News Briefs

05/24/2022

Some Jif peanut butter products recalled over potential salmonella contamination

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jif peanut butter recall

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

05/17/2022

Average price for gasoline in Canada tops $2 a litre for first time

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Gasoline prices are showing no signs of letting up as the average price in Canada tops $2 a litre for the first time.

Natural Resources Canada says the average price across the country for regular gasoline hit $2.06 per litre on Monday for an all-time high.

The average was a nine-cent jump from the $1.97 per litre record set last week, and is up about 30 cents a litre since mid-April.

Prices averaged about $2.34 a litre in Vancouver on Monday, while in Toronto the average was almost $2.09 per litre. Edmonton, in contrast, averaged just under $1.69 per litre.

Gasoline prices have been elevated since late February when oil spiked to around US$100 a barrel after Russia invaded Ukraine, while the price jumped to over US$110 per barrel last week.

Prices have also been spiking more recently as the reopening of the economy, and the start of the busy travel season, have led to high demand for gasoline that refiners have limited capacity to meet.

-The Canadian Press

05/17/2022

Off with the mask: Quebec becomes last province to lift COVID 19 masking health order

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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

05/11/2022

Strike at Sobeys distribution centre in Quebec ends after workers ratify new deal

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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.

05/10/2022

Calgary convenience store charged with selling vapes to minors

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Gemini Convenience Store, in Calgary's Pineridge community, is facing dozens of charges related to selling vape products to minors. 

Global News reports the owner and manager of Gemini Convenience Store is charged with 42 counts of violating the Tobacco, Smoking and Vaping Reduction Act. Charges include selling vaping products to minors and failing to request ID from customers under 25.

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.

05/10/2022

'Making monsters of each other': Businesses fear impact of Quebec language law

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MONTREAL - As Quebec's contentious language law heads closer to adoption, the province's business community is growing increasingly anxious about what it could mean for their bottom line, with some companies considering leaving entirely.

Known as Bill 96, the legislation would impose tougher language requirements on small businesses and companies in federally regulated industries, such as banking and telecommunications, as well as governments and schools. The bill is expected to pass before the legislature breaks for the summer.

On top of strengthening 1977's Charter of the French Language - the province's signature language law usually known as Bill 101 - the legislation would apply to tens of thousands of previously exempt businesses.

If it passed, companies with 25 employees or more would be subject to "francization'' - government certification that use of French is generalized in the workplace - down from 50 currently. The bill also assigns new powers to the French-language watchdog and sets tighter language rules for professional orders.

The cost for a roughly 50-employee company would range between $9.5 million and $23.5 million, according to estimates from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Expenses range from fees for translation and legal services to administrative burdens, such as creating a workplace assessment to ensure French permeates all corners of the company.

An internal or public complaint could trigger an investigation from the provincial Office quebecois de la langue francaise. The watchdog can also demand on its own initiative that a business between 25 and 100 workers form a francization committee, another expense for smaller companies.

Other provisions beef up existing protections of the charter.

One clause bars employers from demanding proficiency in a language other than French unless they can show the job demands it and that all reasonable avenues were explored to steer clear of the requirement. Currently, requiring another language as condition of employment is allowed only if "the nature of the duties requires such knowledge,'' Bill 101 states.

The high thresholds risk driving head offices from Quebec and hampering the province's export economy, trade associations say.

"Companies in Quebec have to be able to have bilingual employees and be able to service outside buyers in English,'' Michel Leblanc, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal, said in a phone interview. "We want companies to be able to decide when they should hire bilingual people.''

On top of strengthening the prominence of French on signs and posters, the legislation also requires businesses to draw up employment contracts and other documents in French.

"That's not doable. We have companies in Quebec doing businesses with companies all over the world,'' Leblanc said, adding that French does need some special protections.

Amid a labour shortage in industries like fashion and foodservices, many stores increasingly look to students - including those from out of province or country - to staff counters and stock shelves, with the possibility that some will stay on and integrate post-graduation. Now that door will largely close, since many of those students do not speak fluent French, he said.

Outfits affected range from retail stores to small, international tech companies as well as big federal firms.

The language office estimates Quebec is home to about 20,000 businesses of between 25 and 49 workers.

Thousands more work for companies that fall under federal jurisdiction. Former Crown corporations such as Air Canada and Canadian National Railway Co. are already subject to the federal Official Languages Act, which requires them to provide services in English or French on request. But most federally regulated companies are not included in that 53-year-old legislation.

As of 2013, nearly 135,000 employees in Quebec worked at 1,760 federally regulated companies not subject to provincial or national language laws, according to a study by the federal Innovation, Science and Economic Development department. Now, all would be.

Even if those companies claim they are not beholden to the provincial legislation, a proposed federal law aims to ensure compliance.

Reintroduced in March after first being tabled last June, the Liberals' Bill 13 requires companies under federal jurisdiction that are not currently subject to the Charter of the French Language or the federal Official Languages Act to either submit to Quebec's rules on French in the workplace or to a parallel regime on track for passage in Ottawa.

Litigation is another potential drain on corporate time and accounts.

As it stands, incidents of non-compliance are worked out between the company and the watchdog, with negotiable compliance timelines. Bill 96 would change that process.

"Now any Quebec resident who feels that in an interaction with a business their rights under the Charter of the French Language have not been satisfied could make a claim for damages,'' said Alexandre Fallon, a partner at Osler law firm in Montreal.

"Even if an agreement is reached with the regulator, private litigation could still ensue.''

Customer service encounters, receipts, brochures, product packaging, menus and advertising could all form the basis for a case. "Businesses small and large are very worried,'' Fallon said.

"It upsets the environment of trust,'' added Sylvia Martin-Laforge, director general of the Quebec Community Groups Network.

Business groups ranging from the Quebec Retail Council to the Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters and the Council of Canadian Innovators are asking the government to soften its rules - particularly around francization - to offer supports to businesses that undergo it and to extend compliance deadlines.

But Giovanni Bisciglia, leader of the nascent Centrist Party of Quebec, which has applied to the province's chief electoral officer for authorization, questions whether Premier Francois Legault's government hears the concerns of anxious business owners.

"The anglophones are accusing the francophones, the francophones are accusing the anglophones. They're making monsters of each other and both claiming they're victims of each other,'' he said. "No one is communicating.''

-The Canadian Press