Ontario’s independent convenience store owners are banding together to protest provincial government policies they say are driving them out of business. The protest, named SOS for “Save our Stores,” kicked off this week at Brothers Convenience Store in Thornhill, Ontario, which has been operated by the Kim family for 15 years. However, like many other store owners, they are wondering how much longer they can stay in business.


The Ontario Korean Businessmen’s Association (OKBA), the largest organization of independent convenience stores in the province, is spearheading the campaign. Over the last 10 years, more than 500 OKBA members have closed down their businesses as a result of the ever-worsening business environment in Ontario.


“Without a change in government, or a massive change in policy and priorities, more stores will close and the dream of a better life in Canada will end for many more independent store owners,” said Don Cha, OKBA General Manager. “Most convenience store owners are hard-working immigrants who invest their life savings and work seven days a week to build a better life for themselves and their families here in Ontario. But increasingly they are watching that dream slip away because of harmful policies enacted by the current provincial government.”


The campaign focuses on several issues that have hurt independent convenience store owners since the Liberal party was elected in 2003. Government inaction on illegal contraband tobacco sales are hurting licensed tobacco retailers, and robbing the government of more than $1 billion in lost tax revenue per year. While other provinces have opened up beverage alcohol sales in convenience stores, Ontario will not allow it.


The stores have experienced increased government red tape and regulation while sales drop and illegal competition grows. In addition, massive increases to small business electricity rates and no long-term sustainable plan to control costs also contributed to the closures. The massive increase in minimum wage will result in longer hours for store owners and less youth employment.


The SOS campaign will be asking politicians from all three major parties to commit to policy platforms in next year’s election that will help the organization “Save Our Stores.” Every day, more than 3 million Ontarians shop in one of the more than 8,000 convenience stores across the province.


“We can no longer afford to stand idle and not get involved,” said Cha. “For years, we sat back and hoped government would do the right thing. But our members demand we take a side in this campaign; their livelihoods are being increasingly threatened. We cannot afford another four years of damaging policies affecting our business.”


Source: NACS Online