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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The 21 Restaurants That Turned Us Into Dedicated Regulars in 2018

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So many restaurants, so little time. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Well, it might as well if you’re dining out as much as we are.

We’re constantly looking for the next big thing that sometimes we miss out on the long-loved icons we should have already visited (a Hawaiian staple serving up sour, sticky poi!), the gems hiding in plain sight (a sublime steakhouse in the Connecticut suburbs!), and even the buzzy new ones (a much-trafficked wine bar in Brooklyn!).

Thankfully, this year we made sure to visit. Again. And again. Now it seems like every time we’re eating out, it’s at the same spots. Specifically these ones. Here, our favorite, new-to-us places that we added to our dining rotation in 2018.

 

“I usually have a rule against going out to eat on weekends in Brooklyn—the crowds!—but I’ve found myself bending for the incredible prix-fixe Saturday-and-Sunday-only lunch at Four Horsemen in Williamsburg time and time again. (I also have a rule about going to Williamsburg specifically on weekends, so a whole lotta rule-bending going on.) A mere $28 gets you three courses, a slab of homemade bread, AND dessert, which means you’ll have ample excuse to pad the check out with a bottle of amazing natty wine. Rules were meant to be broken, right?” —Amiel Stanek, senior editor

 

“I’m very ashamed to admit this, but after about 20 trips to Hawaii, I finally made it to Helena’s, the grande dame of native Hawaiian food, in 2018. For the last 72 years, the restaurant has been supplying locals, tourists, and people who wished they were locals (like me) with staples of the cuisine: pipikaula, jerky-like beef that you rip off the bone with your teeth; lomi lomi salmon, cured cubes tossed in a pico de gallo-like salad; squid luau, taro leaves stewed down with coconut milk and little calamari nubs; and sticky poi, so sour and tangy it makes you pucker and go back for more, like the weirdest palate cleanser. It’s food that’s storied and soulful, a slow burn compared to the click-bait-ification of poke. So, the next time you’re in Honolulu, don’t be like me and make sure you get to Helena’s ASAP.” —Elyse Inamine, digital restaurant editor

 

“A restaurant I can’t stop thinking about and cannot wait to go back to is Res Ipsa in Philadelphia. Res Ipsa was on our top 50 list in 2017, and it took me over a year to actually make it there, which was a huge mistake on my part. I haven’t stopped dreaming about the perfectly chewy pastas, simple but cool vibe, or the incredibly friendly staff. I’m so excited to grab a few bottles of fun natural wine, and make a wholeeee night out of it. It’s BYOB!” —Emily Schultz, social media manager

 

“There are a lot of reasons I don’t ever want to move out of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, but my proximity to June definitely ranks high on that list. The food is thoughtful, playful, and changes often (with some mainstays, like the fantastic little gem salad, evolving from season to season), which means there’s always something new to try. The natural wine list is full of fun bottles (chilled red! Skin-contact! Sparkling orange!), and the staff knows their shit when I’m looking to try something new. The space’s close quarters makes it a perfect spot to catch up with a friend or low-key celebrate over a carafe (or five). It’s where I went to fete a few major moments this year, including my engagement and a new job—this one!” —Sasha Levine, senior editor

 

“Every year I find an excuse to visit San Antonio, and every year I am dazzled by the vibrancy of that city’s dining scene. There are so many places to love but, this past visit, I fell for one of SA’s more old-school spots: a Mexican restaurant called Cascabel. I visited on a rainy Sunday, and was immediately charmed by 1) the colorful murals on the walls and 2) the amuse bouche of fideos (slinky noodles in the chicken-iest chicken soup) that every guest gets. I mean, I could have just eaten bowls and bowls of the fideos and been happy. But instead I feasted on chilaquiles soaked in salsa verde, and squash blossom quesadillas topped with crumbled cotija cheese, and black beans that tasted like they had been stewing for days. I have been thinking about this meal for months and months. I can’t wait to go back next year. Hopefully sooner rather than later.” —Priya Krishna, contributing writer

 

“My family took me to Fat Dan’s when I was home recently—we needed to go to a pro Chicago sports bar to watch the Cubs game! It’s Windy City–style deli food, done right. (Plus, they have great craft beer on rotation!) The Dirty Tots are my favorite: They come piled with smoky pulled pork, scallions, cheese sauce, and housemade hot sauce. Now when I’m home, I always go to Fat Dan’s—even when baseball season is over.” —Kate Fenoglio, associate production manager

“I live in the West Village and there’s this cute standing bar called Bar B on 7th Avenue. It’s from the same owner from Basta Pasta, and I’m slightly obsessed with them too. (You probably know Basta, but if not, it’s a Japanese-owned Italian restaurant that’s been here since the ’90s. Obsessed.) Anyways, I love the vibes in Bar B. Everyone is so friendly and happy, the small plates are delicious, and the wine and Aperol Spritz are fantastic! It’s super easy to pop in for a drink and bite and be on your way!” —Michele Outland, creative director

 

“When I went to New Orleans for my 30th (!!) birthday, we went to N7 three times. I’d never felt so seen by a restaurant. I could eat there every day for the rest of my life and die happy (or full of mercury from all the tinned fish, hard to predict). The wine is divine, the atmosphere is like a sexy secret garden, the fresh seafood and fried bar snacks all pull my heartstrings. Ugh, I want to get on a plane and go back right now.” —Alex Beggs, senior staff writer

 

“After visiting Portland, Oregon, at least once a year for the past five years, I FINALLY made it to Reel M Inn, one of the great dive bars in not just PDX but the United States of America. I truly did not believe that the fried chicken could be as good as everyone—and by everyone, I mean the Ace’s Donald Kenney—said it was, but it is so worth the excruciating wait. I can’t believe I’ve been missing out on this for years.” —Julia Kramer, deputy editor

 

“I’m obsessed with this little joint in Houston called Better Luck Tomorrow. It’s from the same people behind Oxheart and Theodore Rex, and I’m in love with the massive shelving system behind the bar lined with neon lights. It’s going to be my go-to watering hole whenever I’m back home. Cool vibes, maddeningly delicious bites like spaghetti sandos, and pasta Tuesday (!!) make the technicolored bar feel simultaneously familiar and brand new.” —Jesse Sparks, editorial assistant

 

“I go to the Jersey Shore most weekends in the summer with my family. They have their own go-to pizza spot, so I hadn’t been to Talula’s…until I found myself in Asbury Park without the whole fam this past July. It’s pretty packed (clearly I’m late to the party!), but the Neapolitan pizza is so worth the wait. The crust is thin and charred in all the right places, and though some people find it controversial to put honey on pizza, the Beekeeper’s Lament with soppressata, mozzarella, and local honey is a pizza I’d eat weekly. I love it because even though it’s trying to be a ‘hip’ Neapolitan restaurant, it can’t shake its laidback Jersey Shore vibe.” —Elaheh Nozari, e-commerce editor

 

“I went to school in Chicago, where I subsisted mainly on a diet of frozen custard and Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza. But when I returned to visit friends this summer, I fell hard for the transcendent pastries and ultra-seasonal dishes at Cellar Door Provisions. The “no-vegetables-in-Chicago” trope isn’t exactly true, but they never tasted as good as this. Their small menu is seasonal, giving me an excellent reason to return again and again (although maybe not in winter) to see what thoughtful dishes are popping up.” —Aliza Abarbanel, editorial assistant

 

“Pyramids Halal has become my go-to lunch spot when I’m visiting family in Syracuse. Hani Mahmood runs the butcher shop while Tatiana, his wife, makes the incredible home-cooked lunches on the side. Everyday she prepares the most incredible beef gyro using a special blend of Egyptian spices. Hailing from Russia and Egypt, respectively, she and Hani relocated to Syracuse in 2004, and she’s inherited a lot of cooking traditions from her in-laws.” —Michelle Heimerman, visuals editor

 

“I stalked Konbi like an ex on Instagram for months before I actually went. But on a recent trip to my hometown of L.A., I got to experience it IRL. There’s the jammy egg salad sandwich that I could happily eat for lunch every day. The unassuming-yet-delightful turnips with toasted rice, sesame, and lemon. And the chocolate croissant featuring an obscene amount of flaky layers. If I lived in L.A., I’d, well, live there.” —Rachel Karten, senior social media manager

 

“I don’t understand why no one knows about David’s Cafe! My friend Jamie Feldmar took me here and we were pretty much the only people eating. Chef David Malbequi is French, so you’ll find cheap (but good) house wine and a raclette special that’s what dreams are made of. But Malbequi is best known his burger—and it may be my favorite in the city right now.” —Andy Baraghani, senior food editor

 

“I recently became obsessed with this totally suburban steakhouse in my boyfriend’s hometown of Bethel, Connecticut, called Barbarie’s Black Angus. It’s the only place in town where you actually need a reservation, and it’s always poppin’. I’ve heard the steaks are the best in Connecticut, but I go there for the grilled swordfish and the sides: roasted sweet potatoes, brussels and bacon, a skillet of mac and cheese that could be an entree for two. Yes, the portions are big, but in a high-quality, you-want-to-eat-the-leftovers way. I believe in fully embracing one’s time in the suburbs—eat like a local and such—and for me that means a trip to this steakhouse. LOL!” —Amanda Shapiro, senior editor

 

“SRV is where I go when I want to eat a bunch of small bites. The Northern Italian/Venetian spot in the South End is not billed as a small-plates restaurant, but they have a sub-menu of actually affordable—in the $2 to $4 range—cicchetti. I order a lot as an excuse to sample things I might not normally order, like olives in the castelvetrano fritte, stuffed with pork sausage and montasio cheese; giant corona beans in a soffritto vinaigrette; my first beef tongue, served with tonnato and gribiche (a twofer); and tempura blowfish tail with grappa sauce (whoa). But I will eat anything they put on crostini, from duck mousse to salt cod on black bread.” —Alyse Whitney, associate editor

 

“There’s a lot I love about Asheville (the Moog synthesizer headquarters! Basement record sales! The most microbreweries per capita in America!), but this West Asheville restaurant is one I’ll always go back to. The cinder block building’s vibe is part dive bar, part destination-worthy dance party, and part chef-driven restaurant. And like so many other places in Asheville, it delivers on each without being smug about it. I don’t know if it’s the drinks named after Rolling Stones deep cuts, the miso-glazed chicken with tatsoi, or the moody velvet curtains, but it sure feels like someone has been peeping my Pinterest page.” —Tommy Werner, video producer

 

“I was late to the Via Carota party. I went for the first time in January, and then went many more times after that. I sat at the sunny bar for a solo lunch of risotto and the most ethereal panna cotta on a chilly Wednesday and it warmed me down to my frozen toes. I found my salad soulmate in the spring pea salad months later, and shared it with some of my favorite people for my birthday in May. Over the summer I invited a man who I thought for a minute could be my human soulmate to dinner, and when he was unimpressed, I knew it wouldn’t work out between us. But it’s the verdue section of the menu that keeps me coming back: salads and sides that seem so simple in concept but are executed just so… all served in a space that feels always feels tumblingly buzzing and warm despite the long waiting list that quickly adds up, the service remains calmly attentive.” —Anna Stockwell, senior food editor

 

“I moved away from the Twin Cities a decade ago, but I would move back just for the restaurant scene, which keeps getting more interesting the longer I’m away. Several times a year, however, I’ll map out an eating plan weeks in advance of family visits, and I’ll always end up in Minneapolis. Not this year. In Bloom has lured me across the Mississippi River several times to St. Paul. It’s located inside the hip Keg and Case Market, a former brewery, and you know you’ve arrived when the scent of oak burning from the open-fire cooking hits you. It smells and feels like you’re hanging out in a cabin in northern Minnesota (albeit a more modern one). The menu is filled with game meats like pheasant and venison, with local ingredients including wild mushrooms and berries sprinkled throughout. It’s the food I’ve been thinking about lately as winter approaches, and I’m missing home.” —Bao Ong, research manager

 

“I’ve been to Philly four times in the past year, and I’ve had lunch at Suraya three of those times. The man’oushe and the labneh and the hummus and the ful madammas and the kafta kebabs and every other thing on the menu of comforting, immensely flavorful Lebanese food all make that two-hour bus ride well worth it. That, and my parents who live nearby, of course. Duh. Love you, Mom. Love you, Dad.” —Alex Delany, associate editor

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How Doug Ford turned the OPP into the Ontario Premier’s Police

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Loyalty to the leader is paramount.

Fidelity to law enforcement comes second.

Sound familiar? Just ask our American friends, who have been wrestling with the spectre of obstruction of justice ever since Donald Trump won the presidency — and trampled on the FBI by firing its director, James Comey.

Now, Ontarians are facing their own moment of truth as the layers of deception are peeled back from the premier’s alleged secret meddling over the next OPP chief. Doug Ford’s loyal chief.

The allegations from interim Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Brad Blair about who will succeed him as the province’s top cop amount to a political earthquake. Blair and many in the OPP are up in arms because they believe the fix was in for a hostile takeover of the very police force that polices our politicians in power.

The outgoing OPP chief has blown the whistle on Ford and Taverner. But are we listening?

Are Ontarians to be governed by the rule of law, or by the misrule of a miscreant who bends the rules and rewrites our laws? Shall our premier indulge his personal peccadilloes — in a customized camper paid for “off the books” to deceive taxpayers and lawmakers — and then cover his tracks?

Consider the devastating allegations in the OPP commissioner’s detailed submission — on official letterhead — to the independent Ombudsman’s Office this week seeking a formal investigation:

The hiring process “remains enveloped in questions of political interference,” Blair wrote. “To have this new command assumed without addressing this matter will cause dysfunction in the service.”

His appeal followed a public protest from a previous OPP chief, Chris Lewis, over the rigged hiring process that has discredited a police force that requires public legitimacy to do its job:

“The fix was in,” Lewis complained publicly, referring to the Ford-Taverner tag team. “There’s old relationships there, we all know it, and I think it was a travesty that this occurred.”

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This is not mere political disruption, it is disrespect — for both the police officers and the taxpayers whom Ford had pledged to serve. Detailed allegations that the premier’s office conspired to flout procurement rules and political norms are a devastating indictment of Ford’s brief time in power.

According to Blair, Ford bulldozed the OPP command to get the bodyguards he wanted, demanding a meeting with then-commissioner Vince Hawkes, and letting it be known that if he did not acquiesce, “perhaps a new commissioner would.” Ford’s office also asked the OPP to procure a “large camper type vehicle and have it modified to the specifications the premier’s office would provide us,” adding that it be “kept off the books … hidden from the public record.”

This is a scandal unlike any other, for it is almost as much a question of competence as corruption. This isn’t just the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, it is the group that couldn’t keep its story straight.

People of all political stripes and partisan colours cannot but be disgusted by the whiff of favouritism, the smell of meddling, and the stench of coverup, for this is not merely a matter of right or left, but reckless wrongdoing. This is not about ideology but idiocy.

Or perhaps not. Perhaps the premier is not as foolish as he appears to be on this matter.

Even if he underestimated the reaction of the OPP — assuming no one would call out the premier’s office for gaming the hiring process — perhaps Ford has correctly calculated that the damage can be contained, that he can ride out this storm as he has so many others in his past, that he can have the last laugh.

Maybe he will get away with it. Possibly the public will put up with it. Perhaps the press will move on. Presumably the opposition will go on holiday. Ultimately the OPP will be transformed into the Ontario Premier’s Police.

And Ontarians will grow accustomed to their chief executive interfering in law enforcement at the very top, just like in America. Trump fired Comey, and Ford hired Taverner.

In the U.S., disruption and disrespect are now second nature. Today in Ford’s Ontario, loyalty to the leader Trumps fidelity to law enforcement.

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

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Harry Leslie Smith, veteran turned social activist, dies at 95

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Harry Leslie Smith, a prominent British air force veteran turned writer and social activist, has died at the age of 95 in an eastern Ontario hospital.

His son John, who has been tweeting regular medial updates on his father’s behalf, posted the news on social media Wednesday morning. The elder Smith was in critical condition at a Belleville, Ont., hospital.

Smith was an anti-poverty activist who authored several books on the Great Depression, the Second Word War and postwar austerity. Online tributes have been pouring in for him as he received treatment in an intensive care unit after his family said he suffered a fall.

More to come.

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Residents who admit to pot use turned away at U.S. border, says Estevan, Sask., mayor

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The mayor of Estevan, Sask., says local residents have been turned away at the nearby U.S. border after admitting to past pot use.

« It is a fairly serious concern, » said Roy Ludwig, mayor of the 11,258-person city located just 16 kilometres north of a North Dakota border crossing.

« Even people that might have smoked it 20, 30 years ago, they’re being asked, ‘Have you ever smoked cannabis?’ when they get to the U.S. border. We understand some people have said yes, that they have, and have been turned back. »

Ludwig said several Estevan residents have undergone strict questioning at the U.S. border since recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada less than two weeks ago. He said he knows of two people who were turned away and not allowed to cross the border. 

Estevan is located just 16 kilometres north of the border with North Dakota. (CBC)

Recreational cannabis use is not legal in North Dakota, and pot possession is still illegal under U.S. federal law.

The Canadian government warned people pre-legalization that « previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by U.S. federal laws, could mean that you are denied entry to the U.S. »   

Not everyone who wants to cross the border is reacting the same way to those rules, according Ludwig.

« Some are saying the truth, saying yes, they have smoked it, and then some that have smoked are saying no because they’re scared that they may be banned for life, » he said. 

Store opening soon

Estevan is one of the 32 Saskatchewan communities that either has or will have a recreational cannabis store. It’s the southernmost place people will be able to buy legal cannabis in Saskatchewan.

The community was originally supposed to get two stores, but the city — after consulting Estevan Police Services —  asked that the second permit be put off until factors like traffic could be reviewed after the first store opened.

That store is being prepared by Prairie Sky Cannabis, the same company currently operating legal pot stores in Martensville and Battleford. They operate those stores under the name Jimmy’s Cannabis. 

Estevan’s legal pot shop will be the southernmost one in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Everything, except a steady supply stream, is in place for the Estevan store to open soon, said John Thomas, the president of the company. 

But that store will create a new wrinkle for American travellers coming to Estevan. 

An American customs official recently told CBC News that those found at the border with cannabis on their person, or in their car, could face arrest and prosecution by U.S. officials.

The president of Jimmy’s Cannabis, which owns a store in Martensville, above, says his planned Estevan store will focus on pre-rolled cannabis as a way of encouraging people to consume on this side of the border. (Prairie Sky Cannabis)

That’s why the Jimmy’s Cannabis store in Estevan might tweak its product line compared with its sister stores.

« There might be more things like pre-rolls and things that are higher-convenience for short-term use [inside Saskatchewan], » said Thomas.

Stay overnight for the ‘fine hotels’

Ludwig said city councillors have talked about whether the flow of cannabis-craving Americans into Estevan might  present the community with a business opportunity that also discourages people from driving under the influence.

« People advertising and saying, ‘Stay at some of our fine hotels and enjoy some of our fine restaurants and indulge in cannabis if you want to try it out. And then stay overnight and go back sober.’

« We haven’t done that yet, » said Ludwig, « but we’ve definitely talked a little bit about it. »

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Residents who admit to pot use turned away at U.S. border, says Estevan, Sask., mayor

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The mayor of Estevan, Sask., says local residents have been turned away at the nearby U.S. border after admitting to past pot use.

« It is a fairly serious concern, » said Roy Ludwig, mayor of the 11,258-person city located just 16 kilometres north of a North Dakota border crossing.

« Even people that might have smoked it 20, 30 years ago, they’re being asked, ‘Have you ever smoked cannabis?’ when they get to the U.S. border. We understand some people have said yes, that they have, and have been turned back. »

Ludwig said several Estevan residents have undergone strict questioning at the U.S. border since recreational cannabis was legalized in Canada less than two weeks ago. He said he knows of two people who were turned away and not allowed to cross the border. 

Estevan is located just 16 kilometres north of the border with North Dakota. (CBC)

Recreational cannabis use is not legal in North Dakota, and pot possession is still illegal under U.S. federal law.

The Canadian government warned people pre-legalization that « previous use of cannabis, or any substance prohibited by U.S. federal laws, could mean that you are denied entry to the U.S. »   

Not everyone who wants to cross the border is reacting the same way to those rules, according Ludwig.

« Some are saying the truth, saying yes, they have smoked it, and then some that have smoked are saying no because they’re scared that they may be banned for life, » he said. 

Store opening soon

Estevan is one of the 32 Saskatchewan communities that either has or will have a recreational cannabis store. It’s the southernmost place people will be able to buy legal cannabis in Saskatchewan.

The community was originally supposed to get two stores, but the city — after consulting Estevan Police Services —  asked that the second permit be put off until factors like traffic could be reviewed after the first store opened.

That store is being prepared by Prairie Sky Cannabis, the same company currently operating legal pot stores in Martensville and Battleford. They operate those stores under the name Jimmy’s Cannabis. 

Estevan’s legal pot shop will be the southernmost one in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

Everything, except a steady supply stream, is in place for the Estevan store to open soon, said John Thomas, the president of the company. 

But that store will create a new wrinkle for American travellers coming to Estevan. 

An American customs official recently told CBC News that those found at the border with cannabis on their person, or in their car, could face arrest and prosecution by U.S. officials.

The president of Jimmy’s Cannabis, which owns a store in Martensville, above, says his planned Estevan store will focus on pre-rolled cannabis as a way of encouraging people to consume on this side of the border. (Prairie Sky Cannabis)

That’s why the Jimmy’s Cannabis store in Estevan might tweak its product line compared with its sister stores.

« There might be more things like pre-rolls and things that are higher-convenience for short-term use [inside Saskatchewan], » said Thomas.

Stay overnight for the ‘fine hotels’

Ludwig said city councillors have talked about whether the flow of cannabis-craving Americans into Estevan might  present the community with a business opportunity that also discourages people from driving under the influence.

« People advertising and saying, ‘Stay at some of our fine hotels and enjoy some of our fine restaurants and indulge in cannabis if you want to try it out. And then stay overnight and go back sober.’

« We haven’t done that yet, » said Ludwig, « but we’ve definitely talked a little bit about it. »

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The flight that turned this grandmother’s life around: Woman says Air Canada unfairly kicked her off plane

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Ellen Flemming’s trip home from British Columbia to New Brunswick was not going as planned on Aug. 18. She had spent the previous night with her husband and two grandsons in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport after their connection to Saint John was cancelled. The family boarded Air Canada flight 8946 just after 8 a.m., eager to get home.

The 71-year-old never imagined she’d be removed from the plane later that day and allegedly threatened with a lifetime ban by Air Canada. It started with a confrontation with a flight attendant over garbage.

“I went to put my water bottle into the pouch in front of me, and I put my hand in and pulled the pouch out, and my hand, my fingers went into this wet garbage,” Flemming said.

READ: Canadian plane ticket prices rose more than 10% in a year, RBC survey says

She called the flight attendant over to ask him to clean it up.

“And he just stood up tall and said, ‘I’m a flight attendant, I don’t do garbage,’” she said.

“I didn’t know what to do except I just sat there until the cart came down and I thought OK, I’m going to pick it up and there’s usually a little garbage container on the top of the cart, so I thought I’ll put the garbage in that.”

Flemming says the attendant’s reaction shocked her.

“He swiped my hand away, and the garbage, and so my hand came back and hit something on the way, and the garbage flew all over,” she said.

Flemming says she pushed the garbage into the aisle with her foot, as the flight attendant again said he wouldn’t pick it up.

READ MORE: PEI musician’s vintage guitar stabbed by airport forklift, Air Canada offers to replace the case

The woman who was sitting behind her and across the aisle says she watched the incident unfold. Helen Hollett describes the flight attendant as “irate” and “screaming.”

“She just asked him to take the garbage and she was very nice about it and then he just, he got really mad,” Hollett said.

Both women tell Global News that Flemming tried to de-escalate the situation, closing her eyes and not responding when two flight attendants tried to speak with her.

Shortly after that, the plane turned around. Hollett says she asked the crew why they were returning to Toronto.

“I said, ‘Well, if it’s because of the garbage, I’ll clean the garbage if you want me to,’” Hollett said. “And he said no. He said, ‘We’re going back for the safety of the passengers.’”

When the plane landed in Toronto, two Peel Regional Police officers and an Air Canada agent boarded and asked Flemming to leave. She says the Air Canada employee told her she would be rebooked on another flight.

WATCH BELOW: Here are some of your rights as an airplane passenger for cancellations, delays







Flemming told the Air Canada agent and the officers what happened, as the plane took off with her husband and grandsons on board.

But when she tried to get another boarding pass, “I got nowhere with Air Canada,” she said.

“The manager behind the desk, she just said, ‘You’re not ever flying Air Canada again.’”

Flemming bought a ticket with Westjet to Halifax, and arranged for a ride home from there.

READ MORE: Air Canada, WestJet raising checked baggage fees

Air Canada confirms in an email to Global News that a passenger was removed from the flight on Aug. 18, and that local authorities were called to meet the flight.

In a letter addressed to Flemming dated Aug. 30, Air Canada corporate security gives a different version of events. The letter states that she “exhibited aggressive behaviour towards a crewmember; threw garbage on the food trolley; kicked a crewmember when requested to wait until the member could come back and pick up the garbage as he was serving food.”

The Aug. 30 letter adds there is no “ongoing prohibition” that bans Flemming from travelling on Air Canada flights.

Flemming denies Air Canada’s version of events on board the Aug. 18 flight.

The Peel Regional Police, whose officers boarded the plane, give yet another account of the dispute.

In an emailed statement, the force says: “Police spoke with the individuals involved in the incident as well as other passengers seated in the vicinity of the incident. Based on the information received, it was determined that both parties were involved in a loud verbal dispute. Police concluded that no criminal offences were committed.”

Flemming says she asked police to lay an assault charge against the flight attendant in September. She says she was told by the responding officer that there was no probability of conviction, and that she could pursue a civil case if she chooses.

The airline would not agree to an interview or answer questions about what happened, but sent an emailed statement that reads in part:

“We strive to provide a safe and comfortable flight for our passengers and a safe working environment for our employees. Our crew members are professionals who are well-trained to handle challenging situations. We are unable to provide further details or discuss individual passenger files or incidents for reasons of privacy. We encourage customers to contact Air Canada Customer Relations directly with any concerns.”

WATCH BELOW: ‘She didn’t kick him’ — Witness recalls garbage conflict between flight attendant and passenger






Flemming has contacted customer relations. She says the only response she received is that letter. That’s why she turned to air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs. He helped contact witnesses who were on board the plane to corroborate Flemming’s story, including Helen Hollett, who has signed a sworn affidavit explaining what she saw.

Hollett says she didn’t know Flemming before Aug. 18 but felt compelled to speak up when she heard another passenger say that the flight attendant was alleging he had been kicked.

“I was in a perfect position to see what was happening, and what was happening was wrong,” she said.

“I don’t think that we should be treated that way. I mean, we pay good money for these seats. I do not think that Air Canada should treat people that way.”

READ: Canadian couple stuck overseas after budget airline abruptly goes bankrupt

Lukacs agrees. He’s assisting Flemming in navigating her next steps, which he says include exploring legal options. He thinks she’s entitled to “significant compensation.”

Ultimately, he also wants to see changes in the way the airlines and the police handle these situations. He thinks video surveillance on flights would eliminate the he said-she said nature of an investigation like this one.

“Having some form of surveillance would be very important, both for the passengers and for the flight attendants,” Lukacs said.

He also wants the airlines to be more accountable when passengers are removed from flights.

“I would say that as a new standard, someone from the airline should first arrest the passenger, citizen’s arrest,” he said. “Risking the legal risk that if they falsely arrest the passenger, they are going to jail for false arrest. And then the police should intervene.”

As for Ellen Flemming, she calls the events of that August day “life-changing.” She’s hoping the airline will apologize and reimburse the cost of her WestJet flight.

“There needs to be some accountability. Accountability for that flight attendant’s behaviour, for his actions, accountability for being the cause of a flight getting turned around,” she said.

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

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