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Dec 8, 2007

WalTown225.jpgOn Wednesday night, Wal-Town: The Film made it's debut on English Canadian television, screening on TVO's The View From Here. If you missed it, you can catch it again on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 10:42pm. Click here for more details, including channel listings.

Posted by tim

Oct 30, 2007

The intricacies of zoning by-laws and official city plans can often appear dense and undecipherable, but they can also provide the first line of defense against big box stores, including Wal-Mart, from taking over your town. The process usually starts at your own city council, but in some places, in particular Ontario, the battle doesn't end there. This week, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is hearing appeals from two community organisations who believe that recent council decisions to allow Wal-Mart into town goes against their respective cities' zoning by-laws and development plans.

Residents of Scugog, in the Durham region, will be in pre-hearings at the OMB starting today, October 30th. Residents of the small Ontario town started Concerned Citizens of Scugog, and their website in spring 2006 when it became clear that a Wal-Mart would be coming to town. The groups believes council's approval of Wal-Mart will negatively impact local business owners and devastate the local economy, as well as break the city's official development plan. [Image shows downtown Port Perry]

While the CCS will just be starting it's process at the OMB, residents of Port Elgin will be wrapping up their challenge to Wal-Mart coming to their town. Plans for a new Wal-Mart have been in front of the OMB since late last summer, but because of the high number of witnesses being called, the proceedings were extended by several weeks, with the final days of hearings on Nov. 1 and 2. Like Scugog residents, citizens of Port Elgin are challenging a local council decision as going against city zoning regulations. You can read more about their innovative arguments (which we'll blog about later this week) in last week's Toronto Star.

Both groups may be facing uphill battles, though. Recent criticisms of the Ontario Municipal Board have pointed to the fact that it seems to overly favour development projects, ruling in development's favour in 59 percent of cases between 1995 and 2000, and with little sign of any changes since. One piece of information we recently heard, and are working to verify, is that the OMB has never ruled against SmartCentres, Wal-Mart's primary development partner in Canada. Even if this is simply an impression or the reality of the situation, there is little dispute that between running out of money to pay for lawyers, or simply being out-waited and needing to get back to their daily lives, citizen's groups have a tough time with the OMB.

Posted by tim

Aug 31, 2007

Wal-Mart has released the first year results of its "Bought in Quebec" campaign. According to the company, they are now purchasing $1.75 billion worth of goods in Quebec, and have increased the number of Quebec businesses they deal with by 319, to a total of 1669. But as with many of Wal-Mart's campaigns to increase its public image and counter its critics, there is more here than meets the eye.

Both Montreal's La Presse and Journal de Montreal reported that while Wal-Mart vaunts the new program, there are serious questions about what "buying Quebec" consists of. Wal-Mart Canada states 80 percent of their purchases are from Canadian suppliers, but makes no distinction between suppliers with products made domestically (whether in Canada or Quebec) and products that are either imported from or outsourced to other countries.


"We don't deal in semantics," explained Wal-Mart spokesperson Yanik Deschenes to the Journal de Montreal. "Bought in Quebec covers what we buy from Quebec suppliers, whether they are a warehouse or a factory. The cheques are written in their names. It could be a Montreal-based lightbulb supplier whose products are manufactured in China. It remains a purchase made in Quebec." Requests by both media outlets for the list of Quebec suppliers company deals with were denied because the lists are classified as internal documents.

This it not the first time Wal-Mart has been caught in a word game when it came to suppliers. Nearly 10 years ago, while brandishing Made in America banner, it was shown that between 80 and 85 percent of Wal-Mart's merchandise was being imported from overseas, mostly from China. At the time, Wal-Mart was only about 4 years old in Canada. And while the discovery made headlines here as well, it would seem the Wal-Mart hopes that Canadians - and Quebeckers - have a short memory.

Posted by tim

Aug 27, 2007

Review of Wal-Town in CM Magazine from the University of Manitoba


CM . . . . Volume XIII Number 17 . . . .April 13, 2007

Wal-Town: The Film.

Sergeo Kirby (Writer & Director). Ian McLaren (Productions Grand Nord Producer). Germaine Gee Wong (NFB Producer). Sergio Kirby (Loaded Pictures Producer). Sally Bochner (NFB Executive Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2006.
66 min., 45 sec., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 290.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.

Review by Cathy Vincent-Linderoos.

**** /4

Wal-Town: The Film is an excellent portrayal of a 2004-2005 cross-Canada citizen- protest tour of Wal-mart stores. A small group of six university student-activists from Concordia decided to go across Canada in two consecutive summers to address their wide-ranging concerns directly at the front doors of Wal-mart stores. Their goal was to engage consumers of the stores in 36 different locations (of some 200 Wal-marts nation-wide) and to discuss the corporation's numerous violations of labour and human rights. A variety of receptions were filmed.


Posted by tim

Jun 28, 2007

Residents of east end Toronto, represented by city councillor Paula Fletcher, are demanding that developers come clean with their plans for a parcel of land now occupied by Toronto Film Studios. Rumours have circled for months now that Wal-Mart is a central tenant to the development plan being put forward by Rose Corp. and SmartCentres Inc. Wal-Mart often plays a central role in SmartCentres' plans, serving as the anchor for other big box stores.

In response to the developers keeping mum about Wal-Mart's presence, and the overall nature of which stores will be included, residents mobilised for last Tuesday's community council meeting, denouncing the project and expressing their worry about the effect of a big-box development on a neighbourhood that is in the process of rebuilding.

"It is tantamount to shooting this fledgling neighbourhood in the head," local resident Victoria Dinnick told

Councilor Fletcher also submitted a motion calling on the developers to submit a detailed plan about what they plan to do with the 700,000 square foot complex. The motion will be going to Toronto city council next month.


Posted by tim

Jun 27, 2007

full lot.jpgWal-Mart recently proclaimed itself the number one corporate purchaser of green energy in Canada, vaunting its goals to increase energy efficiency at its supercentres by signing a three-year deal with wind-power provider Bullfrog Power in Alberta and purchasing renewable energy for a quarter of its BC stores through BC Hydro.

Read a little bit deeper, though, and the green paint starts to flake off that bright, shiny Wal-Mart sign along the highway. As a comparison, Wal-Mart Canada states their renewable energy plan will equal of taking 3,875 cars off the road for one year over the three year lifespan of their deal with Bullfrog. Sounds like a lot of cars. But break it down and we see that it would average out to just under 1,300 cars per year. Still sounds like a decent amount, right?

Now, let's compare: according to Wal-Mart's own figures, 1 million Canadians shop at Wal-Mart every week. With most stores built at highway intersections outside of downtown, the large majority of Wal-Mart shoppers drive to the store. Even assuming that Wal-Mart customers begin carpooling, with four people to a car, that still means 250,000 cars visiting Wal-Mart in Canada every week, or over 35,500 cars every day - 10 times the number of cars Wal-Mart says it will take off the road in energy savings over three years.

Ok, but still, 3,875 cars are 3,875 cars, and any less cars on the road is good - except Wal-Mart is still expanding. Going further with our math, each of Wal-Mart's stores, on average, should receive 120 cars (with four customers inside, remember) every day. That would equal 840 car trips in one week. So if Wal-Mart continues to open new stores (as it plans to do in Stratford, ON) and expand current locations (as it hopes in Guelph, ON), it would only take one new store about a month and a half to completely counteract Wal-Mart's vaunted energy plan.

That's just one store. And Wal-Mart has its sights set on 15 to 20 new stores. I wonder who gets to sweep up all those green paint chips?

Posted by tim

Jun 6, 2007

wmnight.jpgWal-Mart Canada is a private company, part of Wal-Mart International, which is entirely owned by Wal-Mart, Inc. Why is this important? Because it means that Wal-Mart Canada never needs to disclose its exact sales figures, making it difficult to judge it's economic impact or actual size within the Canadian retail market.

But a recent Toronto Star interview with Wal-Mart Canada CEO Mario Pilozzi sheds a bit of light on it: Wal-Mart now sells more than half of the general merchandise goods in Canada, and last year outperformed their US namesake.

But how big are they, really? How much profit do they make that could go back into better salaries, better benefits? The only time Canadians came close to knowing was when the Guelph Mercury published sales figures obtained during the protracted fight against Wal-Mart by the city's residents. Wal-Mart promptly sued the Mercury for disclosing the numbers, and although the Mercury won, the article, and the numbers, have disappeared from public sphere.

Want to ask Wal-Mart Canada how much profit they made last year? Visit this page, but be brief - they only give you 150 words to make your comment!

Posted by tim

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