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What governments conveniently forget

C-stores contribute to communities and collect taxes for governments, while criminals sell illegal products online. Why do we feel like the ones with a giant target on our backs?

Many people working for global companies in the convenience industry get tired of explaining why Canada is such a difficult country to operate in.

Overregulation, packaging and labelling restrictions, picking winners and losers. These all have a significant impact on the health of the convenience industry. Some global manufacturers don't even bother with the Canadian market: the juice just isn't worth the squeeze.

It is against this backdrop that CICC must defend the industry every day. 

Politicians lined up during the pandemic to thank our industry for all that we did to support communities. They happily join us for National Convenience Week and fill their social feeds with positive messages about the critical importance of the sector, especially how we support remote communities. 

Lottery sales raise much needed money for governments. The taxes we collect, at a cost to us due to interchange fees, are essential—$25 billion of essential. 

But many elected officials on their way back to Parliament or their provincial legislature, seem to suffer from collective amnesia.

So why then do we feel like we have a giant target on our backs? 

Is it the products we sell? Many are highly regulated and age restricted. But here's the irony: while many governments recognize our strong track record as responsible retailers, others, like British Columbia and the federal Liberal government, target us because we sell candy alongside age-restricted products. 

So, the logic is that since children can enter our stores, we shouldn't be permitted to sell some age-restricted products. Even if these products are behind the counter, politicians and media don’t like facts to get in the way of a good story. None of these decisions are based on facts or evidence, they are purely political theatre.

Meanwhile, with all the focus on the online space and concern about what young people are seeing on their phones and computers, governments are collectively turning a blind eye to the alarming growth of the online market for illicit products. 

We know we are preaching to the choir here, but do yourself a favour and Google cigarettes, nicotine pouches or vapes and see the shocking results for yourself. There are literally hundreds of illegal websites, where with click of a mouse, they will deliver right to your minor’s house. Rarely are these illicit products age-gated and many are linked to organized crime. Never mind nicotine products, any parent would be outraged to see some of the items in the cart that kids can order right on their phones: “ethical” cocaine, MDMA and LSD gummies. Here are just a few examples: 


As the CICC, it’s our job to stand up for our industry. To set the record straight. To remind governments that we are responsible retailers and challenge them when they conveniently forget it. 

Fortunately, some governments like Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia are listening. They recognize the integrity of our employees and are comfortable adding another age-restricted product like beverage alcohol to our store shelves. They believe that our track record speaks for itself.

For other governments, they pick winners and losers, create an unlevel playing field, and wrongly pin the blame for youth access to age-restricted products on us. The real problem is online access, but not nearly a convenient enough target.

It is a job that is never done. Reinforcing the role we play in communities, bringing convenience to our customers, both young and old. Defending our track record. As the adage goes: your best defence is a good offence.

Stay tuned on how the CICC will use offence to defend against governments’ selective memories about our importance to them and their constituents, our customers.

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