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Small business fears over carbon tax impact aren’t necessarily grounded in reality

To hear small-business opponents of the federal carbon tax tell it, they are among the leading casualties of an ill-considered, poorly designed effort by the Trudeau government to burnish its climate-change credentials at the expense of economic growth, jobs and the profits of hard-working entrepreneurs. Rents, fuel, processing, shipping and other costs will rise and already thin margins will suffer in a slowing economy, in which competitive pressures make it tough to pass on increases to customers. To add insult to injury, small businesses will have to earmark additional capital for approved emission-reduction measures to qualify for government rebates that will cover only a fraction of their costs. It’s too early to gauge the impact of the federal tax, which came into effect April 1 in four provinces – Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick – with either no carbon plan of their own or one that met federal guidelines. Alberta will be joining the club Jan. 1 after newly elected Premier Jason Kenney pulled the plug on an existing program. But economic analyses and evidence gathered elsewhere indicate that the fears of small business aren’t necessarily grounded in reality. Story

This is the weekly Report on Small Business newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web, or if someone forwarded this e-mail to you, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters on our signup page.

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Ontario's second lottery for cannabis retail stores prompts fresh bout of criticism

The Ontario government is facing fresh criticism over its cannabis retail rollout after a second lottery to award new store licences led to clusters of winners in small areas and shut out established retailers. On Wednesday, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) announced 42 winners of the right to apply for cannabis retail licences across five regions in the province. Industry experts and existing private cannabis retailers said the results show that the government has failed to address problems that arose after the first lottery in January – and possibly created new problems. “We are going to see another feeding frenzy where you have these golden ticket winners out there, essentially auctioning off their ticket to the highest bidder,” said David Phillips, former president of the government-owned Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) and current general counsel and principal of communications firm Navigator. "That is something we will likely see play out over the next week or so.” No established retailers were picked in the draw. Story

Toronto fintech Drop sees $44-million in latest funding round

Royal Bank of Canada is backing an upstart loyalty-management program geared at millennials called Drop Technologies Inc. as part of a US$44-million venture-capital financing. Toronto-based Drop, co-founded four years ago by brothers Derrick and Darren Fung and their friend Cameron Dearsley, says it has signed up three million consumers who use their smartphones to collect cash rewards by shopping with more than 300 merchant partners geared toward younger users, including e-commerce companies Warby Parker, Instacart, Expedia and Postmates, as well as Whole Foods, Starbucks and Uber. Drop says its users, who link their credit and debit cards to their account to receive points as they shop – sometimes on top of the points they already earn from their financial institutions – have earned close to US$19-million in rewards. Story

Toronto startup Nudge Rewards raises $11-million in venture capital

Nudge Rewards Inc., a Toronto startup that connects restaurant, retail and hospitality companies to front-line employees through their smartphones, has raised $11-million in venture capital, making it one of the few Canadian technology firms led or co-founded by women to secure eight-figure private financing. Nudge, which counts Rogers, Telus, Roots, Samsung and Golf Town among its 20 corporate customers, announced the funding, led by Chicago-based Jump Capital. Previous investors Brightspark Ventures, Generation Ventures, StandUp Ventures and the Business Development Bank of Canada’s Women in Technology Fund also participated. Each of those five backers has at least one female partner, a relative rarity in the male-dominated venture-capital sector, and Nudge is one of the few venture-backed Canadian firms to have both a female CEO, Lindsey Goodchild, and chief technology officer, Dessy Daskalov. Story

Toronto fertility startup Lilia attracts early interest from investors

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While Alyssa Atkins endured an unnerving three-month wait to get the results of her fertility test, she figured there had to be a better way. In less time than it took to receive her results, she launched her own female fertility company, Lilia, to tackle the problem. The 29-year-old Toronto-based founder had recently left a long-term relationship and was watching a friend go through premature menopause when the worry hit her – it could soon be too late to have children. Story

Talks about Grow Calgary's new site break down

Talks to move Canada’s largest community farm have broken down. The Alberta government says ballooning costs and its continuing focus on “fiscal restraint” means they’ve run out of money for the project, while the non-profit’s organizers say they’ve been presented with unreasonable lease conditions. Grow Calgary’s future is at stake six months after the community farm was evicted from its home of six years to make way for a highway project. The fields and fruit trees that supplied organic produce to shelters for women and the homeless have been razed, but the community farm and provincial officials reached an agreement in the spring to relocate the farm to a new site with the government picking up the tab for the move. Story

Entrepreneurs are turning beer byproduct into bread, cookies and profit

When Jeff Dornan opened a brewery six years ago, he knew the brewing process would produce hundreds of kilograms of spent grain, and he had a plan for it. Rather than pay to dump it in a landfill, he partnered with a farmer to haul it away and feed it to his animals. Not every craft brewer can access farmers in need of feed, so an industry has formed around spent grain with entrepreneurs turning it into cookies, breads and even dog treats. “Everyone’s trying to think of creative ways of minimizing their carbon footprint,” said Mr. Dornan, who is also chairman of Ontario Craft Brewers, a trade association representing more than 80 members. Story (Canadian Press)


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A safer sunflower selfie: local business opens sunflower expo for photo-takers

Local business A Maze in Corn has opened a new sunflower expo, after farmers complained about hundreds of people trespassing in their sunflower fields last year. “When we heard about all the farmers getting their yards ravished or their fields ravished by people looking at sunflowers, it kind of gave us a small idea,” said Clint Masse, owner of A Maze in Corn. The expo gives people the opportunity to take pictures with the flowers, without having to trespass and possibly damage a farmer’s crop. CTV

Shaunavon pop-up wedding to let couples tie the knot on a shoestring

A small town in Saskatchewan is getting in on the pop-up wedding craze, allowing couples to ditch the five-figure wedding for a less-than-$400 one and still keep the matrimonial trimmings. "We're always looking for different ways to promote our town and get our name out there to the world," said Dianne Greenlay. "I thought, 'Why couldn't Shaunavon be the pop-up capital of Saskatchewan? Well heck, why couldn't it be the pop-up capital of Western Canada?'" She pitched the idea to the town, believing it could be an alternative for people who might otherwise opt for a quickie wedding at a city office or Las Vegas. The Town of Shaunavon, located about 350 kilometres southwest of Regina, was game, and now plans to host the pop-up wedding next June for 10 to 20 couples. CBC

Why New York Just Banned Floating Billboards

Governor Cuomo signed a bill on Monday to ban billboards from floating in New York’s waters. But the head of the company responsible for these floating billboards said he was “undeterred” and planned to keep operating. Ballyhoo Media, the company that operates the billboards, has been running ads in New York since October, and in Miami since 2016. The signs are big and bright, and can be seen hundreds of feet away. New York Times

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Stranger Things fans bring cameras, wallets to Georgia

Soon after Netflix released “Stranger Things,” fans of all ages came into Bradley’s Big Buy grocery store in Palmetto, Georgia, dressed like characters from the show, and wandered toward the Eggo waffles aisle, cameras in hand. They sought out the exact spot where “Stranger Things” star Millie Bobby Brown filmed a scene as the character Eleven, and they’re still coming three years later, even after the store changed its name and became part of the Piggly Wiggly franchise. Palmetto is a town of barely 5,000 people about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Atlanta where the grocery store cashiers greet customers by name. But after “Stranger Things” premiered in 2016, it became routine for employees to also welcome fans from around the globe. Associated Press

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