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Why small businesses say they need Ottawa's help to get some relief on credit card fees –



The way Giancarlo Trimarchi tracks the numbers, you might think he was a sports fanatic scrutinizing the stats of his favourite teams.

He closely monitors the fees his family’s grocery store, Vince’s Supermarket in Sharon, Ont., pays to accept credit card transactions, almost as if they were batting averages or league standings.

He’s very concerned about the trend he sees.

As the pandemic drives online shopping, Trimarchi and many other business owners say the federal government needs to help convince credit card companies to provide some relief on the fees charged to merchants.

“There’s got to be a fairness factor,” he said. “There’s got to be a price … that can be justified and worked collectively on so everybody wins.”

It adds up

A key business cost from credit card transactions is what’s known as interchange rates. These are essentially handling fees that are set by the credit card company, paid by the payment processing company to its bank, but ultimately covered by the merchant who made the sale.

In 2018, the federal government struck deals with Visa and MasterCard to lower their average interchange rates charged to merchants on credit card transactions from 1.5 to 1.4 per cent.

Yet, despite those deals, Trimarchi says his company is paying more than ever during the pandemic — typically “well over” two per cent for online and phone orders.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but an extra 15 or 20 basis points on something that we can’t control is frustrating, because we have to find a way to mitigate that extra cost,” he said.

Consumers pay, too

While consumers don’t pay those interchange fees directly, the costs are typically embedded in the prices businesses charge. Trimarchi said he doesn’t want to raise his prices, but he also needs to maintain the slim profit margins that are typical in the grocery business.

Now, several small business associations are also sounding the alarm. Many independent operators have seen online sales skyrocket during the pandemic, and they insist the rates they pay for e-commerce transactions are higher than those for in-store purchases. They’re calling on the federal government to take urgent action.

Gary Sands, senior vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, has written to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland about the issue. He makes the point that the 2018 agreements that saw credit card companies lower the average interchange rate came before so much purchasing was driven online by the pandemic, and further reductions are needed.

“In the spirit of being in this together, Canadians would hope that the banks and card companies would have stepped up and voluntarily reduced their fees,” he wrote. “But that did not happen, and calls to do so have been met with a deafening silence.”

Every time a consumer pays with a credit card, the merchant pays a fee based on what’s known as the interchange rate, which is set by the credit card company. (CBC News)

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), said his organization is also lobbying the government “aggressively” with regard to online transaction fees.

There are several factors that help explain the seeming disconnect between the credit card companies’ deals with the federal government to lower the average interchange rate and the extra credit card costs many merchants say they’ve been incurring during the pandemic.

For starters, the new 1.4 per cent interchange rate target is an average. Different credit cards and different kinds of transactions for different goods and services carry different interchange fees. So, a merchant’s cost on a transaction depends in large part on what card a customer uses.

Critics take aim at Visa and MasterCard, but the fees merchants pay for credit card transactions are actually divided by a number of different financial services firms. The bank that issued the card gets a share, as does the payment processing company.

The ability of a business to negotiate lower merchant service fees and other costs associated with credit card transactions often depends on their size and sales numbers, which is why groups representing small- and medium-sized businesses want the federal government to get involved.

Credit card companies respond

In a statement to CBC News, Visa said its e-commerce rates for merchants “have never been lower,” and that it has fulfilled its commitment to charge an average rate of 1.4 per cent for both in-store and online transactions.

Mastercard’s statement to CBC News said the company remains committed to its “voluntary agreement with the Government of Canada” to reach the 1.4 per cent rate target.

Isaiah Archer of Whistle Buoy Brewing Company in Victoria, says almost every sale his company makes is done via credit card these days, and the fees are higher than they should be. (Isaiah Archer)


Even so, in Victoria, B.C., Isaiah Archer of Whistle Buoy Brewery Company says he and his four partners are also seeing higher charges than that for plastic payments. It adds up; a full 99 per cent of their sales are from credit card transactions these days.

Archer, 30, estimates Whistle Buoy pays between 2.5 and 3 per cent to process Visa and MasterCard payments, depending on the type of card a customer uses.

“It’s costing us more to make less, is the simplest way to put it,” said Archer.

Lobbying effort

Like most merchants, Archer is happy to make a sale of any kind these days. When the pandemic hit, Whistle Buoy had to move quickly into online sales and delivery. It’s been a blow for the new business, which launched in June 2019, less than a year before COVID-19 arrived in Canada.

“I think those credit card companies, at the end of the day, I’m sure they’re probably doing better than they ever have because a lot of consumers are going online,” he said.

Although the letter from the grocers’ federation complained that the fees for online transactions were excluded from Visa and Mastercard’s agreements with the federal government when they were negotiated in 2018, Kelly of the CFIB says that’s impossible to know. The undertakings are considered confidential, and not available for public scrutiny.

“There’s a separate agreement with Visa, a separate agreement with MasterCard, and for competitive reasons, they’re not shared,” he said. 

Fees lower in other countries 

Visa said it derives no revenue from the interchange rate, as the fee is paid by the payment processing company to the bank, and is ultimately passed on to the merchant. Credit card companies make money from annual card fees and interest payments from cardholders who don’t pay off their balance every month.

A Visa spokesperson pointed to other charges for merchants accepting digital payments, such as terminal rental and processing fees.

Dan Kelly, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says the organization is lobbying the federal government to help get credit card fees lowered for merchants. (CBC News)

Kelly said it’s important to remember the 1.4 per cent interchange rate target is an average that applies to both small and big businesses, highlighting another factor that makes survival more challenging for many independent businesses: large corporations are able to reduce their overall fees more easily than small operators.

“Big companies, of course, can bring hundreds of millions of dollars of business to these payments processors, and can threaten to take it away,” he said. “So they have a much better chance of negotiating rates.”

During a dispute in 2016, for example, Walmart threatened to stop accepting Visa chain-wide, saying it was paying $100 million a year for Visa’s services. The issue took six months to resolve.

Giancarlo Trimarchi said he believes financial institutions have too much power in Canada. He points to Australia, where the interchange rate is below one per cent, or the EU, where it can be as low as 0.3 per cent.

“It’s such a small group of merchant service processors that dominate the landscape of payment acceptance, that we really have very little power, without the government helping us.”

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Dairy farmers advised to stop adding palm oil to feed as butter controversy heats up –



After news coverage of butter becoming harder to melt, possibly due to palm oil additives in cattle feed, the Dairy Farmers of Canada association is recommending that producers stop the practice for the time being.

Gordon MacBeath, a member of the national group’s board and chairman of the Dairy Farmers of P.E.I., said the group is responding to recent concerns about the hardening of some types of Canadian butter.

“It’s just a precautionary [measure] to ensure that consumers maintain confidence in dairy products across Canada,” MacBeath said in an interview with CBC Prince Edward Island’s Island Morning.

Dairy Farmers of Canada also announced on Feb. 19 that it is putting together a working group to study the issue of “fat supplementation in the dairy sector.”

The group will include producers, processors, the Consumers Association of Canada, veterinary nutritionists and animal scientists.

WATCH | Butter won’t melt? Some have theories about why that is:

Canada’s dairy producers are under fire after foodies claimed butter has become harder and put the blame on palm oil. Dairy farmers say adding palm products to cattle feed has become common, but critics say it violates a ‘moral contract’ about the purity of Canadian butter. 1:52

“We want to err on the side of caution and we’re advising producers to just simply drop it as an ingredient in the ration until the working group has an opportunity to do their work,” said MacBeath.

The Quebec Milk Producers Association is also looking at the use of palm fat in feed, and says it will follow the recommendations of the national group.

Palm fat an approved supplement

Palm fat is not a new addition to dairy cattle diets, MacBeath noted. It has been used for about a decade. The supplement is also being used in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The fat is an energy supplement, MacBeath explained.

“I would compare it to yours and my diet. We need a balance of energy and protein, and the cow is no different. She needs a balance of energy and protein,” he said.

The properties of the butter on your table might change for many reasons from year to year, says Gordon MacBeath, chairman of Dairy Farmers of P.E.I. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

“Palm supplements are just another energy source for the cow.”

A cow requires about 35 kilograms of feed a day. If palm fat is part of that diet, within that 35 kilograms the cow would typically get 200 to 250 grams of the fat.

In the decade during which palm fat has been used as a supplement for dairy cattle feed, MacBeath said no health issues for the cow or changes to the milk have been detected. He said dairy farmers are in regular consultation with veterinary nutritionists to ensure their cows are getting a healthy diet.

Palm fat is approved as a supplement by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

At least one researcher is questioning whether this is even a problem that needs to be addressed.

Alejandro Marangoni, a food science professor at University of Guelph, said while components of palm oil found in milk fat can affect the melting point of butter, there’s no data to support “sensationalist” claims of a great hardening.

Many possible reasons for change in butter 

There are a lot of things that can change from season to season and year to year that can make a difference to the milk products on your table, said MacBeath.

“Milk is such a natural product. From the time it leaves the cow, it’s processed very little and it ends up in the consumer [market] with very little change,” he said.

Cows need variety in their diet, just like people do. (Benjamin Lecorps/UBC Animal Welfare Program via the Canadian Press)

If there is a change in the butter, he said it’s not unreasonable to assume it’s because of something the cows ate. But MacBeath said the list of potential causes is long.

“To give an example, this year was very dry, so the texture of the forage and the grass the cow is eating is different than it was the previous year,” he said.

“The previous year we had Hurricane Dorian and that changed the quality of the corn.”

Dairy Farmers of Canada notes that dairy cattle feed varies not only from season to season and year to year, but also from place to place, because the type of feed available varies depending on what local farmers are growing.

“While farmers grow the majority of the crops they feed their cows, a number of common feeds like flax, canola, corn, and other plants have been used for decades in a targeted way to ensure cows are meeting their energy requirements,” says a statement posted on the group’s site

“All milk sold in Canada is nutritious and safe to consume and is subject to Canada’s rigorous health and safety standards.”

More from CBC P.E.I.

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Is a single COVID-19 vaccine dose enough for those previously infected? – Global News



As coronavirus vaccines continue to roll out to vulnerable populations across Canada, health officials are looking at data about the effectiveness of a single dose in preventing COVID-19 illness.

A new letter by two Canadian experts published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) last week stated that with a 92.6 per cent efficacy, the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine was “highly protective.”

Read more:
Delaying second dose of coronavirus vaccines is ‘risky gamble,’ experts say

During a news conference on Feb. 18, Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that according to early data, the indicators are that there is a “good level of protection” after just one dose.

Click to play video 'How COVID-19 vaccination plans are evolving in Quebec, Ontario'

How COVID-19 vaccination plans are evolving in Quebec, Ontario

How COVID-19 vaccination plans are evolving in Quebec, Ontario

France’s health authority, H.A.S., has gone one step further in recommending that everyone who has been previously infected with COVID-19 receive a single shot, instead of the two-dose regimen prescribed by vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna.

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The recommendation made on Feb. 12 says the single booster shot should be given three to six months after COVID-19 infection.

The reasoning, according to H.A.S., is that people who have had a confirmed infection should be considered protected for at least three months by post-infection immunity, whether the disease was symptomatic or not.

“It is an interesting approach to take,” said Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

“And you would expect that natural immunity will give you .. a more broad response (than the first dose) because it is the original virus that is causing it.”

Click to play video 'Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 80-90% effective after 1st dose'

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 80-90% effective after 1st dose

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine 80-90% effective after 1st dose

A spokesperson for H.A.S. told Global News that the French health minister has yet to make a decision on the recommendation. For now, France is giving two shots for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine.

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Amid shortages in vaccine supplies and a rush to control the pandemic, some experts say this strategy is worth considering as it could potentially save precious doses.

Read more:
Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine is safe, prevents COVID-19, U.S. FDA says

Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of infectious diseases at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said a single dose of vaccine in someone previously infected is “reasonable while we continue to have a short supply of vaccine globally.”

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

Two small studies in the United States by Mount Sinai and the University of Maryland showed a single dose in people who had COVID-19 provided at least the same amount of protection as two shots in people who haven’t been infected. The data has not yet been peer-reviewed.

You could treat getting COVID-19 as like getting your first dose of vaccine,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton.

A single dose could serve as a booster to get the “prime long-term response,” he told Global News.

“You could definitely save on vaccine supply with these mRNA vaccines by only giving those individuals a single dose moving forward.”

Some Canadian provinces have decided to delay giving the second dose, which some experts have called a “risky approach” and “a gamble.”

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Last week, New Brunswick health officials said the province will delay the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those who are considered to be at a lower risk.

In mid-January, Quebec announced that it was pushing the time between the two doses to a maximum of three months in an attempt to vaccinate more seniors faster with a first injection.

Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna propose intervals of 21 and 28 days, respectively.

Click to play video 'Why is Health Canada taking so long to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine?'

Why is Health Canada taking so long to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine?

Why is Health Canada taking so long to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine?

In its recommendation for the previously infected, France’s H.A.S. says people who have proven immunosuppression, which makes them more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 illness, should be given the two doses.

It also says people who catch the virus in the days after a first dose is given should not receive a second shot within the usual timeframe, but within three to six months after infection.

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Read more:
Booster shots, new clinical trials — What the COVID-19 variants could mean for vaccines

According to the data from the clinical trials, Pfizer’s vaccine, which is 95 per cent effective, can offer partial protection as early as 12 days after the first dose.

Kao said the immediate protection after the first dose and second dose is quite similar.

However, it still remains to be seen what the long-term immune response will be after the first dose.

We really don’t know how long that protection is going to last,“ said Kao.

The second dose is really there to give you that long-lasting immunity.”

Click to play video 'Quebec public health experts support delaying second COVID-19 dose'

Quebec public health experts support delaying second COVID-19 dose

Quebec public health experts support delaying second COVID-19 dose

Data analysis by Canadian experts published in the NEJM found a 68.5 per cent vaccine efficacy beginning seven days after Pfizer’s first dose and a 92.6 percent efficacy two weeks after a single shot.

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Based on the evidence so far, Chagla says it is premature to roll out the single-dose strategy on a wide scale and that more research was needed on that front.

“If you could prove that works, you really do save a significant amount of vaccine … and you really can change your vaccine strategy almost overnight if you can implement something like that.”

— With files from Global News’ Linda Boyle

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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TD Bank Group reports Q1 profit up from year ago, tops expectations – Yahoo Canada Finance




Ophthalmology Drugs Global Market Report 2021: COVID 19 Impact and Recovery to 2030

Major companies in the ophthalmology drugs market include Novartis AG; F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd; Allergan Plc; Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc and Bayer AG. The global ophthalmology drugs market is expected to grow from $22.New York, Feb. 25, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — announces the release of the report “Ophthalmology Drugs Global Market Report 2021: COVID 19 Impact and Recovery to 2030” – 03 billion in 2020 to $24.42 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.8%. The growth is mainly due to the companies rearranging their operations and recovering from the COVID-19 impact, which had earlier led to restrictive containment measures involving social distancing, remote working, and the closure of commercial activities that resulted in operational challenges. The market is expected to reach $32.64 billion in 2025 at a CAGR of 8%.The ophthalmology drugs market consists of sales of ophthalmology drugs and related services by entities (organizations, sole traders and partnerships) that produce ophthalmology drugs to treat eye related diseases.The ophthalmology drugs industry includes establishments that produce pharmaceutical drugs to treat glaucoma diseases, anti- inflammatory and tear stimulating drugs under dry eye medications drugs, and other drugs for treating retinal disorders and allergies.Some of the major ophthalmic drugs include Eylea, Lucentis, Restasis, Vigamox, Azopt, and Lotemax. The ophthalmology drugs market is segmented into antiglaucoma drugs; dry eye medication; and other ophthalmological drugs (retinal disorders, anti-infectives/allergy).North America was the largest region in the global ophthalmology drugs market, accounting for 41% of the market in 2020.Asia Pacific was the second largest region accounting for 28% of the global ophthalmology drugs market.Africa was the smallest region in the global ophthalmology drugs market.Drug manufacturers are increasingly developing ophthalmic drugs with anti-inflammatory agents to ease patient treatment for dry eye syndrome.Anti-inflammatory drugs are widely used for the treatment of the inflammation produced by the dry eye syndrome, with the topical corticosteroid drops being the most common therapy.Corticosteroids can rapidly and effectively relieve the symptoms and signs of moderate or severe dry eye.However, prolonged usage of corticosteroids has seen to produce side effects that include risk of bacterial or fungal infection, elevated intraocular pressure and cataract formation.As a consequence, NSAIDs are increasingly being used as dry eye treatment instead of steroids to minimize the side effects. For instance, Aciex Therapeutics, a US-based pharmaceutical company, is developing NSAIDs which decrease ocular discomfort.Regulatory changes are likely to lead to increased costs relating to new product development and service offerings to clients.These changes are related to data protection such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), changes to drug approval procedures and other regulatory changes.For instance, according to a report by Ernst and Young in 2018, Fortune 500 companies are spending $7.8 billion to comply with GDPR regulations. The GDPR regulation is a EU law on data protection and privacy of individuals residing the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA). It also regulates data anonymization thus maintaining integrity of data dealing with patients and other clinical trial studies. The potential loss of revenue due to delays in product release and additional costs incurred due to stringent approval processes puts strain to investments relating to new product development, thereby affecting the growth of the ophthalmology drugs market.The expected rise in eye laser surgeries will contribute to the ophthalmology drugs market.Ophthalmology research has proved a link between laser eye surgeries and the prevalence of dry eye disorders.In an eye laser procedure, cutting of some nerves in the cornea leads to reduction in corneal sensitivity, in response to which, eyes may not sense the need for lubrication, causing the body to produce fewer tears.Dry eye is a common side effect after laser vision correction surgeries.It is estimated that almost half of the patients that undergo a laser surgery experience some degree of dry eye condition following the procedure.It is expected that the number of eye laser procedures will rise from 596,000 a year in 2015 to 720,000 a year in 2020.A rising number of people going for laser eye surgeries is expected to increase the demand for dry eye medications in the forecast period driving the ophthalmology drugs market.Read the full report: ReportlinkerReportLinker is an award-winning market research solution. Reportlinker finds and organizes the latest industry data so you get all the market research you need – instantly, in one place.__________________________ CONTACT: Clare: US: (339)-368-6001 Intl: +1 339-368-6001

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