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Ontario is holding a lottery for cannabis stores on Friday. Here’s what the rest of the country tried and how it turned out

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However, there’s one major outlier: British Columbia. The entrenchment of black- and grey-market cannabis operations in B.C., as well as the sluggish rate of legal cannabis store openings, means the province has a chimera of private and public sale systems that’s been difficult to leverage.

“They have a quasi-legal illegal market,” Osak said. “They have a couple of publicly owned stores and now, recently, a couple of private (ones). So they have a mixed bag of everything.”

A lot of questions about Ontario’s cannabis licensing system remain unanswered, Osak said, especially when it comes to late penalties.

Retailers are required to submit a $50,000 letter of credit as part of their application. If they aren’t open by April 1, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario can take $12,500 of that. Retailers who still aren’t open by April 15 will lose another $12,500. What isn’t clear is whether stores that have passed all of the necessary inspections and trained their staff appropriately could suffer these penalties if they’re faced with an unreliable supply of weed and are forced to close.

“This whole process is clouded in uncertainty,” Osak said.

Here’s a look at how the rest of Canada has handled brick-and-mortar cannabis stores and how they’ve fared since legalization:

Read more:

Ontario’s cannabis retail lottery will have just 25 winners. But is it a smart approach, or a golden ticket to nowhere?

N.B. cannabis retailer lays off staffers as ‘operational needs’ become clear

Toronto council opts in on pot shops just as Ontario limits number to 25 because of supply shortage

British Columbia

The process: While B.C. isn’t limiting the number of private cannabis retailers, applicants must go through several steps in order to officially obtain a licence, including paying an application fee of $7,500 and receiving approval from their local government or Indigenous nation.

What worked: In B.C., most cannabis users who couldn’t go to the only provincially owned store in Kamloops had to buy from the provincially operated online store in the first two weeks of legalization. It proved immensely popular, with reports that the province was low on stock just 24 hours after launch.

Private retailers came a few weeks later, with Tamarack Cannabis Boutique in Kimberley being the first out of the gate.

What didn’t: Regulations have limited stores to selling products exclusively from the provincial wholesaler. As a result, stores cannot carry cannabis-based creams and edibles; Tamarack owner Tamara Duggan said those were some of the most popular items at her Kimberley store.

The roll-out of stores in other municipalities has been much slower, with businesses complaining that the licensing process is overly complex. In Vancouver, a hub of cannabis use where several illegal stores are still in operation, three months passed before the first two private retailers opened their doors — to long lineups from enthusiastic customers.

Jaclynn Pehota, a regulatory consultant for Evergreen Cannabis, said the process for private licensing is “not particularly intuitive or user-friendly,” and many small businesses may not have had the resources to get through.

Alberta

The process: Alberta has taken a relatively hands-off approach to selling weed, similar to their privatized system for liquor stores. Applicants looking to open a storefront must secure approval from municipal authorities and submit to an application process (which includes background checks) from the Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Commission (AGLC).

There is no cap on the number of stores allowed within the province, although the AGLC expected to see around 250 store applications within the first year of legalization. However, privatization doesn’t extend to the internet: The only legal website to buy weed in Alberta is the AGLC-run albertacannabis.org.

What worked: Alberta had 17 storefronts open on Oct. 17. The Edmonton area alone had a dozen ready to go on legalization day, while Calgary had two. There are several possible reasons why the provincial capital outpaced Cowtown so quickly, including an existing medical cannabis industry (Aurora’s headquarters are based in Edmonton) and relaxed public consumption laws. Albertans also have a healthy appetite for bud: Nova Cannabis, a chain with stores across the province, pulled in $1.3 million in sales within the first five days of legalization.

What didn’t work: As with other provinces, Alberta’s brick-and-mortar stores and albertacannabis.org found themselves starved of weed just a month after legalization. In late November, the AGLC announced a moratorium on granting new store licences until supply issues could be resolved, saying it had only received 20 per cent of the cannabis it had ordered from licensed producers.

Several stores, including Numo Cannabis in northern Edmonton, had to close for weeks due to a lack of weed, while Urban Canna, a small chain in Calgary, found itself unable to open at all during the first month of legalization. Some Alberta municipalities have also vetoed pot stores, and Calgary has found itself bogged down with appeals against cannabis stores within city limits.

Atlantic Canada

The process: In Nova Scotia, the government-run Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) is the only authorized pot seller. On legalization day, the crown corporation opened 11 cannabis boutiques inside existing liquor stores, one stand-alone cannabis shop in Halifax and online sales.

What worked: When the shops opened in cities and towns around the province on Oct. 17, there were long lines as clerks handled almost 13,000 transactions and sold more than $660,000 in products. Those lines persisted at some locations for several days.

NSLC spokesperson Beverly Ware said in an email that the corporation was “very pleased with the implementation” and that it answered the public’s demand for local producers shortly after legalization. There weren’t any local licensed producers in the province on Oct. 17, but two have since received the green light from Health Canada.

What didn’t work: Several NSLC cannabis stores closed early because of shortages.

As in Nova Scotia, the rest of Atlantic Canada opted for government-run cannabis retailers. New Brunswick’s retailer, Cannabis NB, faced similar supply challenges to the NSLC and recently laid off more than 60 employees from its 20 stores.

Cannabis NB spokesperson Marie-Andrée Bolduc told The Canadian Press that it was difficult to say whether the supply problems were linked to the layoffs.

“The decision is representative of normal new retail industry operations and long-term fiscal responsibility,” Bolduc said in an email.

Quebec

The process: The Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) runs 12 stores across the province, including three in Montreal and two in Quebec City. Customers can also purchase cannabis from its website.

What worked: The 12 stores were open by legalization day, and the website was live. The province’s website reported 53,300 online transactions and 84,850 in-store transactions in the first week of operation.

What didn’t work: Plagued by supply shortages, the stores are now only open Thursdays to Sundays. In addition, some customers reported receiving products with a unit weight lower than what was indicated on the packaging, according to the SQDC’s website.

Saskatchewan

The process: Operators for 51 retail cannabis stores were selected through a two-step process that combined an open request for proposals and a lottery.

Applicants that made it through the first screening phase, which looked at financial and inventory systems, were entered into the lottery to be eligible for a permit. Independent consulting firm KPMG monitored the process, according to the province’s website.

What worked: The advance planning meant a few stores were open on legalization day, The Canadian Press reported at the time.

What didn’t work: Not all of the 51 stores were open by then. Currently, only 17 are in operation; the rest are working through the permit process, and more should be issued in the coming weeks, according to a government spokesperson.

Manitoba

The process: A request for proposals went out in November 2017, looking for four initial companies. The province announced the successful retailers in February 2018.

The Liquor, Gaming and Cannabis Authority of Manitoba (LGCA) regulates, licenses, inspects and audits the industry, while the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation (MBLL) is in charge of processing and distribution, according to the province’s website.

The private sector operates all 16 retail locations across the province, including two in First Nations communities and 10 in Winnipeg, according to the government’s website.

What worked: In December, the province announced the private retailers were largely playing by the rules so far and none had been fined since legalization, The Canadian Press reported.

What didn’t work: MBLL said in October it expected supply shortages to last at least six months, as the province, along with others, is not receiving as much cannabis as it needs.

In December, the RCMP seized all cannabis from the Winnipeg-based company Bonify, saying they believed illegal cannabis had entered the market.

Nunavut

The only way to buy is to order online from private retailer Tweed, which doesn’t have any stores in Nunavut. The government did not immediately respond to a request for more detail.

Yukon

The government operates one cannabis shop in Whitehorse, as well as an online store. The government did not immediately respond to a request for more detail.

Northwest territories

The Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission regulates the distribution of alcohol and cannabis through mail order, an online store and five brick-and-mortar locations. The government did not immediately respond to a request for more detail.

With files from Joseph Hall, Kevin Maimann, Omar Mosleh, Taryn Grant, Cherise Seucharan and May Warren

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Anglais

‘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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