News Briefs

  • 4/4/2022

    Quebec, P.E.I. extend mask mandates until late April to prevent spread of COVID-19

    Women shopping with mask and grocery bag

    Quebec and Prince Edward Island have extended their provincial mask mandates until later this month as they try to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

    The decisions Tuesday came several days after the Public Health Agency of Canada said a resurgence of COVID-19 is likely to be underway and encouraged Canadians to be vigilant to help curb spread of the latest variant.

    P.E.I.'s chief public health officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, said masks are more effective against the virus when there is a universal requirement to wear them.

    "Masks do matter,'' she said. "Masks will be one of the last measures lifted.''

    The plan is to require face coverings until at least April 28.

    In Quebec City, interim public health director Dr. Luck Boileau said he was extending a mask mandate until the end of April due to a rise of infections and hospitalizations across the province.

    Quebec officials said there were 1,479 people in hospital with COVID-19 after 219 patients were admitted in the previous 24 hours.

    There were 3,619 active cases of COVID-19 in P.E.I. and 30 people were in hospital with the infection.

    Morrison said cases are not growing as sharply as other jurisdictions.

    "The fact that we are not seeing exponential growth may be attributed to the gradual easing of public health measures and that masks remain mandatory in indoor public places, including schools,'' she said.

    P.E.I. is ending all gathering and capacity limits across the province as of midnight Tuesday.

    Other provinces have resisted calls to reimpose public health restrictions, including mask mandates, even as cases have risen in some parts of the country.

    The National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Ottawa said provinces and territories should prepare to start offering fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks.

    Quebec said Tuesday it would be expanding access to fourth doses, while Ontario said it would announce a plan Wednesday to start offering an additional booster to people 60 and older.

    Fourth doses in Ontario are already available to long-term care and retirement home residents, as well as to those who are immunocompromised.

    The Ontario government's plan comes as hospitalizations there have also been rising. The province reported 1,091 people in hospital with COVID-19, nearly 40 per cent higher than a week ago.

    Ontario ended mask mandates in most public spaces two weeks ago, with the exception of public transit and health-care settings.

  • 4/4/2022

    Workers at Metro distribution centre off job in second grocery strike in two months

    Metro Ontario inc. office in Etobicoke, Toronto, Canada. Metro Inc. is a Canadian food retailer operating in the provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

    Grocery warehouse workers in Canada appear to be holding out for better pay and benefits after the second strike at a distribution centre in as many months.

    More than 900 workers at Metro Inc.'s Toronto-area distribution centre went on strike Saturday, following the nearly 200 workers at a Sobeys Inc. distribution centre in Quebec that walked off the job in February.

    The job action comes as grocers post strong profits and executive bonuses while inflation eats away at the spending power of workers.

    Canada's unemployment rate has also dropped below pre-pandemic levels, potentially giving workers more confidence in the bargaining process.

    "The members have final say on the tentative agreement and have opted to turn down this offer,'' Chris MacDonald, Unifor assistant to the national president, said in a statement.

    Metro said the offer included a 6% wage increase in the first year, with total wage increases of 14% over four years.

    The grocer said the tentative agreement also included improvements to pensions and benefits.

    "We are disappointed with the employees' decision to strike but remain ready to go back to the table. We have implemented our contingency plan and our stores will remain open to serve our customers,'' Carmen Fortino, executive vice-president and division head for Metro in Ontario, said in a statement.

    Unifor's MacDonald said the union bargaining committee is ready to resume negotiations "in the hope of bringing this strike to a speedy end.''

    The Etobicoke distribution centre supplies Metro and Food Basics grocery stores across southern Ontario. Some customers reported shelves were less full than usual, especially in the produce section, at some Metro-owned stores in the Toronto area.

    Meanwhile, 190 workers at a Sobeys distribution centre in Terrebonne, Que., went on strike in February after negotiations between the company and the union broke down.

    Kim Bergeron, a lawyer representing UFCW Canada's Local 501, said the pay and benefits are key sticking points. In an email, she said workers are set to vote on a tentative agreement on Friday.

    In late January, the union representing workers at a Sobeys warehouse east of Toronto said it ratified a four-year contract with "massive wage increases.''

    Unifor said the agreement covering more than 500 workers at the Whitby distribution centre included a full-time pay increase of 19.5% over four years.

    The grocer, owned by Empire Co. Ltd., also agreed to signing bonuses, doubled its RRSP contribution and added a sixth week of vacation at 26 years of seniority, the union said.

    "Through collective bargaining, we were able to deliver a strong contract that includes a considerable pay boost for existing workers as well as future hires while also levelling the playing field for our part-time members,'' said Pat Twohey, Unifor Local 1090 bargaining chairman.

    -The Canadian Press

  • 4/3/2022

    Dollarama says its new $5 price tag will help offset inflation and stock new products

    Canada's largest dollar store is introducing a new $5 price tag as it looks to recoup higher costs and bring in new products.

    Dollarama Inc. said Wednesday the roll out of additional price points up to $5 will help the retail chain maintain and enhance its product assortment and value.

    "There will be a gradual ramp up starting mid-year and becoming more noticeable through the second half of the year,'' Neil Rossy, Dollarama president and CEO, said during a call with analysts. "This brings additional flexibility to manage cost pressures in a heightened inflationary environment.''

    But the store is "extremely sensitive to this not simply being a markup tool,'' he added.

    "It enables us to deepen our broad and compelling product assortment,'' Rossy said. "It allows us to bring in goods that we've never been able to buy because they weren't in our price range.''

    His comments came as the retailer raised its dividend and reported its fourth-quarter profit and sales rose compared with a year ago.

    Dollarama hiked its quarterly dividend by 10% to 5.53 cents per share, up from 5.03 cents per share.

    The company reported a profit of $220 million or 74 cents per diluted share for the quarter ended Jan. 30 compared with a profit of $173.9 million or 56 cents per diluted share a year earlier.

    Sales totalled $1.22 billion, up from $1.1 billion in the same quarter last year, helped by an increase in the number of stores and a 5.7 per cent uptick in comparable store sales.

    Looking forward, Dollarama said it expects to benefit from a more upbeat sales environment in the coming months compared with the same period last year when pandemic restrictions limited non-essential shopping.

    However, the company cautioned that supply chain and other inflationary pressures are expected to be felt more this year.

    "Our procurement and logistics teams have been working relentlessly to ensure that stores are well-stocked, especially from a seasonal perspective,'' Rossy said.

    The challenge isn't supply but rather getting goods into Dollarama's warehouses and on store shelves, he said.

    "The supply is really very stable,'' Rossy said. "It's more a question of logistics challenges between the supply and the store and that involves mostly overseas challenges and port challenges (and) a little bit of trucking challenges.''

    Still, Dollarama has an ample buffer built into its business model, which means even if seasonal products arrive at the company's warehouses later than usual they will still hit store shelves on time, he said.

    "We can cover these issues and mitigate those risks better than most,'' Rossy said.

    Meanwhile, Dollarama said it expects its new warehouse in Laval, Que., to open by the end of its current fiscal year, increasing its storage capacity and supporting its long-term target of 2,000 stores in Canada by 2031.

    Dollarama opened 24 net new stores in the quarter, for a total of 1,421 stores at the end of January.

  • 4/3/2022

    Experts say masks still a top tool as Quebec considers prolonging mandate

    mask on a green background

    MONTREAL - As Quebec ponders bucking the Canadian trend by prolonging its mask mandate, experts say face coverings are still an effective tool to limit COVID-19 transmission.

    Currently only Quebec, PEI and Nunavut still require masking in public places, with the latter two scheduled to end their mandates within the next week.

    Quebec's interim public health director told Radio-Canada on Sunday that as the province battles a sixth wave of COVID-19, he is "seriously considering'' recommending that masking remain mandatory beyond the planned mid-April end.

    Other provinces have resisted calls to prolong or reimpose public health restrictions, even as cases have risen in some parts of the country.

    Ontario Premier Doug Ford said today that his province, which has seen a one-week, 30% rise in hospitalizations, can manage what he described as a "little spike'' in COVID-19.

    McGill chemistry professor and aerosols expert Parisa Ariya says that while masking cannot fully stop a COVID-19 wave, it remains one of the best defences to cut transmission and protect the wearer and those around them.

    -The Canadian Press

  • 3/22/2022

    Payment Source named Most Empowering Payment Solutions Enterprise in 2022 Canadian Business Awards

    Payment Source was named Most Empowering Payment Solutions Enterprise in the 2022 Canadian Business Awards.

    “We’re thrilled that our mission to provide payments choice, convenience and speed for all Canadians continues to be recognized through industry distinctions,” said Robert Hyde, CEO at Payment Source. “As payment preferences have been accelerated towards digital, our team is dedicated to providing alternative payment solutions that enable more equal opportunity for Canadians to engage in the economy to meet their daily needs.”

    Commenting on the sixth annual Canadian Business Awards, awards coordinator, Steve Simpson, stated, “I am delighted to be a part of another successful run of the Canadian Business Awards program, and it has been a delight to liaise with all the winners of this year. I would like to congratulate them and wish them all the best for their future endeavours!”

  • 3/21/2022

    Retail sales rose 3.2% in January amid Omicron surge: Statistics Canada

    Large group of people gathered together in the shape of growing graph arrow

    Retail sales rose 3.2% to $58.9 billion in January, even with public health restrictions in several parts of the country to deal with the Omicron surge in COVID-19 cases at the start of the year, Statistics Canada said Friday.

    However, the agency said its early estimate for February suggested retail sales fell 0.5% for that month, though it cautioned the figure would be revised.

    BMO economist Shelly Kaushik said retail sales, which fell in December, posted an impressive rebound in January, despite the persistent restrictions and pandemic concerns.

    "Still, it looks like activity pulled back in February, likely with some diversion into services spending as restrictions loosened in that month," Kaushik wrote in a report.

    "Overall, consumer demand remains robust, even as another month of strong inflation eroded some purchasing power."

    Earlier this week, Statistics Canada said the annual inflation rate for February rose to 5.7% compared with a year-over-year rise in the consumer price index of 5.1% in January.

    Statistics Canada said Friday retail sales were up in nine of the 11 subsectors it tracks.

    The rise in January was led by an improvement at motor vehicle and parts dealers which gained 5.3% helped by a 5.5% increase at new car dealers and a 9.7% rise at used car dealers. Sales at gasoline stations were unchanged in January.

    Excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, retail sales rose 2.9%.

    Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers gained 8.9%, while sales at food and beverage stores rose 2.2%.

    Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw sales fall 3.5%.

    In volume terms, overall retail sales rose 2.9% in January.

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