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TORONTO— C-store operators to the north are finding business is no longer "usual."
"Thirty percent of convenience stores will be gone in three to five years," Dave Bryans, president of the Canadian Convenience Stores Association, told the Toronto Sun.
Recently, sales dropped due to a new ban on tobacco advertisement and placement in stores. Stores are required to hide tobacco products behind specially built walls. Operators were required to make these alterations with no financial help, losing an average of $5,000 in product placement incentives from manufacturers. Meanwhile, the government collected an estimated $1 billion in cigarette taxes last year, the newspaper reported.
During the same time period, contraband cigarettes purchased in Ontario increased from 21 percent two years ago to 48 percent today, reported the paper.
"All levels of government have closed their eyes, they don’t know what to do," Bryans told the paper. "Convenience stores employ 80,000 people in Ontario," Bryans continued. "That’s more than the CAW [the country's largest private-sector union], which makes me think how much financial help the government would offer if we were in Oshawa, as opposed to spread around the province?"
The c-store association has requested the government purchase advertisements on the cigarette walls that promote a healthy lifestyle or for lotteries; however, no steps have been taken. Instead, he said, the government is doing the opposite with its enforcement by spending more than $50 million to hire 225 tobacco inspectors at 36 different health boards.
"My biggest objection is these inspectors hire students who try to entrap immigrant owners or other students," Bryans told the Toronto Sun. "It’s a very cruel business decision, and we’re being unfairly targeted."
The backbone of the Canadian convenience store industry is comprised of immigrants working upwards of 16 hours a day. While this demographic represents a purported 80 percent of the entire industry. Korean operators, Bryans said, are sending word home to relatives that opportunities have run dry abroad.