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Kennedy Stewart beat out competition in tight Vancouver election that offered voters tons of options

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VANCOUVER— Former federal New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart is Vancouver’s next mayor, defeating a massive slate of candidates and new political parties in the city while running as an independent.

Stewart, the first independent mayor in the city in three decades, beat out the Non-Partisan Association’s Ken Sim by fewer than 1,000 votes. Early Sunday Sim refused to concede the race.

The win provided a photo finish to an election campaign offering voters one of the largest ballots to choose from following the end of a 10-year reign by Vision Vancouver, which was dogged by a housing crisis over the last four years.

As well, the Green Party made a strong showing adding councillors, school trustees and park board commissioners while topping the polls in all three arenas.

During his victory speech Stewart thanked Ken Sim for running a strong campaign, and praised Hector Bremner for a “very brave” race, before talking about his plans to build 85,000 new homes in Vancouver over the next decade and strengthening the city’s conflict of interest rules.

“They voted for a plan that is bold but achievable,” Stewart said.

He also praised the city for the number of women elected.

“We got seven women elected to council. That’s amazing. Can’t believe it. It’s a lot to take in.”

During the speech Stewart, who left his seat in Parliament just months ago, recounted when he launched his campaign, how he heard late NDP leader Jack Layton’s voice: “Never let them tell you it can’t be done.”

Meanwhile, Vision Vancouver, which held a 10-year grip on city council was reduced to rubble with just one candidate for school trustee barely holding on to the last position on the ballot as the final votes were being counted Saturday.

The city’s housing crisis was the dominant issue throughout the election, with all parties claiming to have the answer to exorbitant rents and property prices in Vancouver.

Only one Vision Vancouver incumbent councillor ran for reelection and the party’s mayoralty candidate Ian Campbell dropped out of the race in September citing “the political landscape and my complicated personal journey.” His party said Campbell had failed to disclose an assault charge stayed by the crown eight years ago.

Friday the party then pulled candidate Wei Qiao Zhang from the race, giving little explanation except to say information about Zhang had come to light.

Winning for her third term as a city councillor, Adrienne Carr said she was « very excited » and « honoured » to have so much support from voters. At the Green Party election headquarters at Creekside community centre, she said that the Greens will work to create consensus with the rest of an often divisive city council.

« We will work with whoever is elected to find common ground, » Carr said.

Carr, one of the front runners for city council who had considered a run for mayor, has fielded criticism for voting against duplex housing and increased density projects on council. But she said that her aim was to first do the research into what is best for Vancouver before deciding on anything — which she said she will move forward with on council.

« I feel very strongly we need to move on a citywide plan, » she said, but underscored that much more research needed to be done before determining « what kind of housing we need, and where. »

At the YES Vancouver election night party at Cinema Public House on the Granville strip, the mood is lively despite none of the candidates winning a seat.

While Hector Bremner expressed disappointment over losing his mayoral bid and giving up his council seat, he said he was « blessed to have all these people out today. »

But he said when he was out campaigning on the streets, « we had huge support, » and was concerned voter turnout would be lower than in past years.

Looking at the results, Bremner, who lost his bid for mayoral candidates with the NPA and went on run with YES Vancouver, predicted further challenges among city councillors who he said were « very entrenched » in divisive politics.

« I think it’s going to be a very divided council, » he said.

Meanwhile, former federal Conservative MP for Vancouver South Wai Young, running under the right-wing Coalition Vancouver party, conceded earlier in the night.

In the heart of the Vancouver South riding in the Sunset neighbourhood, a relatively small group of loyal, and politically-“moderate” supporters of Wai Young gathered on election night.

“We were the only ones talking about other things besides housing,” Young said. “Although we know housing is a big issue, but there were other issues in the city that needs to be addressed: opioid crisis, homelessness, the cleanliness of the city, the small business people that are feeling (like) prisoners in their own businesses because of the situation — the taxes.”

Elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum is once again office after a 13-year break brought about by his ouster in 2005.

The numbers are not yet official, but McCallum was 13,000 votes ahead when his chief opponent Tom Gill from the Surrey First Party conceded Saturday evening.

Elsewhere, after five terms as mayor of Burnaby, Derek Corrigan has been defeated by challenger Mike Hurley. Corrigan was first elected in 2002 and faced controversy in his last term over housing challenges in the city.

In a recent interview with StarMetro, Corrigan said he was being unfairly attacked by housing activists in the city. Meanwhile, Hurley was climbing in the polls.

“They can disrupt; it attracts media attention,” he said. “But I don’t think that reflect the issues our community is concerned about.”

Corrigan is the second ouster of the night.

In Port Moody incumbent mayor Mike Clay lost by just under 400 votes to one-term councillor Rob Vagramov.

Smaller cities across Metro Vancouver have started to have their elections settled as the City of North Vancouver has elected Linda C. Buchanan while the District of North Vancouver has ushered in Mike Little.

In White Rock, Darryl Walker has been elected with 30 per cent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the full results from some of the larger cities have yet to come in, including Vancouver.

After a 10-year run, mayor Gregor Robertson did not renew his bid for mayor of Vancouver proper and his party, Vision Vancouver, was left with no mayoral candidate after Ian Campbell pulled out of the race in September.

But there’s no shortage of challengers for the top job in Vancouver politics.

StarMetro has a team of reporters planted across the city and will be tracking these and other major and important races throughout Metro Vancouver as the night goes on.

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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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