no quick fix. Licensed producers are ramping up their production, she said, but cannabis takes time to grow. 

« It’s not something that we can just sort of turn around overnight, » Miller said. « So we’re seeing a little bit of delay in that aspect but I am confident that, hopefully, in the not-too-far-away future we’ll see things even out. »

There are cannabis shortages occurring across the country, leaving some new stores scrambling to stock their shelves.

One of Calgary’s two retailers, Four20 Premium Market, said on Facebook Tuesday afternoon that it had inventory.

James Burns, CEO of Alcanna Inc., the parent company of Nova Cannabis, which currently has one Calgary location, said he’s not concerned about supplies at his stores.

« We placed very large orders — the largest we could, » Burns said.

James Burns, CEO of Alcanna Inc., the parent company of Nova Cannabis, said he’s not concerned about supplies at his stores, including one in Calgary. (CBC/Scott Neufeld)

« Certain strains sold out for sure, but we always had product in stock and we’ve been resupplied this week, I think as has everybody. So we’re in good shape. »

Burns said people are still getting in line to make purchases.

« The line-ups aren’t long anymore but there are still lineups, » he said. « Just non-stop, non-stop sales. »

Nick Kuzyk, chief strategy officer with High Tides Ventures, which is planning to open its first Canna Cabana store in Canyon Meadows at the end of the month, believes the outlet will have the inventory it needs.

« We have begun the process of purchasing inventory through the AGLC and I believe it’s true that we don’t have our choice of everything that we would like to stock, » he said.

« However, that is the case for everyone. And customers, based on demand so far, seem to be willing to work through the process with retailers and the province, and are still nevertheless excited — greatly excited — about legalization. »

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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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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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