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Transport Canada looking at used German drone to patrol Arctic

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A used German drone is one of a handful of aircraft under consideration by Transport Canada for its long-delayed Arctic surveillance program.

A spokeswoman for the department said no decision has been made about the kind of remotely-piloted system the department will purchase.

Marie-Anyk Cote said the plan is to buy an aircraft to detect and monitor oil spills, survey ice levels and marine habitats and keep track of shipping and ice movement in Canada’s far northern waters.

« As part of its technical assessment, the government sought information from suppliers to better understand the technology and the solutions available, » Cote said in an email.

The Associated Press reported on Monday that Canada was negotiating with Germany to purchase a secondhand Global Hawk surveillance drone, which originally cost the Germans $823 million.

‘Premature’

Cote said « it is still premature to speculate which remotely piloted aircraft system will be purchased » and that the evaluation is still underway.

In a statement issued to AP, Germany’s defence ministry said talks with Canada were planned, but declined to comment on a possible sale price or closure date.

The news surfaced in a response to lawmakers tabled by the German government in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament. It stated that Germany has decided to « begin concrete negotiations with Canada for the sale of the Euro Hawk aircraft, two ground stations and possibly certain spare parts. »

Northrop Grumman, the maker of the Global Hawk, pitched the Canadian military on buying the high-altitude surveillance system a few years ago.

New, the aircraft cost more than US $131 million each.

National Defence has its own, separate drone program which is not expected to start delivering aircraft until 2021. That new fleet will not be fully operational until 2023.

The drone under consideration by Transport Canada is a prototype that was purchased by the Germans in 2000, according the AP report.

It has flown only a handful of times; the program was cancelled because of skyrocketing costs and the German government’s inability to get it certified to fly in Europe. According to 2013 German media reports, the manufacturer had refused to share technical data with the German government and the drone lacked an anti-collision alarm required by European regulators.

According to the German government’s written response, the drone has now been « demilitarized » — meaning it has been stripped of its U.S.-made radio equipment, GPS receiver and flight control system.

Drone or missile?

There could be more complications ahead if Ottawa is successful in negotiations with the Germans.

A year ago, CBC News reported the Arctic drone surveillance program had been delayed because of complex international arms control rules that would categorize the unmanned aircraft as a missile.

The federal government approved $39.5 million for a technical assessment in 2015 — and the plan had been to have a small fleet airborne by last spring.

Officials told CBC News last year that they were not expecting delivery of the drones until 2020.

The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), adopted by Canada and 34 other countries, was intended to prevent the spread of weapons systems that can deliver nuclear missiles. Drones were added to the list recently and the rules restrict missiles and drones from carrying a payload of more than 500 kilograms or travelling more than 300 kilometres.

A fully loaded Global Hawk can carry a sensor suite payload weighing up to 540 kilograms.

With files from the Associated Press

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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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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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