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Attempts to expose former Conservative MP Tony Clement’s online sexual activities go back to last summer, women say

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On Wednesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer requested Clement’s resignation. The demand came less than 24 hours after Clement published a statement claiming he was targeted for “financial extortion” after sending sexual images and a video to an unknown party. Clement claims he believed the person was a consenting female adult.

The Star has interviewed two women who say they met Clement online and went on to have sexual interactions with him. Both women, who know each other and consulted about speaking publicly, asked the Star not to publish their names—one out of concern over Clement’s reaction to her speaking publicly about him; the other because she feared ramifications in her professional life.

The Star has agreed to keep their identities confidential in order to tell their stories in the public interest, as Clement was a senior Conservative figure with high level security clearance.

When presented with a detailed account of the women’s claims Wednesday night, Clement responded by email: “I’m working on a statement that I’ll get to you when I’m comfortable with it. Appreciate it.”

In a statement posted to his personal website Thursday afternoon, Clement confirmed he engaged in multiple “inappropriate exchanges that crossed lines that should have never been crossed.” He said these exchanges led to “acts of infidelity.” One of these exchanges led to a woman being offered money by an anonymous social media account in exchange for intimate and personal information about him, he said.

According to the women’s accounts, sometime last spring or summer Clement became aware of Instagram accounts that sent messages about his behaviour toward women, sought information about him, and posted photos of him. The women said Clement separately told them he had reported this online behaviour to police.

This would mean Clement was aware for months that an unknown party was seeking embarrassing information about him before he publicly revealed the extortion allegations.

As a member of Parliament’s new national security committee, Clement was bound by law to notify the Clerk of the Privy Council—the federal government’s top bureaucrat—of “any change in their personal circumstances that may affect their security clearance.”

Examples spelled out in the law include criminal convictions, a change in financial situation, association with criminals and being “the subject of a law enforcement action.”

The Star reported Tuesday night that Clement flagged the issue to the Privy Council Office days ago, and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office was made aware. The RCMP is now investigating Clement’s allegation, but refused to say when the investigation was opened.

Cameron Ahmad, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said Thursday that the PMO learned of the alleged extortion against Clement, after the privy council was informed.

The privy council did not immediately respond to the Star about when it was told about Clement’s situation.

The first woman who spoke to the Star is in her early twenties. She said Clement added her on Instagram last year and liked some of her photos. He started sending her direct messages, which she said became flirtatious and then overtly sexual. She said they started consensually sharing intimate messages, and he sent her explicit images.

“He would talk dirty to me, then send me nude photos and videos,” she said.

He asked her more than once to meet for coffee or come to his house, but the woman said she made up excuses to avoid going. She never met Clement in the offline world, she said.

A few months ago—the woman believes it was in June or July—Clement asked her to delete all records of their conversations. She said the MP told her he was concerned his Instagram account was “hacked” and asked her to only speak to him over WhatsApp, an encrypted messaging service.

The woman said she agreed with Clement’s request.

Soon after that conversation, she said an unknown user added her on Instagram. She said the account messaged her and alleged Clement engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour toward women. The woman, who said she didn’t know who was behind the account, took it as a “warning.”

“I was actually kind of scared,” she said. “I’m still wondering how the heck did they find me?”

The woman provided the Star with a screenshot of the message, which does not show the name of the account. The message is dated July 2.

The woman said she told Clement about the message, and that he “begged” her to believe the message was not true and that she was the only woman he was interacting with. She said Clement sent her a screenshot of a different Instagram account, @pierson476. She said Clement asked her if she had seen that account on Instagram; the woman said she had not.

The woman provided the Star with the screenshot she said Clement sent her. It is timestamped in her phone “7/3/18,” a date she believes is July 3, 2018. The photo shows @pierson476’s profile page, which displays two photos: one of a smartphone displaying a picture of a shirtless Clement, the other what appears to be Clement kissing a woman on the cheek.

The Star was unable to find either account – the one that messaged the woman about Clement, and @pierson476 – on Instagram. The woman said both accounts disappeared soon after these interactions with Clement.

The woman’s ex-boyfriend, whose contact information she provided to the Star, said she messaged him sometime in the summer – he believes before August – to tell him about her online relationship with Clement. He said she also told him about the strange Instagram accounts, and that she sent him the screenshot of @pierson476.

The ex-boyfriend’s phone shows the screenshot was uploaded to his Google Photos application on July 3.

Later, in what the woman recalls to be late July, she spoke with Clement again about the strange Instagram accounts. The woman said Clement told her “someone was after him for money” and that he told her he reported the activity to “the RCMP and police.”

“He was scared,” the woman said. “He said at one point he couldn’t sleep for a week.”

The RCMP refused to say when they received information from Clement or opened their investigation into his claims.

The second woman who spoke to the Star is in her twenties. She, too, met Clement online when he added her on social media. The woman said he started liking her pictures and then started sending her direct messages that often included kiss and heart emoticons.

She said she went on to have an intimate relationship with Clement. She said she decided to end their relationship because the 57-year-old MP is married.

Some time later, in May or June 2018, the woman said she received messages from “two or three” unknown users on Instagram. One of them sent her information about the first woman who spoke to the Star, and the two women connected online at that point, they said.

The second woman said one of the accounts offered her money for information about Clement, but she said she doesn’t recall which account it was.

“This person, whoever it was, was trying to expose his behaviour,” she said.

The woman said Clement was aware of this Instagram activity and flagged one of the accounts to her – @pierson476. She said Clement told her he reported it to the Ontario Provincial Police, and that all of the strange accounts have since disappeared.

The woman does not have any records of her interactions with these accounts, but she provided the Star with a screenshot of a text message conversation with Clement, in which he mentioned he was speaking with police. The woman said she scrolled back in her phone and took the screenshot Thursday, but said the exchange it shows is from July.

Sgt. Carole Dionne, a spokesperson for the OPP, declined to comment Wednesday night. She said the OPP doesn’t confirm if it receives reports from the public, nor does it confirm whether it has started an investigation.

The RCMP declined further comment Thursday, aside from confirming an investigation has been opened at Clement’s request.

Kim Fox, a Canadian journalist in Philadelphia, told the Star she also had unusual interactions with Clement on social media. About three or four years ago, she said he added her to Instagram and started liking her photos. She said she would wake up in the morning and see a “wall” of notifications — sometimes up to 10 or 20, she said.

“It was a joke, I would screen cap them and I would send them to my friends,” she said. “It just made me really uncomfortable … It’s odd behaviour for a public figure.”

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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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