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You can’t help but trash our recycling strategy

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One of the strategies Toronto bureaucrats are dreaming up to get you to sort your waste correctly is to slap offenders with a fine, charging and punishing them as if they are random scofflaws.

Well, let’s see how this is going to work for them. Issuing fines would be a single most destructive step — one severe enough to destroy the goodwill built up over the last 30 years of more environmentally friendly waste management in the GTA.

I just spent the entire morning, after spending an hour last night, trying to figure out what is allowed in the green bin, the blue box and the garbage can in Toronto — as opposed to in Pickering, or Markham, or Mississauga.

The prerequisite for such research must surely be a postgraduate degree in garbology. There must be a squadron of bureaucrats, stretching from Clarington to Burlington, who derive great pleasure in frustrating the life out of residents. The blizzard of choices and options is such that you should not depend on all that you read here. I’ve checked and double checked and am still not certain.

It seems that Toronto wants you to line your green bin receptacles with the omnipresent plastic grocery bags, not the biodegradable ones you would think they’d demand. Peel Region insist on no plastic liners.

For some reason, after more than three decades since the blue box came to North York, our neighbouring municipalities cannot come up with a single system that informs the more than 6 million of us on what goes where.

Uniformity is important here.

When you live in a region where the rules differ from one neighbouring city to the next, you are trading in confusion. Our citizens move seamlessly across the region, not just daily but sometimes hourly. Who can blame the resident for throwing up the hand in resignation?

Long ago, I stopped trying to figure out which drink box and drink cup is acceptable in the blue box. Depending on how my day is going, it either all goes in the garbage bin or it all goes in the recycling bin.

Imagine, some friends are over. They know I have been a bit of stickler for putting waste in its proper stream before they knew what a blue box was, so they try. But even now, they approach the waste separation centre with trepidation.

“Oh, you can put the organic stuff in plastic shopping bags? We can’t do that in Pickering,” one visitor said last week. The Starbucks lover approached with, “Where do I put this?”

Wax-coated? Then it’s garbage bin material.

“Where do I put the clear plastic cutlery? Garbage right?”

Ahh, no — not in Toronto. We recycle those, I think. But cling wrap and coffee cups and laundry soap boxes and nail clippings are, well, garbage.

We’ll recycle your shampoo bottles but not your plastic tubes that dispense shampoo, or cream or toothpaste.

Clear disposable drinking cup? I think it’s blue. Clear lid? Yeah, that’s blue. But clear drinking straw? That’s black, as in garbage black.

“Coffee pods?”

Listen, you figure it out.

Want to put out some shredded documents at the curb? Don’t dare put it in the blue box if you are in Markham or Brampton. They demand it be placed in the green bin, even as Toronto and Durham insist it be placed in the blue box.

You can put kitty litter in the Toronto green bin, but not pet hair; everywhere else, it’s the opposite. Aluminum everything is accepted in York Region’s blue boxes; in Toronto, aluminum foil is forbidden but aluminum other things are treasured.

Who would have thought that diapers and feminine hygiene products would be welcomed in the green bin? They are in Toronto, but don’t try it at points east of Scarborough or west of Etobicoke.

Styrofoam? Bring it on in the blue box, say Toronto and Peel Region; it’s garbage, say Durham and York. The plastic grocery bag is garbage in Durham and York, and blue box material in Toronto and Peel.

Want to keep “garbage” out of the blue box? It’s nearly impossible now. For one, it depends where you live and what rules that city has cooked up to confuse you. Secondly, garbage isn’t, well, garbage. We are asked to put it in the garbage bin because your particular city can’t process it; or has no markets for it; or opted to use a firm that can’t process it; or doesn’t have equipment at the recycling plant to separate the recyclables from the disposables headed for the landfill.

Rather than fine and harass people who can’t figure out the needlessly complex set of rules and exemptions governing what is recyclable, compostable, and disposable, we should fine the people responsible for this befuddling mess.

If you want to levy fines, levy them against the people who came up with a regimen that is confusing, frustrating and, eventually, dispiriting. It literally forces you to give up.

So, though I like Raptors analyst Jack Armstrong, hired to apply his signature call to the problem of mixing garbage with recyclables, Armstrong should be telling the city, not residents, to “Get this garbage outta here.”

Royson James is a former Star reporter and a freelance columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @roysonjames

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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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