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Calgary says Olympic funding talks with Ottawa continue despite reports of unsalvageable bid

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A spokesperson from the mayor’s office said negotiations between the city and federal government continue on funding for a potential 2026 Olympic bid, despite a report in the Calgary Herald saying a committee will be asked to recommend killing the bid on Tuesday. 

The Herald said the information came from a senior municipal source with knowledge of the negotiations.

The mayor’s office said a report based on the conclusion of the negotiation talks is to go to the Olympic assessment committee tomorrow.

Coun. Ward Sutherland said he hadn’t heard anything about a recommendation to cancel the bid process, but said he did get notice that the committee meeting had been bumped from 1 p.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Canada’s minister of sport also reiterated Monday the federal government is continuing to negotiate with the city and province over an Olympic funding formula, but no additional money will be offered.

Kirsty Duncan appeared on the Calgary Eyeopener, where she said the federal government has made clear « since March 2018 » that it will fund up to 50 per cent of the public contribution toward the 2026 Olympic Games if Calgary is chosen as the host city.

« That is the policy on our website, and we’ve done that. We’ve come forward with a commitment of $1.75 billion, » she said, referencing a Friday announcement.

Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart, one of the members of the Olympic assessment committee, tweeted about Duncan’s comments, saying « and now we pull the pin, » seemingly referring to ending the bid process.

Calgary’s Olympic BidCo estimates a 2026 Winter Games would cost $5.23 billion, with $3 billion of that coming from the public purse.

The $1.75 billion commitment from the feds is in 2026 dollars, which equates to $1.5 billion in 2018 dollars, or half the needed amount.

Federal Minister of Sport Kirsty Duncan told the Calgary Eyeopener that the federal government will fund only up to 50 per cent of the public money needed to host the Olympics if Calgary is chosen. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

« We have been clear since the beginning we would fund up to 50 per cent, we would not go above the 50 per cent and we have never wavered from that position, » said Duncan.

Duncan also pointed out the federal contribution would match the provincial and municipal amounts.

The province has previously said it would contribute $700 million, while the city hasn’t unveiled its funding plan yet. Based on the other two orders of government, Calgary would have to contribute $800 million to get the maximum federal contribution.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci expressed outrage over the weekend at the federal announcement, with Ceci calling it « bad faith » and saying he understood there wouldn’t be a matching condition attached.

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci says the province has no more money to offer a Calgary Olympic bid and again called on the federal government to drop its matching condition. (CBC)

Nenshi also penned a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday, saying he would ask city council to scrap the bid — ahead of a Nov. 13 plebiscite — if an agreement couldn’t be reached by Monday.

The city’s Olympic assessment committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday and council is set to meet for a strategy session on Wednesday.

Pressed repeatedly by Eyeopener host David Gray on what the three sides are negotiating if none are willing to change their position, Duncan was non-committal in her answers.

We ask Minister Kirsty Duncan to clarify the government’s announcement on Olympic funding. 7:20

« It’s been a busy weekend and people are working hard. I’m proud to work with our partners, the City of Calgary and the Province of Alberta, and we keep doing the work, » she said.

« I’m well aware of the timelines for the plebiscite. We support that Calgarians should make their voice heard, and should Calgarians decide to go forward with a bid, we will be right there beside them and we’re still working at it, we’re still at the table. »

Robert Livingstone, who runs GamesBids.com — a website that tracks Olympic bids — said he wasn’t at all surprised by the federal position.

« Honestly, I would have been surprised to hear that the dollar matching concept would have been dropped, so there’s miscommunication at some level somewhere, and I’m not sure where that would have come from, » he said.

« It is a policy the federal government has used to fund sports events for years now. So I don’t see why it would have been different for Calgary and why they would have made a different plan, unless there was some agreement made back in March. »

Speaking in Edmonton on Monday, Ceci said negotiations continue but the province has no more money to offer and called on the federal government to remove the matching condition. 

« Seven hundred million dollars is all we can do, » he said. « That being said, there is a path forward for this bid and it relies heavily on the federal government coming to the table with what they originally promised the province and the City of Calgary during negotiations. If the feds can commit $1.75 billion in 2018 dollars to this project and drop this 50/50 funding rule, then we have what we need and the bid can go ahead to plebiscite. »

Despite Duncan’s assertions, Ceci said the 50/50 rule was not discussed during the negotiations.

« This was learned through the news last week. This was a surprise to us, » said Ceci. 

Study shows surpluses

Calgary’s BidCo also issued results Monday of a study looking at Olympic cost overruns and revenue surpluses between 2000 and 2018

The study was done by two professors and a PhD student at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany and the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in France.

« The report intentionally excludes major infrastructure not needed to stage the Games, » it reads.

« These projects, such as roads, trains and public facilities, often complement the Games, are accelerated to coincide with the Games and may be part of the overall Games legacy. They are not, however, required to stage the Games and as such are not counted as a Games cost. »

The report found that with the exception of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, each event analyzed either broke even or had a surplus.

« This report clearly shows that, historically, Games organizing committees either balance their budgets or realize a surplus through good planning and rigorous financial management, » said BidCo chair Scott Hutcheson in a release.

« All Olympic Winter Games in this report balanced their books, and Vancouver 2010, which was modelled on the [1988] Calgary Games, showed that we host Games well in Canada and we’ll do so again in 2026. »

Tourism Calgary Cindy Ady says a 2026 Olympic Games in Calgary would be a $5-billion injection into the local economy. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Should Calgary be chosen, it will be a much-needed economic boost, said Tourism Calgary CEO Cindy Ady.

« This is almost $5 billion being injected into the Calgary economy when it’s been through a pretty tough recession and is looking forward as to how it redefines itself and where it’s going to go in the future, » she said.

« Relative to just tourism, though, one out of every 10 Calgarians make their living in tourism. So if we were to go back to previous Games, whether it be Vancouver or Salt Lake or others, for sure the main beneficiary is the tourism industry. Vancouver had a double-digit increase post-Games, and every year since they’ve had double-digit increases … it’s the billion-dollar brand push that you won’t get in any other way. »

With files from The Calgary Herald, Michelle Bellefontaine, Kate Adach, Sarah Rieger and the Calgary Eyeopener.

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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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