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Target’s prices in Canada are going to be higher than in the U.S.

A nearly-finished Target Canada store (Image: Facebook)

Bad news: when Target’s first wave of Canadian locations opens this spring, the merchandise will be more expensive than in U.S. stores. Target Canada president Tony Fisher told the Globe and Mail that prices will be set to stay competitive with other Canadian retailers, not U.S. ones. We’re not all that surprised; Canada’s steeper tariffs and fewer economies of scale mean local shoppers are used to paying a little more than Americans. That said, Target is already well-known as a discount store to legions of cross-border shoppers who’ve been exploiting the loonie’s near-parity with the U.S. dollar for years—which means they’ll likely get angry in a hurry once they notice discrepancies. Just ask J.Crew. [Globe and Mail]

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Business

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Canada’s most valuable brands include a lot of banks and two telecom rivals

Consulting firm Brand Finance Canada released its list of Canada’s top 50 brands earlier this week, and we’d bet the country’s banking executives are feeling pretty pleased with the results. TD Bank’growing influence in U.S. markets helped it to nab the top spot with an estimated brand value of $10.4 billion, and Canada’s other big banks were close behind. That said, this list skews more corporate and less consumer than a similar ranking from Interbrand, suggesting this stuff isn’t an exact science. Interbrand’s top 10 included Shoppers Drug Mart, Tim Hortons and Lululemon, companies that Brand Finance placed at 20, 25, and 26, respectively.

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The Goods

Stores

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Zellers is keeping one Toronto store open

In January 2011, trendy low-cost giant Target took over 220 leases from not-so-trendy low-cost giant Zellers, and ever since, the latter has been winding down operations. However, it seems Zellers isn’t actually going extinct. Parent company HBC says that three Canadian stores are staying open under the Zellers name, including the store in Toronto’s Kipling Queensway Mall. That location, plus a pair of stores in Vancouver and Montreal, are shifting toward more fashion apparel and higher-end home products. With the first four Toronto-area Target stores opening this spring, we’re curious to see if the refresh is enough to keep the Zellers name alive. [The Now Newspaper]

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Politics

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Jose Canseco for Toronto mayor? The pros and cons of the ex-slugger running city hall

Toronto city politics hit a new level of crazy at just after one o’clock this morning, when legendary home run hitter and admitted steroid user Jose Canseco outlined his platform to replace Rob Ford as mayor, a feat that would fulfill item six in Canseco’s amazing list of New Year’s resolutions. The erstwhile Blue Jay mused in a semi-intelligible tweet that “Ford too much trouble to be effective gotta fix budget, traffic, get new $ not from taxes, get more new businesses, and help schools.” Alas, the world will never get to see what Toronto would look like under Canseco’s rule—since he’s not a Canadian citizen, he’s not eligible to run. Still, that didn’t stop us from imagining the benefits and drawbacks of his never-to-be mayoralty.

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Business

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Pay Check: the salaries and bonuses of Toronto’s five highest-paid CEOs

While most rankings of the super-wealthy focus on net worth, it’s hard not to also be curious about how much the not-very-average Joe earns each year. Enter the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which released its latest list of the country’s 100 highest-paid CEOs earlier this week, based on data collected for 2011. According to the CCPA, the average salary of the top 100 Canadian CEOs was $7.7 million (which, the left-leaning think tank pointed out, means they pocket the average Canadian salary of $45,448 in a little over half a day’s work). However, the five Torontonians who cracked the top 10 make considerably more than the average. We break down local bigwigs’ base salaries and mind-blowing bonuses below.

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Business

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Bell stakes its claim for downtown Toronto condo owners with big-time cable discounts

A high-stakes turf war is heating up between Rogers and Bell over the chance to provide television to Toronto’s ever-growing ranks of downtown condo-dwellers. For decades, bylaws prohibiting satellite dishes on condo balconies prevented Bell from selling its satellite TV in high-rises, leaving Rogers to sign exclusive deals with developers. But the landscape has changed: Rogers’ deals are now expiring and, with Fibe TV, Bell has traded in ugly satellites for discreet fiber optics cable. The company recently made its first major play, offering steep discounts on TV and PVR rentals (but buyer beware: the ultra-low rates expire after a year, and customers must also sign up for home phone and internet). Bell has even taken the unprecedented step of running fiber into single suites—some private residences at the Four Seasons are on Fibe—setting the precedent for a gritty customer-by-customer battle between it and Rogers. And here we thought the competitors were learning to play nice.  [Globe and Mail]

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Politics

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Air Canada’s new low-cost airline has cheaper fares, more crowded seating and lower-paid staff

Air Canada has finally made good on its promise to open a discount airline, commencing ticket sales for its new low-cost brand, Rouge, yesterday. (The name, chosen through an online contest, isn’t terrible, though someone should probably tell the airline that “rouge” does not, in fact, mean “go.”) Pearson Airport will serve as Rouge’s hub come July, when the carrier begins flying to Edinburgh, Venice, Athens, Cuba, Costa Rica, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic between one and five times per week, but two flights a week will also depart for Athens from Montreal. To keep costs low, Rouge squeezes 57 more seats into its Boeing 767s and 22 extra seats into its Airbus A319s, charges passengers for movies, TV and music, and gives staff lower wages and fewer benefits. That translates into cheaper fares (at least a few hundred dollars less on some flights)—though nothing on the level of the bargain-basement seat sales offered by European budget carriers. Meanwhile, Porter Airlines also picked yesterday to launch Porter Escapes, its new vacation packages service, which allows flyers to book hotels, city passes and other tourist add-ons. We’re sure the timing is purely coincidental.

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Business

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BlackBerry 10 makes some high-profile RIM doomsayers eat their words 

Research in Motion’s recent hot streak continues with a pair of endorsements from unlikely sources. This morning, Reuters reported the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency—which dumped the BlackBerry for the iPhone a few months back, along with a pair of other spooked enterprise clients—will test run BlackBerry 10 devices early next year. And yesterday, Ironfire Capital’Eric Jackson, a long-time high-profile RIM pessimist, publicly reversed his position, arguing that RIM’s 80 million global subscribers could keep the company afloat. Add in a soaring share price and rave reviews for the latest leaked BlackBerry 10 photos, and RIM’s future is looking more promising that it has in a long, long time. [Reuters]

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Business

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Five things we learned about the ultra-rich Thomson family from the Wall Street Journal

(Image: thomsonreuters.com)

David Thomson, the scion of Canada’s wealthiest family, is known for his extreme love of privacy. But the Thomson Reuters chairman will soon be spending more time in the spotlight, according to a front-page feature this week in the Wall Street Journal, which says that tough times have forced Thomson to take a more active role. The article also reveals some juicy insider details about the family business, including the changing extent of the clan’s fortune and what David wears to business meetings (hint: it’s not a suit). We round up the top five tidbits below.

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Sports

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The Maple Leafs are valuable and inefficient and have diehard fans, according to Forbes

Despite the ongoing, soul-crushing NHL lockout, Forbes magazine still published its annual look at the business of hockey this week. As usual, the Toronto Maple Leafs were ranked the most valuable team in the league, but this year marks a special milestone: the Leafs are now the first NHL franchise to be valued at $1 billion, a fortune compared to the league average of $282 million. (Though Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment bigwigs like Richard Peddie and Tom Anselmi scoffed at the figure, Forbes argues that $1 billion is reasonable if you extrapolate from the $2.05-billion sale of MLSE this year.) The magazine also ranked Leafs fans third in the league, based on their willingness to shell out $123 on average for a ticket (the highest in the NHL by 50 per cent), plus robust memorabilia sales, social media activity and television ratings. On a gloomier note, the Leafs have the worst “bang for buck” over the past seven seasons, which means the money spent on player salaries isn’t netting wins or playoff runs. Not that Torontonians needed Forbes’ number crunchers to figure that out.

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People

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Digital Fortresses: A cheat sheet to Toronto papers’ online paywalls

The Toronto Sun, home of Sue-Ann Levy, sexy bikini shots and amusing slip-ups, is the latest Toronto daily to try to mitigate waning print advertising revenue by charging for online content. The paper will erect a digital paywall next week, according to the Globe and Mail, which itself already has digital subscriptions in place. Meanwhile, the Toronto Star and National Post have both announced plans to institute walls in the New Year. Below, we break down all four papers’ plans to help you pick which to shell out for.

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Business

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Nokia versus RIM: a patent dispute could result in a BlackBerry sales ban

Research in Motion is on a roll this month, with a BlackBerry 10 launch date announcement and share price upgrades by several high-profile analysts. Still, it wouldn’t be RIM without some bad news mixed in, and the latest is bad enough to imperil the budding comeback: Nokia has won one of its patent disputes against RIM, which could bar the company from selling BlackBerrys. A Swedish arbitration panel has ruled that RIM can’t sell devices that use a crucial patent for accessing wireless local access networks until it pays damages and royalties, and Nokia is taking RIM to court in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada to enforce the decision. An outright sales ban is one possible outcome, though it’s more likely the two companies will work out a settlement and royalty agreement, which could cost RIM up to $350 million a year. Not exactly chump change for a company trying to turn its fortunes around. [Toronto Star]

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Business

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RIM’s stock surges with a vote of confidence from CIBC 

CIBC has joined the ranks of companies in the Canadian investment community forecasting a brighter less gloomy future for beleaguered Research in Motion. Yesterday, the bank’s capital markets arm raised its price target for the tech giant to $17 (U.S.) per share—more than double its previous estimate of $8. CIBC also improved RIM’s rating from “sector underperform” (not good) to “sector outperform” (good), and an analyst even called the company’s stock “materially undervalued.” Late last week, a National Bank Financial analyst also upped his price target for RIM from $12 to $15 (U.S.) and suggested investors buy shares in anticipation of the launch of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, prompting RIM to make its biggest gain on the market since April 2009. Now, the company just really, really needs to make sure it doesn’t delay the release of its new OS. Again. [Canadian Business]

The Dish

Random Stuff

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Hostess declares bankruptcy: could this be the end of the Twinkie in America?

(Image: Christian Cable)

It’s been said that even a nuclear holocaust couldn’t kill a Twinkie, but it turns out unions are another matter. Hostess, the 82-year-old business behind such beloved-by-children brands as Twinkie, Ding Dong and Wonderbread, announced today that it will “promptly” cease operations and lay off most of its 18,500 employees. Despite sales of approximately $2.5 billion last year, the heavily unionized company was plagued with labour relations issues and was brought down by a nationwide strike by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union that began on November 9 (the company was also facing rising commodities costs and, well, demand for healthier food). Hostess filed for bankruptcy protection last January, the second time in a decade, and had been attempting to cut labour costs. It now intends to auction off all of its brands to the highest bidder. Canadian Twinkie lovers need not fear, however: Saputo Inc. owns the Canuck rights, which means, ironically, that the iconic American snack cake may for a time only be available north of the 49th parallel. [Wall Street Journal]

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Features

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Jesse Brown: Who says smart phone addiction is a bad thing? The case for constant connectivity

The Case for Constant Connectivity

Smart phones have invaded every aspect of our lives. We use them at the dinner table, in bed, even on the john. Some people call it an addiction. I call it progress

I lift phone to face hundreds of times a day. If smart phones are addictive, then I’m the Amy Winehouse of Android. My wife can’t stand it when I read the news on my phone at the breakfast table, an annoyance I’m certain she wouldn’t suffer were I reading the same article on newsprint. She gets irritated with me, and then I catch her doing the same thing a day later, and I make too big a deal about it. It’s time we gave each other a break.

All of us, that is. A growing body of research is revealing a global epidemic of smart phone dependency. Lookout, a mobile security firm, recently conducted a “mobile mindset” survey that asked more than 2,000 Americans if they checked their phones while on the toilet. Nearly 40 per cent of them did. More than half of those studied curled up in bed with their phones, 24 per cent used them while driving and nine per cent checked email while at church or other places of worship. Researchers also learned that 94 per cent of users felt “panicked,” “desperate” or “sick” when they misplaced their phones. Only six per cent said they felt “relieved.” Another widely reported survey of 1,000 employed smart phone users found that 80 per cent of them continued to check in with work via their phones after leaving the office; 57 per cent did so during family outings, and 25 per cent admitted to arguing with their spouses about these phone habits. A cheeky survey asked Americans which they would rather go without for a week if they had to choose: smart phones or sex? Thirty-three per cent said sex.

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