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Veterans Affairs cuts benefits to jailed relatives, but won’t say if Garnier affected

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Veterans Affairs Canada will not pay for benefits for incarcerated relatives of veterans in the wake of the Christopher Garnier case.

But what wasn’t immediately clear whether this move by Veterans Affairs will have any direct impact on Garnier. The department wouldn’t comment on his case, citing privacy.

« Going forward, treatment benefits will not be provided to a veteran’s family member who is incarcerated in a provincial or federal facility, » Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan said in a statement to CBC News. 

« Those facilities would be responsible for the treatment of persons in their institutions. » 

Garnier spurred controversy when it became known during a sentencing hearing in August that Veterans Affairs had paid for his PTSD treatment in jail. 

A Nova Scotia court heard Garnier developed PTSD as a result of murdering Catherine Campbell, an off-duty police officer.

The court was told that Garnier’s father, who had served in the Canadian Forces, also has PTSD, and that getting treatment for his son helps them both.

Garnier, 30, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Campbell in Sept. 2015. He later received a life sentence. 

‘A disgusting insult’

It’s unclear how many people the decision affects. Veterans Affairs Canada told CBC News it doesn’t keep records of how many incarcerated family members of veterans are receiving benefits from the department.

O’Regan formally announced the revised policy Tuesday in response to a question in the House of Commons from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, who called the payments a « disgusting insult » and part of the « abysmal » Liberal record on veterans.

« I have reviewed the department’s findings on this issue, and I am directing them to ensure the services received by a family member of a veteran are related to the veteran’s service and where they are not, that the case be reviewed by a senior official, » O’Regan said.

O’Regan said the policy change was made in light of the Garnier case.

« We’re reviewing this in light of what happened with Christopher Garnier, no question, » O’Regan said.

O’Regan won’t discuss

« I am directing the department to immediately address its policy in providing treatment to family members under extenuating circumstances such as conviction of such a serious crime. »

O’Regan refused to discuss specifics of the case, insisting he is committed to protecting the privacy of the veteran.

His statement came after the Conservatives used their opposition day in the House to debate the issue.

During Question Period Tuesday, Phil McColeman, the federal Conservatives’ critic for Veterans Affairs, asked Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan to intervene in the Garnier case and « right this wrong. »

He said veterans across Canada are outraged Garnier is receiving benefits through Veterans Affairs.

« We will not let the minister avoid answering this question, » McColeman said.

‘You are a disgrace’

O’Regan said the federal government has placed the highest priority on making sure veterans and their families have support and services they need, when they need them. He said he wouldn’t discuss Garnier’s case.

« When it comes to Canada’s veterans and their families, we are not in the business of political opportunism. We are interested in getting veterans well again, » O’Regan said during Question Period Tuesday.

Earlier, Alberta Conservative MP Michelle Rempel berated O’Regan on Twitter, calling the minister a « ridiculous coward. »

« Do your job and revoke his benefits. You are a disgrace, » she tweeted.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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