OTTAWA - Retail sales in Canada were virtually unchanged in March at $60.1 billion as sales at new car dealers fell, offsetting gains elsewhere as consumers showed a willingness to keep spending, Statistics Canada reported Thursday.
The result compared with the federal agency's initial estimate for the month that suggested sales rose 1.4%. The preliminary estimate for April suggests retail sales rose 0.8% for the month, but the agency cautioned the figure will be revised.
Statistics Canada said sales in March were up in 10 of the 11 subsectors it tracks, representing 75% of retail trade.
However, sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers fell 6.4% as new car dealers saw a drop of 5.9%.
"A lack of supply, as chip shortages hamper production, continues to weigh on vehicle sales,'' Benjamin Reitzes, managing director of Canadian rates and macro strategist with BMO Capital Markets, said in a client note. "That's been a theme for some time, but is expected to ease as we work through 2022.''
Sales at gasoline stations rose 7.4% in March.
"Unfortunately, a good chunk of that underlying strength was due to broadly higher prices,'' Reitzes said.
Meanwhile, core retail sales - which exclude gasoline stations and motor vehicle and parts dealers - increased 1.5% in March. In volume terms, retail sales fell 1% in March.
"It's clear that inflation is eroding purchasing power,'' Reitzes said.
Consumer enthusiasm could wane in the months ahead as higher interest rates ripple through the economy, he added.
-The Canadian Press
Some Jif peanut butter products recalled over potential salmonella contamination
The makers of Jif peanut butter are urging Canadians to check their recent purchases as they issue a recall for some products due to potential salmonella contamination.
The J.M. Smucker Co. issued a voluntary recall Saturday for a number of peanut butter products sold in Canada, including creamy, light and crunchy peanut butter products.
The company, which is issuing the recall in cooperation with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says jars with lot codes 1274425 through 2140425 should be disposed of immediately.
The Canadian recall follows an American outbreak of salmonella affecting 14 people in 12 states that has been linked to Jif peanut butter.
Salmonella symptoms include fever, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting and in rare cases can cause arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis and urinary tract symptoms.
Consumers who would like to report symptoms or who have questions are encouraged to contact Jif.
-The Canadian Press
Average price for gasoline in Canada tops $2 a litre for first time
MONTREAL - Quebec was the first province in Canada to impose a mask mandate after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and on Saturday, it became the last province to allow residents to go maskless in most indoor public places.
In force since July 2020, the masking rule expired at 12:01 a.m., allowing patrons of stores, bars, restaurants, gyms and shopping centres, along with students in elementary and high schools, to wear a mask only if they choose to.
Masking remains mandatory, however, on public transit and in health-care facilities. People who contract COVID-19 will have to wear a mask in public while they recover, and companies can set their own rules in the workplace.
Health Minister Christian Dube said Friday that some Quebecers will continue masking in public and their personal choice should be respected.
"Personally, I think that I will continue to wear (a mask) in certain situations when I feel that I'm more comfortable,'' Dube said. "I'll see how things evolve in the coming weeks, but I think it's just respectful to be able to allow people to wear it.''
Masking is recommended for vulnerable people, including the immunocompromised. An association representing people with immune disorders says at-risk residents are worried about having to navigate difficult terrain.
The Association des Patients Immunodeficients du Quebec says that while many people might feel society is getting back to normal, that's not the case for everyone.
Marc Griffin, a Montreal-based mental health-care worker who suffers from an autoimmune disorder, said he feels "left behind.''
"There's a large swath of us I'd say who are on pins and needles, trying to figure out how to live our lives in a maskless world.''
Griffin said he will spend the coming weeks figuring out how to safely travel to doctor's appointments. At a minimum, he said, the province should have kept mandatory masking for essential services like grocery stores and pharmacies.
"It's always a calculated risk and now it's more calculation, more talking to my doctors about what they recommend I should do,'' Griffin said.
Out of respect to those most vulnerable, the province's 1,900 pharmacies are asking customers to wear a mask when they approach the drug counters. Bertrand Bolduc, president of Quebec's order of pharmacists, said many customers suffer from a variety of ailments and are deemed at risk for COVID-19.
"We won't play police, but we'd like for people to wear a mask,'' Bolduc said in an interview. "Our staff will also continue to wear it.''
Toby Lyle, owner and co-founder of the Burgundy Lion Group, which operates several bars and restaurants in Montreal, said the masking rule change is "definitely a relief.'' He said his staff were finding it increasingly difficult to tell patrons to keep their masks on.
Lyle said staff will be permitted to continue wearing masks if they wish to do so, as will customers.
"If people decide to wear a mask, it's absolutely fine,'' Lyle said. "It's everyone's personal choice at that point.''
As for restaurants, an industry association representative said owners are happy to see another measure fall after two years of dealing with mandatory reservations, capacity rules and vaccine passports.
"We're just happy to not have to apply any guidelines; we don't have any restrictions to follow, so it will allow restaurant owners to just manage a restaurant and not manage everything else,'' said spokesman Martin Vezina.
Dr. Andre Veillette, an immunologist at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute, said he feels it would have been better to keep masks in place until COVID-19 indicators were lower.
"It would be great if we could maintain it a bit more until case numbers are much lower, but I think at the same time, the goodwill of the people is becoming sparse and people are fed up with it,'' Veillette said.
- The Canadian Press
Strike at Sobeys distribution centre in Quebec ends after workers ratify new deal
Workers at a Sobeys distribution centre in Quebec have ratified a new contract, ending a three-month strike over wages and benefits.
Empire Co. Ltd., the grocer's parent company, says workers voted in favour of a new three-year collective bargaining agreement Tuesday.
The company says it looks forward to welcoming back employees and resuming operations at its Terrebonne distribution centre, which supplies its Quebec network of stores.
About 190 workers went on strike Feb. 8.
Kim Bergeron, a lawyer representing UFCW Canada's Local 501, says 59% of workers voted in favour of the new deal.
Under the collective agreement, she says employees will receive a salary increase of up to 28% upon ratifying the new contract.
Bergeron says workers will receive an additional pay raise of up to 12% over the three-year contract, or to the maximum of the pay scale.
The new collective agreement also includes five additional days off: Three sick days, one float day and one extra holiday day, she says.
Sobeys also agreed to increase the starting salary at the distribution centre to $22, Bergeron says.
She says they return to work on Sunday.
Empire says the impact of the strike on earnings per share is estimated to be five cents per share - largely due to higher transportation costs - and will affect earnings in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022.
Workers at the Terrbonne warehouse had previously rejected a deal proposed by the company in April.
The resolution of the labour dispute "removes a temporary layer of complexity and costs from industry-wide supply chain disruptions,'' Irene Nattel, an analyst with RBC Dominion Securities Inc., said in a client note.
Calgary convenience store charged with selling vapes to minors
Members of the public complained to 311, prompting an investigation by business license inspectors and the Calgary Police Service,
“I would like to thank those that reached out to us via 311 and would encourage others to do the same, if they learn of a business selling smoking and vaping products to minors,” Michael Briegel, the city’s chief business license inspector, said in a statement. “It is important that we protect the health of young people – age requirements are in place for these products for a reason.”
If convicted, Maple Gifts and Confectionary Enterprise Ltd., Nupar Vasistha and Sudhakar Tandon could face fines of up to $10,000 for the first offence and $100,000 for subsequent ones, reports Global, adding the city said it will conduct a business license review of Gemini Convenience, given the seriousness of the charges.