New French-language commercial signage rules continue to cause concern for Que. businesses

Representatives of the Quebec business community are criticizing the measures introduced by the government to protect French.

In an open letter sent to a Montreal daily, economic organizations – the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), the Conseil du Patronat du Québec (CPQ), the Association québécoise de la quincaillerie et des matériaux de construction, Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec – asked the Legault government to review its position on the issue.

In their view, the French-language rules on commercial signage would force businesses to make changes that would often be difficult to put in place within two weeks.

“Unfeasible in such a short space of time,” argued Michel Rochette, president of the RCC’s Quebec section and spokesperson for the group behind the letter.

The letter’s authors said that “the government had promised a three-year deadline for the implementation of rules which, to date, have still not been adopted.”

While Bill 96 was finally passed in 2022, some of the measures concerning businesses, the “rules of the game,” as Rochette calls them, were only tabled in January this year.

Their final version has not yet been adopted.

His conclusion is, therefore, simple: “We can’t make any changes until we have the rules.”

The deadline for compliance with Quebec’s new regulations is June 1.

On that date, any mention of “on/off” on a button would be banned under the provisions of Bill 96, as would “play” on any player and many other words that were not yet subject to the French rule because they did not relate to the safe use of a product.

The logistical challenge of the adaptation period is a real concern for the co-signatories of Saturday’s open letter.

But the problem is broader.

According to Rochette, outdoor advertising will also turn into a logistical nightmare.

“Quebec businesses already went through an entire transformation, which was completed barely five years ago, of all outdoor signage for businesses,” says Mr Rochette. “Now, the regulations tell us that we have to go through a new phase of change. So all the signs that have been modified will have to be redesigned in an even shorter timeframe.”

The RCC chairman pointed out that signage is also subject to constraints set by municipalities

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Edmonton business owner calls for more commercial tenant protections

An Edmonton business owner says stronger protections and clearer rules are needed for small businesses in commercial lease agreements.

Nylla Moroziuk said she got notice this summer that she’d have to move her store, Rain Clothing and Fashion Accessories, from its current spot in Phase 1 of West Edmonton Mall.

She knew it was a possibility — a relocation clause is part of her lease, letting the mall give her 60 days’ notice to move to another spot. She said she was told that a larger retailer would be taking her space, plus some neighbouring stores.

But Moroziuk said she’s just one year into her five-year lease agreement, and she’s frustrated that she doesn’t see a way to guarantee more stability for her location. Shops are often subject to 30-day relocation clauses, and she said that uncertainty can put independent business owners at a landlord’s mercy.

“When you’re looking at a small business … that 30 days could completely change somebody’s life,” she said.

West Edmonton Mall didn’t respond to a request for comment from CBC News.

Moroziuk said the issue isn’t her current landlord, but the broader leasing system. She started a petition this month to call for the Alberta government to create a commercial leasing act, with guidelines and standards for lease agreements.

Nylla Moroziuk has run Rain Clothing and Fashion Accessories for a decade, first in Bonnie Doon Mall, and now in West Edmonton Mall. (Submitted by Nylla Moroziuk)

Moroziuk argues it could help correct what she says is a power imbalance between commercial landlords and small businesses.

“I don’t think a lot of Albertans understand what small business owners have to go through to be able to lease in our shopping centres, or lease at all,” she said.

“With rising prices and job instability, small retailers are already facing so many struggles that this has just definitely come to the forefront.”

Alberta’s Residential Tenancies Act sets the framework for the residential landlord-tenant relationship, but there isn’t equivalent legislation for businesses renting space for a brick-and-mortar shop.

Alberta isn’t the only province where this is the case, but in Ontario and B.C., there are laws that specifically govern commercial tenancies, outlining some of the rights and obligations on both sides.

In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction said the provincial government isn’t looking to follow suit.

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