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Agriculture

Scheer removes Bernier as innovation critic over posting book chapter online

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  • OTTAWA — Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer has removed Quebec MP Maxime Bernier from his role as the party’s innovation critic.

    A senior Conservative source tells The Canadian Press Scheer made the decision after finding out Monday that Bernier had posted to his personal website a chapter on supply management that is part of his forthcoming book.

    “He made a commitment to the leader and to caucus that he would no longer promote his book and he mislead the leader and the caucus,” said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

    Bernier posted the chapter on June 5 but Scheer was not made aware of it until Monday.

    The move introduces a new fracture in an already tenuous relationship between the party leader and the man he beat out for the job a year ago.

    Bernier first released the chapter in April, as a marketing tool for his book, “Doing Politics Differently: My Vision For Canada” which was supposed to be published in the fall. The chapter on supply management blamed the dairy lobby in Quebec for electing Scheer and called them fake Conservatives who only joined the party to vote against Bernier because he was advocating to get rid of supply management.

    On April 18, after a tense caucus meeting in which other Conservative MPs accused Bernier of backstabbing Scheer and causing division within the party, Bernier announced he would postpone the publication indefinitely.

    But on June 5, amid U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest attacks on Canada’s supply management system, Bernier quietly added the chapter to his personal website where it can be downloaded.

    In April 2017, during the party leadership, Bernier penned an open letter to Trump in The Globe and Mail, thanking him for raising the issue of supply management and agreeing with him that “this protectionist system is unfair for the farmers in Wisconsin and other states, who cannot make a better living by selling their products to their Canadian neighbours.”

    Bernier left the House of Commons before a vote Monday on an NDP motion condemning attacks by Trump and his officials on Canada, his tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum and expressing support for supply management and Canada’s agriculture industries.

    The motion passed unanimously as all parties rallied behind Trudeau to support Canadian industries like steel and dairy against Trump’s accusations of unfair trading practices.

    The issue of supply management could hurt the Conservatives in Quebec in the next election for the same reason it hurt Bernier in the leadership race if dairy farmers feel the Conservatives won’t support it.

    The Conservatives have jumped on Trudeau in recent days for allegedly offering concessions to the U.S. on dairy as part of negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement. Trudeau met with dairy farmers in Ottawa Tuesday to reassure them of his support for the industry.

    The Liberals have been doing everything to sow the seeds of discontent in the party over Bernier’s position on supply management, taunting the Conservatives in question period about it regularly in recent weeks.

    The dairy industry is on edge thanks to direct and repeated attacks by Trump, who set his sights on supply management during the U.S. presidential election and hasn’t let up.

    Trump says Canada imposes 270 per cent tariffs on U.S. milk and calls it unfair. However, the U.S. exports more milk to Canada than Canada does to the United States and Canadian critics say the U.S. dairy farmers are suffering because they are producing too much milk, creating a glut in the market that is depressing prices.

    Supply management is a pricing control system where quotas are set to regulate production of products like milk, eggs and poultry.

     

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


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    Agriculture

    Pot shop raids “highly unlikely” on Wednesday: head of police chiefs

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  • VANCOUVER — The head of Canada’s police chiefs says it’s “highly unlikely” there will be raids of unlicensed pot shops on the day marijuana becomes legal.

    Vancouver Chief Const. Adam Palmer says he hasn’t heard of any police departments planning to crack down on illegal dispensaries on Wednesday.

    Enforcement against unlicensed marijuana stores will primarily fall to provinces, which are using inspectors to levy fines, as they do with illegal liquor sellers, but Palmer says police will work with them.

    Provincial approval of cannabis stores varies but British Columbia is expected to only have one legal shop on Wednesday, while dozens of illegal pot stores have operated for years and some plan to stay open without licences allowing their operation.

    Palmer, who is also president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, says Canada is heading into uncharted waters this week, but police are ready because they have been policing cannabis-impaired drivers and illicit grow-ops for years.

    He says police likely won’t focus on shutting down boutique grow-ops that are waiting for federal micro-cultivator licences, and rather will continue to prioritize those allegedly connected to organized crime.

    The Canadian Press


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    Agriculture

    Online cannabis portals bracing for surge of orders as legalization looms

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  • TORONTO — As many as 100 locations across the country may be ready to sell cannabis on Wednesday when recreational pot is legalized across the country, but most Canadians’ first purchase of legal pot will likely be at the click of a button.

    Provincial and territorial governments and private retailers say they believe they’re ready for the surge of online shoppers, but it is unclear how high pot demand will actually be.

    The Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission has been testing their online cannabis sales portal developed with OnX Enterprise Solutions to iron out any issues before it goes live and is “feeling good to go,” said spokeswoman Heather Holmen.

    “Like anything, we can’t offer any guarantees,” she said. “We may find that there’s a major onslaught of inquiries and it could have effects on consumers’ ability to get into the online store.”

    The first purchases of pot when online portals open at 12:01 local time on Oct. 17 will make Canada one of the few countries in the world to legalize and regulate recreational cannabis, and marks a historical shift in the country’s drug policy.

    The cannabis market in Canada, including medical, illegal and legal recreational products is expected to generate up to $7.17 billion in total sales in 2019, according to a recent Deloitte report. Of that amount, legal sales are expected to contribute more than half, up to $4.34 billion, in the first year, Deloitte added.

    Under Canada’s framework for medical marijuana, the only legal way to purchase the drug is online directly from licensed producers for home delivery and e-commerce is likely to play a major role for recreational cannabis as well.

    The final number of pot outlets that will be ready for Oct. 17 remains hazy, but an estimated 35 per cent of the country’s population is expected to have access to a cannabis outlet within 10 kilometres or less of their home during the fourth quarter of 2018, a recent Statistics Canada study showed. That compares to 90 per cent of Canadians being within 10 kilometres of a liquor store currently, StatCan said.

    To estimate demand, PEI Cannabis referenced and integrated data including the federal census, provincial population reports and consultancy group surveys, said Samantha Hughes, a spokesperson for the province’s department of finance.

    “PEI Cannabis anticipates that its retail stores and its online store… will be very busy on opening day, October 17 and the weeks following that date,” said Hughes.

    Data from Canada’s existing medical marijuana system as well as information from the U.S. — where states like Colorado have already legalized cannabis for recreational use — can be useful as a guide, said Mark Barbour, a spokesman for NB Liquor.

    The latest data from Statistics Canada showed that licensed cannabis producers made 135,062 shipments to medical users in June.

    “At the end of the day, we really don’t know,” said Barbour. “It’s a new industry here in Canada… We are prepared for every scenario.”

    E-commerce software provider Shopify Inc., which Ontario and B.C. along with some private retailers have selected to power their cannabis websites, isn’t worried about the volume of hits and purchases on Wednesday.

    In addition to a tremendous amount of testing, the Ottawa-based company’s e-commerce offering handled large volumes for Kylie Cosmetics and the namesake reality star’s popular Lip Kit launches, said Shopify’s vice-president and general manager Loren Padelford.

    “I don’t expect cannabis launch day to be any larger,” he said.

    Demand issues aside, there are growing concerns about adequate supply. Aphria’s chief executive Vic Neufeld said last week to expect “sold out signs” as supply chain issues abound. Think-tank C.D. Howe also warned in a report last week that current supplies of cannabis in the fourth quarter would only meet between 30 and 60 per cent of total demand.

    Whether or not a legal recreational portal will entice existing cannabis users to switch from their black market source remains to be seen, said Brad Poulos, an instructor at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management. Illicit brick-and-mortar dispensaries will come under pressure to close, but those without a storefront less so, he added.

    The neighbourhood dealer may also deliver within hours, rather than the days needed for a package to arrive in the mail, he added.

    “They don’t need any website … There’s just too many compelling arguments for the current illicit market.”

    Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press


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