Convenience-store lobby urges Quebec to move on contraband cigarettes

François Lemieux
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Illicit butts cost province $225M annually

The PQ candidate for Jacques Cartier, Olivier Gendreau with Canadian Convenience Stores Association CCSA main vice-president Michel Gadbois at a press conference in Pointe Claire recently. Photo by François Lemieux.

The anti-contraband tour launched by the Canadian Convenience Stores Association (CCSA) and its Quebec counterpart, the Association québécoise des Dépanneurs en Alimentation (AQDA) made a stop in Pointe Claire late last month. This was the sixth stop in a 20-town tour of Quebec to raise awareness on the issue of contraband cigarettes.

Joined by the Parti Québécois candidate for Jacques Cartier Olivier Gendreau, the CCSA main vice-president Michel Gadbois took the time to reiterate its support to the parliamentary committee on finances which sat from November 2011 to February in its efforts to stop the contraband of cigarettes, an industry that costs the provincial government $225 million a year and forced 600 convenience stores out of business in the last five years.

The parliamentary committee made several recommendations but the most important one would conjure Quebec, Ontario and Ottawa as well as the United States and native groups to the negotiation table to find a common solution to the problem.

“We would like Quebec to adopt this recommendation at the next parliamentary session. The The recommendation asks for Ottawa to ask Ontario, native groups, Quebec and the U.S. to send representatives sit at a table and find a way to settle the problem of contraband cigarettes,” said Gadbois.

He says that not only do contraband cigarettes make Quebec $225 million poorer every year, they also bring in $1 billion to criminal organizations. Gadbois claims the problem has diminished since 2008 but that contraband cigarettes still hold a 30-per-cent market share in Quebec. He says that 600 convenience stores have closed down as a direct result of contraband cigarettes since 2008.

“On sales of $1 million, cigarettes represent a net profit of $10,000 to $20,000 a year for a convenient store. It’s not an enormous profit in itself but it makes an enormous impact when coupled with parallel sales. On average, a convenient store will sell as much on other products than on cigarettes when the client comes in to buy his pack of cigarettes. It’s a substantial loss if you think that a convenient store will make a 1.5 per cent margin of profit at the end of the year,” he said.

Organizations: Canadian Convenience Stores Association, Parti Québécois

Geographic location: Quebec, Ontario, Ottawa United States Pointe Claire

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