Alison Cayne Handles a Cooking School, a Café, a Sauce Business, and Five Kids | Healthyish


In Entrepreneurs Run the World, we get advice and insight from game-changing entrepreneurs with big ideas. This week we talked to Alison Cayne, manager of Haven’s Kitchen and creator of In The Sauce, a podcast on Heritage Radio Network.

Today I spent two hours painting while listening to Spotify’s All Out ‘10s playlist. I did an online dance class in my living room and rewarded myself with hummus, butter, and Vegemite on toast (oh, get over it). I paid some bills and sent an invoice because freelance life. And then, finally, I sat on my floor and wrote this piece.

In comparison, on any normal day you’ll find Alison Cayne simultaneously managing Haven’s Kitchen—a cooking school, event space, and cafe in a lofty, three story building in Manhattan—while also tending to the needs of her five (!!) children. She might spend some time peddling her brand new range of fresh-made, Haven’s-branded sauces, or organizing an interview at Heritage Radio Network for her podcast In The Sauce. (It’s a show designed to debunk nerdy food-industry challenges in much the same way Haven’s demystifies dinner.)

If I’m human, Alison Cayne is Superwoman.

The Haven’s mission, Cayne says, is to tackle some of the core issues with big food—that she learned about while getting her masters in food studies from NYU—in a way that isn’t overly intellectualized. “You know, like farm subsidies, the fact that about a quarter of our crops are being grown for fuel rather than food, GMOs, and food deserts,” she says.

Exasperated with the lack of general knowledge around these issues, Cayne decided to open a recreational cooking school. “I figured that if the average consumer can learn to cook from home, and use their kitchens to shift the system a little bit, then they don’t need to learn all of this stuff—they’ll just be making a change every time they make a meal.”

Haven’s Kitchen is a unique sanctuary where you can witness biodiversity practices firsthand (using produce sourced from the Union Square Greenmarket), while learning to cook better at home. But, rest assured, Cayne is always wary of things getting too virtuous. “I love cheese. I really like alcohol. I put gluten in things,” she says.

Here, Cayne explains what it’s like to build a physical space from the ground up, how we can put the joy back in cooking, and why she doesn’t believe in competition.

What was your original plan for starting Haven’s Kitchen?

I’d find a small space in a building, and take people on farmers’ market tours in the mornings. We’d then go back to the kitchen and we’d make a meal. I’d send them out, lock up, and go home. And then I came upon this three-story carriage house, and my face morphed into that emoji with the heart eyes.

What did you envision when you first saw it?

I immediately imagined this communal beehive, where all things food systems, justice, and love came together. A place where all the movements happening in the food world could have a physical space to exist. While I was picturing it, everyone and their mother was like, « Very bad idea. Don’t do that. Retail sucks. It’s a nightmare. »

But you did it anyway?

It was 2010-ish, and I had a nest egg, and it seemed to me no bigger of a bet doing this than trusting someone else with it. I met with the landlord. He was like, « All right, lady. I’m not going to put in any money, but I’ll give you a year free rent if you want to go and build it out and get all of the permits. »

There wasn’t a kitchen here already?

There was nothing. Everything you see here, I built. Meanwhile, I also built out a forecast of sales based on fully booking three cooking classes a day, seven days a week. Which is hilarious. And I didn’t count on my expenses being what they were. But I also didn’t count on the events business or our cafe doing so well—because I had no idea.

With events, classes, and the café all at once, your model seems complex. Can you simplify why you did it all?

I think the cooking classes are the heart. The café is like the big arms that are open to everybody. And the events are like the legs that makes the thing run.

And now you retail your own line of Haven’s Kitchen ready-made sauces. Can you elaborate?

My rent isn’t getting any cheaper and brick-and-mortars are hard even when they’re doing well. So I kind of looked around saw an incredible team that needed career opportunities and a brand that needed a place to shine. We were already teaching our students how to make all these great sauces and selling them in the store. So it was a bit of a lightbulb moment.

Why did you decide on the pouch, not a jar?

My mom loves to paint, and she had these squeezy tubes of paint in her studio. And I’m like, « That makes me feel like painting. » I thought that maybe I could get people to want to cook by making it a more creative, fun experience. I want people to tap into that freedom of kindergarten, of self-actualizing through cooking a meal.

Speaking of, how old were your FIVE kids when you first started building all of this?

My oldest was 14, and my youngest was six. And I have, you know, however many in between.

How does the whole tribe-of-kids-and-a-demanding-business thing work?

I feel like I did my life a little bit in reverse. I got married and had kids at 25, and then started my career at 40. I was very fortunate that when I started all this my kids were a bit older and more self-sufficient. They have needs and time is not 100 percent my own, but I’m not running around with little ones.

Do you feel balanced?

I hate answering discussions about balance without being very, very mindful of the fact that I have support, and I have a babysitter that can pick up when I can’t. But, I think, for me, the more that I have on my plate, the less I can perseverate on one thing. There are times when I’m like, « This is a little bit much. » But I think I’d be a helicopter mom without work. And I think work would overwhelm me without my kids.

Do you feel like it’s good for your kids, to watch their mom build and succeed at something?

My kids, thank goodness, they tell me that they’re grateful for that almost every day. I feel like my job as a parent is basically very simple. It goes back to identity. I don’t want them to make decisions based on what I think. I want them to be able to figure out what tummies are telling them, and what they think. To do that, your kids need to know that you ALSO have a self.

What’s something you’re still working on?

Confidence in myself. For my generation, that was not something we were told to have. We were meant to be a little more self-deprecating and a little more humble. I mean, people would ask me to talk on panels about starting my own business, and I would always ask if they were sure I was the right person.

Has anyone given you any advice that’s been instrumental?

I believe it was Liz Neumark who told me that competition isn’t real. For example, you could build Haven’s Kitchen literally next door to here, and you could have cooking classes and a beautiful loft on the third floor. People might go in for their first cup of coffee, but they’re not going in for their second. Because at the end of a day, what makes a place is the energy in the space, your products, and the brand. You can’t replicate energy.

Do you have any rituals that help you stay sane?

I am a fierce guardian of my sleep. I’ve been known to leave my own dinner party and be like, « You guys are all welcome to stay. I’ve got to go nite nite. » I like taking an Epsom salt bath—they really help me go to sleep. And I read a lot of essays and memoirs.

Do you work out?

I do Kundalini yoga twice a week, which I think is probably the reason why I am alive. I’ve been doing it for 14 years, and it got me through a lot of really rough patches in my life. I don’t know what it does on a cellular level but…it’s doing it something.

What’s in your arsenal of key ingredients?

Sesame oil, lemon zest, Maldon. And I’m a Seed + Mill tahini diehard. And I think my sauces, at this point. But all that aside, I would eat pasta with bottarga, oil, and garlic every night of my life if I could.


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Despite Hamilton Police raids, Georgia Peach says it’s ‘open for business’ – Hamilton


Georgia Peach says it’s still open for business, despite police raids at all four of its Hamilton locations.

Break-in at Hamilton mountain dispensary

Hamilton police arrested 25 people and laid 50 charges on Thursday after raiding and seizing all four Georgia Peach marijuana dispensary locations: George Street, Dundurn Street South and two on Upper James.

However, at around 10:30 a.m. Friday, the cannabis dispensary company wrote on Twitter that its George Street location is currently open for business.

Police also executed a search warrant earlier this month at HaZe dispensary on King Street East.

Hamilton police continue crackdown on illegal cannabis dispensaries

Under new powers that came into effect earlier this month, police can now change the locks and install an alarm at the dispensaries, making sure they cannot reopen.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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First Nations lobby Ottawa for a bigger cut of the multibillion-dollar gambling business


First Nations leaders want to carve out a bigger slice of Canada’s multibillion-dollar gambling pie, and they are asking the Liberal government to change the Criminal Code to pave the way for more Indigenous-owned casinos.

While about 16 First Nations casinos are already operating in Canada, the Assembly of First Nations, the group that represents more than 600 chiefs from across the country, hopes to significantly boost that number by removing parts of the Criminal Code that have largely kept Indigenous peoples on the margins of the gaming industry.

Section 207 of the code essentially prohibits casinos on Indigenous lands unless they are sanctioned by the province. First Nations leaders want to build more casinos, seeing the gambling industry as a road to prosperity for impoverished communities with few natural resources.

« It’s all about recognizing and respecting First Nations jurisdiction. We’re pushing. We have to make this one of the items on all party platforms: respecting First Nations jurisdiction. It’s about creating really good paying jobs for all people, not just First Nations peoples — and it’s another avenue to creating economic stability, » Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, ​said in an interview with CBC News.

« Gaming has a huge impact on the economy. There is only one economy, and First Nations people have got to be part of that economy in a meaningful and substantive way, and this is just one of the pieces in the puzzle. Looking at Criminal Code amendments just makes good economic sense. »

But a spokesperson for Justice Minister David Lametti said the government is not considering such a  repeal « at this time. »

Bellegarde is pushing the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to make it easier for First Nations to build casinos. But the government says it ‘is not considering a repeal at this time.’ (CBC)

A 1985 agreement between Ottawa and the provinces devolved much of the regulatory authority over gambling operations to provincial governments. First Nations depend on the provinces to issue licences so any sort of gaming establishment can operate legally under federal law.

And, because gambling has the potential to be so lucrative, the provinces have been reluctant to cede jurisdiction for fear new First Nations properties could cannibalize existing facilities. A tweak to federal law could give Indigenous peoples a leg up in their dealings with the provinces.

Provincially owned gaming parlours have been a tremendous boon to government coffers. In Ontario alone, casinos generate about $1 billion a year in revenue.

Casino Rama, a casino and resort on the reserve land of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation in Orillia, Ont., is jointly owned by the band and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission. It is one of largest Indigenous-owned casinos in Canada. (CBC)

In Manitoba, the group that represents chiefs is locked in a legal battle with the province over the right to build a casino in downtown Winnipeg.

Two Crown-owned casinos in that city have flourished while provincial leaders have restricted First Nations casinos to more isolated, rural regions where returns are modest.

Even in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where the bulk of the country’s First Nations-owned casinos are located, operators must hand over a significant portion of their profits to the provincial governments as a condition of their licences.

‘There may be more negatives’

This arrangement has prompted one Indigenous gaming expert to equate the current financial relationship with usury.

« It’s a usury fee in many ways. The provinces essentially said, ‘If you want casinos, you’re going to have to pay.’ It’s a fee for operations that’s stripping millions and millions from the communities that the gaming program was initially designed to help, » Yale Belanger, a professor of political science at the University of Lethbridge, said in an interview.

« It’s exploitative. »

Belanger said more gaming opportunities would be financial shot in the arm for some Indigenous communities — especially urban reserves — but he warned it is likely these operations are not « the economic panacea that First Nations leaders are anticipating that they could be become. »

« At the end of the day there may be more negatives confronting First Nations who choose to open casinos — based on social and political tensions — than what they’ll realize economically by doing so, » Belanger said.

An expansion of gaming could lead to a proliferation of gambling addictions among vulnerable and already impoverished people, for example.

Regardless, Bellegarde wants Ottawa to recognize that First Nations peoples have the right to regulate what happens on their lands — and that right should naturally extend to economic development efforts like building casinos.

Bellegarde hopes First Nations across the country can replicate the financial success of Indigenous casinos in his home province, Saskatchewan, where annual profits routinely exceed $80 million a year and up to 2,000 people have regular employment.

In the last 10 years, the six casinos run by the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority have made nearly $1 billion in profits. Half of those funds have been distributed to individual Indigenous communities. The remaining funds go to the province and local economic development agencies.

The Dakota Dunes Casino is located on land belonging to the Whitecap Dakota First Nation south of Saskatoon. The six First Nations-owned casinos in Saskatchewan have generated nearly $1 billion in profits for First Nations communities and the province in the last decade. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)

But a spokesperson for Justice Minister David Lametti said the government does not support the legislative changes Bellegarde is seeking.

« With respect to Section 207 of the Criminal Code, our government is not considering a repeal at this time; however, our government will continue to engage with Indigenous partners on how to address their concerns and support economic opportunities, » Célia Canon said in a statement.

U.S. Indigenous gaming is big business

The Indigenous gaming industry in Canada lags significantly behind operations in the U.S. American Indian groups have built gaming empires that rival mainstream operators like Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts.

A series of rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1980s gave tribal governments significant leeway to pursue economic development, including building and operating casinos.

Congress has since sought to regulate that activity through the National Indian Gaming Commission, but gaming is pervasive on reservations.

The Foxwoods Resorts Casino, the largest in the U.S., rises over the landscape in Ledyard, Conn. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation owns the casino. (Jessica Hill/Associated Press)

The industry has exploded since the early days of the Foxwoods Resort in Connecticut — not far from New York and Boston — which introduced Vegas-style table games like blackjack and roulette in the 1990s.

There are 460 gambling operations run by 240 tribes generating annual revenue of $27 billion, according to data from the National Indian Gaming Commission.


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Husky Energy looks to get out of the gas station business after 80 years


Husky Energy Inc. says it is looking at getting out of retailing fuels to consumers after 80 years in the business.

The Calgary-based oilsands producer says it is launching a strategic review that could result in it selling its Canadian retail and commercial fuels business and its small Prince George, B.C., refinery.

It says it prefers to focus on its core upstream assets in northeastern Alberta, Atlantic Canada and the Asia Pacific region, adding the decision is not related to its offer that expires next week to buy oilsands rival MEG Energy Corp.

Husky has more than 500 service stations, travel centres, cardlock operations and bulk distribution facilities from British Columbia to New Brunswick. Its myHusky Rewards loyalty program has about 1.6 million members.

The 12,000-barrel-per-day refinery in Prince George processes light oil into gasoline, diesel and other products for nearby regions of B.C. It owns two refineries and is half-owner of a third in the United States.

Spokesman Mel Duvall says Husky started selling fuel to consumers in 1938 shortly after the original owner built a small refinery in Cody, Wyo. The refinery was moved to Lloydminster on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border in 1946.

CEO Rob Peabody says in a news release the businesses are « highly marketable » and will attract strong interest and valuations.

TD Securities Inc. is acting as financial adviser, with Torys LLP as legal adviser.


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For now, optimism is hard to find in Western Canada’s natural gas business


Shell Canada made one of the biggest moves of 2018 in the natural gas industry by deciding to move ahead with a $40 billion liquefied natural gas export facility on B.C.’s coast.

Construction is underway, but patience is needed since it will take five years to construct. Until then, the industry seems stuck with low prices, a lack of spare export pipeline space, and stagnant demand.

Shell leads the consortium behind LNG Canada, the planned export facility in B.C. 

« The mood is definitely one of excitement [about LNG], » said Rej Tetreault, general manager of natural gas projects for Shell Canada. « It’s a bit muted because the current market is very low and that’s curtailing our own short term activities. »

Tetreault overseas the Groundbirch​ natural gas operation near Fort St. John, in northeast B.C. The company has 500 wells in the area that produce natural gas. Even though Shell is spending billions of dollars to construct the LNG terminal, in the interim, the company is limiting costs on producing natural gas.

Over the next two years, no new wells will be drilled. As a result, production will drop by about 15 per cent because of natural declines.

« We don’t plan on being active in the next couple of years because we don’t feel the need to be active, » said Tetreault.

The planned liquified natural gas export facility in B.C. by LNG Canada, one of the largest industrial projects ever undertaken in Canada, is a joint venture between Shell, PetroChina, KOGAS and Mitsubishi Corporation. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)

For much of the past year, prices in Alberta have been less than two dollars per million British Thermal Units. In 2014, prices were over five dollars.

« It’s still a big challenge out there [for natural gas producers], » said Martin King, a commodities analyst with GMP FirstEnergy. « I think they’re kind of hanging on with their fingernails. »

Similar to the oil industry, there is a backlog of natural gas in Western Canada because of export pipeline constraints. For those companies able to ship their gas to the U.S., they are receiving more than twice the price than in Alberta.

While the industry waits for the LNG plant to be built, King said companies have to « batten down the hatches. »

Natural gas prices have trended down since 2008.

Mainly through technological innovation, companies have been able to slash costs considerably in recent years. Shell, for instance, said it has cut expenses at its natural gas operations by 40 per cent over the last five years, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent since 2015.

Tourmaline Oil has frozen its natural gas production at 2017 levels and has tried to diversify its transportation options to sell into several different markets in North America. Still, a lack of pipelines is hurting both its oil and gas divisions.

« It’s the most challenging time that I’ve ever seen in the Canadian oil and gas sector by a long shot, » said Mike Rose, the company’s CEO. « I personally spend a lot of time with the staff trying to keep everybody happy. »


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Scientist, business owner seeking Liberal nomination to take on NDP’s Singh


A scientist and a small business owner are vying for the Liberal nomination in the riding of Burnaby South, where the winner will go on to challenge NDP leader Jagmeet Singh in a federal byelection.

Liberal spokesman Braeden Caley says biotechnology scientist Cyrus Eduljee and Karen Wang, who operates several daycare centres in Burnaby, will be on the ballot at the party’s nomination meeting today.

Wang ran for the BC Liberals in Burnaby-Deer Lake in the 2017 provincial election, while Caley says Eduljee has long been involved with local electoral district associations.

A Liberal spokesperson said biotechnology scientist Cyrus Eduljee and Karen Wang, who operates several daycare centres in Burnaby, will be on the ballot at the party’s nomination meeting Saturday. (Linkedin/Twitter)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not yet set a date for the byelection in Burnaby South, which was vacated by former New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, now Vancouver’s mayor.

Corporate lawyer Jay Shin is running for the Conservatives, while Green party leader Elizabeth May has said the Greens won’t run a candidate and Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada has not named one.

The byelection, expected for February, marks Singh’s biggest political test to date while he also tries to calm party fears about fundraising, slumping polls and a growing list of veteran MPs who say they won’t run in 2019.


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U.S. government unlikely to get fully back to business for days


WASHINGTON—The federal government is expected to remain partially closed past Christmas Day in a protracted standoff over U.S. President Donald Trump’s demand for money to build a border wall with Mexico.

On the second day of the federal closure, Trump tweeted Sunday that what the country needs is “a good old fashioned WALL that works,” as opposed to aerial drones and other measures that “are wonderful and lots of fun,” but not the right answer to address the problem of “drugs, gangs, human trafficking, criminal elements and much else from coming into” the United States.

An American flag flies near the Lincoln Memorial on December 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. The partial U.S. government shutdown is likely to stretch on past Christmas in a protracted standoff over funding to build a border wall with Mexico.
An American flag flies near the Lincoln Memorial on December 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. The partial U.S. government shutdown is likely to stretch on past Christmas in a protracted standoff over funding to build a border wall with Mexico.  (Olivier Douliery / GETTY IMAGES)

With Trump’s insistence on $5 billion (U.S.) for the wall and negotiations with Democrats in Congress far from a breakthrough, even a temporary measure to keep the government running while talks continued seems out of reach until the Senate returns for a full session Thursday.

From coast to coast, the first day of the shutdown played out in uneven ways. The Statue of Liberty was still open for tours, thanks to money from New York state, and the U.S. Post Office was still delivering mail, as an independent agency.

Yet the disruption has affected many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and were expected to work unpaid. An additional 380,000 were to be furloughed, meaning they will stay home without pay. The Senate had already passed legislation ensuring that workers will receive back pay, and the House was likely to follow suit.

No one knew how long the closures would last. Unlike other shutdowns, this one seemed to lack urgency, coming during the long holiday weekend after Trump had already declared Monday, Christmas Eve, a federal holiday. Rather than work around the clock to try to end the shutdown, as they had done in the past, the leaders of the House and the Senate effectively closed up shop. But they didn’t rule out action if a deal were struck.

“Listen, anything can happen,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after he closed the Senate’s rare Saturday session hours after it opened.

But after ushering Vice-President Mike Pence through the Capitol for another round of negotiations, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, said a quick end to the shutdown was “not probable.”

At the White House, Trump hosted a lunch Saturday with conservative lawmakers. Absent from the guest list were GOP leaders or any Democrats, who would be needed for a deal.

“I am in the White House, working hard,” tweeted the president, who cancelled his Florida holiday getaway to his club Mar-a-Lago due to the shutdown. First lady Melania Trump was flying back to Washington to be with her husband.

Trump’s re-election campaign sent out a fundraising email late Saturday launching what he called “the most important membership program ever — the OFFICIAL BUILD THE WALL MEMBERSHIP.” The president urged donors to sign up.

With Democrats set to take control of the House on Jan. 3, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on his way out, the shutdown was providing a last gasp of the conservative majority before the new Congress.

Trump savored the prospect of a shutdown over the wall for months. Last week he said he would be “proud” to close down the government. He had campaigned on the promise of building the wall, and he also promised Mexico would pay for it. Mexico has refused to do so.

In recent days, though, Trump tried to shift blame to Democrats for not acceding to his demand. He has given mixed messages on whether he would sign any bill into law.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York met with Pence on Saturday at the request of the White House, according to Schumer’s office. But the senator’s spokesman said they remained “very far apart” on a spending agreement.

Schumer said the “Trump shutdown” could end immediately if the president simply dropped his demand for money. “If you want to open the government, you must abandon the wall,” Schumer said.

Democrats said they were open to other proposals that didn’t include the wall, which Schumer said was too costly and ineffective. They have offered to keep spending at existing levels of $1.3 billion for border fencing and other security.

But Trump, digging in, tweeted about “the crisis of illegal activity” at American’s southern border is “real and will not stop until we build a great Steel Barrier or Wall.”

Senators approved a bipartisan deal earlier in the week to keep the government open into February and provide $1.3 billion for border security projects, but not the wall. But as Trump faced criticism from conservatives for “caving” on a campaign promise, he pushed to House to approve a package temporarily financing the government but also setting aside $5.7 billion for the border wall.

The impasse blocked money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice.

Those being furloughed included nearly everyone at NASA and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. About 8 in 10 employees of the National Park Service were to stay home; many parks were expected to close.

Some agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, were already funded and will operate as usual. Also still functioning were the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. Transportation Security Administration officers continued to staff airport checkpoints and air traffic controllers were on the job.


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Cannabis legalization named top Canadian business news story of 2018 – National


TORONTO — Canada’s trailblazing move to legalize cannabis for recreational use, which sparked an entirely new industry and had wide-ranging implications for nearly every facet of society, has been voted The Canadian Press Business News Story of the Year.

The term “disruption” in business has become so overused that it has become an empty cliche, but it is warranted in the case of pot legalization, said Andrew Meeson, deputy business editor at the Toronto Star.

How one simple change let a province sell residents live pot plants

“It’s hard to think of an area in Canada that hasn’t been shaken up: not just commerce (from criminal act to booming startup to takeover target in the blink of an eye), but also policing, health care, justice, politics. Even culture (just ask Tommy Chong),” he said.

“If that doesn’t make it the business story of the year, I don’t know what would.”

In an annual poll of the country’s newsrooms conducted by The Canadian Press, business editors and reporters across the country chose cannabis legalization in a landslide, with 60 per cent of the votes cast.

READ MORE: Smelly, fussy, humid: Why you may not want to grow your own legal pot

The terse negotiations between Canada, U.S. and Mexico towards a new North American Free Trade Agreement was a distant second with 30 per cent of votes.

Canada’s pipeline conundrum, with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion now in limbo after a court overturned its regulatory approval in August and a U.S. court throwing out the Keystone XL pipeline’s presidential permit in November, came in third out of eight possible candidates with 10 per cent of the vote.

WATCH: UBC Okanagan researchers looking at mass production of cannabis beverages

“Pipelines would have won, hands down if it weren’t for the creation of an entirely new industry in Canada,”said David Blair, a business columnist with CBC Radio. “Rarely, if ever, do journalists get to cover the opening of a new market, especially one that is as controversial as cannabis.”

Trudeau says cannabis shortage likely to be resolved within a year

The world was watching when the country made history with the first legal sale of non-medicinal pot just after midnight on Oct. 17 in Newfoundland and Labrador, due to its time zone being 30 minutes ahead of the rest of Canada.

It marked the beginning of what the New York Times dubbed Canada’s “national experiment,” and the culmination of months, if not years, of preparation by legislators and law enforcement officials at all levels and in each province, territory, and municipality.

WATCH: Life as a cannabis advisor for former Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter

While Oct. 17 represented an extension from the initial target set for July, and licensed producers ramped up production in the lead-up, long lines of customers were met with widespread product shortages online and in the relatively few bricks-and-mortar stores that were ready on day one.

Still, many Canadians were simply elated to be able to buy government-sanctioned pot after nearly 100 years of prohibition.

New cannabis companies hope to grow by fighting ‘stoner culture’ labels

“My new dealer is the prime minister!” said Canadian fiddler and pop star Ashley MacIsaac, who in 2001 had been arrested for possession in Saskatchewan.

But cannabis mania had been bubbling for months before legalization, with retail investors rushing to invest in the latest pot company to list its stock. Cannabis company valuations in the lead up to Oct. 17 soared and some of the banks’ online direct investment platforms were bombarded with unprecedented trading volumes.

At one point producer Tilray Inc.’s stock on the Nasdaq exchange in September hit a peak of US$300, giving the Nanaimo, B.C.-company a market value higher than established Canadian conglomerates such as Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Rogers Communications Inc.

Here’s how much cannabis costs across Canada

Pot will be cited for years to come as many Canadians’ first experiences with investing, said Pete Evans, senior business writer for CBC News.

“Cannabis mania deserves some credit — and maybe blame — for ushering an entire new generation of primarily young people into making their first stock market investments ever,” he said.

A flurry of merger and acquisition activity in the sector, even before legalization, fuelled investor interest as well.

Aurora Cannabis invests $10M in marijuana retailer High Tide

Aurora Cannabis Inc. was on an acquisition spree this year, buying rival CanniMed Therapeutics for $1.1 billion after a terse takeover battle and later MedReleaf for $3.2 billion.

Alcohol giant Constellation Brands in August announced it was upping its investment in pot producer Canopy Growth Corp. — in the largest strategic investment in the pot space to date _ to increase its ownership stake to 38 per cent. The Corona beer-producer also received warrants that, if exercised, would up its stake to more than 50 per cent.

And earlier this month, Big Tobacco came calling, as the number of countries that legalized cannabis for medical use continues to grow.

Maker of Marlboro cigarettes invests $2.4B in Canadian cannabis producer Cronos

Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. said it planned to invest $2.4 billion in pot producer Cronos Group Inc. for 45-per-cent ownership, with an option to increase that stake in the future.

WATCH: Aurora Cannabis buys MedReleaf for $3.2 billion

The Altria-Cronos deal gave the overall sector a slight lift, but pot stocks have largely come off their highs after legalization as reality set in and concerns mounted about lofty valuations.

Canadian marijuana companies have found themselves in the crosshairs of short-sellers, as well.

READ MORE: Could pot stocks make you rich?

Aphria Inc. earlier this month saw its stock value more than cut in half over three days after two short-sellers targeted the Leamington, Ont.-based cannabis producer with a raft of allegations, including that its recent international acquisitions were “largely worthless.” Aphria has called the allegations “inaccurate and misleading” and is confident in the deal in question, but has appointed an independent committee to review their claims.

Meanwhile, recreational pot supply shortages continue to linger. Several cannabis producers in part blamed supply chain issues for contributing to the shortage and have said they are aiming to increase their production, but it will likely take more time fresh product to hit the market.

Quebec’s cannabis corporation stores continue to be closed from Monday to Wednesday as a result. And in Ontario, where the only legal way for residents to buy adult-use pot is through the government-run online portal, the provincial government said it will hand out a limited number of retail licenses due to the shortages.

WATCH: Becoming a cannabis sommelier

The Ontario government initially said it would not cap the number of licenses, but now says it will only be able to issue 25 licenses by April via a lottery system. This deals a blow to a slew of companies who have been putting down deposits to secure prime real estate locations in the country’s most populous province in anticipation of obtaining a license.

“Seemingly overnight, activity that always existed on the margins of society has come into the centre,” said Evans.

“It’s been fascinating to watch the growing pains that have ensued… It will be interesting to see in the coming months and years how and if the reality lives up to expectations for the industry.”


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Nylander and Leafs get back to business


Tell them Willie Boy is here.

Wait, wrong movie. This was more a Titanic epic, threatening to smash against the iceberg of negotiation deadline, sinking to the bottom of restricted free agency waters, whilst GM Kyle Dubas madly rearranged the salary-cap deck chairs.

Okay, we’re done with that metaphor now.

In any event, Willie Boy — William Nylander — was present and accounted for on Monday, in the Maple Leafs dressing room, chuffed to tell it himself.

Looking very much like the posh $41.77-Million-Dollar Man he has become, wearing a shiny teal three-piece suit, black shirt and suede shoes.

Hockey players are THE best-dressed athletes on the planet.

And all the world is turning on its axis again, with the 22-year-old Swedish-Canadian returned to the fold, albeit not yet quite ready for prime-time game action and who knows if he’ll be restored to the Auston Matthews line, which has been clicking along just fine even when injured Matthews wasn’t there, either.

Just a long-delayed medical Monday as his ’mates flew off to Buffalo, but not before Mitch Marner welcomed the prodigal Leaf back with his version of the money dance, cha-cha-ka-ching-cha-cha.

Where Nylander has led, the RFA likes of Marner and Auston Matthews are soon enough to follow, to say nothing of other players across the NHL who are even now doing the projected math comps for next summer. But oh, this is a slap-happy ship at the moment, smiles all ’round and a great big glad-that’s-over whew.

“It was a tough process,” Nylander acknowledged. “I mean, it sure was a learning experience that I don’t ever want to go through again. I think it made me a stronger person.”

As we now know, the months clicked down to weeks down to hours down to minutes before Nylander finally put his John Henry on a contract Saturday afternoon, deadline looming to avert sitting out a complete season and having do endure the whole schmozzle once more, perhaps never to wear the blue-and-white again.

“I always wanted to be here, so I wasn’t thinking of going anywhere else.”

That was Saturday morning and, apparently, his self-actualization all the way through.

“The last 30 minutes was crazy. I think the contract was signed at 4:53. I couldn’t believe it.”

It was Nylander, in Stockholm, who made the call to Dubas within that last hour. “It was getting into the last 40 minutes before the deadline. I was talking to my agent. I said, let’s just call him.

“I was, like, now we’ve got to get something done here. I talked to the (players’ association) and they said the contract should be called by 4:30. That’s when I called, like, holy s–t, it’s tight.

“That phone call, I think, really got everything done.”

Followed by some frantic texting, assuring that the signed contract was in … the scanner, I guess. Nobody faxes anymore.

“Did you get it? Did you get it? And Kyle, like, yeah we got it. Okay, it’s good.” Then a whirlwind of giddy-up and go. “I was happy for two hours and then the ticket was booked, packed, slept for four hours and then left. It went really fast.”

Six more years a Leaf. Unless, of course, that front-ended contract loses its appeal for the Leafs and they trade him on. Which Nylander is confident won’t happen.

“Kyle has told me multiple times that as long as he’s here, he’s not going to trade me. And from what I saw that Babs (coach Mike Babcock) had said, that I’m going to be here … what did he say? … a long time.’’ Career Leaf is what Babcock said, after suggesting repeatedly over recent weeks that Nylander would be back, the only indicator of negotiations perhaps progressing from inside the sealed vault of the franchise brain trust.

Dubas echoed the no-trade assurance, a bit couched in qualifiers, though such proclamations should always be taken with a dollop of salt.

“He came here a month before I did,” noted the rookie GM. “We had the year with the Marlies. He’s someone who continues to improve and get better. I have faith, knowing him and his intelligence level and dedication to his craft, that he’s only going to continue to improve. He’s not the type of person we want to see walk out of here.”

Dubas scoffed at a reporter’s query about when, or if, he’d reached the “darkest hour” of these prolonged, endlessly discussed (on the media side) negotiations. “I have a hard time with darkest hour when it comes to hockey.’’ Yay Kyle, and get a grip, reporter. “Any time you get that close to deadline, you start to worry that it may not get done, even though we remained optimistic throughout. He reiterated that. So you retain that optimism, because both parties’ ambition was to have him be here for a long time.”

In fact, contrary to the spin which had gained traction in recent weeks — that the Leafs were doing just fine without Nylander and maybe it would be best if the wildly gifted forward were swapped to fill other roster needs, like a top-four D-man maybe, or he could just be left to rot for the season, the bloody ingrate, too big for his 22-year-old britches — Dubas was clear that he never swung that way.

“As the season started, there began a narrative: well, the team is playing so well, is it really necessary to have him? Should you look to moving him to address other needs? My message to William was: I don’t think our team will be at its full potential until he’s back and a part of it. Only then can we really assess our team.’’

Nylander admitted that he’d never foreseen the stalemate would last this long and it preyed on him, even as he went off to practise with a team in Austria, just to get out of the bubble.

“It wasn’t just the last couple of weeks. Once training camp started, I was thinking it was going to get done and then nothing happened. Then the season started and I thought, OK, it’s going to get done.”

It didn’t.

“I’m still amazed that it’s done. You don’t really understand it. I still don’t understand that it’s done and I’m here. It’s crazy.”

He’d watched only a few Leafs game from afar, was wowed by the team’s performance, enjoyed the early goal-racking by Matthews and Marner and John Tavares. Missed them, though teammates texted frequently, one even saying he’d dreamed that Nylander had signed.

But what are you going to do? Somewhere — and Nylander was clear that neither his dad Michael nor his agent Lewis Gross were pulling the strings — the young man found the cojones to keep his nerve. “Both sides were holding their ground and wanting what they wanted. That’s why it took the time.”

If there was a psychological breakthrough, a tentative meeting of the minds, it occurred in mid-October when Dubas went to Sweden to speak with Nylander, man-to-man, one-on-one, nobody else present.

“That’s just more my style,” said Dubas. “I wasn’t going to let this thing go on without me sitting across from him, face to face, and seeing what may have been bothering him, what was preventing the process from moving forward, various things that we had been doing or we could change.’’

Nylander: “That was probably the first time I talked to Kyle by myself. That meant a lot. It started to get stuff moving.”

Interestingly, Dubas shouldered the blame for the impasse.

“It came down to the last five, six minutes. Took that long. Frankly disappointed in myself that it did. I’m obviously hopeful that we learned from it. I don’t want any of our players to have to go through this again. I don’t want the coaching staff or our organization to have that distraction.

“That falls on me. Learn from it.”

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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GM shows Doug Ford’s Ontario isn’t so ‘Open for Business’


Doug Ford’s attempt at damage control for doomed GM workers consisted of handing out his mobile phone number, and hinting at extra benefits for the jobless. But the damage is done.

No matter the premier’s political spin, the economic spinoff from car assembly plants is a powerful force multiplier — or vaporizer, in this case. Oshawa’s loss is Ontario’s disaster.

GM workers gather at UNIFOR Local 222 offices in Oshawa as employees of GM wait to hear the official news of the apparent closure of operations in Oshawa on Nov. 26, 2018. Union President Jerry Diaz addressed about 400 assembled workers.
GM workers gather at UNIFOR Local 222 offices in Oshawa as employees of GM wait to hear the official news of the apparent closure of operations in Oshawa on Nov. 26, 2018. Union President Jerry Diaz addressed about 400 assembled workers.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

In fairness, this was GM’s decision. But the premier now owns it, after repeatedly promising to make Ontario “open for business” again — not closed until further notice.

No premier can force GM to cry uncle. But for reasons understood only by Ford, he has given up on the Oshawa decision, deferring to GM’s claim that it is final and irrevocable.

The politician who prides himself on disruption has revealed his own defeatism. GM hasn’t ruled out reopening plants in the U.S., and Ottawa is still trying, so why is Ford so quick to concede Canadian jobs?

Ontario is not without long-term options. The problem is that our premier is more enamored of short-term slogans that befit bumper stickers but offer no protection from an economic crash.

GM is not rolling up its Oshawa operations because it’s bankrupt — the company still earns billions in profits. No, this multinational is strategically re-engineering its own rebirth by wisely reinvesting in low-emissions vehicles that are the next consumer wave.

Where does Ford’s Ontario fit into that investment horizon? Consider the anti-business antics of Ontario’s supposedly pro-business Progressive Conservative government. And then ponder how that factors into big business decision-making by a company like GM:

  • Ford’s first act as premier was to rip up signed private sector contracts, notably the White Pines wind turbine project that had previously been approved. To guard against litigation and compensation, he relied on legislation and confiscation.
  • In the aftermath, Ford spectacularly snubbed his visiting German counterpart last summer by refusing to sign a friendship agreement with the powerhouse state of Baden-Wurttemberg, home of renewable energy companies but also big carmakers. Open for business? Tell that to the Germans.
  • Ford recklessly dismantled the cap-and-trade framework that business had relied upon to price carbon pollution, laying the groundwork for a default federal carbon tax that created needless disruption.
  • Zapping renewable energy, the PC government unplugged its electric car supports — and lost a foolish court battle with Tesla after trying to cut out the California carmaker from sales incentives available to others.
  • The premier picked a public fight with Hydro One’s (admittedly overpaid) CEO. But instead of persuading him to reduce his salary, Ford sidelined Mayo Schmidt and the entire corporate board. Relying on the government’s partial ownership position, Ford chief of staff Dean French shut down any compromise talks, sources say. French later intervened in government-owned Ontario Power Generation to undo the hiring of another corporate executive he wanted out, Alykhan Velshi. Such is the PC government’s approach to corporate governance.
  • Ford cancelled a planned hike in the minimum wage to $14 an hour, clawed back two paid annual sick days, and cut corporate taxes further.
  • The culmination of Ford’s strategic vision was the unveiling of new road signs declaring Ontario “Open for Business” — recycling the same tired slogan previously adopted by fledgling American states with decidedly mixed results.

Is Ontario truly open for business? Or is it increasingly closed-minded?

Imagine yourself an auto executive sizing up the track record of a new government that rips up contracts on a whim, shreds corporate boards on a caprice, claws back paid sick days out of spite, promotes a minimum wage economy out of fright, and fights an electric carmaker out of misplaced hostility.

A forward-looking provincial government creates the conditions for strategic investment with stable policies that foster education and job training in growth industries — not least the clean energy sector that GM is focussing on. That means promoting the value-added workforce of tomorrow, rather than retrofitting Ontario for yesterday’s minimum wage economy.

No premier can control events. But the wise politician tries to get out in front of them.

Martin Regg Cohn is a columnist based in Toronto covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @reggcohn


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