Not all heroes wear capes

CICC’s Frontline Heroes reinforce the link between convenience and community.
Anne Kothawala
President & CEO, CICC
Anna Kothawala

Close to two years into the pandemic and with the current Omicron variant, it’s too easy to forget about the sacrifices that our frontline workers are making every day. They have to deal with frustrated customers in addition to both supply and labour shortages. They are the ones who are putting extra-long hours in the store, warehouse or behind the wheel because so many of their colleagues are out sick. When we are finally through this life altering pandemic, we should never forget the sacrifices and hard work put in by the men and women in our industry.

CICC wants to ensure that the recognition of our Frontline Heroes is not forgotten, because their sacrifices help define how we are community. They are tangible proof that “Not all heroes wear capes.”

As the voice of Canada’s convenience industry, we’ve worked hard to educate governments at all levels that many of the nation’s unsung heroes definitely wear masks, work long shifts and serve communities behind protective plexiglass partitions.

It’s been our goal to reinforce that we are more than just retail outlets. We are integral parts of the community.

And governments are paying attention. They better understand the critical connection between their policies and the ability of local convenience stores to survive and thrive. Unlike other retail outlets, the convenience store gas station in rural communities throughout our vast country are often the only game in town. It is in our shared interest to ensure that they remain openfor the local emergency services, for the healthcare worker coming off a late shift and for tourism.

Following our awards ceremony in late November 2021 in Toronto, we reached out to politicians in ridings where our heroes worked. The response was incredible.  Federal Cabinet Ministers, including Natural Resources’ Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne, honoured our Frontline Heroes that live in their regions.  In Ontario, convenience industry champion and Associate Minister of Transportation, Stan Cho congratulated all our frontline heroes for resilience, while Nina Tangri, Minister of Small Business thanked our seven recipients for going above and beyond. Vic Fedeli, Minister of Job Creation made the 58-kilometre trek from North Bay to Mattawa on a Saturday to present a certificate of recognition to one of his constituents in December as well.

This is encouraging because each of these politicians recognizes both the sacrifices of our workers, but also the importance of convenience stores in their respective ridings remaining viable. And they understand that for this to happen they need to work with our industry to improve the business environment.

However, it requires a strong voice to continually reinforce with governments that they can’t take us for grantedboth our stores and our distributors who ensure the shelves are stocked. We shouldn’t have to wait until stores are forced to close for politicians to act. It is in this context that CICC will continue to fight and advocate for the industry and remind decision makers that we are critical to communities and their constituents.

I’m a firm believer in seeing is believing. In order to make sound policy decisions, politicians need to understand our industry and the needs of the businesses that employ their constituents.

That’s why National Convenience Week is crucial. When politicians visit a store in their riding and have a chat with the operator, it really is quite magical. When our frontline heroes explain the challenges of running their business it is very compelling. The same themes emerge every year: the costs of doing business are increasing due to high credit card fees amongst other costs, the unfair restrictions on the products that we can sell, such as beverage alcohol and vaping products. And of course, especially recently, contraband tobacco continues to be a problem for consumers, convenience stores and government. 

With all governments rightly focused on getting through the pandemic, it can be frustrating to see a lack of progress on some of these key issues. However, with the help of our very engaged board of directors and our incredible workers on the frontlines, CICC is successful in telling the industry’s story while reminding governments that it is in our collective interest for our stores to remain open.

We’ve learned numerous lessons during the pandemic, but none more important than not all heroes wear capes. You just have to look at your local store or meet your distribution warehouse worker or truck driver to truly see frontline heroes in action and how entrenched they are in the communities they serve.

That’s the story CICC will continue to tell, time and again.

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