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A Sears Canada outlet is seen Tuesday, June 13, 2017 in Saint-Eustache, Que. Sears Canada Inc. is applying for court approval to liquidate all of its remaining stores and assets after failing to find a buyer that would allow it to continue as a going concern. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Final liquidation sales begin at Sears Canada but deals underwhelming

CityNews | posted Friday, Oct 20th, 2017

Sears Canada began its liquidation sales at its remaining stores across the country Thursday, but many shoppers found the deals to be underwhelming.

While signs suggest discounts of 20 to 50 per cent off – with a note that exceptions apply – relatively few items at a Toronto store appeared to be offered at half off.

Some big ticket items such as snowblowers and treadmills were only 10 per cent off.

But dozens of shoppers still braved long check-out lines to make their purchases as Sears prepares to shut its doors for good after 65 years in business.

A joint-venture group – which includes Hilco Global, Gordon Brothers Canada, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group – is running the liquidation sales at 74 remaining department stores and eight Home stores.

Discounts are available on all Sears’s own brands, including Kenmore, as well as brand name men’s and women’s apparel, and a variety of other categories including home decor, toys, furniture, and major appliances.

“Selected fixtures, furnishings and equipment in the closing stores will also be for sale,” said the joint-venture group.

Sears Canada gift cards will be honoured throughout the sale as well, the group said. However, Sears Canada stopped honouring extended warranties as of Wednesday.

Liquidation sales at 49 Sears Hometown stores were expected to start Thursday, or sometime soon, but discounts there will vary, according to Sears Canada spokesman Joel Shaffer.

Some items are also listed for clearance on the Sears Canada website, including a four-piece outdoor furniture set discounted from $499.99 to $299.95. However, not everything online has been marked down just yet.

The sales are expected to last between 10 to 14 weeks. Sears Canada timed its liquidation sales to take advantage of the busy holiday shopping season to maximize the value it could attain for the inventory.

The retailer has been in creditor protection since June, but was unable to find a buyer which would allow it to keep operating.

Sears Canada received court approval to proceed with its liquidation sales last week. A group led by its executive chairman Brandon Stranzl had been in weeks-long discussions with Sears Canada to purchase the retailer and continue to operate it. However, no deal was reached.

Stranzl resigned from Sears Canada’s board of directors on Monday.

Bayview extension speed limit could return to 60 km/h

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 19th, 2017

The intersection of Bayview Avenue and Pottery Road. GOOGLE MAPS

Debate is about to begin again over a stretch of road notorious for speeding.

Just over a year ago city council agreed to lower the speed limit on Bayview Avenue from Pottery Road to the River Street ramp from 60 km/h to 50 km/h. That decision went into effect this summer.

However, it seems drivers aren’t getting the message and a new report from the general manager for Transportation Services is suggesting the limit return to its original speed.

“Following installation of 50 km/h speed limit signs on June 6, 2017, concerns have been expressed about the disparity between the speed limit and the speeds at which drivers are travelling,” the item on the Public Works agenda reads.

“Based on a speed study and a review of the design of the roadway, collision history, and the existing road environment, staff have determined that a speed limit of 60 km/h is more appropriate for Bayview Avenue from Pottery Road to River Street ramp.”

The cost to change the speed limit back is estimated at $3,000.

The report will be presented to the Public Works Committee on Wednesday.

Judge approves revised Sears Canada bonus plan for key staff

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 19th, 2017

People enter a Sears store in Mississauga, Ont., on Wednesday, October 11, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

An Ontario judge has approved Sears Canada’s request to reduce its retention bonus for about three dozen head office staff who will stay through the retailer’s liquidation process, which begins its next phase on Thursday.

The total amount that could be paid under the retention plan for head office executives and staff has been cut by $1.1 million following a number of departures, which has reduced the number of eligible employees to 36 from 43. That is down from a total pot of $7.6 million when the insolvent retailer’s restructuring process first began in June.

But some of the retailer’s former employees said after Wednesday’s hearing that they think too much money and time are being spent to coax executives to stay.

“I’m really upset. Really upset. I’m upset,” said Mina Iannino, who struggled to express her “disgust” with the way employees have been treated during the Sears Canada windup.

The employees who are being kept for the liquidation “should just walk out and leave this company high and dry and to lose something,” Iannino told reporters.

Jennifer Holder, a laid-off cosmetics sales person, said she “cannot believe that they’re still worried about securing bonuses for executives when the employees are looking at going through a Christmas season with no real job.”

“Everything they’re doing in this process is to secure themselves some form of a bonus, when everyone else is looking at unemployment, (and without) enough money in the hardship fund to take care of employees across Canada.”

Under the court-approved employee retention plan for Sears Canada, executives would forfeit their bonus if they leave voluntarily or are fired “for cause” – a legal term meaning some sort of contract violation or wrongdoing.

Key head office employees can earn their bonuses if they stay with the company until next March or April, depending on the person.

Before granting the company’s revised retention bonus plan, Justice Glenn Hainey got assurances that there are no additional funds being approved beyond the $7.6 million that was originally approved for head office bonuses.

About half of the original bonuses for head office executives have been used up since Sears Canada entered court protection in June. That would have left $3.9 million in the bonus plan prior to Wednesday’s court approval, but now only $2.8 million will be allocated for the remainder of the windup.

The retailer currently has 74 full department store locations, eight Sears Home Stores and 49 Sears Hometown stores, which all face closure.

Wednesday is the last day Sears Canada will honour extended warranties as the retailer prepares to start liquidation sales Thursday.

Sears Canada said earlier this week that only customers who bought a protection agreement within the past 30 days could get refunds from paying for extended coverage.

It said most merchandise it sells comes with a one-year manufacturer’s warranty, which will be available to customers directly from the manufacturers.

The company said it still looking for a buyer for its repair business, but it’s not known if a sale will go through or under what terms the repair service would operate.

Report urges raising age, increasing taxes to buy cigarettes in Ontario

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 19th, 2017


Ontario should raise taxes on cigarettes, ban anyone under 21 from buying them and impose a levy on tobacco companies, a government-commissioned report is recommending.

The report suggests ways to reduce the percentage of Ontarians who smoke from 17 per cent to less than five per cent by 2035 – a target identified by the federal government.

“The magnitude of this epidemic is absolutely appalling,” said smoking cessation expert and report co-chair Dr. Andrew Pipe. “The fact that 16,000 Ontarians will die every year as a consequence of the use of tobacco industry products is actually totally disconcerting to those of us in the health-care professions.”

Ontario has the second lowest price for cigarettes in Canada – $102.40 for a carton of 200 – and it should be at least doubled by regularly increasing taxes, the report recommends. New revenue from those taxes should be reinvested into controlling tobacco, it says.

The province’s most recent budget said tobacco tax rates would be increased by $10 per carton of 200 cigarettes over three years, starting with increasing the tax rate by one cent to 16.475 per cigarette this year.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins said the government is considering the report.

“There’s a lot of work to do,” he said. “The ministry obviously is reviewing the recommendations and I think their feasibility is part of that analysis.”

Further increasing taxes on cigarettes would be “completely irresponsible and actually reckless,” said Eric Gagnon, head of corporate and regulatory affairs for Imperial Tobacco Canada.

It would drive more customers to contraband cigarettes, which already account for close to 40 per cent of the market, he said. The National Coalition Against Contraband Tobacco has said one third of cigarettes purchased in Ontario are illegal.

The government has said it wants to keep the price of recreational marijuana low enough when it is legalized to ensure customers don’t seek out the underground market, Gagnon noted, calling the approach to tobacco taxation hypocritical.

The report also calls on the government to impose an annual levy on tobacco companies, ban volume discounts and all industry incentives offered to retailers.

“Just as we have levies on other industries – like the mining industry needs to clean up what they do – we recommend that we add a levy on the tobacco companies so that they actually cover the health costs, the economic costs and the social costs of tobacco use,” said Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit.

The report’s authors urge a reduction in the number of retail outlets selling tobacco, which they say is currently about 10,000.

Zoning changes could ban the sale of cigarettes near schools, campuses and recreation centres, the report suggests.

The report recommends increasing smoking cessation services, but also doing more to prevent young people from taking up smoking in the first place.

To achieve that, the expert panel suggests raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 and making media productions such as movies that include smoking ineligible for public subsidies. As well, any movie that “contains tobacco imagery” should be rated 18A, the report recommends.

E-cigarettes and vaping products, which the report authors say are less toxic than cigarettes but still harmful, should only be sold to people who already smoke, it recommends.

“Given the industry’s own claims that these products were developed to help people who smoke quit, their use should be limited to people who smoke and who might benefit from them,” it says.

“The (panel) recognizes that this could be a difficult recommendation to police and enforce. However, the ministry could explore options such as a card system for people who smoke or making these products available only by prescription.”

2 rallies planned on Thursday as college workers strike continues

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 19th, 2017

Striking workers at George Brown College's St. James Campus on King Street East, near Jarvis Street, on Oct. 16, 2017. CITYNEWS/Ginella Massa

Two rallies will be held on Thursday as the strike by college workers enters day four.

Members of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union and other labour groups will gather at noon at York University’s Keele Campus, in a show of solidarity for the 12,000 striking professors, librarians and counsellors.

Also at noon, students will be rallying in front of the Ministry of Education, located at Bay Street and Bloor Street West. They will then walk to the legislature, asking MPPs to help get teachers back to work.

Talks broke off between the colleges and the union last week and no new talks are planned.

Brink’s Canada, Unifor, sign tentative agreement

CityNews | posted Thursday, Oct 19th, 2017

A Brink's armoured vehicle. Photo credit: Brink's/Facebook

TORONTO – A tentative agreement has been reached between Brink’s Canada Ltd., and Unifor, to avert a strike that was due to begin Thursday.

The agreements covers about 800 Brink’s workers in Ontario and another 260 in British Columbia.

Unifor says details of the tentative deal will be released after ratification votes are cast in the coming days.

Union spokeswoman Kathleen O’Keefe earlier said the key issue at the bargaining table was how many people are in the armoured vehicle.

She said in most cases, there are only two people in the truck and the union wants that increased to three.

Other issues included wages, overtime pay, pensions and benefits. The union says it is recommending that its members approve the deal.

“Bargaining teams representing British Columbia, the Ottawa region, and the remainder of Ontario worked very hard together,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias in a statement.

“I congratulate them on obtaining a fair deal that includes a break-through in reaching a common expiry date in three bargaining regions for the first time.”

RIP Gord Downie: Send your condolences

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Oct 18th, 2017


All across Canada people are mourning the passing of Canadian icon Gord Downie.

Send your thoughts, love and condolences below:

Remembering the life and legacy of Gord Downie (1964 – 2017)

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Oct 18th, 2017


The frontman of The Tragically Hip was an indelible presence on the Canadian cultural landscape

Gord Downie, singer in beloved Canadian rock band the Tragically Hip, has died at age 53 from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was diagnosed in December 2015; only two per cent of glioblastoma victims live as long as three years after diagnosis. In the summer of 2016, Downie said goodbye to a nation of fans by doing a final arena tour with his brothers in song—the same four men he met at a Kingston Vocational Collegiate Institute in the early 1980s, the same four men heard on the very first Tragically Hip EP. No major performer in the history of Western pop music had ever staged a tour of that scale while living with a terminal diagnosis. And yet, it was not the only unprecedented achievement in Downie’s career.

Downie was one of the most riveting and mystifying performers in rock’n’roll history. Anyone who managed to catch him fronting the Tragically Hip in 1985, playing covers at a roadhouse in Renfrew, Ont., could tell you that. As could anyone who watched him command 40,000 people at any given outdoor appearance during the 1990s, singing songs that were summer soundtracks for an entire generation. And of course, as could many of the 11 million people who watched the CBC broadcast of the Hip’s final show on Aug. 20, 2016, which reached the second-largest number of viewers in Canadian broadcast history.

Gordon Edgar Downie was born on Feb. 6, 1964, in Amherstview, Ont., just slightly west of Kingston, to Lorna and Edgar, a travelling salesman turned real estate developer. Gord was the fourth of five children: older siblings Mike, Charlyn and Paula, and younger brother Patrick. Gord played goalie for Amherstview’s hockey team, which won a provincial B-level championship. His godfather was Harry Sinden, who would go on to coach Team Canada to victory in the 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union.

The Tragically Hip played their first show in November 1984 on the campus of Queen’s University. For the next three years they played in every corner of Kingston they could, mixing obscure ’60s covers with original material. Their first EP came out in December 1987; the debut album, Up to Here, in 1989. The second album, in 1991, went platinum in just 10 days. The third, in 1992, became one of the few Canadian albums to sell more than one million copies domestically. The ascent was dramatic, but the band’s very first hit single had this prescient line, written by Downie, in its chorus: “Sometimes the faster it gets, the less you need to know / But you gotta remember: the smarter it gets, the further it’s going to go.” The Tragically Hip were smart. Right to the end. And they took it as far as they could.

No other act of the day was embraced with the fervour and frenzy that Hip fans displayed toward Downie as a performer, but it was his lyrics that set him apart. Most poetic lyricists are drawn to folk or art music; Downie was a rock’n’roller, one who dared dip in the same well as Al Purdy, Raymond Carver, Northrop Frye, John Ashberry, Hugh MacLennan and others. Most artists will hear crowds singing the first verse and choruses of their most popular songs; Downie routinely had audiences singing every single line in his discography back to him, no matter how arcane or untethered the lyric was to rhyme or meter.

RELATED: Gord Downie’s farewell for the ages

Downie released five solo albums during his lifetime; he was furiously working on more in his last two years. After the Hip’s final show, he announced Secret Path: an album, animated film and graphic novel inspired by the story of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Indigenous boy who froze to death running away from a residential school in 1966. In the space of a month, Downie transformed the half-century-old tale into a current conversation about collective reckoning and the until-then largely ignored Truth and Reconciliation Commission. “Let’s not celebrate the last 150 years,” Downie told a moneyed Toronto audience at a Secret Path performance in October 2016, one of his final public appearances. “Let’s celebrate our next 150 years.” He considered Secret Path the most important work he’d ever done in his life.

He leaves behind four children, three siblings, his mother, Lorna, the mother of his children, Laura Leigh Usher, his bandmates—Robert Baker, Johnny Fay, Paul Langlois, Gord Sinclair—and millions of fans whose lives would not have sounded the same without him.

Michael Barclay is the author of The Never-Ending Present: The Story of Gord Downie and the Tragically Hip.

Timeline: Ahead by a Century, the story of Gord Downie

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