Canada column for Sunday, July 21/13
THE CANADIAN REPORT
(c) By Jim Fox
Canada’s evolving retail industry – increasingly threatened by U.S. competitors – has led to two of the country’s largest retailers planning to combine their operations.
Grocery chain Loblaw Companies is buying Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. for $12.4 billion in cash and stock.
"With today's transformational partnership between Loblaw and Shoppers Drug Mart, we are changing the retail landscape in Canada," said Galen Weston, executive chair of Loblaw.
Competition is heating up as new arrival Target expands its store network across Canada and a price-war with established Walmart is expected, both of which sell food and pharmacy items.
Last month, Atlantic-based grocer Sobeys bought the Canadian Safeway stores for $5.8 billion in a deal that included 199 in-store pharmacies.
Quebec-based supermarket chain Metro Inc. has expressed an interest in pharmacy retailer Jean Coutu and recently sold its stake in convenience store chain Alimentation Couche-Tard.
With the latest acquisition, the Shoppers' name and stores will remain as a separate division of Loblaw.
Canada’s Transportation Safety Board wants immediate changes in procedures after a runaway oil tanker train killed at least 50 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.
The board wants Transport Canada to order that dangerous goods not be left unattended and that equipment be properly secured.
An investigation continues into why a parked Montreal, Maine & Atlantic railway train with 72 cars of crude oil rolled into the downtown and exploded.
U.S. President Barack Obama, in a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, expressed his condolences and offered whatever help was needed.
Obama called it a "devastating loss of life" and said he was heartened to learn that firefighters from Maine rushed across the border to help control the fire.---
News in brief:
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his biggest cabinet overhaul since first elected in 2006 as he heads into the second half of his current term. Of notice was that he failed to appoint anyone from the scandal-plagued Senate for virtually the first time in Canadian history. Biggest moves were promotions for eight “backbench” Conservatives with three, Chris Alexander, Shelly Glover and Kellie Leitch, given senior portfolios.
- A gigantic blow-up doll of Senator Mike Duffy was unveiled in Ottawa by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation seeking a referendum on whether to abolish or reform the Senate. Duffy is one of four senators being investigated for fraud over his expense claims for which he has repaid $90,172.
- The Fraser Institute says Canadians “face some of the longest waits for health care in the developed world.” A study found long waits for surgery and medical treatment cost Canadians $982 million in lost time last year. They waited 9.3 weeks, on average, between an appointment with a specialist and treatment.
Facts and figures:
Canada’s cost of living rose by a half a point to 1.2 percent last month, largely due to rising gasoline and car prices.
The dollar moved higher to 96.51 cents U.S. while the U.S. greenback is worth $1.0360 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada’s key interest rate remains at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,488 points and the TSX Venture index 893 points.
Lotto 6-49: (July 17) 11, 12, 16, 29, 38 and 43; bonus 25. (July 13) 2, 11, 14, 22, 41 and 42; bonus 13. Lotto Max: (July 12) 14, 16, 17, 36, 45, 46 and 48; bonus 7.
- The $200,000 raised by U.S. gossip website Gawker to buy a video that allegedly showed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine will be donated to four charity groups. Editor John Cook said he is “disappointed” he couldn’t obtain the video that drug dealers offered at that price and that the Toronto Star claims its reporters had viewed.
- Painter Alex Colville, one of Canada's most well-known modern artists, has died at his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He was 92. As a painter, engraver, sketch artist and muralist, Colville earned a reputation for art that focused on routine moments of family life and featured landscapes, animals and the sea.
Jim Fox can be reached at email@example.com