We need COVID Passports

Canada is finally turning the corner on COVID-19. At last estimate we will have 66 million doses stocked in this country. We have enough to vaccinate our entire eligible population in this country. Furthermore we have an appetite for those vaccines. Canadians were proud to find out this week, that we surpassed the United States in vaccination rates. The majority of us are eager for these shots and have lined up or are lining up right now to get them.

I want to emphasise my wording above. The majority of us. Because that is a major distinction we need to look at going forward. The cases we are seeing of COVID-19 in Canada are predominantly amongst the unvaccinated. Vaccine hesitancy still exists in this country and it’s getting to the point where it is holding us back.

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The Light at the End of the COVID Tunnel isn’t What it Seems…

It looks like we are turning the tide on the pandemic. Vaccination rates are climbing in this country. We are first for first doses in developed nations of the world. Second doses are starting to catch up.

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The Hamilton LRT Means It Can Have Nice Things

What is wrong with Hamilton? That seems to be the question everyone is asking recently. The city’s light rail transit system has been sitting on a shelf for just over a decade now. Waiting for someone to say, go. It looked like all the signs were green. Political efforts were being made to push forward, until Premier Ford abruptly reversed course. Effectively cancelling the project. Mayor Fred Eisenberger was furious at not being properly consulted, and that this decision essentially ended the project before it began. The cry in Hamilton was “Why can’t we catch a break?”

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Carbon Pricing is here to stay…That’s a good thing.

The news of Canada is of course, the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal price on carbon emissions is of course constitutional. You can read it in it’s entirety here:

As the title suggests, I’m in favour of this ruling. For starters it finally puts an end to this pointless and petty argument from Conservative premiers in the country. We can finally focus our attention on real issues of the day.

More importantly, it forces our economy to finally leap into the 21st century. As I’ve written before, innovation and competition is in short supply in this country. As well, its time we faced facts that the fossil fuel industry isn’t the panacea we’ve all be raised to believe. We’ve had two Prime Ministers now, of two different parties, all keen on building pipelines. Yet the world is moving on. We in Canada need to as well.

Economies of the world are embracing new technologies. The internal combustion engine a staple of the modern era is going the way of the dinosaur. Green electric vehicles will soon become the norm. The repercussions of that will be widely impacted through out the economy.

A carbon pricing method, is the kickstart our economy needs to foster and boost innovation and invention to meet the new demand. As pricing increases, its basic market principles that will encourage efficiency and sustainability as cornerstones for manufacturing and logistics in the economy. While companies will no doubt pass along costs to consumers, what a carbon price does is encourage ways for companies to reduce their production costs which will of course be passed along to consumers. In the long terms, consumers benefit from a cleaner environment and cheaper products. Win, win.

The good news is that carbon pricing has already fostered invention. As can be seen here:

It’s not the end all solution. And some of the questions raised in the report definitely need to be addressed, yet it’s the kind of innovation that I like to see. If we’re to build a better and more sustainable economy post COVID-19, then this is the kind of thinking that will be required.

Where is the competition?

Big news in the business world yesterday in Canada was about Sobey’s purchase of Longo’s for $357 million. Giving them 51% control of Longo’s with an option to control 100% down the road. Normally, it would be the case of another business deal in Canada, however take a step back and see just what the parent company of Sobey’s now owns. Empire Company Ltd., now owns Farmboy, Safeway, IGA, Sobey’s FreshCO, Foodland and now Longo’s.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Rogers is looking to purchase Shaw in the telecom industry. A move that would make them the second largest telecom company in the country.

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Did we Miss an Opportunity?

We are reminiscing on the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its natural to look at the lives lost, the jobs lost, and the upending of our lives due to this pandemic. However, there has been something that has been stuck in the back of my mind. Despite the losses we have all felt from this pandemic, I believe there is an opportunity presented to us. A chance to innovate and improve on the status quo.

Going into lockdown one year ago, left many industries and businesses forced to redesign long standing logistics and business models. While service and professional industries could realign into a virtual environment relatively easily, the retail and restaurant industries were forced to seriously rethink their models. The restaurant industry continues to struggle, mostly due to its nature of being a socially active endeavour. However I have noticed that retail locations in Canada are notoriously slow to adapt to change.

It is well known that Amazon has been making a killing due to COVID-19. If there was a company that was made to thrive during a global pandemic, Amazon seems to be it. The criticism of Amazon for building a monopoly in online retail is somewhat undeserved in my opinion. Amazon has simply foreseen the landscape of commerce and is capitalizing on the opportunity that COVID-19 has present it with. I ask, where are the competitors. More importantly, why aren’t they Canadian?

Currently, the biggest competitor to Amazon is Walmart. For years the American retail giant has been encouraging customers to purchase online, with a big component being their curbside pick up:

During the pandemic, Walmart has upped their game to expand their e-commerce platform into fully automated fulfillment centres. Much akin to Amazon’s testing the waters with their Amazon Go sites. Walmart recently announced a partnership with new Canadian start up Ghost Kitchen, expanding their ability to bring American Brands to the Canadian market. All of this bodes well for consumers, as major brands strive to accomodate our lifestyles as opposed to demanding we meet theirs. The pandemic has encouraged Amazon and Walmart, to embrace innovation and change in order to remain competitive in the market place.

This of course, raises the question of where is the great Canadian innovation? We are with our own well known Canadian brands of course, and yet when it comes to see what they are offering, we are left wanting. I look at who would be positioned to at least make the in roads to disrupt the old styles of shopping in Canada and the first options I come up with are Indigo and Loblaws.

Indigo already has a starting point to compete with Amazon. Both companies started out with selling books. Indigo has expanded their online retailing to offer some additional wares from their retail locations. Unfortunately that seems to be where the innovation ends. Anecdotally, my wife bought an online gift card for Christmas from Indigo. Unfortunately, there was a mix up and she had to return it. The refund was only put through a few weeks ago, after a needlessly frustrating encounter with their customer service department. Is this an apples to apples comparison, no, but it did indicate a difference in cultures between Walmart and Amazon and Indigo.

In the case of Loblaws, for a year now, curbside pickup has been synonymous with the retail experience. Major retailers that offer apps to place orders are common place. However, they do not charge fees. Shopping online at Fortinos, a subsidiary of Loblaws, comes with added fees for curbside pickup. I cannot say if these fees carry over to other Loblaws locations, as we not have any others in our community. However the argument that the fee is required for the cost of curbside is ludicrous. Call it what it is, a deterent to the service in order to drive traffic inside their stores, so that they can rely on good ol’ product placement to encourage shopping. This technique is antiquated and more harmful in the long run.

Where is the drive on the part of major Canadian brands to meet the consumer where they are currently? Curbside, mail order, and online shopping are no longer premium nice to haves in the retail landscape. Like it or not, COVID-19 has sped up the change that was already here. Online retailing is the future. The age of the brick and mortar store is dying. Make the effort to change and make the changes to encourage your customers to embrace the changes.

We need competition in the market place. Walmart and Amazon are not invulnerable to upstarts. Canadian brands are well placed to take on the challenge. The only thing holding them back is culture. Innovate and look forward, rather than wait for things to return to normal. Normal isn’t coming back. New habits have formed after a year. If retailers wish to thrive once pandemic restrictions are lifted, they need to be poised to run as soon the gun is triggered. If Canadian retailers are expecting a return to old, they will be sorely mistaken. Some things from this pandemic aren’t going away. One of them is increased use of online retail. Now is the time to get this right. Playing it safe will not be its own reward.

Normal may not be coming back for a while

I woke up this morning and saw this thread on Twitter:

Essentially, the argument goes is that what life was like pre-COVID-19 is never coming back. Governments around the world are banking on a vaccine roll out to be completed by the end of this year at the most extreme timeline. Based on current trends I find that to be dubious at best. However, it is still highly inconsistent on a global level.

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Let’s Try This Again, Shall We?

The big news of the week is of course, the province is going to emerge from lockdown this month. At first glance, these protocols the province is describing seems to be fairly reasonable. The Premier wanted to project a sense of hope, by saying there is light coming through the clouds.

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If this isn’t a sign of a shift in the economy, I don’t know what is

The first day of President Joe Biden’s term saw the cancellation of the Keystone pipeline. Immediately here in Canada, Conservative politicians were aghast and eager to point blame. I wrote about this here. Then things got worse for them.

Last week, GM announced a landmark decision that they would shift their entire fleet to electric by 2035. In Europe, Volvo has pledged to produce only electric cars. As well Volkswagen, in an effort to put Dieselgate behind them has put forward their ID line of vehicles to rebrand themselves as environmentally friendly once again. In fact just about every major automobile manufacturer in the world is producing an electric model and putting brand power behind it. All except for Chrysler, but we’ll discuss that another time.

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