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Fight between Beer Store, Ontario corner stores now a barroom brawl

These are stories Report on Business is following Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014.

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Bar fight
A tussle between the corner store and The Beer Store in Ontario has escalated into a barroom brawl.

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The issue of selling alcohol in convenience stores and service stations isn't new in the province, but the past two days have seen several shots traded.

Yesterday, The Beer Store, which is owned by three major foreign brewers, launched a website it says is aimed at providing people with "important facts on the consequences of selling beer, wine and hard liquor at corner stores and gas stations."

Along with a new report, The Beer Store says going that route would lead to higher prices, less selection, lower government tax revenues and more sales to those under age. It also cited its recycling system.

The Ontario Convenience Stores Association quickly rejected the report, countering with its own report suggesting there would not be a higher rate of sales to minors.

The Beer Store also slammed the corner stores in a separate statement, saying they'd "flip-flopped" and wouldn't offer cheaper beer.

Indeed, The Beer Store said British Columbia's private liquor store prices are 45 per cent to 51 per cent above those in Ontario, and Alberta prices are 30 per cent to 36 per cent higher.

Then today, The Beer Store again went after the head of the corner store association for telling a TV interviewer "for the second time in 24 hours" that consumers would indeed pay more at convenience outlets.

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Markets await budget
Canada's Conservative government is setting the stage to erase the federal deficit ahead of schedule with a budget that pushes off billions in defence spending, hikes taxes on cigarettes and keeps new spending low, The Globe and Mail's Bill Curry reports.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget, tabled today, forecasts a $2.9-billion deficit for the upcoming fiscal year, but that deficit only exists because Ottawa is setting aside $3-billion in case of unexpected emergencies. On top of that reserve, the budget signals Ottawa will move quickly to unload its remaining shares in General Motors, which would pad Ottawa's bottom line with billions more.

The figures suggest that by the time of the fall fiscal update, Ottawa will be in a position to beat their own projections and announce an early surplus before the 2015 budget, which is expected to include new spending and tax cuts ahead of the federal election.

The budget includes a range of modest measures that respond to various political controversies that have dogged the Tories' legislative agenda, including barring suspended senators from earning pension benefits, proposing preferential hiring for veterans and increasing the number of food inspectors.

It promises infrastructure spending, including $378-million for bridge repairs in Montreal and more than $450-million for a new span between Detroit and Windsor, as well as millions for post-secondary research and apprenticeship training.

Yellen signals slow tapering
Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen says the U.S. central bank is unfazed by tumult in international financial markets, at least for now, The Globe and Mail's Kevin Carmichael reports.

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"We have been watching closely the recent volatility in global financial markets," Ms. Yellen said in prepared testimony that the Fed released ahead of her appearance today at the House Financial Services Committee.

"Our sense is the that at this stage these developments do not pose a substantial risk to the U.S. outlook. We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation."

The remark signals the Fed will press on with its plan to slowly wind down its monthly purchases of financial assets, a policy known as quantitative easing, or QE. That decision, taken under former chairman Ben Bernanke in December, has at least partially contributed to the volatility, as international investors rethink where to deploy their money.

Barclays to cut jobs
Barclays PLC unveiled plans to slash up to 12,000 jobs this year, even as it took pains to explain why it boosted its bonus pool.

"At Barclays we believe in paying for performance and paying competitively," chief executive officer Anthony Jenkins said in a statement as he released the bank's results.

"Ensuring that we have the right people in the right roles serving our customers and clients effectively in a highly competitive global environment is vital to our ability to generate sustainable shareholder returns," he added.

"After careful consideration, we determined that an increase of £210-million over the prior year in the incentive pool was required in 2013 in order to build our franchise in the long-term interests of shareholders."

Kazakhstan devalues
I had a bit of trouble navigating the website of Kazakhstan's central bank today, but learned through other reports that it's devaluing its currency by up to 19 per cent.

And it cited the Federal Reserve's tapering program for the troubles in the currencies of emerging markets.

"There is currently a capital outflow from emerging markets to the developed ones, which has created pressure on emerging market currencies," the central bank said.

Its plan would put its currency, the tenge, at about 185 to the U.S. dollar.

Other emerging economies, notably Argentina, have also taken action.

Toronto the (insert word here)
The New Yorker has taken a look at the need for cities to have logos, with Toronto and its scandal-plagued mayor front and centre.

The article published last week, pegged on a Globe and Mail project that involved new concepts from several designers, of course took a shot at Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, his crack scandal and other shenanigans.

How can you not, right?

"There's a kind of cognitive dissonance to Ford's association with Toronto, long seen as a stylish, cosmopolitan city - sort of like seeing a Tiffany & Co. next to a saloon with boarded-up windows," said the publication, citing as the most famous logo New York's "I (heart) NY" design.

All of which got me imagining the possibilities of updated Toronto logos and mottos, including trying to draw a line at the border of Etobicoke, where the mayor was born before several municipalities merged with the city to become the current megacity:

Toronto: Etobicoke isn't really Toronto

Toronto: Stratford is 2 hours that way, so Justin Bieber isn't from here

Toronto: Our subway is so popular, it's standing room only

Toronto: Home to the world's tallest phallic symbol

Toronto: Explore our great city. You'll have to, to find a parking spot

Toronto: You can pee anywhere. The mayor does

Toronto: Where 401 isn't a retirement plan. But where you have enough time to plan your retirement when you're stuck in traffic on it

Toronto: Where bank bonuses aren't government-regulated

Toronto: No flyers! And soon, no mail either

Toronto: Where there's no housing bubble. Everything's fine. Nothing to see

Toronto: Home of the scenic, three-hour Don Valley Parkway tour

Toronto: Home of the Stanley Cup (almost half a century ago, but 2017 is ours)

SCI pleased with results
Don't take this the wrong way, but North America's leading undertaker is "excited."

Service Corp. International chief executive officer Tom Ryan was referring to the U.S. company's fourth-quarter results, with profit of $25.8-million (U.S.), or 12 cents a share, and a jump in revenue to $668.6-million from $629.4-million.

"We are excited to cap off 2013 with a solid performance in the fourth quarter that exceeded EPS and cash flow expectations," Mr. Ryan said in a statement.

"Despite a number of factors that have changed since we gave our preliminary outlook last quarter for fiscal 2014, we remain comfortable with our guidance for earnings and cash flow for the full year 2014," he added.

"We believe that the current momentum of our preneed cemetery sales program coupled with our strategic initiatives centered on leveraging our scale will help to offset the higher than expected level of divestitures required in the Stewart acquisition and increases in other ongoing non-cash costs related to the Stewart transaction."

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More


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