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Frightened Brit texted Mom from North Shore cliff edge before being plucked from perch

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When first-time B.C. tourist Michael John Buckingham headed up the Grouse Grind on Monday, he had an extra battery pack for his iPhone 8, two compasses — and he grabbed a stranger’s phone number on the way up — just in case.

That move may have saved his life.

Some 15 hours later — the rain-sodden Brit was plucked off a tiny ledge by rescuers using a longline on a helicopter.

But there was a lot of drama in the meantime.

« Basically I just thought I was going to die for 15 hours, » the rescued man would later tell reporters.

But there were no such thoughts that day as the 37-year-old East Londoner headed up the steep trail with a friend he’d met at a local hostel.

His companion would eventually turn back, but Buckingham, an avid hiker, pushed on — planning a circular route using the Maps.me app on his phone.

North Shore Rescue posted this photo showing where Michael Buckingham, 37, spent the night on Crown Mountain. The caption said it’s ‘an extreme example of what can happen when you get off route’ and that Buckingham was ‘very very lucky to have not fallen.’ (North Shore Rescue/Instagram)

He planned to descend by dark, but the hike took longer than he expected, because he says the app didn’t take into account the steepness of the terrain.

When he hit a dizzying mountain ridge — he knew he was in trouble.

Buckingham says he panicked and turned down an overgrown trail and he was later told that he went over Beauty or West Crown Peak.

Somehow, he ended up stranded on a cliff near Crown Buttress Trail — just above Grouse Mountain.

He says that from where he sat he could not see how precarious his position was through the mist and jet-lag.

« I don’t know how I got there. I had no ropes or climbing equipment. My girlfriend said I must be half mountain goat, » he said.

« I had no idea it was a cliff. I couldn’t see it. I just thought if I go any further I’m gonna die and it’s impossible to go back. »

Rescuers said the fact that he stopped and called a stranger for help probably saved Buckingham’s life.

Michael Buckingham headed up the Grouse Grind on Monday morning with water, two compasses and a good map. He planned a hike with a friend, but ended up stranded near a vertical drop. (Michael Buckingham)

That woman alerted police — who dispatched North Shore Rescue.

Monday night, a helicopter failed to reach him because visibility was too poor.

Then, as ground crews reached him, an inventive rescuer tied two lengths of rope together to make a 100-metre rope that was just able to get to him with 50 centimetres to spare.

Buckingham was secured on the cliff ledge with a big spring-loaded metal clip or carabiner — which stayed in place until the helicopter arrived Tuesday morning.

North Shore rescuer Jason McEwan rappelled from the helicopter down to Buckingham, who was a long way from London, where he plays trombone in a band.

At one point, Michael Buckingham, 37, stripped off his sweat-soaked shirt and set it on a rock, hoping it would make it a little easier for rescuers to spot him. The stunning view from his perch of Burrard inlet, he says, was terrifying. (Michael Buckingham)

« He was a little cold. He’d made the right decision to stop and not go any further, » said McEwan who brought the stranded man a bag of supplies — heated underwear, a sleeping bag, a food bar, a small torch, gloves and a balaclava — then left him.

The ledge was too small for two men

That’s when Buckingham says he texted his Mom, who he says has terminal myeloma cancer.

« She said if she’d lost me, she wouldn’t be able to go on. »

He stayed there in the dark — playing 20 games of online chess to calm his nerves — until, with dawn breaking, the helicopter came and a longline was used to hoist the shaking man to safety.

Michael Buckingham, shortly after a helicopter crew rescued him from Crown Mountain. He spent more than 12 hours stranded in rainy, wet conditions. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

Buckingham was set down by the helicopter Tuesday morning, bewildered and chilled and was immediately surrounded by reporters who, he says, went live with his comments before he realized he was on camera.

« It was freezing, » said Buckingham.

He described how he reacted, when he saw rescuers coming.

« I was crying like a little girl. »

Now that he’s safe off the mountain, Buckingham says he plans to make a $1,500 donation to North Shore Rescue, as soon as he can get the bank to transfer the money.

« I can’t praise them enough. I think about bits and start [to] cry at how lucky I am. I don’t know how many people were up that mountain, but I’m thankful for every single one, » he said.

The lost hiker’s orange T-shirt was laid on a rock near the spot where he got stuck as a beacon for searchers. (Michael Buckingham)

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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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