Port Lands businesses welcome development to ‘underused’ Toronto waterfront

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When it comes to Sidewalk Lab’s contentious plans to develop Toronto’s Port Lands, Trevor Welsh has no axe to grind. But he does have one to throw.

The 40-year-old general manager of BATL Toronto — an axe throwing facility on Villiers St. — says improving the Port Lands with public transit, businesses, neighbourhoods and attractions will boost reasons for people to visit the area.

Reasons that might include, oh, say, hurling a hatchet at a wooden bull’s-eye.

“The more, the merrier,” said Welsh, as about 100 throwers and fans cheered each time a tossed axe hit targets dead-centre during a Canada-U.S. friendly competition Saturday.

“There’s not really a lot down here right now in terms of business (and) it’s a big pain to get here by public transit, especially for my staff,” he continued.

Welsh said he didn’t know much about the Port Lands until five years ago when BATL Toronto expanded to its second location at 33 Villiers St., near Cherry and Commissioners Sts. He said he was shocked how few businesses existed in the enormous area.

“I’m like, ‘Where am I?, ” he laughed, recalling his first impression of the Port Lands as a “ghost town.”

However, he said the axe throwing crowd soon got to know a few great neighbours; the Keating Channel Pub and Grill around the corner and the Cherry Street BBQ.

Lawrence LaPianta owns the Cherry Street BBQ. He says plans to develop the Port Lands, regardless of how that revitalization occurs or who gets to engineer it, should not be feared.

“I think it’s been underused, underappreciated land in Toronto for a very long time,” said LaPianta. “It’s prime real estate right next to the water. It’s kind of unfortunate that we don’t have anything to show for it in this area.”

Compared to other parts of the city, the land does seem underused — especially at this time of year when huge lake freighters cannot nose into busy ports to deliver cargo. But there are full-time operations, big and small, government and private, running 12 months of the year.

Commissioners St., for instance, is home to Toronto Hydro headquarters, the 12-stage Pinewood Studios and a FedEx office. Cement trucks are frequent Commissioners St. travellers, loading and unloading at aggregate depots and cement companies. Waste management sites sit on Unwin Ave.’s north side.

Summer brings more people to the area, cramming Cherry Beach with swimmers, picnickers, dog walkers, cyclists and stroller pushers.

The Cherry Beach outdoor sports fields, closed for the winter, are usually busy with soccer, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee teams beginning in spring. That’s also when sailors start cleaning and launching their crafts from the water’s edge.

Rebel Night Club on Polson St. attracts crowds locally and from across the border.

Mary Ormsby is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Reach her via email: mormsby@thestar.ca

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Small businesses in Alberta haven’t been this pessimistic in years, lobby group says

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Small businesses in Alberta haven’t been this pessimistic in years, according to an industry lobby group who says the oil-price differential is largely to blame — even if prices for Canadian crude have recently recovered.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says confidence among its Alberta members plunged in December and January, according to a monthly survey it conducts.

Prices for Western Canadian Select also plunged in late 2018, reaching a low point in late November, and CFIB chief economist Ted Mallett believes that’s related to the sudden shift in business sentiment.

« Because it’s in such recent memory, I think that’s why you saw a decline in optimism happen so quickly this time, » he said.

The CFIB’s « business barometer index » for Alberta plunged more that 15 points over December and January, falling to a level of 37.5 on a scale of zero to 100.

The index measures how CFIB members feel about the future.

Mallett said a score of zero would represent « perfect pessimism » (meaning every member surveyed expects things will be worse for their business in one year’s time) while a score of 100 would represent « perfect optimism. »

A score of 60 or more is usually associated with a growing economy, Mallett said.

The plunge over the last two months marks the sharpest decline in Alberta since the oil crash of late 2014, when the price for crude on world markets was cut roughly in half in a span of six months.

The CFIB’s ‘business barometer’ results for Alberta (in blue) and Canada (in red) over the past decade. (Canadian Federation of Independent Business)

Mallett said the massive oil-price differential that developed in late 2018 had a similar impact.

« The price for Western Canadian Select vis-à-vis WTI caused some big problems and concerns with businesses in the province, » he said.

« A large shift in the economics of oil-and-gas pricing has a big effect on other businesses all the way down the line. »

In an effort to close the differential, the Alberta government took an extraordinary step in December, mandating temporary cuts in the province’s oil production.

On Wednesday, the province announced it was easing those production limits because prices for Canadian crude had recovered to a sufficient degree.

But it’s unlikely business confidence will recover as quickly, Mallett said.

« It takes a long time for optimism to come back, » he said.

And that sentiment can have a broader impact on the entire economy.

The impact of business confidence

The CFIB is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of small businesses across Canada.

It has roughly 10,000 members in Alberta, which represents about six per cent of the 175,000 total businesses in the province.

If its members’ sentiments are representative of the broader business community, it could present a problem for the economy as a whole, says Anupam Das, an economist with Mount Royal University.

Business confidence matters, he said, because it affects investment decisions.

If there’s an optimistic sentiment out there, he said, businesses are more likely to hire more workers or expand their capital spending. But if the mood is pessimistic, the fear of losing money can make those investments less likely.

« When that fear comes into people, they start making certain decisions, » Das said.

« So I think the perception — or the fear — is, actually, an important factor. »

Political opinions

Speaking to a gathering of mid-sized city mayors in Calgary on Thursday, United Conservative Party leader Jason Kenney described Alberta’s current business climate as particularly dire.

Kenney said he’s hearing negative things from people who are looking at investing in the province.

« I was, just last night, meeting with the CEO of a global company visiting Calgary with a market cap of $50 billion who told me people aren’t walking away from investing in Alberta — they are running away from investing in Alberta, » Kenney said.

He didn’t name the CEO or the company.

Premier Rachel Notley spoke during an NDP rally in Calgary on Thursday while UCP Leader Jason Kenney addressed a gathering of mid-sized city mayors. (James Young/CBC, Monty Kruger/CBC)

Premier Rachel Notley, also speaking in Calgary on Thursday, said there’s been billions of dollars of new private-sector investment announced in the past couple of months alone and there is « more investment on the way. »

During an NDP rally at the downtown legion, she highlighted Inter Pipeline’s recent decision to go ahead with a $3.5-billion petrochemical project and Value Creation Inc.’s plan to invest more than $2 billion in an upgrading facility aimed at turning bitumen into higher-grade crude that can flow more easily through pipelines.

Both projects came as the result of government incentives aimed at spurring investment and diversifying the economy, Notley said.

« And we’re already seeing results, » she said.

The CFIB surveyed 276 of its Alberta members in December and January.

A random sample of that size would yield a margin of error of about 5.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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In 2019, businesses must protect our trees and focus on gender equality

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Happy New Year.

Well why not leap ahead a week? If UPS can exclaim that National Returns Day, marked by peak package returns, predated Christmas by six days, then let’s get on with it.

Jennifer Wells wishes everyone a 2019 full of gratitude, among other things.
Jennifer Wells wishes everyone a 2019 full of gratitude, among other things.  (LUIS ACOSTA / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

This has not happened before, UPS tells us, because, logically, National Returns Day has heretofore been in January. Duh. Yet the 1.5-million package tally on Dec. 19 has been decreed the zenith of this season’s returns, to be followed by an expected 1.3 million package send-backs on Jan.3. E-commerce retailers have, not surprisingly, become focused on the “returns moment,” meaning that consumers say the ease and swiftness of send-backs is of paramount concern during the festive season.

The joy having thus been sucked from the holiday, let us turn to 2019.

What do I wish for the ahead.

I wish the city’s business leaders would raise their voices in chorus to protect the city’s trees and ravines. Come on, do something majestic.

There’s a business case for this — I’m relying on a report produced by TD Economics a few years back which placed an estimated value of $7 billion on Toronto’s urban forest. It’s one thing to value a commodity, like a storehouse of gold. But there are also the spinoff economic benefits, from wet weather flow reduction (an annual cost saving of $50 million) to pollution abatement (an estimated annual saving of $19 million). The value of carbon stored within the “woody tissues” of the urban forest? (Estimated between $27 million and $37 million.)

The esthetic, cultural and recreational benefits are obvious and impossible to financially quantify

To those more up on this topic than myself, I acknowledge subsequent reports have concluded that TD undervalued Toronto’s urban forest.

What else.

I have a football wish. Bell Media, owners of TSN, should do a deal with the CBC or CTV, I don’t care which, to broadcast the Grey Cup. No Canadian should have to pay for cable in order to watch the big game. Be generous.

Street furniture. The city badly bungled its open-for-tender process years ago. We wanted to look just like Chicago! I recall interviewing representatives from big international companies who promised to do just that. Instead, we went cheap, installed those pale blue clamshell things, which broke, and then installed those black things, with pedals, and then removed the pedals, and now we are often stuck having to push open a disgusting flap in order to dispense with said garbage. In streetside terms, when we put on our business face to the global business community we do it not well. (Ditto, roads.)

I wish that the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act would be amended to better protect workers and retirees. Union leaders fear that federal consultations on this were left too late in the year and may result in little, if any, change. Understandable. If the federal government doesn’t stand up for the workers of Canada, then who?

I wish that business would stop making journalists write about the gender pay gap. Yes, it is their fault.

I wish that business would stop making journalists write about the under-representation of women in the C-suite and on boards of directors. As before.

I wish that Canadian CEOs would take the initiative to align executive pay with that of workers. We have been talking about this for four decades. Ridiculous.

Silly me. I thought the habit of rewarding chief executives for nothing more visionary than cutting jobs would have ended about the time Sunbeam axed Chainsaw Al. That was two decades ago.

I wish Toronto Maple Leafs tickets could be made affordable for those who live in the real world.

I wish I could stay awake past 11.

I wish the city would pay more attention to providing affordable housing for young creative types so the city wouldn’t get, well, boring.

I wish to understand why so many of the city’s roads are in an execrable state.

I wish someone would fix capitalism.

I wish the current provincial government would understand that investing in the city’s most vital asset — our young people — is the best investment they could ever make. They are our prime resource, like trees, and like trees they spin off all sorts of positive economic benefits. What other business would stop investing in its core asset? I wish the current government would attend some remedial courses in being smart.

I wish you all a 2019 full of gratitude.

jenwells@thestar.ca

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In 2019, businesses must protect our trees and focus on gender equality

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Happy New Year.

Well why not leap ahead a week? If UPS can exclaim that National Returns Day, marked by peak package returns, predated Christmas by six days, then let’s get on with it.

Jennifer Wells wishes everyone a 2019 full of gratitude, among other things.
Jennifer Wells wishes everyone a 2019 full of gratitude, among other things.  (LUIS ACOSTA / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

This has not happened before, UPS tells us, because, logically, National Returns Day has heretofore been in January. Duh. Yet the 1.5-million package tally on Dec. 19 has been decreed the zenith of this season’s returns, to be followed by an expected 1.3 million package send-backs on Jan.3. E-commerce retailers have, not surprisingly, become focused on the “returns moment,” meaning that consumers say the ease and swiftness of send-backs is of paramount concern during the festive season.

The joy having thus been sucked from the holiday, let us turn to 2019.

What do I wish for the ahead.

I wish the city’s business leaders would raise their voices in chorus to protect the city’s trees and ravines. Come on, do something majestic.

There’s a business case for this — I’m relying on a report produced by TD Economics a few years back which placed an estimated value of $7 billion on Toronto’s urban forest. It’s one thing to value a commodity, like a storehouse of gold. But there are also the spinoff economic benefits, from wet weather flow reduction (an annual cost saving of $50 million) to pollution abatement (an estimated annual saving of $19 million). The value of carbon stored within the “woody tissues” of the urban forest? (Estimated between $27 million and $37 million.)

The esthetic, cultural and recreational benefits are obvious and impossible to financially quantify

To those more up on this topic than myself, I acknowledge subsequent reports have concluded that TD undervalued Toronto’s urban forest.

What else.

I have a football wish. Bell Media, owners of TSN, should do a deal with the CBC or CTV, I don’t care which, to broadcast the Grey Cup. No Canadian should have to pay for cable in order to watch the big game. Be generous.

Street furniture. The city badly bungled its open-for-tender process years ago. We wanted to look just like Chicago! I recall interviewing representatives from big international companies who promised to do just that. Instead, we went cheap, installed those pale blue clamshell things, which broke, and then installed those black things, with pedals, and then removed the pedals, and now we are often stuck having to push open a disgusting flap in order to dispense with said garbage. In streetside terms, when we put on our business face to the global business community we do it not well. (Ditto, roads.)

I wish that the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act would be amended to better protect workers and retirees. Union leaders fear that federal consultations on this were left too late in the year and may result in little, if any, change. Understandable. If the federal government doesn’t stand up for the workers of Canada, then who?

I wish that business would stop making journalists write about the gender pay gap. Yes, it is their fault.

I wish that business would stop making journalists write about the under-representation of women in the C-suite and on boards of directors. As before.

I wish that Canadian CEOs would take the initiative to align executive pay with that of workers. We have been talking about this for four decades. Ridiculous.

Silly me. I thought the habit of rewarding chief executives for nothing more visionary than cutting jobs would have ended about the time Sunbeam axed Chainsaw Al. That was two decades ago.

I wish Toronto Maple Leafs tickets could be made affordable for those who live in the real world.

I wish I could stay awake past 11.

I wish the city would pay more attention to providing affordable housing for young creative types so the city wouldn’t get, well, boring.

I wish to understand why so many of the city’s roads are in an execrable state.

I wish someone would fix capitalism.

I wish the current provincial government would understand that investing in the city’s most vital asset — our young people — is the best investment they could ever make. They are our prime resource, like trees, and like trees they spin off all sorts of positive economic benefits. What other business would stop investing in its core asset? I wish the current government would attend some remedial courses in being smart.

I wish you all a 2019 full of gratitude.

jenwells@thestar.ca

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No major impact expected from mega RoyalMount project on Montreal businesses – Montreal

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A city of Montreal commission says the proposed mega-project in the Town of Mont Royal known as RoyalMount won’t have a major impact on Montreal businesses.

The commission presented its findings on the possible impacts of the project at a public hearing.

It showed the mega-mall would have a small impact on downtown Montreal stores.

Businesses and shopping centres located near the project, such as Rockland Centre, Marché Central and Place Vertu will see “medium” impact.


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“We will see as soon as the project will finish,” said Audrey Febvre, general director of Experience Côté-de-Neiges , a non-profit organization representing the area’s businesses. “I’m just concerned because they have a big offer on restaurants and a cultural offer.”

The developer also had the chance to present their project to the city and the public in attendance.

“I think it’s a chance for everybody to know better about RoyalMount. We didn’t have the chance to present it properly,” said Claude Marcotte, the executive president of Carbonleo, the developer.

Febvre said the presentation made the project more clear but argued “it’s a little bit useless,” because the decision was already made. The project has been given the green light by the Town of Mont Royal.

Traffic concerns 

The project is planned to be built at the junction of Highways 15 and 40.

“It’s one of the places in Montreal — in all of Canada actually — where there are the most traffic jams, so adding one car there is a concern,” said Éric Alan Caldwell, executive committee member responsible for transport and urban planning at the City of Montreal.


READ MORE:
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The developers proposed several traffic mitigation measures, such as adding synchronized traffic lights and rearranging the service road on Highway 40 towards Chemin de la Côte-de-Liesse east to add two more lanes.

The commission said the measures were good.

Carbonleo says it’s in talks with Transports Quebec and it will be willing to cover a minimum of 50 per cent of the costs.

The company would also cover the $22-million cost associated with adding an overpass connecting the De la Savane metro station to the project.

The Association des Sociétés de développement commercial de Montréal (ASDCM), an organization representing 16,000 businesses says it’s concerned about the message this mega-project is sending.

“Traffic, greenhouse gas, overconsumption… What values does adding another mega shopping centre in the heart of Montreal really support?”

The organization said it will be presenting a brief to the city’s commission next month.

Anyone who wishes to submit a brief or an opinion to the commission can register with the city before Friday, Dec. 7.

The next public hearing will take place on Dec. 19. The city will present its recommendations on Jan. 24, 2019.


READ MORE:
Infighting escalates with legal action at English Montreal School Board

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Proposed city budget could hit businesses outside downtown Calgary the hardest – Calgary

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Calgary businesses are taking a hard look at Wednesday’s municipal budget, as fear persists of another increase in non-residential property taxes.

Although it remains unclear how businesses will be impacted by the budget, some business owners are preparing to take another hit.

Circa Vintage Art Glass in Inglewood sits in the shadow of the city’s struggling downtown core. Brian Imeson has been the owner and operator for 16 years, selling vintage art glass from Europe dating back to the 1940s through to the 1960s. It’s a unique and niche business, but Imeson has felt the impact of increasing taxes in the last few years.

“Based on what we experienced last year with the really huge increases, I think the fear is really what’s around the corner for us for 2019,” Imeson said.


READ MORE:
4 things to know about Calgary’s proposed four-year budget

Luckily for Imeson, Circa Vintage Art Glass has a small square footage, so he has been able to pony up funds to pay for the increased taxes, but he said other businesses in the area don’t have that luxury.

“It’s been a tough time for small business in Calgary for the last few years,” Imeson said. “If you’re not seeing a lot of increases in your business but your costs are going up in the form of tax base and whether its wage scenarios as well, it’s sort of double fold in several ways.”

Over the past couple of years, the city has been trying to make up for lost tax revenue due to the high vacancy rates in the downtown core. Businesses outside that area have been left to shoulder the tax burden.

City council had approved $41 million and $45 million to cap the increase at five per cent. But to get to that same level this year, it would require an $89 million investment — an unsustainable venture, according to city council.


READ MORE:
2018 property tax rate finalized by Calgary city council

City Manager Jeff Fielding said there would be proposals to help mitigate increases again this year, but that would leave increases at around 25 per cent.

“I think the impact started last year in a big way, this year it’s going to be even worse in my opinion,” Imeson said. “Next year, if things aren’t straightened out, if things aren’t sort of rectified, or if solutions can’t come to this year, the next two, three years are going to be dire for a lot of people.”

At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Naheed Nenshi reassured small businesses that council is aware of the issue and is working on solutions.

“We’ve got your back, we’ve had your back the last couple of years,” Nenshi said. “There are creative solutions out there and we’ll have a solution for that in January.”


READ MORE:
Downtown Calgary struggles with commercial vacancies while ‘burbs’ boom

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) also chimed in, suggesting a solution might be cutting spending altogether.

“I think one crucial point that hasn’t been addressed as it should be is: we need to cut spending here, we need to get our fiscal house in order,” said Franco Terrazzano, Alberta director of the CTF. “We can’t just keep shifting tax burdens on people. Businesses can’t afford it.”

At Circa, Imeson is hopeful for a solution, but continues to wait patiently.

“I think it’s a bit dire,” he said. “I don’t want to scream that the sky is falling but I think there needs to be a really hard look at how this can be resolved to help preserve small business.”

According to commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Ltd., downtown vacancies were still high in the second quarter of 2018, with an overall office vacancy rate of 27.8 per cent.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Premier Doug Ford urges businesses to rally behind him in fight against $15 minimum wage

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Premier Doug Ford is urging Ontario businesses to rally behind him as he stares down the “forces” opposed to his rollback of workplace protections and a higher minimum wage.

Speaking to the Ontario Economic Summit in Niagara-on-the-Lake on Friday, Ford warned that powerful interests are trying to thwart his changes.

Doug Ford steps up attacks on ‘job killing’ labour protections

“There are forces in Ontario who had it good under the stagnant Liberal economy, who were happy seeing businesses close and freezing workers out of better jobs,” he said.

Statistics Canada data shows Ontario’s economy has actually been growing for years before he was elected in June.

Still, Ford said cancelling the $1 hike to the $14-an-hour minimum wage — and eliminating two paid sick days for Ontario workers as of Jan. 1 — has awakened his political foes.

“These forces are already organizing and preparing to spend a lot of money to try to stop us,” the premier said, apparently referring to some labour unions.

“Some of them have already engaged in violence, crime and intimidation. This week they broke into and vandalized (Labour) Minister Laurie Scott’s constituency office,” he said.

Vandals smashed the front plate glass window and door and spray-painted graffiti reading “Attack workers we fight back $15” on an exterior wall of Scott’s Lindsay office on Tuesday night.

“But these desperate intimidation tactics won’t stop us,” stressed Ford.

“We’re prepared for the fight ahead and today … my ask of the OCC, of big and small businesses, of entrepreneurs, of skilled trades people, of colleges, of pro-job labour unions, of young people trying to get into skilled trades, is to keep it up,” the premier said.

“Keep fighting with me. You know that I’m here to fight for the little guy. I’m here to fight for that job that was previously out of reach,” he said in a campaign-style speech.

“Because, unlike the Liberals and the NDP, we believe that when business succeeds, workers succeed, families succeed (and) communities succeed.”

Ford also used his address as a forum to attack the prime minister, who has emerged as a favourite punching bag with a federal election next year.

“This week, Justin Trudeau unveiled the latest change to his carbon tax plan. He is promising to send everybody a cheque to cover their carbon tax costs. Just in time for the federal election,” he said.

“We all know what happens next — once the election is over — the rebate disappears. And families and businesses across Ontario will be stuck paying the carbon tax forever.”

The provincial government “will use every tool we have to fight this terrible tax,” he said, referring to the $35 million he has earmarked for a constitutional court challenge of the measure.

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Broadway businesses, residents ‘appalled’ by Saskatoon bus rapid transit plan – Saskatoon

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Opponents of bus rapid transit (BRT) on Broadway Avenue voiced their displeasure with proposed dedicated bus lanes during a Saskatoon city committee meeting Monday.

Councillors received a report detailing route choices for BRT, which included two options that use Broadway and one that connects 8th Street East with the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge followed by 1st Avenue.


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Mary Melnychuk, one opponent to bus-only lanes on Broadway, was “appalled” at the idea.

“We don’t need a BRT running along Broadway. We need to maintain its unique atmosphere and history,” Melnychuk said.

Administration’s original proposal had a dedicated bus lane run down Broadway to connect with 3rd Avenue, and then 25th Street. An alternative is Broadway directly to 1st Avenue to 25th Street, according to a city report.

Of eleven public speakers Monday afternoon, none voiced support for BRT on Broadway or BRT on 3rd Avenue. Many advocated for BRT on 1st Avenue.

Bo Rosdahl, a Broadway resident, rejected the notion that BRT increases business activity in nearby stores.

“I don’t believe, personally, that the buses are going to enhance our economic situation on Broadway,” Rosdahl said.

Others recalled water main and resurfacing work in the summer of 2016 that left some business owners in a difficult financial situation.


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“There will be more businesses that struggle,” Optika Eclectic Eyewear owner Deborah Perry said.

Victoria Avenue was ruled out by city administration during the winter months because of the steepness of the road.

Midtown Plaza and World Trade Center Saskatoon have voiced support for BRT on 1st Avenue.

“It is the most logical location in our mind for retail, office and the surrounding employment centres on 1st Ave,” John Williams, president and CEO of World Trade Center Saskatoon, said in an email.

While she called the prospect of BRT on 1st Avenue an exciting prospect, Ward 6 Coun. Cynthia Block said there is support for the original plan.


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“There are many young entrepreneurs on Broadway who have specifically said that it’s critical to them that we have BRT on Broadway,” Block said.

Moving bus-only lanes to 1st Avenue would free up 3rd Avenue for bike lanes, which could replace the protected bike lanes currently on 4th Avenue, according to city administration.

A proposal requiring a decision from Saskatoon city council is expected in early 2019.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Woof! Dogs in the office make for relaxed environment, businesses say

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At some offices, dogs are more popular than people.

On any given day, seven to 10 pups bounce around Benevity, a tech firm in Calgary. Workers play fetch with their pets or let them sleep at their feet. Sometimes the furry critters play with each other, livening up the already colourful, relaxed office in Bridgeland.

« It just makes people happy, » said people and programs manager Angie Duong. « I think you see people who are fiercely focused and they’re just working away, and as soon as a dog comes into the picture, they just melt. »

People love their dogs, and businesses are booming as a result. There are pet stores and dog groomers, dog walkers and doggy daycares, and pet-friendly beaches, trails and parks — and even so-called « pet-ternity, » leave that owners can take after adopting a new animal.

Winnie, 2, is a corgi, and Indiana Jones, 11, is the little dog farther back. Indiana Jones has a kidney problem so he can’t have all the treats. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

But a few are leading the pack by allowing their employees to bring dogs into the office. It may sound like a fun idea but can take quite a lot of organizing and consideration of health concerns.

The trade-off, they say, is the less stressful, more relaxed environment that comes with a pet-friendly office.

Business owners say dogs in the office create a fun, relaxed environment with less stress, and they’re trying to balance health risks and noise. 1:11

Benevity employee Jodi Stapley, who brings her dog two days a week, says she use to worry about leaving her dog home alone.

« She’s an old English sheepdog who really likes to just be with her person. That’s a trait a lot of them have, » she said.

« She just laid under my desk, laid on my feet, and she was a perfect little angel, so I started bringing her in more and more often. »

Jack is a three-year-old dachshund. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

The company has had this program since its inception a decade ago. It now provides doggie doo-doo bags at reception and dog-specific cleaners in the kitchens. Cats are allowed, too, but aren’t as common.

Wendy Giuffre, an HR consultant for Calgary small businesses, said she’s encouraged companies to develop guidelines to avoid problems — even if things appear to be running smoothly for now.

« It’s obviously got to be a well-behaved dog, and that’s where we find some of the problems because that’s very subjective, » she said. « It’s just like kids. Everybody thinking, well, my dog’s well-behaved. »

Health risks no joke, doctor says

Another key concern is allergies. Some people get sinus symptoms — sniffles and watery eyes — but in other people, allergies can trigger asthma. Anyone with an allergy should be avoiding the trigger entirely, not managing it through daily treatment, said Dr. Joel Doctor, a Calgary allergist. Prolonged exposure to a « trigger, » like pets, can make an allergy worse. 

In allergy-induced asthma, animals could trigger a severe asthma attack, and that can be dangerous, Doctor said, so he struggled to see how a workplace could bring in pets while protecting employee health.

« The benefit has to be weighed very carefully against the risk, and so the benefit is kind of questionable, » Doctor said. « I’m not sure what the real benefit there is to having animals in the workplace, yet for some individuals, there is significant risk that would be involved. »

He said perhaps dogs could help in « some really niche workplaces, » but he’s confident the practice won’t spread widely due to the health concerns.

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests there are potential benefits to dogs in the workplace, such as higher morale, productivity and attendance. But it notes research is preliminary and recommends employers consider all parties before adopting the practice.

Polly plays with Peggy in the office. Each day, there are usually seven to 10 dogs in the Benevity office in Bridgeland. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

A director for Calgary-based Rogers Insurance says staff try to keep those people away from dogs. They say they’re not scared of pulling the program if something arises, but, so far, it’s worked smoothly.

« It’s invisible now. All the fears that some people had, people being afraid of dogs, people being allergic to dogs, we never have complaints, » chief operating officer Bruce Rabik said.

He first allowed in dogs after trying to scare pigeons off the deck at work. Then other employees were curious about bringing in their dogs. Now, the office has an internal notice announcing each day’s pet guests with their photos and names, as all dogs are registered with human resources.

It’s so common, Rabik says, he forgets the dogs are there.

« I walk around, give people tours of the office and I forget we have dogs, because a puppy will come running up, » he said.

Jack explores the office. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

As insurance brokers, however, Rabik said they do take « a conservative approach, » so they banned three breeds, Rottweilers, mastiffs and pitbulls, based on research they found that indicates those are more aggressive breeds.

Benevity says all potential employees are told it’s a dog-friendly office.

« We’re really upfront during the interview process, everyone really understands that the dogs are really huge in our culture, » Duong said. « So we make it really clear that if you have really adverse allergies or have huge fears of dogs, then this may or may not be the place for you. »

Giuffre​ said that’s not a good approach and may be construed as discrimination against people with health issues. Instead, she recommends trying to find a solution.

« I think you’d really have to take those case-by-case, » she said. « It’d either be, abolish the policy or try and work around it in some way. »

Some dog owners contain their pets to their cubicles using gates. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

She’s helped several offices set up dog policies. In one case, the business moved the allergic person’s desk far away and set up an air purifier. Other options might be to allow only dogs with little dander, or give employees the option of working on a dog-free floor.

She suggests raising the idea with all employees to see if there’s interest or opposition and then develop some sort of policy.

Businesses may find their employees are keen. Roughly one in 13 Calgarians and one in nine Edmontonians owns a dog, according to pet registration data. Statistics Canada has found Albertans are the third-highest spenders on pets in Canada.

In a « dog city » like Calgary, office pets can be a way to draw in employees, Giuffre said, a nice « no cost perk. »

« It does bring a different level of casualness to the business and, in most cases, it lightens the atmosphere, no different than comfort dogs, » Giuffre said.

With files from Mike Symington and the Calgary Eyeopener.

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Women-owned and jointly-owned businesses on the rise in Sask.

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According to a recently released Stats Canada report, between 2005 and 2013, Saskatchewan led the country in growth of businesses owned or jointly-owned by women.

While women-owned businesses are becoming more common, they still make up a small fraction compared to men.

But according to Prabha Mitchell, CEO of Women Entrepreneurs Saskatchewan, the report doesn’t paint the entire picture.

“If you look at majority-owned female enterprises and majority female-owned enterprises only, Saskatchewan lags behind the national average,” Mitchell said. “Women-owned businesses account for 13.7 per cent in Saskatchewan [compared to] 15 per cent nationally and is highest in B.C. and Ontario at 17 per cent.”


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Mitchell added, women continue to face several barriers including access to capital, networking and finding a work-life balance.

“A male-owned business is 3.5 times more likely to hit one million dollars than a female-owned business is,” Mitchell said. “The majority [of] female-owned enterprises are predominately in the service sector, while you find that predominately male-owned enterprises and equally owned enterprises span various sectors whether it’s manufacturing, agriculture, mining, oil and gas.”

Lynn Armstrong is a Saskatchewan-based entrepreneur who left her career in 2011 to start a strategy and communications business. From there, she bought Sky magazine and in 2016 her own retail store Zoe.


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“Really what I had to learn was how to be an entrepreneur and how to understand independent business,” Armstrong said. “In the corporate world there’s a lot more resources and in the independent business world you are your resource.”

For Armstrong, she said it comes down to finding the right people, creating a good business plan, along with a well thought out vision.

“You really have to find your tribe, you’re people, the people that connect with you,” Armstrong said. “The advice that I give to women who want to start there own business is first of all, in my opinion, if in your business plan your risk analysis doesn’t terrify you really haven’t dug deep enough.”


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Women entrepreneurs celebrated in Saskatchewan

Between 2005 and 2013, female-owned businesses grew from 233,000 to 309,000 across the country.

 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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