Target is busily opening new stores across Canada this year, but some employees and labour leaders aren’t happy with the way the retail chain is going about it, and plan to protest at the company’s annual general meeting in Denver Wednesday.

They are also criticizing the retail chain’s hiring of a Conservative Party-linked lobbyist, evidently to pressure the federal government to keep country-of-origin labelling out of Canada’s legislation.

Target employees, laid-off Zellers workers and others will be protesting “Target's failure to respect the rights and earned living conditions of retail workers in Canada and around the world,” the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union said in a statement.

Target took over a majority of locations formerly operated by discount retail chain Zellers, which is closing down operations. The chain’s employees have largely lost their jobs over the past several years.

Though Target had promised to offer job interviews to Zellers employees (for positions at starting-level pay), the company ended up hiring only one per cent of Zellers workers, the UFCW said.

Target has no legal responsibility to keep on Zellers employees, as it didn’t take over the Zellers chain, only some of its store locations. The British Columbia Labour Relations Board issued a ruling last year to that effect, saying that Target does not need to recognize the work contracts of Zellers employees.

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  • Nike

    St. Patrick's Day-themed SB Dunk Low <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/nike-black-and-tan_n_1344197.html" target="_hplink">"Black and Tan"</a> sneakers by Nike incite outrage from Irish community.

  • Victoria's Secret

    As part of the brand's "Far East" collection, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/24/victorias-secret-geisha-outfit-photos_n_1909366.html" target="_blank">"Sexy Little Geisha"</a> outfit came complete with a removable obi belt.

  • Urban Outfitters

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/03/eat-less-urban-outfitters_n_598904.html" target="_hplink">"Eat Less"</a> t-shirts aren't well received by, well, most people.

  • Urban Outfitters

    "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/urban-outfitters-st-patricks-day-clothes-_n_1313242.html" target="_hplink">Truly Madly Deeply Kiss Me</a>" t-shirt offends Irish groups.

  • Abrecrombie & Fitch

    Asian caricature t-shirts <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/ABERCROMBIE-GLITCH-Asian-Americans-rip-2850702.php" target="_hplink">caused outrage in California.</a>

  • Urban Outfitters

    Some Irish groups aren't pleased with this "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/urban-outfitters-st-patricks-day-clothes-_n_1313242.html" target="_hplink">Irish Yoga</a>" trucker hat.

  • Urban Outfitters

    Retailer gets in trouble for its "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/urban-outfitters-jewish-star-tshirt_n_1441731.html" target="_hplink">Jewish Star</a>" t-shirt.

  • Abrecrombie & Fitch

    "Wink Wink" and "Eye Candy" thongs for 10-year olds isn't a hit with all parents.

  • Urban Outfitters

    "New Mexico, Cleaner than Regular Mexico" t-shirts didn't go over well. (AP photo)

  • Urban Outfitters

    Ditto this "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/01/urban-outfitters-st-patricks-day-clothes-_n_1313242.html" target="_hplink">Truly Madly Deeply Irish Drunk" </a>scoop tank.

  • Pubic Hair Dye

    "Color for the hair down there" is not received well.

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    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/09/how-to-catch-an-illegal-immigrant-taco-cid_n_2439294.html">"How to catch an illegal immigrant" shirt</a>

  • Fahad

    "Cuntier" hats <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/12/cartier-cuntier-hats_n_2861513.html?utm_hp_ref=style&ir=Style">spoof Cartier logo</a>.

  • Adidas 'Shackle' Sneakers

    Jeremy Scott designed these "handcuffs" sneakers for Adidas. However, after many complained that the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/18/adidas-shackle-sneakers-controversy_n_1605661.html" target="_hplink">cuffs looked more like shackles</a>, Adidas canceled its plans to sell the shoes.

  • Urban Outfitters

    Urban Outfitters thought it was a good idea to sell this shirt to its young demographic (with a lot of them being younger than 21).

  • Clean and Dry Intimate Wash

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/12/vagina-bleaching-ad_n_1420825.html" target="_hplink">Skin-lightening wash</a> targets consumers with dark colored privates.

Nonetheless, the UFCW points out that, when Walmart came to Canada in the mid 1990s, the retail giant hired most of the 16,000 employees of Woolco, whose stores it had taken over.

“Why has Target refused to respect the loyalty, service and experience of more than 25,000 Canadian workers, who were all terminated when Target purchased Zellers from the Hudson Bay Company?” the UFCW asked in a statement.

Though 25,000 people lost their jobs in the Zellers shutdown, only about 15,000 of them worked in Zellers locations taken over by Target.

According to documents filed in the B.C. Labour Relations Board case, Target evidently wanted nothing to do with the "depressed" image of Zellers.

Additionally, the UFCW is complaining “has quietly hired a lobbying firm with close links to the Conservative Party.”

That lobbying firm appears to be Crestview, specifically firm vice-president Adam Bolek. Bolek’s listing on the federal lobbyist registry indicates he is urging the government not to introduce mandatory country-of-origin labelling for products sold in Canada, a move many activists would like to see, arguing people have a right to know where the products they buy are made.

At present, there is only a voluntary code that some retailers follow.

Crestview's website shows its lobbyists have a number of connections to the Conservative Party of Canada. Mark Spiro, a partner in the firm, led the Conservative Party War Room’s Target Seat Management unit during the 2006 and 2008 elections. Team member Mike Donison served as the party's executive director from 2005 to 2007.

“Target's competitors such as Loblaw and H&M recently signed a binding international accord requiring mandatory health and safety inspections of source factories,” the UFCW said.

“Why is Target paying a professional lobbyist to make sure it doesn't have any commitments to global health and safety standards, international workers and their families?”

Target plans to open at least 124 stores across Canada this year. Its latest earnings report came in below expectations, showing a 28-per-cent drop in sales.

The company said bad weather this spring was keeping customers home, but noted that the cost of opening of Canadian stores also dragged down its numbers.

How Target's U.S. And Canadian Prices Compare

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  • How Target's Canadian Prices Stack Up To U.S. Prices

  • Women's Merona Emilia Espadrille Sandals

    C$29.99 in Toronto and US$29.99 on the U.S website.

  • Gilligan O'Malley Women's Knit Pajama

    C$24.99 in Canadian sstores and US$24.99 on the U.S. website.

  • Mossimo Women's Ponte Boyfriend Jacket

    C$39.99 in Toronto and US$29.99 on the U.S. website.

  • Bird-Bead-Wavy Disc Earrings Trio

    C$9.99 in Canadian stores and US$7.99 on the American website.

  • Mossimo Supply Co. Men's Short Sleeve Tee Shirt

    C$9.99 in-store and marked down from US$9.99 to $7.49 on the U.S. website.

  • Mossimo Supply Co. Men's Long Sleeve Poplin Workshirt

    C$24.99 in Target's Toronto store and marked down from US$22.99 to $17.24 on the U.S. website.

  • Ridel Vivant Pinot Noir Tumblers - Set of 2

    $C24.99 in Toronto but US$19.99 at Target.com.

  • Giada De Laurentiis 12' Non-Stick Frying Pan

    C$39.99 compared to US$35.49 (online price).

  • Soda Stream 60L CO2 Spare Carbonator

    C$34.99 in the Toronto store and US$29.99 on the American site.

  • Target Canada Opens Stores In Ontario

    Previously on HuffPost: Target Canada Opens Stores In Ontario

  • Target Opens In Canada

    A Canada flag flies on a customer's car parked in front of the new Target store in Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday March 5, 2013. Target's expansion into Canada is continuing in big way over the next two weeks as the American retailer opens 21 new stores in Ontario.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Tony Fisher, President of Target Canada, speaks to the media during a tour of the new Target store in Guelph, Ontario. Target announced that it is opening three pilot stores in Guelph, Fergus and Milton, Ontario March 5, 2013, the first of 124 Target stores to open in Canada, Media were given a preview tour, Monday, March 4, 2013.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Employees work on preparing the new Target store in Guelph, Ontario. Target announced that it is opening three pilot stores in Guelph, Fergus and Milton, Ontario March 5, 2013, the first of 124 Target stores to open in Canada, Media were given a preview tour, Monday, March 4, 2013.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Employees welcome the first shoppers who lined up for the new Target store in in Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday March 5, 2013. The company is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Hundreds of shoppers wait for the opening of the new Target store in in Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday March 5, 2013. The company is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Tony Fisher, President of Target Canada, speaks to the media during a tour of the new Target store in Guelph, Ontario. Target announced that it is opening three pilot stores in Guelph, Fergus and Milton, Ontario March 5, 2013, the first of 124Target stores to open in Canada, Media were given a preview tour, Monday, March 4, 2013.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Employees work on preparing the new Target store in Guelph, Ontario. Target announced that it is opening three pilot stores in Guelph, Fergus and Milton, Ontario March 5, 2013, the first of 124 Target stores to open in Canada, Media were given a preview tour, Monday, March 4, 2013.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Employees work on preparing the new Target store in Guelph, Ontario. Target announced that it is opening three pilot stores in Guelph, Fergus and Milton, Ontario March 5, 2013, the first of 124 Target stores to open in Canada, Media were given a preview tour, Monday, March 4, 2013.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Shopper Sam Skelhorn waits in a tent for the opening of the new Target store in in Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday March 5, 2013. The company is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Hundreds of shoppers wait for the opening of the new Target store in in Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday March 5, 2013. The company is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Employees welcome the first shoppers who lined up for the new Target store in in Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday March 5, 2013. The company is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    Hundreds of shoppers wait for the opening of the new Target store in in Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday March 5, 2013. The company is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada.

  • Target Opens In Canada

    First customers Scott Lester (left) and Sam Skelhorn exit the new Target store with their purchases in Guelph, Ont. on Tuesday March 5, 2013. The company is expected to open between 125 and 135 locations in Canada.

  • U.S. Retailers Coming To Canada: Bloomingdale's

    The iconic American upscale retailer is in talks with Hudson's Bay Company to become a "store within a store" at HBC locations in Canada. The move is seen as an attempt by The Bay to fight off the possible arrival of Nordstrom's (see next slide).

  • U.S. Retailers Coming To Canada: Nordstrom

    One of the most prominent competitors to Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom announced in September, 2012, that it plans to open locations in Cadillac Fairview-owned malls in Calgary, Ottawa and Vancouver. The stores will open in former Sears locations.

  • U.S. Retailers Coming To Canada: Marshalls

    Discount retailer Marshalls entered the Canadian market in March, 2011, and recently announced an expansion of six new stores in Ontario. At least a dozen of its 750 stores are now located in Canada.

  • U.S. Retailers Coming To Canada: Lowe's

    The home improvement retailer began moving into the Canadian market in 2007, with a store in Hamilton, Ontario. It has since expanded to 31 locations in Ontario and Alberta.

  • U.S. Retailers Coming To Canada: J. Crew

    Ritzy fashion chain J. Crew opened its first Canadian location in the summer of 2011, and immediately ran into public anger about the U.S.-Canada price gap. Shoppers complained that J. Crew's Canadian prices were about 15 per cent higher than in the U.S.