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Oshawa Generals ‘steeped in history’: no immediate plan to change name after GM plant closure

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Oshawa Generals team president and governor Rocco Tullio says the five-time Memorial Cup-winning club hasn’t explored the possibility of changing its name now that General Motors plans to leave the city.

The Generals are named after the automaking giant, with GM being their original sponsor when they joined the Ontario Hockey Association in 1937.

After the announcement earlier this week that GM would be shuttering its plant and laying off its 2,500 workers by the end of 2019 there were calls on social media for the team to change its name.

« We’re steeped in history here. We’ve been around for over 80 years. We’ve had the likes of Bobby Orr, » said Tullio.

« …I understand it and trust me when it hits close to home like that, people are angry, right, and they want to lash out and I get it, but as an organization, we haven’t even considered it at this point in time. «

Tullio — whose hometown of Windsor, Ont., saw its GM trim and transmission plants close in 2008 and 2010, respectively — called Monday’s news « disappointing » and said the team, along with the league, is looking into ways to reach out to those affected by the layoffs.

« This isn’t about hockey at this stage of the game, it’s about supporting these families in our community, » he said.

Jordan Sanders, right, has worked at the GM plant for more than five years and supports the idea of a name change. (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)

Jordan Sanders, 26, — who works on the GM plant’s assembly line — was at Oshawa’s first home game on Saturday since the news broke with three-week-old daughter, Peyton, two-year-old son, Cohen, and her father, Doug.

Sanders, a single mother who has been on maternity leave since October and has worked at the factory for more than five years, supports the idea that if GM leaves the city the hockey team should change its name.

« They don’t treat any of the workers with any respect, because they just did this almost 10 years ago to the workers there and I wouldn’t want to keep around a name like that in Oshawa, » said Sanders, referencing the 2009 closure of GM’s pickup truck plant.

Sanders’ father Doug, who spent 34 years at GM, helped her get the job at the company after previously working for feeder plants in the area.

Doug Sanders, who was given a buyout and retired from that plant, was less certain about changing the team name.

The former union representative and city councillor — whose son also works at Lear, a General Motors feeder plant in Whitby, Ont., and expects will lose his job — said he couldn’t envision a team in Oshawa not called the Generals.

He noted that the team was « built on the backs » of auto workers who donated money for the construction the Oshawa Civic Auditorium, which opened in 1964.

Few remaining ties

Oshawa had no team between 1953 and 1962 after its former home, Hambly’s Arena, burned down.

Besides the crest on its jersey, the club has few remaining ties to GM in 2018. After the Generals left the Auditorium in 2006, the city opened a new downtown arena, called the General Motors Centre. But those naming rights expired in 2016 and Tullio said the team no longer has a direct affiliation with the American car giant.

I mean, why should you be associated with something that has basically devastated the community?– Andrew Landry

Season-ticket holder Ron Gallant, 67, who worked at GM for nearly 30 years and was also part of the truck plant closure in 2009, said it would be « strange » if the team changed its name, but understood why they might want to move on.

« I mean, why should you be associated with something that has basically devastated the community?, » he said.

Andrew Landry, 39, — who came to the game with his flag-toting, seven-year-old son Callum — hopes the team could embrace a « change of focus » rather than a brand-new name, pointing to the city’s Canadian Forces museum as potential inspiration.

« We’ve got five Memorial Cups under the Generals banner name and I can’t see that changing, » he said.

‘Once a General always a General’

John Gray, a current city councillor and Oshawa’s mayor between 2003 and 2010, said dropping the Generals would be a « knee-jerk reaction. »

« I think that’s petty and vindictive — we are the Generals, whether (General Motors is) here or not, » he said.

Former Oshawa mayor and current city council member John Gray says: ‘We are the Generals, whether (General Motors is) here or not.’ (Fred Thornhill/Canadian Press)

John Snowden’s links to GM span several generations. The 54-year-old worked in a number roles for the company, including in production and as an electrician, dating back to when he was a student in the 1980s. Both his brothers also had jobs with the automaker, as did his grandfather.

The Oshawa native lamented the possible loss of the good-paying jobs in his community, but is holding out hope that GM’s operations in the city can be saved and believes its hockey team should stay true to its past as well.

« I think once a General always a General. I think we should keep it as the Generals. Keep back to our roots of where it used to be. »

« I don’t like changing names, guess I’m a stickler for the old way of things. »

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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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