2021: A year of challenges, changes, and accomplishments

Year-end message from our CEO

Despite the many challenges we faced, with the support of members like you, and our close working relationships with key decision makers, as the Voice of Retail ™ in Canada, RCC was able to make significant positive impacts to help retailers in Canada better manage their businesses in 2021.

Below is an overview of some of RCC’s key 2021 accomplishments.

Thank you for your ongoing support. Here is hoping to a strong end to 2021 and that in 2022 we can all focus on how our businesses and people can thrive.

Warmest regards,

Diane J. Brisebois


RCC’s strong advocacy work pays close attention to concerns that may add cost, affect reputation, establish precedent, and support the growth of Canada’s retail industry. This year we worked on over 90 retail sector related issues.


Throughout 2021, RCC continued to deliver over 80 high impact conferences, webinars and member town hall meetings, giving members a virtual front row seat to hear from global retail experts/thought leaders and to engage with their retail network.


Through RCC’s education programs, retail workers at all stages of their careers can learn best practices, excel in their roles, and improve bottom lines.  RCC continues to enthusiastically support future retail leaders through our Retail Education Scholarship Program.

Committees & Advisory Councils

Our member-only committees allow participants to collaborate with industry peers through networking, idea sharing, establishing best practices, and helping shape policies that impact the retail sector.



Whether it is federally or regionally, our government relations team advocates for retail specific issues that impact the sector.


  • To deal with the ongoing recovery of retail businesses through 2021, RCC advocated for the extension of federal business support programs, notably CEWS, CERS and CEBA.
    • The wage subsidy (CEWS) and rent subsidy programs (CERS) were extended to cover periods up until late October 2021, albeit with reductions from earlier levels. The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) was extended by $20,000 at the beginning of the year.
    • In addition, recognizing that most retail settings were reopened or reopening, requiring more staff, and that the labour market was tightening, RCC encouraged the federal government to introduce the hiring subsidy program, CRHP, which remains in place. CRHP is not just for hiring but to also cover for increases in payroll costs, whether through new hires, return to work, increased hours or higher wages for those retail business that are still down revenue-wise when compared to 2019.

  • Minimized supply chain disruptions and potential food waste during the COVID-19 crisis by securing labelling exemptions for pre-packaged meat from the United States and for food labelled for restaurants, allowing these to be sold at retail.
  • Worked with Canadian Food Inspection Agency to implement a mechanism to allow for the sale of provincially certified meat to be sold interprovincially, and secured labelling exemptions for a variety of food products during the B.C. flooding crisis.
  • Advocated for a pause on discretionary regulatory initiatives in 2021 so that retailers could focus on recovering from COVID-19 lockdowns and interruptions due to supply chains challenges, including Front-of-Pack Labelling (FOP) and Food Labelling Modernization initiatives, which both would have represented significant investments from grocery retail members with private label brands. 
  • Collaborated with the Government of Canada, members, and other industry partners to minimize business interruptions and costs associated with the new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) legal requirements which came into effect for fresh fruits and vegetables in January 2021.
  • Secured a compliance and enforcement date at the manufacturing level for retailers who sell over-the-counter drugs and natural health products, affording retailers certainty in their ordering process that the products they purchase will be compliant with the relevant regulations, saving millions in potential wasted product.
  • Lobbied Health Canada to temporarily lift certain labelling and importing requirements during the COVID-19 crisis for hand sanitizers, household cleaners, and soaps to help mitigate the pandemic’s extraordinary demand on these products, helping retailers maintain study supply for their customers.


  • Worked extensively with the B.C. provincial and federal governments to ensure disruption to retailers and the retail supply caused by the B.C. flooding and resultant highway closures was as minimal as possible.
  • Provided retailers with advance warning on highway and rail closures and reopenings in order to help supply route planning. RCC will continue to participate in working groups to inform supply chain restoration.
  • Secured labelling flexibilities for products needing to be temporarily sourced from the United States during the B.C. flooding emergency and negotiated an arrangement that granted Canadian motor carriers and drivers transiting essential goods through the U.S. revised border crossing protocols.

  • Effectively advocated to push back on Wave 4 COVID-19 related restrictions, including considerations to add Proof of Vaccination requirements in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
  • Secured Government reappointment to the board of the Alberta Recycling Management Authority at a critical period when the province is rolling out its framework for extended producer responsibility. This initiative is anticipated to transfer hundreds of millions of recycling costs from taxpayers to industry and retailers.
  • Ensured retail employers were incorporated into the new Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program designed to address hard-to-fill positions, including low and entry level positions.
  • Successfully advocated that simplified Manitoba employment standard requirements be applied to those working on Sundays.
  • Realized the Manitoba government funded COVID-19 sick-leave program for eligible retail workers impacted by the illness during the pandemic.
  • Hosted an exclusive RCC member event with Premier Jason Kenney that provided a unique opportunity to directly ask the Alberta government about its support of the retail sector.
  • Continued advocacy for harmonized Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations across the Prairies to ensure the effective management of materials, including printed paper and packaging (PPP), and hazardous and special products (HSP).

  • Worked with the Ontario government to demonstrate research findings that confirmed minimal virus transmission within retail stores. These findings lead to earlier reopening and reduced restrictions.
  • Advocated for provincial level harmonization for a variety of topics, including masking.
  • Ensured retail restrictions made sense. This included working to exempt employees from store capacity calculations, and modifications to screening guidance for staff and third-party visitors.
  • Following an RCC-led push on municipalities to exempt retail and restaurant delivery vehicles from noise by-laws, and a subsequent Ontario-wide emergency order, RCC successfully delivered legislation enacted in September 2021 that permanently exempted all Ontario retail/restaurant/DC deliveries from municipal noise by-laws and encouraging off-peak deliveries.
  • Lobbied for changes to the Ontario Blue Box Regulation, including exemptions for food-protection products, changes to the rule creation threshold, and the scope of eligible sources, such as parks and public spaces.
  • Supported the development of the Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO), Circular Materials. RCC, continues to act as the Secretariat to ensure producers have an industry-led, not-for-profit option.

  • Advocated to remove the establishment of a public health rating in Bill 99, an act to amend food product safety.
  • Pushed to allow for consultation in 2022/23 for a draft regulation modifying the current food regulation before the final regulation is sanctioned in 2024/25.
  • Supported the repeal of the Act Respecting Stuffing and Upholstered and Stuffed Articles in the Bill 103 (Red Tape Bill).
  • Persuaded the Ministry of Agriculture to set up a system that will ensure and facilitate access of inspection reports to impacted retail locations and their respective head offices.
  • Provided member and RCC commentary on proposed regulatory amendments for the recovery and reclamation of products, such as batteries, appliances, electronics, and more.

  • Negotiated with all governments to ensure COVID-19 related closures, circuit breakers, capacity restrictions, and inspection blitzes either did not impact or had a light impact on RCC members.
  • Collaborated with RCC members, the New Brunswick government, and the Encorp Atlantic Board of Directors to move forward with a plan to modernize the province’s Beverage Containers Program. This is the first step in a more ambitious plan which will likely result in an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program for beverage containers by 2023.
    • Advocated for changes to New Brunswick’s draft PPP (Packaging/Printed Paper) regulations that benefitted RCC members. RCC continues to work with Recycle NB and RCC members on developing common interpretation of the finalized regulations that will benefit the Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) and RCC members.
  • Averted a trucking blockade in New Brunswick by negotiating with both the truckers and the New Brunswick government. The truckers were upset over COVID-19 related rules that would have kept truckers in an ongoing state of home isolation when they were not working.
  • Obtained vaccination exemptions for retail employees from the Newfoundland and Labrador government. Because of RCC’s efforts, many of the employees who work in pharmacies – located inside of mass merchant retail stores – do not have to be vaccinated to continue working. RCC was also successful in delaying the start of the mandatory vaccination mandate from early Fall 2021 to December 17, 2021.
  • Gained amendments from the Newfoundland and Labrador government regarding its sugary beverage tax. RCC secured exemptions for several beverage products while also extending the original four-month implementation timeline to twelve months.

To stay up to date on all of our advocacy activities, please visit our Advocacy page.


2021 Events

See how RCC brought retailers and visionaries together in 2021.

  • Our first ever virtual STORE Conference was held from September 13-16, 2021 and over those four days we had more than twenty five renowned retail executives grace our stage including Ariana Huffington, Chester Elton, Hubert Joly, Doug Stephens and others from around the globe including Ashley Dudarenok of China, Michael Schneider of Australia, and Emily Heyward from the US. The virtual platform also allowed us to showcase eight additional concurrent sessions and provide attendees with more choice to learn more in-depth about topics that mattered most to them.  
  • RCCSTORE 22 returns as an in-person event in Toronto on May 31 and June 1, 2022.

RCC hosted seven half day virtual conferences that focused on the most pressing matters affecting our members in different areas of retail.   These included:

  • Retail Human Resources
  • Retail Loss Prevention
  • Retail Cannabis
  • Retail Holiday Shopping
  • Retail Marketing
  • DTL Forum (Quebec)
  • Retail West

Our “In Conversation with Retail Leaders” Series gives our members access to leading retail executives across the country who share with us their best practices and industry knowledge of the retail sector.  This year we hosted 5 conversations including:

  • Sarah Joyce from Sobeys
  • Tony Hurst from Lowe’s Canada
  • Eric La Flèche from Metro 
  • Darrell Jones from Save-On-Foods
  • Haio Barbeito from Walmart Canada

  • RCC hosted over twenty-one webinars in 2021 that covered topics including digital growth strategy, introduction to ESG and renewable energy purchasing, and RCC’s ever popular Retail Conditions Quarterly Report.
  • RCC also facilitated over 50-member townhalls, where we talked with experts to provide the latest updates on government and industry related policies and programs, regional information, and suggested best practices for retailers. These sessions have become a regular resource of up-to-date retail information for our members.  Make sure to register!

  • An important part of RCC’s mission is recognizing the outstanding retail accomplishments of individuals and retail teams. In 2021, we virtually celebrated the best in retail.
    • This year’s Excellence in Retail Awards recognized 14 amazing winners, including the Independent Retail Ambassador of the Year Award to Evio Beauty Group.

In 2022 we will continue to host our half day forums virtually and look forward to welcoming everyone back to our in person RCC STORE 22 conference in Toronto on May 31 to June 1, 2022.  Stay up to date on our exciting event schedule here.



See what new education initiatives we implemented this year and how we support the retail employees of the future.

  • In 2021, we revamped our FoodWise Food Safety Certification Program for both on-line and in-class delivery. Available in both English and French, the updated program includes 12 new videos along with fresh content, learning activities, and module quizzes.
  • In all, over 9,000 retail employees have completed one of our certification programs.

  • RCC is proud to support students in their desire to work in the sector and make them aware of how dynamic a career in retail can be. In 2021, we awarded 14, $1,000 scholarship to Canadian students who are interested in making retail their career through our Retail Education Scholarship Program.


Committees & Advisory Councils

Throughout 2021, our member-led committees continued to meet with purposeful intention, working to address key issues in the retail sector.  Here’s a summary of some of the more important work we did together this year:

  • Restarted the guest speaker series at the HR Networking committee meetings to share valuable research insights on labour market and best practices on relevant topics with members.
  • Collected feedback from the HR Advisory Council to better understand the most pressing HR topics for members.  Identified the need for various new resources, including a retail compensation benchmark report.

  • Hosted monthly COVID-19 taskforce meetings and facilitated member get togethers to discuss common issues, share best practices, and get up to date information relating to the pandemic.
  • Formed the LP & Risk Management Advisory Committee and recruited representation from across the country and across retail sectors.
  • The LP Advisory Committee collaborated on releasing best practices for a Holiday Security Plan. In addition, other best practices such as de-escalation techniques, crowd management, and preventing workplace violence have been made available to members through the LP Community Hub.
  • RCC is leading a taskforce in Manitoba that includes members from police, justice, academia, retail, and the vendor community with the goal of collaborating on better long-term solutions to reduce the impact of organized crime on retail and the communities that they serve.

  • Developed RCC positions on federal, British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario Privacy reforms:
    • Federally: proposed Bill C-11, containing the Consumer Privacy Protection Act (CPPA).
    • British Columbia:  consultation on the review of the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).
    • Alberta: consultation on the review of the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).
    • Ontario: consultation on the Ontario 2021 White Paper proposing a new, made-in-Ontario law privacy law for the private sector.
    • Alberta: consultation on the review of the Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA).
    • Quebec: Bill 64, An Act to modernize legislative provisions as regards the protection of personal information (became law in September 2021).
  • Hosted top-tier Canadian privacy experts to share information on key topics including; data inventories, current and proposed breach rules, Anonymous Video Analytics and regulator advisory services and Quebec’s new privacy law, Bill 64.

  • RCC is an implementation partner to the Canada Plastics Pact (CPP) and continues to collaborate with partners across the value-chain to help promote a circular economy. RCC also supported the development of CPP’s Roadmap to 2025.
  • RCC continues to host member committee meetings related to plastics and extended producer responsibility (EPR) to facilitate best practice sharing and advocacy while ensuring members are kept up to date on recycling regulations, single-use plastic bylaws, and more.
  • RCC is participating in a pilot project with industry and government stakeholders to explore solutions for textile recycling. Ultimately, the goal is to share learnings so projects can be replicated and scaled in the future.
  • In addition to expanding RCC’s online Sustainability Hub, RCC hosted member webinars on a range of topics including ESG disclosure, carbon emission reductions, extended producer responsibility, single-use plastics, and more.

You can learn about all our current committees and communities of interest here, and if you are interested in joining, please reach out to membership@retailcouncil.org