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Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, patriarch of one of America’s most successful families, dies at 94

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He urged Americans to be a “thousand points of light.” When fighting an election, he promised, “read my lips — no new taxes.” And once in office, he put his foot down: there would be no more broccoli for President George H.W. Bush.

The former U.S. president, vice-president, ambassador, congressman, director of the Central Intelligence Agency and patriarch of one of America’s most successful political families died November 30, 2018. He was 94.

“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” his son, former President George W. Bush, said in a statement released early Saturday.

“George H.W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who have cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”

His death comes eight months after the death of Barbara Bush in April.

The Bushes, who were married Jan. 6, 1945, had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history. Mrs. Bush was one of only two first ladies who had a child who was elected president. The other was Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams and mother of John Quincy Adams.

The Bushes, who were married Jan. 6, 1945, had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history.
The Bushes, who were married Jan. 6, 1945, had the longest marriage of any presidential couple in American history.  (Olivier Douliery)

Bush suffered from a variety of health problems in his final years. In 2012, in an interview with Parade magazine, Bush revealed that he had Vascular Parkinson’s, which forced him into a motorized scooter.

“It just affects the legs. It’s not painful. You tell your legs to move, and they don’t move,” he said. “It’s strange, but if you have some bad-sounding disease, this is a good one to get.”

He was hospitalized over a bout of pneumonia in January 2017, ending up in the intensive care unit of Houston’s Methodist Hospital. That episode caused Bush to miss the inauguration of Donald Trump — “My doctor says if I sit outside in January, it will likely put me six feet under,” Bush wrote in a letter explaining his absence.

Bush — often referred to as Bush Sr., or Bush 41, to differentiate him from his son, another former president named George Bush — was elected the 41st president of the United States of America in 1988. His four years in the Oval Office, from 1989 to 1993, saw the Cold War end, the Berlin Wall fall, and much of the North American Free Trade Agreement hammered out.

But Bush may be most widely remembered for Operation Desert Storm and his decision to send U.S. soldiers into Kuwait to remove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces in the winter of 1991.

“His big success was the Gulf War,” said Paul Quirk, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia. “At the point this was happening, and shortly after, Bush had the approval of 90 per cent of the American public.”

Bush couldn’t maintain that momentum, however. He had to renege on his promise not to raise taxes in a deal with the Democrats to reduce the deficit, and it was largely the faltering U.S. economy that led to Bush’s defeat to Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential election.

Though most closely identified with the state of Texas — where he made his fortune, and where his eldest son launched the political career that eventually landed him in the White House for two terms — George Herbert Walker Bush was born in Milton, Mass. on June 12, 1924, into blue-blooded privilege as the son of Connecticut senator Prescott Bush.

He graduated from Yale University in 1948 with a degree in economics, although his studies had been waylaid by the Second World War. Bush enlisted in the U.S. military on his 18th birthday, becoming a pilot. He flew torpedo bombers and was shot down over the island of Chichi-jima in the Pacific; he was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in action.

Bush married Barbara Pierce in 1945, and they had six children — George, Robin (who died as a child), John (known as Jeb), Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy — as well as 17 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Jeb Bush also entered politics, launching an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2016 after serving as the governor of Florida.

Following a career in the oil industry in Texas, Bush entered politics there and was first elected to Congress in 1966. He ran twice for the Senate, unsuccessfully, but was appointed to several other powerful roles, including ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, U.S. envoy to China, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency, which he headed for a little less than a year.

“He was known for his leadership in organizations, and he was quite supportive of lower staff,” said Mark Brawley, a professor of political science at Montreal’s McGill University. “He could speak the language of bureaucrats, he was smart, he was good at taking advice, and I think he was good at building corporate morale.”

George W. Bush, left, is shown with his father, George H. W. Bush in this photo from 1968 at Ellington Field, Texas.
George W. Bush, left, is shown with his father, George H. W. Bush in this photo from 1968 at Ellington Field, Texas.  (AP Photo/Texas National Guard)

Bush served as Ronald Reagan’s vice-president for two terms, from 1981 to 1989, and in the 1988 presidential election, with Dan Quayle as his running mate, he defeated Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis to move into the White House.

That campaign was hard-fought and remarkable for its negative tone: Republicans went after Dukakis, accusing him of being weak on crime and using the case of Willie Horton — a convicted murderer who fled while out on a weekend pass and committed another attack — to illustrate that.

After his inauguration in January 1989, Bush’s first visit to a foreign country was to Canada, to see then-prime minister Brian Mulroney. At the top of the agenda was discussion of an accord on acid rain.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President George H.W. Bush at the White House in August 1989.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President George H.W. Bush at the White House in August 1989.  (Star file photo)

Bush declared that Ottawa was “colder than hell” — according to a Star reporter who was there, it was about -5 C — but called the visit “outstanding.”

The mood was different than it had been on Bush’s previous visits to Canada, as vice-president. After one trip to Ottawa, in 1987, Mulroney was frank in expressing his opinions on acid rain to his American guest.

“I really unloaded on him, because I knew that this was the only way that I was going to get the message through to the rest of the administration,” Mulroney said in a recent article for the Institute for Research on Public Policy. “So, when he said, ‘I got an earful,’ he really did.”

After leaving office Bush joined forces with his one-time political foe, former president Clinton, to raise money for those affected by natural disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the hurricanes that later pounded the Gulf Coast.

Bush is also remembered for his distinctive speaking style — comic Dana Carvey, who imitated him on Saturday Night Live, described him as a cross between Mr. Rogers and John Wayne — and, amusingly, his decision to ban broccoli from Air Force One.

“I do not like broccoli,” Bush said. “I’m president of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”

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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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