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‘It’s only a house’: 84-year-old woman to rebuild after tornado rips through home

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It was Ruth Campbell’s good fortune a fracture, which led to a hip replacement, kept her in hospital for nearly two weeks before a ferocious tornado cut through Arlington Woods, and her home.

It might have even saved her life.

The 84 year-old was recovering in hospital when the storm snapped mature pine trees on her property. One tree nearly severed her four-bedroom bungalow in two. Another wiped out the side of the home.

Emergency workers needed a crane to remove the trees embedded in the house.

Ruth Campbell was recovering from a hip fracture in hospital when the tornado tore through her Arlington Woods bungalow causing so much damage the home will have to be rebuilt. (Stu Mills, CBC )

Pointing at the gaping hole in her childhood home’s kitchen ceiling, it is hard for Jan Dunn, Campbell’s daughter, to imagine what might have happened if her mother had been at home on Sept. 21.

A clear tarp put over the hole to protect against the rain is shredded and flapping in the wind. A panel of fluorescent lights is dangling from a piece of drywall. Cupboards have collapsed on one another and soil and tree leaves are strewn everywhere.

The tornado, Dunn said, struck right when her mother would have been preparing dinner.

« I knew where my mom sat at that kitchen table and if she hadn’t been in hospital I’m sure she would be killed, because the tree landed on the kitchen table right at the seat she sat at every night. »

A massive pine tree struck the home and destroyed most of Ruth Campbell’s kitchen, including a cabinet with her mother’s antique china dishes. (Stu Mills, CBC )

To say it’s been a trying few months for Campbell would be an understatement. Six weeks ago — before her hip replacement and the destruction of her home — her husband of 60 years died.

« My mom has a had a lot of loss, the family has had a lot of loss, » Dunn said. 

Campbell, sitting in her wheelchair in the hospital, took the loss of her home in stride.

« Well it’s been very abrupt for one thing, » she said laughing. « I don’t know, well, it’s only a house and it can be replaced. »

Campbell said her family was the second to move onto the street. The home has always been « in the woods » she said, and « had everything we needed to raise our family there. »

Jan Dunn fears her mother Ruth Campbell would have been killed if she’d been at home when the tornado hit Arlington Woods. Campbell was in hospital recovering from surgery at the time. 0:30

Once restored, she plans on moving back into the house.

« I don’t see any reason why not, once they get the house built…I’ll go back there to live, » she said. « I really hope so. »

Experts have told Campbell’s daughter they are « 99-per-cent sure » the house would have to be demolished and rebuilt with an estimated move-in date of December 2019.

In the interim, Dunn has found a spot at a retirement home for her mother to live. For now, the challenge is finding clothes that aren’t damaged. 

Jan Dunn stands at the back of the tornado-damaged Arlington Woods bungalow where her 84-year old mother lives and where she grew up in. (Stu Mills CBC )

« We got her wedding dress out, my wedding dress and my daughter’s wedding dress out the first day. »

Both women praised the team of volunteers from Arlington Woods Free Methodist Church who came over the morning after the tornado to help clean up and pack Campbell’s belongings that hadn’t been destroyed. Dunn said she had to work quickly to get things out of the house because engineering experts say the entire roof could cave in at any time. 

 « Trying to say goodbye is trying to find pieces of my childhood as I am going through the house and things are in disarray, »  Dunn said.

« We will restore. We will heal as a family and we will move forward and it doesn’t change the memories of living here and growing up here. »

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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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