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Online voting in 51 Ontario municipalities marred by election-day ‘system load issue’

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A company that provides election tabulation software in Canada and the United States is blaming a Toronto data centre facility for choking online voting traffic in 51 Ontario municipalities on Monday evening, which caused many cities and towns to extend their voting periods.

The system issues surfaced around 6 p.m. ET and lasted approximately 90 minutes, according to a statement from Dominion Voting Systems.


READ MORE:
Voting times extended in several Ontario municipalities due to online voting glitches

The company said it wasn’t aware of the technical difficulties – which caused many online voting systems to slow down drastically or go down altogether – until municipalities began flagging them.

“This load issue was documented, reviewed and determined to be the result of a Toronto-based internet colocation provider placing an unauthorized limit on incoming voting traffic that was roughly 1/10th of the system’s designated bandwidth,” said the statement, distributed by Kay Stimson, Dominion’s vice-president of government affairs.

“Dominion regrets the challenges that our system load issue posed for both election officials and voters alike in today’s elections … We want to assure Ontario voters that we will work to ensure this problem does not occur in future elections.”

The company in its statement did not identify the internet colocation provider that reportedly limited the system’s bandwidth.

In response, many municipalities affected stretched their voting hours by an extra hour or two on Monday night, while others declared emergencies under the Municipal Elections Act and extended their voting period for a full day.


READ MORE:
Online voting goes down, in-person voting extended in Kingston

While Dominion said the system glitches were resolved within an hour and a half, some municipalities reported that their issues began earlier and lasted longer.

Kingston, for example, said officials realized their online voting system was down around 5:45 p.m. and that it wasn’t restored until after 8 p.m. The city extended its voting hours until 9:15 p.m. on Monday in response.

Meanwhile, the Town of Woolwich reported stop-start activity, saying its online system first stopped accepting ballots around 6 p.m. Once Dominion began working on the issue, the system began accepting ballots again “very slowly” and then timed out again shortly after 6:30 p.m., a statement from the town said.

Woolwich has extended its voting period until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

For several municipalities, like Kingston and Brantford, the 2018 municipal election was their second time offering online voting and using Dominion’s services. Spokespeople for both municipalities said they experienced no issues in 2014 like those on Monday.

Aside from the municipalities using Dominion Voting Systems, no other cities and towns in Ontario reported technical issues on election day.


READ MORE:
Cambridge, Brantford voting hours extended ’til 9 p.m. due to computer glitch

Jonathan Rose, an associate professor of political studies at Queen’s University, said a “real concern” moving forward is not knowing how many people gave up on voting as a result of the technical problems across the province, and how those issues might have impacted their perception of the election system.

“What it does, if it continues, is it creates uncertainty about the legitimacy of the whole process, and you definitely don’t want that, because once the legitimacy of the election is called into question, voter turnout will decline, and it’s already too low,” he said.

Dominion Voting Systems said in its statement the bandwidth issues “at no time” compromised the system’s integrity and security.

But Rose said security should continue to be a topic of discussion as more jurisdictions adopt online voting systems and perhaps use the same company for those services.

“It’s the same private company that operates all of these online voting systems throughout the province, and how the vote is encrypted and where the data is stored, is really an important issue,” he said. “Research has shown that in other places, the data is actually stored in servers around the world, making it very easy to hack. So we have a long way to go before this is a fully secure system.”

Some of the municipalities that extended voting until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 23:

Ottawa Valley

  • City of Pembroke
  • Town of Petawawa
  • Town of Renfrew
  • Township of Laurentian Valley
  • Township of Whitewater Region
  • Township of Woolwich

Muskoka and Simcoe County regions

  • City of Owen Sound
  • County of Simcoe
  • District Municipality of Muskoka
  • Town of Bracebridge
  • Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury
  • Town of Collingwood
  • Town of Gravenhurst
  • Town of The Blue Mountains

Northern Ontario

Some of the municipalities that extended voting to a later time on Monday night:

— With files from Darryn Davis and the Canadian Press

© 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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