Go west, young man! That infamous 1880’s quip from American Horace Greeley can still inspire hope, optimism and opportunity.
The vastness of the Prairies to the magnificence of the Rockies; ‘the west’ is a mindset, a way of life or at the very least an attitude. But it is getting harder for everyone, everywhere, including us in the west. Whether it is home ownership, inflation or crime in your neighbourhood, it’s always someone else’s problem to fix.
But that’s not how we deal with problems in the west, right?
I was appointed vice-president for Western Canada for the Convenience Industry Council of Canada (CICC) in December of last year. I have a long history in advocacy, government relations and as a communications director in provincial and federal politics. As a result, I know the inner workings of government, understand how decisions are made and am well equipped to tell CICC’s story to decision makers.
In my short tenure at CICC, there is one thing I know for sure – change is inevitable, and it gives way to future opportunity.
CICC is navigating the challenge of change as our industry is emerging from weathering many storms as a result of the pandemic. Now, we are truly one national voice, representing the entire convenience supply chain from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
While Canada is a very vast country, it is our job, as that voice, to align our members on the issues that impact their businesses.
Since I joined CICC, I’ve learned that Canadians, regardless of what province they live in, are unique. But we are unique in very similar ways.
In Western Canada, a lot has transpired since I have come on board. A new Premier and cabinet were sworn in in British Columbia, budget consultations were held in Alberta and Manitoba. Cabinet shuffles in Manitoba, a shaky start for Alberta’s new Premier and budgets tabled in BC, Alberta and Manitoba.
CICC has been there for every twist and turn. I can say with pride that there were no increases in taxes, notably tobacco, in any jurisdiction, thus far. We have been unanimous and unrelenting on three fronts: liquor pilot projects, contraband tobacco and community safety. The health of the entire convenience supply chain relies on strong advocacy, both generally in terms of the role we play in communities, but more specifically on the issue noted above.
There are a lot of political factors at play right now. Particularly in Alberta and Manitoba who are both heading to the polls this year. In Manitoba, the governing PC party is trailing in the polls and we expect the NDP to form government this fall. The PCs have recently introduced a new bill to allow new liquor licenses for retail owners. We are cautiously optimistic, but we have seen the Opposition play politics with a similar bill in the past (stay tuned). Alberta’s election is around the corner and it is shaping up to be a tight race between the governing UCP and the NDP.
Contraband: it’s hurting everyone and benefiting few. Not enough is know about this very sophisticated, secretive and illegal trafficking network. But we do know that it is decimating local retail operators who play by the rules. We need everyone’s attention and resources to get the results we need. We are here to push for changes, but we need to offer governments specific solutions.
After a few short months, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of the convenience industry to our economy and our communities. My work as the voice of Canada’s convenience industry in Western Canada has just begun.
I will be here as our industry continues to evolve and navigate the change that will undoubtedly shape the industry of the future. But I can’t do it alone. I need your help.
So don’t hesitate to Go West. I’m here to serve all CICC members so together we can make a difference.