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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sears, Best Buy laying off 1,600 workers in Canada

   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 3/13


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The evolving retail marketplace with more Canadians shopping online has led to Sears and Best Buy laying off 1,600 workers.
   Sears Canada officials said the loss of 700 workers across the country is an attempt to “right-size” and restructure the business.
   The job cuts, which come just before Target is about to open the first of 135 stores across Canada, will be from its department stores, distribution centers, head office and support areas.
   Electronics retailer Best Buy cited a “transitional plan” to close eight of its Future Shop locations and seven Best Buy big box stores with the loss of 900 jobs, or about five percent of its workforce.
   The stores will be replaced with “small-concept web and mobile locations” over the next two and half years, it said.
   Retail analysts say electronics stores have been hard hit by declining sales and tough competition from online retailers with better prices.
   Sears announced earlier it was closing four of largest stores in Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa, with those locations being taken over by U.S. retailer Nordstrom entering the Canadian marketplace.


   The Ontario Liberals have named Kathleen Wynne to be their next leader and succeed Dalton McGuinty, who quit in mid-term, as Premier.
   She will be the first woman premier of Canada’s most-populous province and the first gay leader.
   Wynne, 59, defeated runner-up former politician Sandra Pupatello for the job in a third ballot at last weekend’s leadership convention in Toronto.
   As the first openly gay premier in Canada, it shouldn’t overshadow her role in governing, Wynne said.
   The new leader said she wants to end the “rancor” that divided the Ontario Legislature before McGuinty suspended business and resigned last October.


   News in brief:
   - The Canadian government intends to support Great Britain and its Commonwealth partners to change the rules for royal succession and end centuries of discrimination against female heirs to the throne. Heritage Minister James Moore called it “common-sense” for countries where the Queen is head of state to change the outdated tradition that favored male heirs over their older sisters. Another proposed change is to end a 300-year-old rule that bans the monarch from marrying someone who is Roman Catholic.
   - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, 63, has revealed he has a rare skin disorder that has concerned colleagues for some time who were worried about his health. He is being treated for bullous pemphigoid that has caused his face to become red and bloated with blisters while the medication has caused him to gain weight. Opposition Members of Parliament wished him a “speedy recovery” as Flaherty continues to work.


   Facts and figures:
   Canada’s dollar has regained parity with the U.S. currency and was valued at $1.0008 in U.S. funds on Friday. The U.S. greenback returned 99.91 cents Canadian before bank exchange fees.
   The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate is 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
   Stock markets are lower, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,752 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,227 points.
   Lotto 6-49: (Jan. 30) 1, 14, 21, 23, 29 and 46; bonus 26. (Jan. 26) 23, 27, 35, 40, 43 and 44; bonus 13. Lotto Max: (Jan. 25) 1, 18, 19, 29, 31, 32 and 46; bonus 36.


   Regional briefs:
   - Environmentalists opposed to the construction of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to move Alberta oil to British Columbia ports are warning officials of CN Rail not to get involved. Should CN begin transporting oil sands crude, it “would face major opposition and risks,” the opponents said in a letter, citing environmental hazards.
   - Contract talks are to resume in a bid to end a one-week-old strike by 400 faculty, librarians and support staff at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The strike affects about 4,800 students. The faculty association’s previous contract expired last June and salaries are the main issue.
   - Casino operators are rolling the dice in the hopes that Toronto city councilors will approve locating a full-scale gaming facility in the downtown. The latest pitch came from MGM Resorts International with James Murren, chief executive officer, saying polls suggest the odds of a casino going ahead are “a little bit better than a 50/50 chance.” There are currently several slots casinos in the area now.


Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com

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