Government Relations Update: December 2019

Over the past few weeks, there has been heightened activity in files affecting our channel. Here is an update on the files and our work with governments across the country.

 

PEI– The ban of selling vaping products in convenience stores and the increased purchase age for vape and tobacco products to 21 has become law in PEI. Even so, CICC will be meeting with the Premier’s Office early next week and with the Minister of Health in early January. With PEI’s willingness to meet, we anticipate that the impacts of the province’s vape regulations may not be as drastic as we had first feared.

Though progress has slowed on the beer and wine file in PEI, initial meetings with government officials and the new Commissioner have taken place and have been productive. We expect to see some movement on this file in the Spring session of the legislature.

 

New Brunswick– Conversations with the government have been positive and there is a willingness to continue conversations on the vaping file. No significant bills, motions, or committee studies have taken place in the province on the subject.

Anne Kothawala and Keith King (of Circle K / Couche-Tard) had a productive meeting with the Chief of Staff to the Premier in NB on the beer and wine file. There seemed to be an appetite for further engagement on this file and further discussions are planned for early in the new year.

 

Nova Scotia – New regulations banning flavoured vape products in convenience stores will come into effect on April 1st. The only permitted vape products will be unflavoured and tobacco flavoured “e-juice”.

No exceptions were made for specialty stores or convenience stores. In midst of this disappointing announcement, a positive is that the convenience channel was not singled out and that this will be a death blow to the specialty vape stores in Nova Scotia if the regulations are stringently enforced.

Our outreach efforts are continuing but the NS government has to this point continued their approach to avoid any consultation with retail stakeholders.

 

Quebec – Quebec has announced a provincial special task force on vaping and consultations are set to begin in January. The CICC has reached out and expressed our desire to be included in these consultations and are awaiting a reply.

Our outreach to individual members of the standing committee on health, with whom we have strong and existing relationships, continues and we will make some progress towards securing more in-depth conversations this week.


Ontario –
The provincial ban on in-store advertising go into effect on January 1stand some aspects of those changes remain unclear regarding the ability to communicate with customers and we are seeking further clarification from officials on this issue.

There was virtually no media interest in the NDP bill restricting vape sales and this bill will not be debated again until the beginning of march at the earliest.

The CICC had a series of productive meetings with senior staff in both the Premier’s office and the Minister of Health last week. It is extremely unlikely that the Ontario government will introduce overly restrictive regulations on the vaping file that will adversely affect the convenience store sector.

Although there has been the appearance of little movement on the beer and wine file, the government is quietly moving ahead with regulations that will allow for this transition to happen. The CICC has had productive meetings with the Premier and attended an event with Ministers Phillips, Bethlenfalvy and Sarkaria and it was made clear to the CICC that the government intends to move forward with this file.


Saskatchewan –
Saskatchewan has released their new Tobacco and Vape Product Regulations, which will come into force on February 1st, 2020.

The changes most applicable to the CICC include:

  • The elimination of all advertising in retail locations accessible by youth, and in public spaces. Advertising will continue to be allowed in so-called age-restricted vape shops and specialty stores.
  • There are however allowances for a sign containing product and price listing.
    • The size of the sign must not exceed 968 square centimeters, which if my math is correct is about 4 pieces of 8.5”x11” pieces of paper.
    • The paper must be white, the text must be black and no larger than 13mm.
    • There must be no emphasis (bolding, italics, underlines etc.) on the list.

The CICC has expressed support for the changes that have an impact on the convenience retail sector.

These regulations do not include anything about flavours. Flavour consultations will begin, “at a later date” and the CICC will be included in those consultations.

 

Alberta – We have finalized and submitted our presentation to the Alberta Tobacco and Smoking Reduction Act (TSRA) Review Committee. We have also responded to several follow up questions raised as a result of our submission.

Our engagement with the TSRA Review group continues to be active and productive, and the CICC has been assured that we will be included in all future consultations on this issue and any other issue facing our industry.

There appears to be an appetite for further expansion of retail sales of beverage alcohol in Alberta. The Red Tape Reduction Panel, the Minister of Justice, and several members of cabinet are actively discussing this file. The CICC will be invited to participate in discussions on this topic that will take place in late January.


BC –
The BC Legislature has risen for the Christmas break and the tax increase on vape products was passed at third reading and comes into force on January 1st. We have reached out to government officials to express our concern that such a short timeline is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for retailers to meet during the Christmas season.

We have drafted a letter to the Minister of Finance requesting an immediate meeting to discuss implementation issues but the response from departmental officials has left several questions remaining.

Options for further outreach initiatives to pressure the BC government for answers are currently being considered.


Federal Government –
Andrew Scheer resigned as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada on Wednesday but will remain as the Leader of the Official Opposition until his successor has been chosen.

While this is still very much a developing news story, there are potential ramifications for the CICC, at least as far as the stability of the newly elected Liberal government is concerned. It is expected that this announcement will throw the entire Conservative Party of Canada into a state of disarray and will result in a stable Liberal minority for at least the next 12 to 18 months. The Liberal government now essentially has the powers of a majority government.

There are also potential ramifications that will ripple out to provincial governments across the country. Several senior Conservatives across the country, including premiers and senior cabinet ministers in several provinces, will be considering a run for the federal leadership. Rumours are circulating that elected leaders considering a run at the leadership include Ontario Premier, Doug Ford and Alberta Premier, Jason Kenney.

The mandate letters for the newly appointed Federal cabinet have been released and can be found here. There are several key takeaways from these letters that will impact the direction the Liberal government will take going forward. Namely:

Health:

  • Promote healthy eating, including continuing work to introduce new restrictions on the commercial marketing of food and beverages to children and establishing new front-of-package labelling.
  • Address the rapid rise in youth vaping. This should start with regulations to reduce the promotion and appeal of vaping products to young people and public education to create awareness of health risks.

Environment:

  • Implement our plan to ban harmful single-use plastic products and take steps toward eliminating plastic pollution in Canada. This includes working with provinces and territories to develop national targets, standards and regulations that will make companies that manufacture plastic products or sell items with plastic packaging responsible for collecting and recycling them.

Small Business

  • Take immediate steps to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, including the elimination of the “swipe fee” on HST and GST for credit transactions.

For more up-to-date government relations details, follow us on Twitter!