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B.C. restaurants: 'Shame on Dr. Henry' for NYE alcohol sales ban – BC News – Castanet.net

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B.C.’s restaurant sector has a simple, direct response to the Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry’s decision – announced only one day ahead of time – to ban alcohol sales from 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve to 9 a.m. the next day.

“We are profoundly disappointed because she has left a trail of disaster by making this decision,” said Ian Tostenson, president/CEO of the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association. “The decision was arbitrary, and the timing of it is terrible because it’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – if not millions. And it was unnecessary.

“Shame on Dr. Henry this time,” he concluded.

The ban was announced in a hastily called news conference on Wednesday afternoon – a day where provincial officials previously said they would have issued a press release for its daily COVID-19 update rather than holding a press briefing.

Instead, Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the ban at the event roughly 29 hours before it was to come into effect. The ban’s purpose, Henry said, is to decrease the late-night consumption of alcohol that leads to “risky behaviour” such as table-hopping and social gatherings outside of individual households – which, Henry said, has been proven to aid the spread of COVID-19.

Tostenson said that the announcement caught the entire industry by surprise because there was “zero consultation” from the province that this ban was under consideration.

“We all knew it’s going to be New Year’s Eve tomorrow; it’s not new,” he said. “We could have thought about this ahead of time. Industry could have worked with Dr. Henry to develop a plan… This didn’t need to happen.”

At the press conference, Henry said in response to a question about the last-minute nature of this decision that the NYE alcohol sales ban was actually under consideration “for some time” and that she felt it was something that needed to be done given what she has seen and heard about people’s New Year’s celebration plans.

She added the 8 p.m. time was actually decided upon with restaurants in mind.

“I know that many restaurants are planning two sittings, and the second sitting usually happens at around 7 to 7:30 p.m.,” Henry said. “So this does give people the opportunity to order wine with their meals… We tried to time it so that restaurants can have two sittings and provide food service, so we hope it’s not going to impact those restaurants who are doing a great job of keeping people safe.”

That explanation, however, does not fly with Tostenson or B.C.’s restaurant owners.
“In a lot of restaurants, 7:30 p.m. is the first sitting,” Tostenson said, adding that most restaurants have second sittings around 8 p.m. or later – past the newly imposed deadline.

One easy solution, he countered, would have been to set the deadline one hour later at 9 p.m. to cover the vast majority of restaurants’ second sittings – something that restaurant owners would have told Henry and the province if given the chance.

“We have a restaurant downtown that has reservations for 500 people – mostly couples – spread out over two sittings for NYE,” Tostenson said. “The second sitting starts at 8 p.m., and now they are calling guests to get everyone to come in an hour earlier. That won’t work with a lot of guests, so we can see as many as 50% cancelling. If you consider an average of $100 per table – and that’s a pretty light NYE bill – you have just cancelled about $25,000 in sales at just one restaurant.

“If we kept alcohol sales open until 9 p.m., that same restaurant would have been able to retain roughly 80% of their business on that night. That’s how simple it was with just a one-hour difference; but Dr. Henry doesn’t know that because she doesn’t run restaurants. Had we collaborated with Dr. Henry, we would have been able to explain it to her.”

Henry, for her part, said the 8 p.m. time is set in stone.

“Food is perfectly fine, but last call needs to be at 8 o’clock,” she said. “… What we are concerned about is the people who want to stay out later and consume alcohol – which leads to behaviours that would put restaurants and other patrons at risk.”

Tostenson remains miffed, however, that no one from Henry’s office or the province gave the industry any direct contact – even on Wednesday, the day of the announcement. With Henry noting she is already eyeing potential issues with upcoming gathering dates like St. Patrick’s Day, Tostenson said what happened this time cannot happen again.

“Unless you want the entire industry to go insolvent, you can’t have 24-hour decisions going forward,” he said. “If we had a chance to consult with the province weeks ahead of time, Dr. Henry may have still said it has to be an 8 p.m. deadline. In that case, we can at least tell people that – for reasons that we understand – the industry will comply. And that still gives us two or three weeks to plan.

“Now, things are in chaos. We fully support the health objectives, and we’ve always supported Dr. Henry. But this could have all been avoided by simple consultation with an industry that’s determined to do the right thing.”

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COVID-19 changed how we work. Will it stick? – CBC.ca

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How we work was heating up to be an important debate long before the pandemic added rocket fuel to remote working capacity. Now, millions of people have spent the past 10 months in a pandemic-imposed trial. They have set up a corner of their home as an all-in-one office, school and living area.

Some love it. Pat Suwalski does not.

Suwalski is part of a historic shift in the job market. At the peak of the pandemic lockdowns in April, more than 40 per cent of those still working at least half their usual hours were working from home, according to Statistics Canada.

That number declined to around 26 per cent in September 2020 before “increasingly slightly in the fall,” the agency said.

“In three industries — professional, scientific and technical services; finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing; and public administration — working from home has remained at elevated levels,” it said.

In areas such as education, which was affected by school shutdowns and the shift to remote learning early in the pandemic, only about a third of people were working from home by December compared to close to half in April.

City centres, like this one in Ottawa, are practically empty as many employees continue to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Brian Morris/CBC)

The question among experts, economists and business owners is how many of them will return to their workplaces when the crisis is over.

“I’m pretty enthusiastic to get back to the office whenever it’s possible to do so,” said Suwalski, a developer for a small software firm called Vectorface in Ottawa.

Suwalski usually shares an office with 15 co-workers. Now, he shares a room with his son Jacob who’s on a Zoom call with his kindergarten class. Meanwhile, his three-year-old daughter is at daycare.

Suwalski misses in-person meetings. He misses impromptu hangouts in the hallways. He even misses his commute.

“I’m in a car by myself,” he said. “I can either listen to the radio or focus on my thoughts.”

Suwalski thinks others will also want to return to their offices.

“I think, at best, we’re going to go back to a partial in-office presence and then work from home as well,” he said.

Software developer Pat Siwulski and his son Jacob share a work space in their home in Nepean, about 16 kilometres southwest of Ottawa. (Submitted by Pat Suwalski)

Demand for flexibility

It’s not just employees pondering a return to the office.

Margaret Szots, a talent development manager with the City of Toronto, is also trying to figure out what the future will look like.

She was working on a way to give employees more flexibility before COVID-19 hit. 

“We know what many of the issues are because we’re living them,” she said.

The benefits are clear — people don’t have to commute, they’re saving money and they’re saving time, she said.

However, the long-term impact remains mired in uncertainty, she said. 

“We were already on a trajectory to this new way of working,” she said. “[The pandemic] pushed us that much more quickly … We’re not going back to the way we were.”

San Diego-based Kate Lister, president of the Global Workplace Analytics consulting firm, predicted the pandemic would be “the tipping point for remote work.” 

Early in the pandemic, she estimated, “25 to 30 per cent of the workforce would work from home multiple days a week when the threat was over.”

“It felt like a bold assertion. Now, nearly nine months into the world’s largest work-from-home experiment, if anything, I’m feeling my estimate might be low,” she writes in a January 2021 report on remote work.

Margaret Szots, a talent development manager with the City of Toronto, works from her home. She’s wondering what the future will hold for workplaces. (Submitted by Margaret Szots)

For employers, remote work has offered benefits such as reduced eal estate costs, less absenteeism, lower employee turnover and increased productivity, the report found.

Looking ahead

Companies big and small are looking at their workforces now and trying to figure out how things will look in six months or a year.

Facebook said as many as half of its employees will work remotely for the foreseeable future.

In a virtual town hall meeting with employees in May, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that doesn’t mean employees have permission to decamp to their hometowns or a beach somewhere.

“Your salary will be adjusted if you change location,” he said, noting that’s a long-standing policy. 

But people who want to work remotely won’t be the challenge, he said. 

“It’s going to be that there are more people who want to get back into the office than we can support,” he said.

Avery Shenfeld, CIBC’s chief economist in Toronto, agreed.

People have had ample opportunity to work from home for years, and Zoom has been around since 2013, he said.

“I keep hearing all these people [saying]: ‘We’re all going to work from home forever,'” he said. “No [we won’t] because it’s not effective.”

When the pandemic hit, office towers such as these in Vancouver emptied out. Filling them up again will be more complicated. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

At least it’s not effective for everyone.

But that’s not to say there will be a flood of people rushing back to their offices next spring or summer.

Even once restrictions loosen, it’s not like giant office towers can just open the doors and let everyone back in.

“I don’t think there will be a single moment when this COVID period is done,” Zuckerberg said back in the spring, and the pandemic has only worsened since then.

Some health and safety restrictions will remain in place even as other broader restrictions are lifted.

Getting everyone to stay home was relatively simple. Finding a way to get them back to the office will be a much more complicated affair.

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Vaccine manufacturers concerned about provinces delaying second doses: Anand – CTV News

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OTTAWA —
While Canada’s top immunization experts have signed off on provinces delaying the administration of the second Pfizer and Moderna doses in an effort to begin vaccinating more people with a small supply, Procurement Minister Anita Anand says she’s heard concerns from the manufacturers that may impact future deliveries.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period airing on Sunday, Anand said that some drug companies have brought up concerns with Canada or other countries not following the recommended usage protocols set out by the vaccine manufactures, as they are based on data from their clinical trials.

“That has not directly impacted our deliveries to date, but it has been a concern that vaccine corporations have raised with us in our discussions,” Anand said. While she would not say whether a company has outright said it would withhold future doses, she said the issue has come up in negotiations.

“It is still a recommendation from the manufacturers that we are hearing at the table” to follow their protocols, she said.

This week, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) approved delaying administering second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for up to 42 days. The decision was made in the face of rising cases and strained hospitals.

The two vaccines that have been approved in Canada so far – made by PfizerBioNTech and Moderna — require two separate doses in order to achieve 94-95 per cent immunity for the patient.

These doses are spaced apart. Pfizer’s second dose is intended to be delivered 21 days after the first, while Moderna’s has a 28-day wait in between the doses.

The report from NACI stated that while the ideal is to follow the vaccine manufacturers’ recommendations, people can wait longer — 42 days or so for the second dose — in order to allow double the number of Canadians to get some partial protection by receiving their first shot faster.

However, contrary to NACI’s recommendations, Quebec public health officials have announced they plan to prolong second doses in that province for up to 90 days between the first and second dose, and Ontario indicated on Friday that given the upcoming temporary Pfizer shortage that province may also extend the timeframe between doses. 

SOME TRIAL PARTICIPANTS HAD DOSE DELAYS

In a separate interview on CTV’s Question Period, NACI chair Dr. Caroline chair Dr. Caroline Quach-Thanh said that while Pfizer and Moderna have recommended shorter windows between vaccinations, in phase three trials for both vaccines, candidates received their second dose up to 42 days after the first.

“So the actual vaccine efficacy that are reported in those trials are covering a span from 21 to 42 days. It’s impossible to say if people who got their second dose at 42 days are protected better, less, or worse than the ones that got it before,” she said.

She’s suggesting Quebec conduct surveillance to ensure the vaccine remains effective if the second shot is given so late after the first.

“If we had enough doses to vaccinate all the high-risk groups right away with it two doses, we would stick to label. But at one point in time if you have to choose between vaccinating only a small proportion of your population, and let the variant spread very quickly, there’s no health gains here,” she said.

With files from CTV News’ Alexandra Mae Jones, CTV Montreal and CTV Toronto.  

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Couche-Tard and Carrefour Abandon Takeover Talks – Bloomberg

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Shopping carts outside a Carrefour SA hypermarket in Avignon, France.

Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. and Carrefour SA broke off talks on a proposed $20 billion deal in the face of strong opposition from France’s finance minister to the tie-up, according to people familiar with the matter.

The decision to halt negotiations came after top executives of the Quebec-based convenience-store operator flew to Paris to offer the government several sweeteners: billions of euros of investment in Carrefour stores, no job cuts for at least two years and dual stock listings in France and Canada.

It was not enough to persuade Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who told executives in a private meeting Friday he was standing by his position that a takeover would be bad for France. Earlier, Le Maire said on BFM TV: “To sum up: it’s a no. A courteous no, but a no that is clear and definitive.”

Couche-Tard executives are flying back to Canada after the failed talks, the people said. While discussions are on ice for now, they could be revived later if the government changes its position, they said.

#lazy-img-367315417:beforepadding-top:66.7%;Carrefour SA Hypermarket as Couche-Tard Said to Plan $3.6 Billion Investment

A customer collects a shopping cart outside a Carrefour SA hypermarket in Avignon, France, on Friday.

Photographer: Jeremy Suyker/Bloomberg

A merger would have created a retail powerhouse, combining Couche-Tard’s North America-focused network of 14,200 convenience stores with Carrefour’s sizable European operations, which include hypermarkets and smaller outlets. Carrefour has more than 7,000 convenience stores and gets almost all of its revenue from Europe and Latin America.

Couche-Tard, Canada’s largest retailer by market value, faced hurdles from the outset for its offer of 20 euros per share. Le Maire signaled that even if both parties agreed to the transaction, regulators might still block it. Carrefour shares fell 2.9% to 16.61 euros in Paris on Friday. Couche-Tard rose 4.8% to C$37.98 in Toronto.

Representatives from Carrefour and Couche-Tard didn’t respond to requests for comment. The decision to stop negotiations was reported first by Reuters.

Political Implications

For French President Emmanuel Macron, the political stakes are high with local elections later this year and presidential ones in 2022. The campaign is already on, with his handling of the pandemic making him open to criticism. The loss of a well-known French company to a foreign takeover could fuel nationalist Marine Le Pen, his primary rival for leadership.

France has often objected to foreign attempts to take over its blue-chip companies — frowning on talk of an approach from PepsiCo Inc. to yogurt maker Danone SA in 2005, for example.

The bid for Carrefour was especially sensitive because it is France’s largest private employer. On top of that, the pandemic has thrust jobs and the nation’s food supply to the top of the political agenda. “If this deal continues, food sovereignty comes before everything,” Le Maire said earlier this week, citing a decree he introduced in 2019 on state screening of foreign investments.

France isn’t the only country caught in a wave of protectionism that’s been heightened by companies’ suffering due to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.K. late last year drew up plans to give the government sweeping powers to intervene in foreign takeovers of assets deemed a threat to national security.

Some Couche-Tard analysts had questioned the deal’s strategic rationale and said it wouldn’t create significant cost savings as there’s little overlap between the two companies’ store networks. Both retailers’ bonds had slipped on concerns that the deal would swell the combined company’s debt burden.

The brutal ending marks the second time in nine months that Couche-Tard has come close to a major takeover, only to see it fizzle out.

In April, the company cited the pandemic as a reason for walking away from a $5.6 billion proposal for gas station chain Caltex Australia Ltd. (now known as Ampol Ltd.), ending a six-month pursuit. Its largest acquisition to date is Texas-based CST Brands Inc., a rival chain it agreed to buy in 2016 for about $4 billion.

— With assistance by Flavia Krause-Jackson

(Updates with share price movements and additional information on Carrefour operations and French political context)

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