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Gas bar and car wash owners’ top 4 regulatory concerns

Screen Shot 2019-10-15 at 12.26.50 PMThe auto sector is undergoing rapid change, from new technology and alternative fuels, to new taxes and regulations that hit your bottom line. The key to staying competitive is to understand the challenges you’re facing and how to manage them.

The business counsellors at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) field questions from gas bar and car wash owners all the time. Here are the four most common concerns we hear about – and some solutions to consider.

Labour laws

Many businesses face challenges filling vacant positions. An understaffed gas bar or car wash raises some perplexing HR questions. For example, if an employee is working alone for longer than five hours, do they need to close up shop for the 30-minute break they are entitled to – potentially losing customers for that half-hour?

Unlike a big business, you may not have a full HR department, leaving you to navigate questions like this related to hiring, labour laws, breaks and holidays alone. CFIB’s business counsellors can help provide resources and advice. In this case, our counsellors often advise employers to consider splitting their employees’ breaks into 15-minute intervals, before they have worked a full five hours, in order to avoid having to close up for longer periods of time.

Canada Revenue Agency

Dealing with the CRA, whether you’re being audited or just looking for basic information, can be intimidating. Many small business owners say they feel the CRA treats them as if they’ve done something wrong.

CFIB’s work with CRA has led to many improvements to their customer service, including getting CRA to honour written responses sent through My Business Account. That said, being proactive in managing your tax records can help keep the tax man at bay.

 A good payroll solution is a great way to ensure your payroll taxes and T4s are submitted accurately and on time. CFIB has partnered with Payworks to offer  members an exclusive discount on services to make managing payroll affordable and easy.

Credit card fees

It can feel almost mandatory to accept credit cards these days. Unfortunately, the processing fees involved can cut into already razor-thin profit margins, especially with more customers using specialty and reward point cards.

CFIB has been advocating for independent businesses with government and credit card companies for more than a decade, and we’ve scored some great wins, including the implementation of a Code of Conduct that protects small businesses from unfair treatment by the payments industry. In 2015, we secured lower fees and a five-year freeze from Visa and Mastercard – and another rate reduction just last year.

 Federal carbon tax

 The federal carbon tax, introduced in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick this April, is already causing regulatory headaches for gas stations, which need to display the fuel charge on their receipts. Some independent gas bar operators have told us that they’ve had to switch their systems entirely to accommodate for the new line on receipts.

In its campaign against the carbon tax, the Ontario government is introducing a new rule that forces gas stations to display a sticker on every pump or face a fine of up to $10,000 per day. This kind of regulatory overreach eats up gas bar operators’ time and resources, with no benefit in return. I encourage all business owners who are negatively affected by the carbon tax in one way or another to contact CFIB and reach out to their elected representatives and make themselves heard.

 Remember: you are not alone

 Owning an independent business can be a lonely calling, particularly when you’re up against big players like government and large corporations. Having someone in your corner, with the right mix of policy solutions and support, can make all the difference. Visit cfib.ca to discover this business edge.

Dan Kelly is president & CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. 

 

 


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Court rules Ontario broke law when scrapping cap and trade system but no change expected

An Ontario court says Premier Doug Ford’s government broke the law when it scrapped the province’s cap-and-trade system but even the groups who launched the case concede the finding won’t bring the program back.

Two of three judges on a divisional court panel said the government violated provincial laws when it failed to consult the public on a regulation ending Ontario’s cap-and-trade program last year.

The environmental groups that launched the case had sought a formal declaration against the government, but the judges declined the request and dismissed the case.

Greenpeace Canada called the ruling a symbolic victory but acknowledged the decision would never have forced the government to revive the program.

The groups said the Environmental Bill of Rights states that the province’s residents have the right to a 30-day consultation process on environmentally significant legislation.

Ontario’s cap-and-trade system aimed to lower greenhouse gas emissions by putting caps on the amount of pollution companies in certain industries could emit.

Premier Doug Ford made good on an election promise to scrap the system during last year.


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Show off! Convenience U CARWACS Show debuts in Greater Vancouver

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 10.12.29 AMOn October 29to 30, you’ll connect with new business and suppliers at the Greater Vancouver installment of Canada’s leading convenience, fuel and car wash trade event—The Convenience U CARWACS Show. Plan to make product discoveries, meet new business associates and learn from industry leaders. Here’s why you don’t want to miss it:

1. Learn

Day 1: The CCA will host the CARWACS Car Wash Tour, which features interactive site tours, peer-to-peer learning, networking and ample opportunities to nurture camaraderie. After breakfast, the bus leaves Tradex in Abbotsford at 8:45 a.m. and will return to the show at noon for a CCA-hosted luncheon. Then, operators will have a chance to explore the trade show floor.

Day 2: The CCA will conduct two morning education sessions, each offering car wash operators valuable tools to improve their businesses. 

9 to 10:15 a.m. Leadership Worth Following: Discovering meaningful value in the car wash industry” helps to connect the dots on how to turn your business into a high-retention, engaged and contributing force to be reckoned with that will surely benefit your bottom line.

 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. “Advancing your car wash business” is an industry roundtable workshop exploring several key topics, including effective business planning; business development loans; marketing strategies; website development; social media; insurance and much more. Seasoned industry experts will be on hand to answer your questions. 

2. Exhibit

The trading floor opens at 12 p.m. both days. There, you’ll connect with highly qualified attendees, of which 91% report they will buy products they see at the show. Bring your questions and find answers among the region’s largest collection of fuel, car wash and c-store trade personalities, all gathered in one place. Promote your brand, meet your customers and earn new leads.

 3. Network

Join colleagues, make new friends and gather with associates. This is the show where opportunities happen. 

Click here for more information and to register. 


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Maximizing forecourt potential

Forecourt_Lg_032619Forecourt offers huge opportunity. Are you taking advantage?

Forecourt sales are all about creating positive first impressions. This is the view of Russell Large, a leading consultant in the convenience store sector. He views the forecourt as a c-store’s front yard and tells operators to take advantage of this prime piece of real estate beyond selling gas.

“Recently, many food establishments have switched to an almost exclusively ‘patio-based’ service model, and I think retailers are onto something,” he says, pointing to sites that offer smaller footprints with fewer staff and no formal layout. “With a little imagination, this is the forecourt of most gas/convenience sites. The trick for success is leveraging the time the customer is filling up, against something ‘fun’ for them to do while pumping gas.”

Here Large mentions Wayne’s interactive touchscreen pump topper. “The pump topper can be used to entertain while at the pumps with content, such as short funny YouTube clips, or used to direct customers into the store itself for specials or guide them to forecourt products, such as windshield cleaners.”

Interactive pump-side systems will soon use facial recognition software to address customers directly when they approach the fuel dispenser. “These systems would greet the customer and display specials that the system’s data has pre-determined a preference based on past purchases. Customers could be directed to an island pop display, propane cage or other area of the forecourt. Already we see prompts for car wash as pretty standard on most dispenser systems. Certainly, this capability is going to be enhanced as technology moves forward.”

 Large suggests that much like the bathroom in a restaurant, the forecourt or ‘front lawn’ of a gas/convenience store location speaks volumes about the service, or lack there-of, that awaits them inside. “A clean, well organized, fully stocked and innovative forecourt will eventually sort all the players out, as curb-appeal isn’t just for homes. You’ll need to have solutions in place for Millennials that want a frictionless interaction, and those that want good old-fashioned service. They are your future customers. Embrace the tech.”

Getting the service and product message out to customers is key to success at forecourt. Tim Walker runs Revin Media Inc., a marketing and brand strategy agency based in Mississauga, Ont. He suggests gas station customers need to be directed with clean simple design communications. “People are often overwhelmed at retail sites with not just marketing messages, but with cellphone communications and other inputs. Good communication cuts through the clutter and there are lots of places to do this at the forecourt,” he says, pointing to bollard sleeves and dispenser nozzles, as well as highly visible flags that can pull in customers off the street. “We have been seeing success with LED reader boards that display specials and other commercial messages in custom sizing tailored to each unique application,” he says.

At Vancouver Island’s Peninsula Co-op they have been working to streamline the forecourt in an effort to present sites with cleaner visuals and enhance curbside appeal.

“Investment in a clean, uncluttered exterior, good lighting, and appealing landscaping will draw people in,” says Tom Humphreys, petroleum operations manager, Peninsula Co-op. “More is not better. “The large fixed exterior merchandise cases full of oil and washer fluid that often sit between pumps or against the building are no longer what we want. We like a limited selection of oil and washer fluid on two-wheel rolling carts. These are easily moved into the store at close, easily refilled from back stock and much less inventory investment sitting outside.

At Breakaway gas stations, they too are paying very close attention to forecourt opportunities to add customer value and fuel retailer revenue. According to Veronique Murphy, VP retail & marketing at Greenergy Fuels Canada Inc., the company behind Breakaway, everything starts with research to drive effective marketing activities. “Once operators really know their customers—whether they are traveling to cottage country or motoring in a city-setting—they can make better seasonal forecourt product choices to address changing customer needs and, most importantly, effectively encourage them to go inside their Breakaway c-store and make more impulse purchases.

 “At Breakaway, we also use forecourt advertising as a powerful way to grow retailer revenue. Building on Breakaway’s unique hockey theme that pulls consumers into its bright and modern forecourts, we position advertising on pump toppers, nozzle talkers, feather flags, posters and dispensers. This multi-channel forecourt messaging is highly integrated with our in-store promotions and technology, such as our eye-catching hockey-rink styled mini jumbotrons, which get customer attention and increase sales.

“On full-service forecourts, Breakaway is also using technology, such as portable debit and credit card payment terminals, to enable operators to offer customers convenient and seamless car-window service,” she says, concluding that communicating the right messaging at forecourt generates tremendous opportunities.


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Climate change debate polarization shows lack of leadership, says oilsands CEO

Polarization of the climate change debate as it relates to the role of the Canadian energy industry indicates an “extreme” lack of leadership from all political parties in Canada, says the CEO of oilsands producer MEG Energy Corp.

Speaking at the Natural Resources Summit in Calgary, Derek Evans said he’s frustrated by the wide gulf in views exhibited by parties in the run-up to the Oct. 21 election.

“Some of us have banged on the prime minister’s door and said, ‘I would like to talk to you,’ but I can’t get in. Either I’m not big enough, I’m not loud enough, I don’t represent enough people,”’ he said.

“We’re not shying away from trying to get in there and create those conversations but I’ll go out on a limb and say I have never seen such an extreme lack of leadership across all parties about something that is as central and as critical to the jobs and the economy of this country.”

With polls showing the front-running Liberals and Conservatives in a close race, some observers have suggested a minority government might have to rely on support of the NDP or the Green Party, both of which have signalled they will not support expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline that Ottawa bought last year for $4.5 billion.

Evans told reporters later he couldn’t expand on his views of the leadership issue because of new election rules that could result in him being fined if he says too much during the campaign.

Both Evans and Steve Laut, vice-chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., said they are working toward an ultimate goal of taking their companies to “net zero” in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

MEG will accomplish that through efficiencies in using steam and solvents at its oilsands works and with carbon capture and storage, Evans said.

“It’s a multitude of technologies, a multitude of process changes that we’re working on,” said Laut, citing continuous improvements in oilsands extraction, carbon capture and storage and carbon capture and conversion, where new products are made from captured carbon.

Neither would provide a timeline to reach their goals.

Claims of cleaner Canadian energy are suspicious, said Jesse Firempong of Greenpeace Canada, citing studies that show the industry is fourth-most greenhouse gas intensive in the world and that average emissions per barrel increased between 1990 and 2017.

Canadian Natural says it cut its corporate GHG intensity per barrel by 20 per cent between 2014 and 2018.

The summit, held to examine how the energy sector is dealing with rising environmental opposition such as last Friday’s climate strike, was hosted by the Canadian Global Cities Council, a group of eight metro chambers of commerce and boards of trade from across Canada.

The Toronto Region Board of Trade supports oil and gas because of the economic benefits the country as a whole gains from having a healthy energy sector, said CEO Jan De Silva.

“Jobs solve a lot of challenges for everyone in our communities,” she said.

“These are not Alberta’s issues alone. How Canada can be a leader in natural resources and lead the world in clean tech matters greatly to Toronto and to the entire country.”

 


‘Job intensive:’ Study says clean energy fast track to employment growth

New research says job growth from clean energy will dramatically outpace that from fossil fuels over the next decade – as long as future Canadian governments maintain or increase attempts to fight climate change.

“The clean-energy sector is a good-news story that no one’s talking about,” said Merran Smith of Clean Energy Canada, a think tank based at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. “There is nothing to fear about moving forward on climate action.”

Earlier this year, the group released research that found Canada’s clean-energy sector – which encompasses renewable energy and energy conservation – had already produced 300,000 jobs by 2017.

Further study made public  projects job growth in the sector to significantly outperform most other parts of the economy.

Using recognized economic modelling tools, it suggests that direct jobs from clean energy will grow at a rate of 3.4% a year between 2020 and 2030. That’s nearly four times the Canadian average.

The same models suggest fossil fuel industries will slowly lose jobs over that time.

Smith said the data shows clean energy employment could reach nearly 560,000 by the end of the next decade. That’s 160,000 new jobs, more than enough to make up for the 50,000 jobs which fossil fuels are expected to shed.

The study also forecasts money flowing into clean energy will grow 2.9% a year. Fossil fuel investment is expected to shrink.

Fossil fuels will be bigger than clean energy for years to come. But what the research shows, Smith said, is that new jobs and growth will come from the latter.

“The fast lane is clean energy,” she said. “This is where we’re seeing job growth.”

Her conclusions are in broad agreement with others in the field.

“Deep decarbonization will be job intensive,” said Mark Jaccard, an energy economist at Simon Fraser University.

Fossil fuel alternatives require more labour, he said.

Kent Fellows of the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy agreed. He said studies in British Columbia, which has had a carbon tax for more than a decade, suggest climate measures didn’t cost jobs and may have added some.

“They show that either you’re pretty stable or maybe you’ve got a little bit of an increase in employment,” he said. “The fears of losing jobs everywhere are probably misguided.”

The British group Carbon Tracker has found that while solar and wind provide only three% of global energy, they account for one-quarter of all new generation. And few of the world’s cars are electric, but they make up 22% of sales growth.

Automation is removing jobs from the oilpatch. Between 2014 and 2016, Alberta’s production grew by nearly 10% but 39,000 fewer people were employed.

Smith points out the modelling assumes that Canadian climate measures either stay in place or are increased _ an assumption which the current federal election campaign has thrown in doubt.

“We’ve got three parties that are not only committing to keep these policies but build on them,” Smith said.

“We’ve got one party that has been clear: they are going to dismantle the policies which are going to create these jobs.”

Fossil fuel jobs will be around for a long time, she said, but job growth will come elsewhere.

“Canada’s not making the choice – the world is making that choice. Canada is in the game and needs to stay in the game by moving forward on climate action.”

 


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Husky Energy to sell Prince George, B.C., oil refinery to Tidewater

Husky Energy Inc. has agreed to sell its light oil refinery in Prince George, B.C., for $215 million in cash plus adjustments to Tidewater Midstream and Infrastructure Ltd.

Tidewater may also pay up to an additional $60 million over two years under certain contingencies.

The refinery uses crude oil and condensate from B.C. and Alberta to produce about 12,000 barrels per day of low-sulphur gasoline and diesel fuel.

The two Calgary-based companies say the refinery’s employees will be retained after the deal closes.

Tidewater says the Prince George region is generally in short supply of refined products.

Husky will buy 90% of the refinery’s diesel and gasoline capacity for five years, with prices subject to review, to supply its Husky retail gasoline stations and Husky retail partners.

The sale is part of Husky’s plan to focus on a series of physically linked assets in Western Canada as well as its offshore oil and gas production off Canada’s East Coast and in the Asia-Pacific region.

Husky said Friday that it continues to conduct a strategic review of its retail and commercial fuels businesses.


Federal judge grants B.C. injunction against Alberta’s turn off the taps law

A Federal Court judge has granted the British Columbia government a temporary injunction against an Alberta law that could have limited oil exports to other provinces.

In a decision released Sept. 24, Justice Sebastien Grammond said Alberta’s so-called turn-off-the-taps legislation raises a serious issue and could cause irreparable harm to the residents of B.C.

“British Columbia has met the criteria usually applied by the courts for the issuance of such an injunction,” he wrote in his decision.

“It has shown that the validity of the act raises a serious issue. It has demonstrated that an embargo of the nature evoked by the members of Alberta’s legislature when debating the act would cause irreparable harm to the residents of British Columbia.”

The B.C. government initially brought the action before Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench, which passed it to the Federal Court.

Alberta tried to strike the action by arguing that it wasn’t in the jurisdiction of the Federal Court, but the judge dismissed that motion.

Grammond said B.C. has met the test for blocking the law until the courts can decide its validity.

B.C. Attorney General David Eby said he’s pleased the injunction was granted and the case will be going to trial.

“We think it’s quite a straight forward case, but the ultimate decision will of course be up to the court,” he told reporters in Vancouver.

“On our reading of the Constitution, Alberta is not allowed to restrict the flow of refined product to other provinces in a way to punish them for political positions that are taken they don’t like,” said Eby. “That’s our understanding of the Constitution. Alberta has a different understanding and the court will be deciding about that.”

The turn-off-the-taps legislation gives Alberta the power to crimp energy exports from the province.

It was passed, but never used, by Alberta’s former NDP government as a way to put pressure on B.C. to drop its fight against the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion to the West Coast.

The new United Conservative government proclaimed it into force shortly after Premier Jason Kenney was sworn into office in April, but he had said it wouldn’t be used unless B.C. throws up further roadblocks to the pipeline.

B.C. had called the law a loaded gun and had asked the courts to make sure it didn’t accidentally go off.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said that the injunction has rendered the law useless.

“We told the premier not to proclaim this legislation because it would be like blowing up the missile while it’s still on the launchpad,” she said in a news release.

“And that’s exactly what has happened today. This injunction has rendered the legislation powerless. Any further threats from the premier to turn off the taps are empty.”

Grammond said in his decision that members on both sides of the Alberta legislature explained the law’s purpose in relation to the British Columbia government’s actions on the Trans Mountain expansion project.

“These statements make it abundantly clear that the purpose of the act is to inflict economic harm to British Columbia through an embargo on the exportation of petroleum products to that province,” he said.

The embargo, he said, would not only cause a considerable increase in the price of gas and diesel in the province, but any fuel shortages could also endanger public safety.

The Trans Mountain expansion, first approved in 2016, would triple the amount of oil flowing from the oilsands to B.C.’s Lower Mainland and from there to lucrative new markets across the Pacific.

The federal government bought the existing pipeline last year for $4.5 billion after its original builder, Texas-based Kinder Morgan, threatened to walk away from the project because of B.C.’s resistance.

The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval months later on the grounds that there hadn’t been enough consultation with First Nations or consideration of the pipeline’s potential impact on marine wildlife.

The project was approved for a second time by the federal cabinet this summer.


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B.C. gives $4 million in rebates for electric vehicle charge stations

The B.C. government is offering rebates for electric vehicle drivers who want to install charging stations at home or work.

Homeowners can get a $350 rebate to install a Level 2 charging station in a single-family home.

A $2,000 rebate is available for installation of a Level 2 charging station designed for multiple users in apartments or workplaces.

The government says in a statement that BC Hydro customers can apply for an additional $350 in a matching rebate to buy and install the equipment in single-family homes.

More than $4 million has been set aside for the new CleanBC rebate program.

Michelle Mungall, minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, says the rebates will make it easier to switch to electric vehicles.

To qualify for the rebates, the stations must be installed and final documents submitted by March 31.


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Alberta’s Beaver Hill Shell wins Canada’s Best Restroom

beaver-hill-4The votes are in and Alberta’s Beaver Hill Shell gas station is the 2019 Canada’s Best Restroom winner, earning it the top prize of $2,500 in Cintas products and services to keep its washrooms “Ready for the Workday.”

“We’re so grateful for the public’s support to help us earn the title of Canada’s Best Restroom,” Mo Kabalan, owner and operator, Beaver Hill Shell, said in a release. “We strive to offer travelers a nice space to relax before getting back on the road and we’re honoured to be recognized for the hard work and investment that we put into our washroom.”

The Beaver Hill restrooms go beyond clean and efficient, featuring luxurious details. “Granite countertops are subtly complimented with a herringbone pattern on the floor. Echoing the stall doors and the shelves mounted inside, the mirrors are framed in wood to create a modern yet rustic look. Meanwhile, simple details such as saloon-style doors by the gas-line toilet-paper dispensers make the washrooms stand out.”

The washrooms will also be honoured with a place in the Canada’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame. Now in its 10th year, the Cintas Canada’s Best Restroom contest shines a spotlight on businesses that go the extra mile.

The five 2019 finalists were selected based on cleanliness, visual appeal, innovation, functionality and unique design elements.

  • Beaver Hill Shell – Lac La Biche, Alberta
  • Cosmos Café – Quebec City
  • Laurence and Chico Café – Vancouver, B.C.
  • Cluny Bistro – Toronto
  • Bauhaus Restaurant – Vancouver, B.C.

The public voted online, with the contenders using social media and other marketing strategies to drive awareness and votes among new and loyal customers.

“The Beaver Hill Shell washrooms create a new rest-stop experience and raise the standard of gas station washrooms, so it’s not surprising that the public voted them number one,” said Candice Raynsford, marketing manager, Cintas Canada. “It’s not often a public washroom turns out to be a highlight from your road trip, but we’re sure travelers from near and far will stop to see these award-winning facilities for themselves.”