Today, the Toronto Star spent hours interviewing staff and customers at Karl’s Butchers and Grocery (105 Roncesvalles), which has sold fresh sausages on our street for 46 years. Karl’s has been forced out of business by the province.
In October, the provincial government decided to enforce a harsh, literal interpretation of the 2001 Food and Safety Quality Act. The Province took Karl’s out of the Yellow/Green inspection system operated by the City (where they passed every inspection), and placed it under provincial regulations. According to these regulations, Karl’s is now considered a “manufacturing plant,” because it makes its own sausages. These sausages, which have helped make Roncesvalles famous, are prepared fresh in the store, unlike most sausages which are packaged and shipped from centralized plants.
Under the regulations, Karl’s is forced to pretend it is like some mass-production facility, forced to conform to a massive list of regulations that make little sense for a small, local business – even one dealing with raw meat. The province must even test the water every week, as if they were some rural factory taking water in from a local well. The province is simply incapable of distinguishing between a local butcher and a factory slaughterhouse, and a part of Roncesvalles is being destroyed as a result.
According to Walter Jarzabek of Karl’s, they decided they could not fight the province, and so they decided to close on December 22. A lot of local residents are upset. We should be too.
Unless the province can show how a local butcher like Karl’s poses a threat to public health, they should find a way to distinguish a business like Karl’s from the large factory slaughterhouses that are the Act’s intended target. Just because a sausage comes from a box out of a truck does not make it healthier, and it certainly doesn’t make it tastier. The public should have the choice to buy fresh sausages from a trusted and responsible butcher like Karl’s.
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UPDATE (Dec. 8): The Toronto Star article, plus a video, is now online here.
According to the article, about 150 small meat shops are facing provincial review. If only large factories are able to comply with the regulations, then local meat shops will be placed at a disadvantage, removing their ability to provide a distinctive and desirable product, namely fresh sausages prepared on site. And since Roncesvalles is famous for its sausages, this hits close to home. As Walter Jarzabek says, “The future of small business looks very limited under this regime.”
The BIA has also learned that local MPP and NDP Small Business Critic Cheri DiNovo intends to raise the matter in the provincial legislature before the session closes on December 13. The minister responsible for the provincial regulations is Leona Dombrowski, whose contact page is here.
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SECOND UPDATE (December 10): Cheri DiNovo’s statement on the closing can be found here.
She hits the nail on the head when she says that overly strict, one-size-fits-all regulations particularly threaten small “Artisan and Guild type businesses” like Karl’s. She writes: “If it is unreasonable to put large factories out of business because of overly-strict guidelines, is it therefore reasonable to force small businesses to close down?” She also provides the email address of Leona Dombrowski, the Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, who is responsible for these regulations: firstname.lastname@example.org
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THIRD UPDATE (December 11): Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash has also expressed her opposition to the treatment Karl’s has received from the province. Her statement is available as a Word document here. She writes: “The safety of our food is of paramount importance. Common sense, however, must be applied by this government.”