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Cannabis legalization voted Canadian Press’s business story of the year

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Canada’s trailblazing move to legalize cannabis for recreational use, which sparked an entirely new industry and had wide-ranging implications for nearly every facet of society, has been voted The Canadian Press business news story of the year.

The term “disruption” in business has become so overused that it has become an empty cliché, but it is warranted in the case of pot legalization, said Andrew Meeson, deputy business editor at the Toronto Star.

“It’s hard to think of an area in Canada that hasn’t been shaken up: not just commerce (from criminal act to booming startup to takeover target in the blink of an eye), but also policing, health care, justice, politics. Even culture (just ask Tommy Chong),” he said.

“If that doesn’t make it the business story of the year, I don’t know what would.”

NAFTA, pipeline woes the runners-up

In an annual poll of the country’s newsrooms conducted by The Canadian Press, business editors and reporters across the country chose cannabis legalization in a landslide, with 60 per cent of the votes cast.

The terse negotiations between Canada, U.S. and Mexico toward a new North American Free Trade Agreement was a distant second with 30 per cent of votes.

Canada’s pipeline conundrum, with the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion now in limbo after a court overturned its regulatory approval in August and a U.S. court throwing out the Keystone XL pipeline’s presidential permit in November, came in third out of eight possible candidates with 10 per cent of the vote.

“Pipelines would have won, hands down, if it weren’t for the creation of an entirely new industry in Canada,” said David Blair, a business columnist with CBC Radio. “Rarely, if ever, do journalists get to cover the opening of a new market, especially one that is as controversial as cannabis.”

Canada’s ‘national experiment’

The world was watching when the country made history with the first legal sale of non-medicinal pot just after midnight on Oct. 17 in Newfoundland and Labrador, due to its time zone being 30 minutes ahead of the rest of Canada.

It marked the beginning of what the New York Times dubbed Canada’s “national experiment,” and the culmination of months, if not years, of preparation by legislators and law enforcement officials at all levels and in each province, territory, and municipality.

Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton, left, passes a bag with the first legal cannabis for recreational use sold in Canada to Nikki Rose and Ian Power at the Tweed shop on Water Street in St. John’s. (Paul Daly/Canadian Press)

While Oct. 17 represented an extension from the initial target set for July, and licensed producers ramped up production in the lead-up, long lines of customers were met with widespread product shortages online and in the relatively few bricks-and-mortar stores that were ready on Day 1.

Still, many Canadians were simply elated to be able to buy government-sanctioned pot after nearly 100 years of prohibition.

‘My new dealer is the prime minister!’

“My new dealer is the prime minister!” said Canadian fiddler and pop star Ashley MacIsaac, who in 2001 had been arrested for possession in Saskatchewan.

But cannabis mania had been bubbling for months before legalization, with retail investors rushing to put money in the latest pot company to list its stock. Cannabis company valuations in the lead-up to Oct. 17 soared and some of the banks’ online direct investment platforms were bombarded with unprecedented trading volumes.

Torontonians gather at a local concert venue to watch the ‘bud drop’ at the stroke of midnight on Oct. 17, in celebration of the legalization of recreational cannabis. (Ian Willms/Getty Images)

At one point in September, producer Tilray Inc.’s stock on the Nasdaq exchange hit a peak of $300 US, giving the Nanaimo, B.C., company a market value higher than established Canadian conglomerates such as Loblaw Companies Ltd. and Rogers Communications Inc.

Pot will be cited for years to come as many Canadians’ first experiences with investing, said Pete Evans, senior business writer for CBC News.

Flurry of activity

“Cannabis mania deserves some credit — and maybe blame — for ushering an entire new generation of primarily young people into making their first stock market investments ever,” he said.

A flurry of merger and acquisition activity in the sector, even before legalization, fuelled investor interest as well.

Bill MacDonald, program co-ordinator of the new Commercial Cannabis Production Program at Niagara College, instructs his students inside the marijuana lab in Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ont. (Carlos Osario/Reuters)

Aurora Cannabis Inc. was on an acquisition spree this year, buying rival CanniMed Therapeutics for $1.1 billion after a terse takeover battle and later MedReleaf for $3.2 billion.

Alcohol giant Constellation Brands in August announced it was upping its investment in pot producer Canopy Growth Corp. — in the largest strategic investment in the pot space to date — to increase its ownership stake to 38 per cent. The Corona beer-producer also received warrants that, if exercised, would up its stake to more than 50 per cent.

Big Tobacco comes calling

And earlier this month, Big Tobacco came calling, as the number of countries that legalized cannabis for medical use continued to grow.

Marlboro maker Altria Group Inc. said it planned to invest $2.4 billion in pot producer Cronos Group Inc. for 45-per-cent ownership, with an option to increase that stake in the future.

A customer holding a cannabis product while leaving the Natural Vibe store in St. John’s. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The Altria-Cronos deal gave the overall sector a slight lift, but pot stocks have largely come off their highs after legalization, as reality set in and concerns mounted about lofty valuations.

Canadian marijuana companies have found themselves in the crosshairs of short-sellers, as well.

Supply shortages linger

Aphria Inc. earlier this month saw its stock value more than cut in half over three days after two short-sellers targeted the Leamington, Ont.-based cannabis producer with a raft of allegations, including that its recent international acquisitions were “largely worthless.” Aphria has called the allegations “inaccurate and misleading” and is confident in the deal in question, but has appointed an independent committee to review their claims.

Meanwhile, recreational pot supply shortages continue to linger. Several cannabis producers blamed supply chain issues for contributing to the shortage and have said they are aiming to increase their production, but it will likely take more time for fresh product to hit the market.

Rodrigo Acevedo Casino looks on as Anna Bolechowska smokes marijuana with a bong at the New Amsterdam café in Vancouver. (Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)

Quebec’s cannabis corporation stores continue to be closed from Monday to Wednesday as a result. And in Ontario, where the only legal way for residents to buy adult-use pot is through the government-run online portal, the provincial government said it will limit the number of retail licences it grants next April due to the shortages.

The Ontario government initially said it would not cap the number of licences, but now says it will only be able to issue 25 licences by April via a lottery system. This deals a blow to a slew of companies who have been putting down deposits to secure prime real estate locations in the country’s most populous province in anticipation of obtaining a licence.

“Seemingly overnight, activity that always existed on the margins of society has come into the centre,” said Evans.

“It’s been fascinating to watch the growing pains that have ensued…. It will be interesting to see in the coming months and years how and if the reality lives up to expectations for the industry.”

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Couple from Toronto buys dream home in Mushaboom

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MUSHABOOM – A couple who lived and raised a family in downtown Toronto developed a five-year plan in 2015 to purchase their dream home.

In September they moved into the home – located on Malagash Island in Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s stunning Eastern Shore – that met and exceeded their best dreams for their retirement.

The Camerons, Bruce and Tanya, decided in 2019 they would explore the Maritimes to see what real estate was available to become their potential retirement home. In the spring of 2020, during a global pandemic, the real estate boom hit their city, and they were hearing the same for Nova Scotia. Our province was their first-choice for attaining their desire for an entirely different lifestyle – away from the busyness of the city.

“We had $300,000 to $350,000 as a home value in mind to buy. Our semi-detached located off Danforth in Toronto was priced at $850,000. We wanted to come out ahead, so we would be secure in retirement,” Tanya said.

Their century-old home had prime location near the subway and GO Transit Line for a great 13-minute commute downtown.

“We enjoyed our community,” explains Bruce “… we had great neighbours, young children around and street parties – lots of social activity.”

Bruce says, “Our agent suggested a starting quote of $899,000. We did not do any renovations and only some staging. Fifty couples went through and we received four significant offers. Six days later we sold – with zero conditions – and a price of over a million dollars. We just requested a closing of September 2020 to get the kids off to school – which we got.”

The couple got more than they had anticipated.

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Rabobank Announces Leadership Changes in U.S., Canadian Offices

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NEW YORK, Dec. 16, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Rabobank, the leading global food and agribusiness bank, has appointed two of its top executives, Tamira Treffers-Herrera and Robert Sinescu, to become Co-Heads of North American Client Coverage, positioning the Bank for future growth in the region.

Treffers-Herrera has also assumed the role of Vice Chairperson and Head of the Atlanta office, where she additionally oversees Rabobank Mexico, which is led by Eduardo Palacios. Sinescu is the Head of the Chicago office, and also oversees Rabobank Canada, led by Marc Drouin, who was recently appointed as Canada’s General Manager.

Treffers-Herrera and Sinescu report to David Bassett, Head of Wholesale Banking North America, the Bank’s corporate and investment banking business for the region based in New York.

“Both Tamira and Robert have a demonstrated history of strong leadership, operational excellence and passion for our clients,” Bassett said. “Their broad experience and deep sector expertise will be invaluable in delivering dynamic results for clients while accelerating our growth trajectory in North America.”

Each office will have an even greater focus on key Food & Agribusiness sectors and clients: The Chicago office will drive growth in sectors including Dairy, Farm Inputs and Grains & Oilseeds, which are also key areas of focus for the Canada office. The Atlanta office will focus heavily on sectors such as Animal Protein, Beverages, Sugar, and Supply Chains, which are important sectors in Mexico as well.

“Rabobank is fully committed to our clients throughout North America, and we believe our new sector-focused coverage will improve our ability to provide knowledge-based, value-added solutions that benefit our clients,” Bassett said.

Treffers-Herrera was most recently based in London as CEO of Rabobank’s European Region from 2016-2020, where she took the organization through Brexit. Prior to that, she worked in the Atlanta office from 2002-2016. During her tenure in Atlanta, Treffers-Herrera served as Global Sector Head – Consumer Food & Beverages, and prior to that she was a senior banker for a portfolio of large beverage and consumer foods clients. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, a Master of Arts from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce and has studied at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Harvard Business School.

Sinescu has been with Rabobank for over 21 years and was previously General Manager of Rabobank Canada, where he oversaw all operations, business development, commercial strategy and relationships with regulators. In addition, he continues to serve as CEO of Rabo Securities Canada Inc. Prior to Canada, he was a senior banker, Head of Corporate Banking, European Sector Head for Sugar, and a member of the Management Team for Rabobank France. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Bucharest School of Business, a Master of Business Administration & Management and a Master of Science in Banking and Corporate Finance from Sorbonne University in Paris, and has studied at Brown University.

Drouin has worked with Rabobank’s Canadian team for more than nine years and most recently served as a senior banker, Head of Rabobank Canada’s AgVendor Program and a member of Rabobank Canada’s Management Team. He brings extensive wholesale banking experience within the Dairy, G&O, CPG and Supply Chain sectors. Drouin holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University and a Master of Business Administration in International Finance, Marketing and Management from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

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Greybrook Realty Partners & Marlin Spring Brand Jointly Owned Asset Manager – Greyspring Apartments

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TORONTO, Dec. 14, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Greybrook Realty Partners and Marlin Spring are pleased to announce the new branding of their jointly owned investment and asset management firm, Greyspring Apartments. With a portfolio of more than 2,000 units and CAD$375 million in assets under management, Greyspring Apartments is focused on the acquisition and repositioning of multi-family assets throughout Canada.

The new name and branding is an important step in Greyspring’s evolution as an independent operating business. Formed in 2018 by long standing-partners Marlin Spring and Greybrook Realty Partners, Greyspring Apartments was established with the goal of building a leading asset management firm with a robust portfolio of residential rental real estate assets in primary and secondary markets across Canada.

Greyspring’s talented team of real estate, asset management and finance professionals is overseen and guided by the Management Board, whose members include Benjamin Bakst, CEO, Marlin Spring; Elliot Kazarnovksy, CFO, Marlin Spring; Sasha Cucuz, CEO, Greybrook Securities Inc.; Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Chris Salapoutis, President & COO, Greybrook Realty Partners; Ashi Mathur, President, Marlin Spring; and Karl Brady. In addition to his role on the Management Board, Karl Brady leads Greyspring Apartments as its President. 

“We are pleased to announce the official name and branding of a business we formed with our partners at Marlin Spring a few years ago,” said Peter Politis, CEO, Greybrook Realty Partners. “Greyspring has been diligently focused on the execution of strategic value-add programs across its portfolio that are improving the quality of housing for tenants and overall asset values. For Greybrook investors, expanding from our core business in real estate development to the value-add space through Greyspring, has allowed us to provide our clients with investment opportunities that diversify their real estate investment portfolios.”

“Marlin Spring and Greybrook have partnered on many residential real estate projects in recent years,” said Benjamin Bakst, CEO and Cofounder, Marlin Spring. “To a great extent, Greyspring illustrates our approach to partnerships. We believe in, and strive for, responsible growth through deepening our relationships with our trusted partners. With Greyspring, we’ve formalized our focus on providing better and more affordable living experiences for Canadians. This vision aligns with our mission to deliver exceptional real estate value to all our stakeholders with an uncompromising adherence to our core values.”

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