BY IAN PATTISON

More short notes on long subjects.

So now both ends of Intercity Shopping Centre will be empty. Only half of the north end that once housed Sears was taken over by Marshall’s, and Lowe’s has announced that it will abandon the south anchor space that was Zellers and then Target.

Is Lowe’s doing that badly that it had to shutter 34 Canadian locations after 27 closures last year? It is second only to Home Depot which continues humming along locally with the smaller Canadian retailer, Home Hardware.

Lowe’s earlier acquisition of Rona gave it too many properties and with Amazon nipping at its heels online, a further cost-saving measure was deemed necessary. But the company is hardly losing money.

In fiscal 2018 (ended February 2019) the company reported revenue of $71.3 billion, up 4 per cent from the prior year -- nearly 30 per cent since 2014. The 2018 annual report shows that every $100 invested in the company in 2014 grew to $228.98 this year. Apparently that was not enough for shareholders.

This year, Thunder Bay Lowe’s and 33 other Canadian locations are said to be “underperforming.” Specific location sales figure are difficult to obtain but there always seem to be plenty of customers in the Intercity store.

Lowe’s, Home Depot and Home Hardware, along with the sturdy local Maier Hardware, seemed to have settled onto differing customer bases. Everyone had their favourite, with Canadian Tire earning its own share of the market along with specialty outlets.

Lowe’s shares surged as much as 6.9 per cent, the most in three months, to $121.22 on Nov. 20, the day of the announcement. That’s pretty much all you need to know about the impetus for this latest upheaval in Thunder Bay’s retail marketplace.

SMALL NUMBER, BIG CHANGE

The problem with climate change warnings is that the numbers are small and projected well into the future. The time being is all the matters politically, at least to some governments, and so we continue to muddle along with half-baked measures that scare the bejeezus out of scientists.

In October 2018, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looked at the difference between a world that had warmed by 2 C and one that warmed by 1.5 C, the current target.

The findings were dramatic with increased risks to "health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth." Millions of people could face poverty, flooding and drought if the planet warmed by 2 C.

Now we have another UN report that commands our attention. Without drastic action, our planet is headed toward warming of 3.2 C in less than 100 years, an outcome one participant calls “stupefying.” The United Nations Environment Program calls on governments to act immediately, within the next decade, to limit global warming to 1.5 C or 2 C at most by 2100.

Gabriel Filippelli, a professor at Purdue, said that the difference between 2 C and 3.2 C warming may seem minor, but that's not the case. "It seems mathematically like we're playing around with numbers, but they are profound numbers," Filippelli said. Each fraction of a degree the planet warms means dire consequences, particularly in countries most vulnerable. Canada’s North Pole region is warming much faster than the rest of the country resulting in that “polar vortex” that pokes down the jet stream spilling Arctic air across the central provinces.

During the recent election campaign Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government would commit to legislate net-zero emissions by 2050 but with current policies in place, Canada will be at least 15 per cent above target.

Here in Ontario, the Conservative government has taken its federal counterpart to court to try and weasel out of the carbon tax that is near-universally accepted as the best way to reduce emissions.

This week, Queen’s Park went a further step beyond rational, announcing cancellation of more than 750 renewable energy contracts and trying to hide the $321-million cost deep in a budget book. To justify this assault on science, Energy Minister Greg Rickford, MPP for Kenora, cited a website that denies climate change is largely caused by humans. While he said he believed in climate change, he would not answer a question about whether he believed human activity was responsible for it.

Well, it is. Most people will take the word of scientists over politicians any day. A government that advertises itself as “for the people” ought to know better than to allow its cabinet ministers to spew theories that deny science and endanger our future.

GOOD WORK ENDURES

Two Thunder Bay social institutions are on different paths this week.

The Underground Gym has had to be closed due to water damage from dousing a fire in the same building.

The perpetually-optimistic Peter Panetta has kept the Underground Gym afloat for years with an assortment of fundraisers, handouts, personal capital and dogged determination. The Gym serves street kids with activities and meals – kids to whom Panetta has devoted his life. He says that he’ll carry on in the U.G.G. bus, and hopes to one day re-open in a new location. There is a GoFundMe campaign underway for those who want to help.

Meanwhile, at EcoSuperior, Sue Hamel has succeeded Ellen Mortfield as executive-director. Mortfield has relocated from Lappe to her hometown of Sydenham after guiding the city’s environmental stewardship organization for 24 years.

Hamel brings to EcoSuperior years of environmental instruction locally and internationally and an intimate knowledge of city neighbouhoods and rural natural areas through her guided walking tours business.

Best of luck to both of these stalwart citizens and a fond farewell to Mortfield whose leadership established EcoSuperior as an invaluable leader in sustainability.

FINAL POINT

A question for federal Conservatives uneasy with Andrew Scheer’s leadership: Isn’t it time to ask Rona Ambrose back?

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