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Photos: Chantale Lecours

Crevier Group’s new wash site in Beloeil, Que. offers efficiency and quality

Not long after he was named VP of Crevier Group’s fuel division in early 2018, Jean-Claude Clément was tasked with choosing a vehicle car wash system for the company’s showcase service station off exit 112 on Highway 20 in Beloeil, Que., a 20-minute drive east of Montreal.

“To make such a decision you need to consider many things to make sure the system you choose is right for the business,” says Clément. “You need to look at the area and market profile, the type of traffic and the location.”

Crevier Group operates 220 service stations across Quebec and distributes petroleum products, notably Chevron, in seven Canadian provinces.

Photos: Chantale Lecours

Photos: Chantale Lecours

In the end, Clément opted for a touchless LaserWash 360 Plus from PDQ for the company’s new Beloeil site, a system he became familiar with during the 22 years he spent building and running Pétro-T’s network of 150 service stations across Quebec. 

“I’d bought several earlier generations of that model and they always worked well,” recalls Clément, who left Pétro-T in 2015.“It’s a reliable car wash that we thought offered the right mix of efficiency and quality for the Beloeil site.”  

Impressive development

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 12.58.28 PMIn operation since July 2019, the new car wash and four-island gas bar are part of an ambitious plan by local promoters to develop the entire 1-million-sq.-ft. site into a multi-functional commercial, entertainment and residential oasis within commuting distance of downtown Montreal.

 

Dubbed the Faubourg du Richelieu, the $125-million project by Groupe Lobato involves the construction by 2021 of commercial and office space, a 100-room hotel and convention centre, a water park, a sports facility (including an indoor soccer field), residential condos and the project’s pièce de résistance—a marina on the historic Richelieu River. Deals have also been inked with Tim Hortons and A&W. To date, only the Crevier service station, a 99-slip marina and several condos are built on the land, which is still mostly greenfield.

However, work is to begin soon on 400 parking spaces conveniently located adjacent to the wash site. The spots are expected to be in heavy demand starting in January 2021 when Montreal’s Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine Bridge-Tunnel, which runs over and beneath the St. Lawrence River in the city’s east end, will close for repairs for one year.  

 “Commuter traffic on Highway 20 will be backed-up right to our door,” says Clément.  “I’m sure many people will decide to simply park their cars here and take the bus. Having 400 cars here every day will be good for our gas and wash business.”

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 12.58.18 PMThe Crevier service station is one of four that the company operates within a few kilometres of one another on both sides of the river. Of those sites, the Beloeil location is the only one with a convenience store and a universal fast charge superstation for electric vehicles (EV). 

The fast charging station is one of 10 that Crevier operates at service centres across Quebec in conjunction with Electric Circuit, Canada’s first public charging network for electric vehicles, which offers 240-volt and 400-volt charging stations in the parking lots of partners in Quebec and Eastern Ontario. Crevier’s Beloeil station is the first with rapid charge facilities, which recharge most cars to 80% in only 20 minutes.

 “EV is getting big in Quebec,” says Clement. “That’s why we are working to install them at every station in our network whenever we renovate or build new.”

Site meshes with business plan

Screen Shot 2020-01-07 at 12.58.40 PMClement says that Crevier was “in no rush” to build a car wash in the first phase of the Beloeil site—plans originally included the gas pumps and EV charging station, plus a well-stocked convenience store.

But, his hiring and being tasked with finding the right car wash system for the site dovetailed with Crevier’s increasing interest in the retail side of its service station network. “We used to be more focused on the sale of petroleum products,” says Clément.  “But our model has changed over the past four or five years.”

With the addition of the Beloeil car wash, Crevier now operates five automatic washes, including four in Quebec and one in the Eastern Ontario border town of Hawkesbury.  

They are all different makes and models and include both touch and touchless equipment. “We’ve got a bit of everything,” says Clément.

“We went for simplicity, we didn’t add any extra features or gadgets like Lava Baths or Armor All,” he says of installing the LaserWash 360 Plus at Beloeil.  “We went for a standard format where people can choose between three kinds of wash—regular wash, wash with wax and super wash, where we put three-colour foam on vehicles, which puts on a nice show.”

 In the spirit of keeping it simple, there are no apps; instead customers can pay at the pump or inside. 

 Clément suggests it is too early to know if Quebec’s famously cold and snowy winters—coupled with the notoriously strong winds that whip across Beloeil and its low-lying, farm-rich St. Lawrence Plain region—will be a problem for the new wash.

“Bad weather shouldn’t be a challenge,” says Clément. “Car washes are built for winters. The entrances and exits are heated, as are the cement pads, which are heated when electronic sensors detect a risk of freezing. Those heat-active systems should help to avoid any ice buildup.”

He expects the same solid performance from the new wash in Beloeil as the earlier generation models he installed years ago for Petro-T.  

“These are solidly constructed systems that respond to our needs, which are providing an acceptable wash at the best price/quality ratio for both purchase and operation,” says Clément.  “I’d make the same choice again today.”
Originally published in the November/December issue of Octane. 


Quebec raising legal age for cannabis to 21, the strictest in the country

cannabis_packages_frQuebecers under the age of 21 won’t be able to buy or possess recreational cannabis as of Wednesday, ushering in the toughest age restrictions in the country since pot was legalized 14 months ago.

The Coalition Avenir Quebec government passed legislation in the fall that upped the legal age for accessing cannabis from 18, citing the impact of cannabis on young minds in deciding to act.

But policy experts suggest restricting legal access to the drug for the segment of the population most likely to use the drug will not have the intended effect.

Daniel Weinstock, director of the institute for health and social policy at McGill University, said it’s clear where the Quebec government is coming from, citing research that shows a risk factor for developing brains.

“The problem is the amount of cannabis that’s already present in the illegal market. We have to think long and hard about our ability to effectively enforce prohibition,” Weinstock said. “And if we can’t – and I strongly suspect we won’t be able to – … we risk finding ourselves in the worst of all possible situations.”

That situation would see 18 to 21 year olds _ armed with no information about the potency of what they’re consuming _ buying from illegal dealers and using contaminated, unregulated product.

A Universite de Montreal addictions researcher said perhaps a small minority of youth – those already deemed not at risk – might put off using cannabis because of the measure.

But Jean-Sebastien Fallu notes that when it was illegal, nearly half of Quebecers had tried cannabis once in their lifetime by 17.

“You have 50% who’d used once in their lifetime, despite the threat of criminalized prohibition,” Fallu said. “So I don’t think this (new rule) is going to have any significant impact on underage, minor or adolescent use.”

Weinstock said policy makers should understand a ban isn’t always the right choice, even if most parties agree the goal should be to moderate young people’s consumption.

“We really have to think about the second-best (option) – to give them access to a safe product,” he said.

The province’s junior health minister, Lionel Carmant, declined a request for an interview through his spokesperson. Carmant has said previously the stricter age rules were adopted with the idea of protecting the developing minds of young adults from cannabis.

But Fallu said he’s also concerned youth will be consuming illegal cannabis with no quality-control standards for levels of THC – the drug’s main psychoactive component.

The Quebec Cannabis Industry Association, which represents more than 25 of the province’s licensed growers, has raised concerns that the stricter rules go against the reasoning behind the federal government’s move toward legalization – improving public safety and getting rid of the black market.

While the federal law sets the minimum age at 18, it leaves it to the provinces and territories to establish their own rules. The legal age for consumption is 19 in every other province except Alberta, where it’s 18.

Given the legal age for drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco in Quebec remain at 18, the Quebec Bar Association has warned there could be constitutional challenges around the issue of age discrimination.

One constitutional lawyer called the law a “form of paternalism that is entirely unjustifiable in our society.”

“I think it’s absurd and I think it’s contrary to the charter, I think it’s discrimination as to age,” said Julius Grey. “It seems to me that it’s perfectly absurd to say that alcohol – which kills many more people than cannabis – is safe at 18, but cannabis is only at 21.”

Grey said it’s a strange situation whereby adulthood comes at 18, where one can be considered fully responsible for one’s acts, yet can’t access a legal product.

“Differential ages are not reasonable – you have to have an age of majority,” Grey said. “Once you become a full adult and you have the full responsibility for what you do, you should have free choice.”

Recreational marijuana use became legal across Canada on Oct. 17, 2018, but Quebec quickly adopted tougher provincial measures.

The province is one of two jurisdictions where home cultivation is forbidden, along with Manitoba. The province has announced it will appeal a provincial court decision that invalidated that provision after a judge ruled it infringed upon the jurisdiction of the federal government.

When Quebec passed its age restriction this year, it also banned public consumption of cannabis. It has also introduced the toughest restrictions for edibles, which are being phased into the market elsewhere in the country, by targeting anything that might appeal to children.

Weinstock said the approach may change, given legal cannabis remains relatively new.

“My hope is that as time goes by, the drug becomes normalized, we’ll be able to go to a series of evidence-based policies, rather than ones that are driven by fear and panic,” Weinstock said.

 


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New case of vaping related illness in Quebec brings national total to 8 

Quebec’s Health Department is confirming the province’s third case of severe lung illness related to vaping.

Department spokeswoman Noemie Vanheuverzwijn said November 15 the latest case was reported in Quebec’s Outaouais region, adding that Health Canada has been notified.

She says the person who fell ill consumed a legal nicotine vaping product, as did the two other Quebecers, both from Montreal, who developed severe lung illness related to vaping.

As of Nov. 12, federal health authorities reported an additional five probable cases of severe lung illness related to vaping in the country — two in New Brunswick and three in British Columbia.

A spokesman for Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann says the minister is following the situation closely and is considering tightening the rules around vaping products.

McCann’s office says authorities are working on a protocol for reporting cases of pulmonary disease related to vaping.


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A taste of home: Dépanneur Mokolo

Convenience operator finds niche with Quebec City’s African community 

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 11.58.32 AMQuebec City convenience store owner Madeleine Zari-Doka comes by retail selling honestly. But the grit, courage and determination that have enabled her to build a three-store chain in Quebec’s picture-perfect provincial capital are all hers.

“I’ve been through a lot,” says Zari-Doka, speaking from her original Dépanneur Mokolo location, a basement convenience store also features imported foods, cosmetics and sundry items for the city’s small but growing population of African and Latino residents and students.  “But I’ve worked hard and I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished.” 

Born and raised in a large family in Baboua, a small town on the Central African Republic’s border with Cameroon, Zari-Doka grew up helping run the clothing stores and inns owned and operated by her entrepreneurial father.

“He taught us how to sell,” recalls Zari-Doka, a natural entrepreneur who, at age 12, opened a hair-braiding business.  “Even at school he got us to sell small items to our classmates.”

Later, while travelling to several countries under the auspices of the Lutheran World Federation, Zari-Doka ran afoul of one of the many rebel groups in the unwieldy central African nation, a former French colony that is one of the poorest countries on Earth. After being imprisoned for a month, she fled in 2003, leaving three young children behind.  

She landed in Winnipeg, but continued to Quebec, where she worked at several jobs and completed a business course before securing a $15,000 loan in 2007 from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. She planned to operate a hair salon, but that didn’t work out and she turned her attention to convenience.

 “I decided to also get a permit to also sell the foods that Africans like but can’t get in supermarkets here,” says Zari-Doka, who adopted the moniker Mokolo because it means “big” in several indigenous African dialects and is the name of both a major city and a famous market in central Africa.

Dépanneur Mokolo opened in 2008 in the basement of a small building on a busy commercial street in Quebec City’s west end, close to the Laval University campus and the many African students who live and study there.  An Arabic grocery store later opened on the main floor above.

In addition to snacks and staples, Mokolo features wigs, hair extensions and cosmetics, as well as African-centric fresh and frozen foods ranging from dates, oils, sauces and potato-based cassava flour to plantain, fish, lamb and hard chicken (a pan-African culinary mainstay and the store’s top-selling food item).

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 11.59.03 AMAccording to Zari-Doka, who works alone in the store that is open daily from 10 a.m. (except Sundays when it opens at 1 p.m. so that she can attend morning church services), the business grew thanks to word of mouth and her ongoing sponsorship of community events.  

“It took a lot of time and patience,” says Zari-Doka, whose children joined her in Quebec City shortly after the store opened.  “I worked hard and concentrated on building people’s confidence. I’m here every day, rain, snow or shine.”   

A welcome discovery, she adds, is the popularity of the store’s food items among the local Latino population.  “They eat the same foods Africans do. A large percentage of my customers now are non-Africans.”

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 12.01.34 PMIn 2014, Zari-Doka bought the inventory of a shuttered c-store and opened a second Mokolo, just a stone’s throw from the Laval University campus.  This ground-floor location features many of the same products as the original store, plus many regular North American c-store items, and is operated by her 22-year-old son William.

Two years ago, Zari-Doka bought another store and converted it to a third Mokolo location, which is run by her 25-year-old daughter Lydia-Annette, who has two kids of her own.

“Things are going very well,” said Zari-Doka, who now returns to the Central African Republic for several weeks during the summer months to visit her family (she travels incognito out of fear of being kidnapped by cash-hungry rebels).  “I really enjoy being of service to people.”

Screen Shot 2019-09-24 at 11.58.54 AM

This article originally appeared in Sept/October issue of CSNC.  


Legault announces plan to electrify Quebec’s economy, reduce oil consumption

The Quebec government will reduce oil consumption in the province by 40% by 2030 through a vast program to shift transportation systems, buildings and businesses to hydroelectricity, Premier Francois Legault announced Sunday as his party held a general council meeting in Montreal.

Legault said his plan to “electrify Quebec” will require massive investments, which he said could be unlocked by reviewing the management of the government’s Green Fund and by increasing funding for infrastructure planning.

He said that from now on his government will only finance public transit projects that are electric and that are built mostly in Quebec, and will take steps to ensure that all new public buildings be powered by clean energy as of 2020.

“I want that in four years, it will be said that no government has realized as many public transit projects as the Coalition Avenir Quebec government,” Legault said in a speech to 1,300 party members.

Legault said he’s tasked his transport minister with seven different projects, including the expansion of an existing subway line and a light-rail system being built in Montreal, as well as tramway projects for Quebec City and Montreal’s South Shore.

The premier told reporters after the speech that he would look for a way to increase the involvement of local companies in these projects, pointing out that the United States requires 65 to 70% local content.

“We have to see what the laws allow,” he said.

Quebecers who live outside major urban centres and who do not have access to public transportation will benefit from further incentives to buy electric vehicles, he added.

The government estimates that a million electric vehicles could reduce oil consumption by 6%.

Legault said his government would also put incentives in place to encourage owners of residential and commercial properties, as well as those in the industrial and agriculture sectors, to switch from heating oil to hydroelectricity, and called for more innovation and new technologies to aid in the transition.

The premier, who has sought to position Quebec as the “green battery of North America,” also said he was confident he’d be able to reach deals to sell Quebec hydroelectricity to Ontario and New York City.

He said he would offer Ontario “a deal they can’t refuse: cheaper energy and clean energy.”

Last fall, Legault proposed a plan to sell Quebec hydroelectricity to Ontario so the province could avoid costly repairs to its nuclear power plants, but the proposal was rejected by Doug Ford’s government.

 


Quebec judge rules law that prevents vaping from being advertised to smokers violates “freedom of expression”

Quebec is within its rights to legislate on vaping, but a provision banning demonstrations of vaping products inside shops or specialized clinics goes too far, a Quebec judge has ruled.

In a judgment released Friday, the court also invalidated another section of the provincial law prohibiting the advertising of vaping products to smokers seeking to kick their habit.

A legal challenge was brought by an association representing Quebec vape shops and the Canadian Vaping Association.

They argued that parts of the Tobacco Control Act adopted by the Quebec government in 2015 violated their fundamental rights, notably freedom of expression.

Justice Daniel Dumais has suspended his ruling for six months to allow lawmakers to rewrite the problematic sections of the province’s tobacco law to make them valid.

The Quebec association had also argued the province had overstepped its legislative authority by including vaping products.

However, Dumais, who heard arguments in the province’s Superior Court over 10 days last December, ruled Quebec had a right to legislate on the issue.

“Overall, the law is constitutional,” Dumais wrote in a lengthy decision May 4. “Quebec has jurisdiction to legislate as it has done. The Quebec legislature has jurisdiction and could validly pass the contested laws.”

The wide-ranging law was designed in part to put the popular e-cigarette on the same footing as other tobacco products and anti-tobacco groups argued that e-cigarettes needed to be subjected to regulations to prevent youth from using it.

But the judge agreed to strike down two sections of the law that prohibited the demonstration of vaping products inside speciality shops and smoking cessation clinics.

The judge also struck down sections of the law that prevent vaping from being advertised to smokers who aim to stop smoking, ruling it violates freedom of expression.

The Canadian association had argued those sections of the law violated the right to integrity and personal security as well as freedom of expression. The judge also struck down sections of the law that prevent vaping from being advertised to smokers who aim to stop smoking, ruling it violates freedom of expression.

The judge wrote that while the provisions take into account the well being of non-smokers, it seemed to forget the rest of the population -including those smokers who are looking to quit.

“The problem with the current restrictions is that the public – particularly smokers – do not distinguish between smoking and vaping,” the judge wrote. “They must be permitted to know the difference. Rather than silence, it is sometimes necessary to educate and let people know that vaping exists first and foremost for smokers.”


Health advocates urge Quebec to appeal vaping ruling amid spike in youth vaping

Anti-smoking groups are urging the Quebec government to appeal a court ruling that invalidated certain sections of the province’s tobacco legislation dealing with vaping, as health officials across the country grapple with an apparent spike in youth adopting the habit.

The ruling handed down by Quebec Superior Court on Friday confirmed the province’s right to legislate on vaping, but struck down provisions banning demonstrations of vaping products inside shops or specialized clinics.

It also struck parts of the law prohibiting the advertising of vaping products to smokers seeking to kick their habit.

Flory Doucas of the Quebec Coalition for Tobacco Control said the judgment comes as Canada is dealing with a growing number of youth using vaping products since the federal government passed a law formally legalizing and regulating vaping, or e-cigarettes, in May 2018.

And, she notes, experience with the tobacco industry suggests advertising that targets smokers could also ensnare others.

“It is very worrisome to think that Quebec, one of the only jurisdictions in Canada that had a comprehensive, well-balanced framework for vaping products would now see its framework weakened when in fact other governments _ and the federal government _ is calling on provincial governments to help it tighten and restrict the marketing of these products to address the youth epidemic,” Doucas said in an interview Saturday.

The challenge to Quebec’s Tobacco Control Act, adopted in 2015, was brought by the Canadian Vaping Association and l’Association quebecoise des vapoteries, who argued the law infringed on its members’ freedom of expression.

Justice Daniel Dumais suspended his ruling for six months to allow lawmakers to rewrite the problematic sections of the province’s tobacco law to make them valid.

The Quebec government has not commented on the ruling.

Doucas said the province should appeal, noting the Quebec measures were anchored on prevention and precaution, and make even more sense than they did in 2015.

Although vaping products are less harmful than tobacco products, Doucas said caution is necessary, as is protecting youth against a highly addictive habit whose long-term effects are not known.

Health advocates suggest a rise in vaping among Canadian youth has coincided with heavy marketing and promotion since the federal government passed the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act in 2018.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in April it was alarmed by the trend and that a new generation of youth addicted to nicotine could lead to a resurgence in smoking and other health problems.

Also last month, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor launched consultations on potential new regulatory measures aimed at reducing the uptick of youth vaping. This consultation, which runs until May 25, is considering measures that include restricting online sales and certain flavours, and restricting the concentration or delivery of nicotine in vaping products.

Doucas said what’s happening elsewhere makes maintaining the Quebec measures even more important.

“Everything is pointing to things getting far more restricted based on this huge surge in youth vaping,” she said.

The Canadian Cancer Society said it is also concerned about youth vaping and called for an appeal.

“The result of this ruling is you could have the potential of having e-cigarette advertising anywhere, at any time,” said Rob Cunningham, senior policy analyst with the society. “That simply would be wrong in terms of protecting youth.”


© Louis Jalbert 2017

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