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Exclusive: Bay Ferries set to move the CAT’s American port to Bar Harbour, Maine – Halifax

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Bay Ferries Ltd., is set to shift the American port of call for its high-speed ferry service from Portland, Maine to Bar Harbour, Maine, pending approval of a five-year lease agreement from the Bar Harbour Town Council.

The ferry — better known as the CAT — currently provides service between Yarmouth, N.S. and Portland, Maine. But the lease agreement between Bay Ferries and the City of Portland is set to expire on Nov. 15.

Bay Ferries has an option to renew for another year, and must notify Portland of its decision by Oct. 15. The City of Portland says that as of Tuesday, they have not been notified by Bay Ferries of their decision.

But a draft version of a lease agreement between Bar Harbour and Bay Ferries indicates that a move is well on its way to becoming reality, with the lease agreement — if passed — set to go into effect on Dec. 1, 2018.

The Bar Harbour Town Council will consider the lease on Oct. 16.

READ MORE: CAT’s August ridership numbers largest in service history, more needed to meet passenger targets

The draft lease agreement obtained by Global News outlines the five-year deal under consideration.

Set to expire on October 31, 2023, the agreement will bring with it a significant cost that Bay Ferries Ltd., and the province — who provides a $10 million annual subsidy to the service — must bear.

Bay Ferries Nova Scotia will need to carry out some improvements to the ferry terminal in Bar Harbour so that the CAT can use it.  The lease says that ramp structures will need to be installed at the terminal, including fixed and floating bridges, supporting pontoons, hydraulic cylinders and a transition ramp and apron.

Other improvements that Bay Ferries must make to the terminal include improving the customs operations area so that it is suitable for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, the ferry zone so that ticket booths, security fencing and security cameras can be installed and making “signficate structural alterations” to the terminal.

Officials with Bar Harbour have previously estimated those costs to be US$3 million, with town manager Cornell Knight previously saying that Bay Ferries has offered to front the cash needed to make it happen.

It’s not clear which improvements are included in that $3 million estimate.

The Nova Scotia government will also be on the hook for $1 million as they are set to guarantee the lease itself.

“Bay Ferries is in discussions with US Customs and Border and the Coast Guard and preparing cost estimates for renovations/improvements,” Knight said in an email on Tuesday.


Service to Bar Harbour

According to the lease agreement, the CAT will arrive in Bar Harbour around “mid-day” and will leave at approximately 3 p.m.

The vessel will then overnight in Yarmouth, N.S.

Bay Ferries can renew the lease for a two-year period, although it must give notice to Bar Harbour that it intends to do so by August 2, 2023.

A request for comment from Mark MacDonald, CEO and President of Bay Ferries Ltd., has gone unanswered.

Nova Scotia’s Minister of Transportation said in July that the province would not stand in the way of a move for the CAT. 

On Tuesday the province continued to remain tight lipped on the issue.

“We continue to discuss the situation with Bay Ferries but are not at any key decision points at this stage,” said Marla MacInnis, a spokesperson for the province’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

READ MORE: CAT service could move from Portland to Bar Harbour by 2019, says Nova Scotia Minister

The Nova Scotia government inked a 10-year agreement with Bay Ferries to restart the service back in 2016.

The department’s executive director of finance, Diane Saurette, has previously told Global News that there would be significant savings in annual operating costs for Bay Ferries if the service were to move. Bar Harbor is closer to Nova Scotia and the move would reduce fuel costs.

“I don’t want to say it’s exciting, but there’s opportunity there and so we have to look at — both Portland and Bar Harbor are great ports. There (are) advantages and disadvantages to both.”

The Nova Scotia government put up nearly $1.5 million earlier this year to upgrade the Portland ferry terminal, as ordered by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency.

 

 

The agency had warned that without nearly US$7 million in upgrades, the facility would not meet federal standards.

The province’s investment was in equipment required to keep the ferry running this year and Hines said the equipment is portable and could be moved if needed.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Anglais

‘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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