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The Bay to close Queen Street location Tuesday after being open Monday despite lockdown – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News



The Bay says it will close its flagship location on Queen Street Tuesday after leaving it open Monday, despite a provincial lockdown in effect in Toronto and Peel Region.

The Queen Street location remained fully open Monday despite orders for non-essential retailers to close their stores to in-person shopping in Toronto and Peel Region.

Toronto and Peel Region officially entered a 28-day lockdown on Monday, forcing restaurants, gyms, and non-essential stores to close to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Retailers can still offer curbside pickup and delivery and restaurants are also permitted to stay open for takeout and delivery.

Department stores across the GTA have been shuttered as part of the lockdown but a spokesperson for The Bay told Newstalk 1010 that the company’s Queen Street location downtown is allowed to stay open to customers because groceries and other “essential items” are sold inside.

“The health and well-being of customers and associates remain our top priority as we continue to provide the essential products and services Canadians need,” the spokesperson said.

“At this time, while the majority of our stores in Toronto and Peel are only offering curbside pickup, the Hudson’s Bay Queen Street location, which offers grocery among other essential items, remains open with strict protocols in place as outlined by the government.”

The company said there are enhanced cleaning protocols in place at all stores and associates must undergo full health screenings when reporting for work.

“We remain committed to ensuring a healthy environment for all,” the statement concluded.

In a further statement issued to CP24 late Monday, The Bay said it decided to leave the Queen Street location open because there is a grocery store in the basement of the eight-floor location.

“On Sunday evening, the order issued by the province changed the guidelines regulating the operation of retail stores. We reviewed closely to ensure compliance and, as such, closed all our stores in Toronto and Peel but one, which contained a grocery store,” the statement read. “We understood this to be in line with the province’s direction, however we have now made the decision to close our Queen Street store tomorrow. All Hudson’s Bay stores in Toronto and Peel will offer shoppers curbside pickup.”

Health minister’s office says store should not be open

Asked about the situation at a news conference on Monday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford said he would “have to look into it.”

Ford reiterated a call for shoppers to support small businesses during the lockdown.

“I’m doing everything we can to protect and support the small businesses out there,” Ford said.

Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, said any large stores that are open would have to offer essential goods that you would find in a grocery store, pharmacy, or hardware store.

In a statement to CP24, a spokesperson for Health Minister Christine Elliott offered further clarification late Monday, noting that The Bay should not be allowing customers inside.

“The inclusion of discount and big box retailers selling groceries is intended to include retail with a full grocery store component. This would include WalMart and Costco for example, but not The Bay or IKEA,” the statement read.

“We encourage all organizations to refer to the provincial regulations to clarify impacts to their business.”

Speaking to CP24, one shopper said that when he asked staff inside The Bay about where he could find the grocery department, they told him groceries could be found in the basement at Pusateri’s.

When he told them Pusateri’s wasn’t open, he said they informed him that it would be open shortly.

“They said, ‘Oh, but we are getting them to open right away. They are restocking shelves right now. They will probably be open tomorrow,'” the shopper told CP24. 

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Couche-Tard to pursue other deals after Carrefour failure – BNN



Executives at Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. defended a failed bid for Carrefour SA and said they would still like to buy the French grocer some day, but will turn their focus to other potential deals.

The Canadian convenience store operator made a US$20 billion offer that was shot down by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Friday. The bid caught investors off guard because Couche-Tard does not operate supermarkets.

The shares tumbled nearly 11 per cent last week. On Monday, they were up 2.4 per cent to $38.90 as of 9:36 a.m. in Toronto.

In response to criticism of the deal, Couche-Tard executive chairman Alain Bouchard said previous large deals — including the 2003 acquisition of Circle K — also surprised the market, but they worked out.

“Over the last decades while growing our business we have made many bold moves, some of which were not always obvious to our stakeholders,” Bouchard said on a conference call with investors Monday.

“Was I hoping our bold approach to Carrefour would have turned out differently? Of course. Yet I’m tremendously proud that Couche-Tard had the financial strength and acumen to make such an offer.”

The companies announced the end of negotiations on Saturday, four days after Bloomberg first reported the talks, and said they’ll work instead on a looser alliance in areas including fuel purchasing and product distribution.

Couche-Tard executives gave few details on that alliance Monday, calling the talks exploratory. Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch said there is a “robust” set of other acquisitions to examine as it pursues a five-year goal of doubling profit by 2023.

Hannasch said the door is open to a future Carrefour merger if the political climate in France changes.

“I’m old enough to believe there’s no such thing as permanently,” he said. “We’d love to do the transaction, so if we got signals that the environment could change or would change from the French government or the key stakeholders, we’d love the opportunity to re-engage — under the right conditions and assuming we haven’t found another way to create more value for our shareholders.”

The Laval, Quebec-based company has been making headway on its growth plans even without a major acquisition in recent years. Analysts expect adjusted earnings per share to be 16 per cent higher for the fiscal year that ends in April, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Even so, its valuation has dipped.

The chain has been improving its coffee and adding fresh food offerings, which come with higher margins. It’s digging into analytics to improve pricing and promotions, and planning to roll out electric vehicle charging stations in North America after learning from its experience in Norway.

Couche-Tard strengthened its foothold in Asia by buying about 370 stores in Hong Kong and Macau that previously were Circle K brand licensees. But a large takeover has remained elusive since it signed a US$4 billion purchase of Texas-based CST Brands Inc. in 2016.

In April, the company walked away from a US$5.6 billion proposal for gas station chain Caltex Australia Ltd. (now known as Ampol Ltd.), citing pandemic uncertainty. And it missed out on Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s Speedway gas stations, which were scooped up in August by Japan’s Seven & i Holdings Co., the world’s largest convenience store operator, for US$21 billion.

Balance Sheet

Couche-Tard executives have scoffed at the valuation of Speedway. Addressing shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in September, Bouchard cited it as an example of the company’s discipline around acquisitions.

The balance sheet leaves it in a good place to hunt for deals. The company had about US$5.5 billion in net debt at the end of its October quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It’s earned US$3.5 billion in operating profit in the last four quarters.

Chief Financial Officer Claude Tessier told analysts in November that the current debt ratio is at half of Couche-Tard’s comfort level.

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Hacked emails allegedly detail how EU drug regulator was pressured to approve Pfizer jab despite ‘problems’ with the vaccine – RT



An alleged cache of email exchanges between EU officials and the European Medicines Agency show that the drug regulator was uncomfortable about fast-tracking approval for the Pfizer and Moderna Covid jabs, Le Monde has reported.

The EMA has claimed that the contents of the messages, which were obtained by hackers and published on the dark web, were tampered with in order to undermine confidence in the drugs, without providing further details. However, the agency acknowledged to the French newspaper that the correspondences reflect “issues and discussions” that took place in the lead-up to the decision to grant approval to the vaccines. The agency said it can’t specify which documents are genuine. 

Some of the “discussions” appear to have been less than congenial. For example, in a document dated November 19, a senior EMA official described a “rather tense, sometimes even a little unpleasant” conference call with the European Commission regarding the review process for the drugs. The official said he felt there was a clear “expectation” that the vaccines would be approved. A day later, the same individual had an exchange with the Danish Medicines Agency in which he expressed surprise that Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, had announced that the Moderna and Pfizer jabs could receive the green light before the end of the year. 

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Woman who suffered convulsions after taking Pfizer Covid jab being screened for permanent neurological damage, son tells RT

“There are still problems with both,” the unnamed EMA official noted in the leaked correspondence. 

According to Le Monde, the hacked documents primarily detail issues that the EMA had with the Pfizer/BioNTech drug. The regulator apparently had three “major issues” with the vaccine: certain manufacturing sites used for its production had not yet been inspected, data on batches produced for commercial use were still missing, and, most importantly, available data revealed qualitative differences between the commercial batches and those used during clinical trials. 

The EMA expressed particular concern about the last point, noting that mass production had decreased the purity of the RNA contained in the vaccine. The Pfizer jab uses a mRNA strand, a sequence of molecules that tell cells what to ‘build’ in order to produce a disease-specific antigen.   

The EU drug regulator signaled that it was worried that less rigorous manufacturing methods would make the vaccine less effective and safe. However, Pfizer appears to have agreed to make necessary adjustments in order to meet the EMA’s standards. 

Despite its hesitancy, it appears the EMA understood that it was under a clear deadline. In an email exchange between colleagues at the agency, one employee said the EMA needs to “accelerate the process to align [with other agencies],” and risks facing “questions and criticisms” from Brussels, the media and the general public if it did not fast-track approval. 

The Pfizer jab was granted approval by the EU on December 21, while the Moderna variant was given the go-ahead earlier this month. Since then, numerous reports have emerged of both drugs being linked to adverse effects in countries around the world, prompting investigations by health authorities. 

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COVID-19: Ontario case total dips below 2,500; Big-box blitz finds compliance wanting – Ottawa Citizen



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Ontario reported 2,578 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the lowest this daily total has been since Jan. 1.

The seven-day average for new cases in Ontario is now 3,035, and has declined every day in the last week from the record-high average of 3,555 reported Jan. 11.

There are 1,571 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Ontario (an increase of one from the previous day), including 394 people in ICU (down one), with 303 on ventilators.

Twenty-four additional COVID-19 deaths were reported by the province.

Monday’s new case total includes 92 in Ottawa, according to Public Health Ontario. The confirmed case total rose by 36 in Eastern Ontario, four in Hastings Prince Edward, two in Renfrew County and District and one in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark. There was no change to the pandemic case total in Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington.

In terms of active cases, Peel Region is currently the hardest-hit Ontario health unit with 416 cases per 100,000 people. It’s followed by Windsor-Essex (399), Niagara Region (328), Toronto (319) and Middlesex-London (234).

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