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B.C. First Nation eyes renegotiating benefit deal on Trans Mountain pipeline project

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A British Columbia First Nation is looking to renegotiate its Trans Mountain expansion benefit agreements signed before Ottawa bought the pipeline, according to a band councillor.

Simpcw First Nation Coun. George Lampreau said the new round of consultations launched by Ottawa following August’s Federal Court of Appeal decision created a new process on the project.

Simpcw First Nation, about 80 kilometres north of Kamloops, B.C., was one of 43 First Nations that signed mutual benefit agreements (MBAs) with Kinder Morgan when it owned the 1,500-km Trans Mountain pipeline and was working to increase its capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil per day from 300,000.

« To us it’s a new process. They keep telling us, ‘Your MBAs are going to stand up,' » said Lampreau. « We don’t feel that way. So we are going to probably get into renegotiating. »

Lampreau said the band council still needs to develop its plan with the new consultation process and discuss it with community members.

The First Nation held a referendum to ensure it had community support to sign the initial MBA, said Lampreau.

« It’s a community process. We engage with them with on every major decision we make within our community, » he said.

Trans Mountain says it will honour MBAs

In an emailed statement, Trans Mountain media relations said it « will continue to honour all of our mutual benefit agreements as agreed to and are committed to our relationships with Indigenous communities and to completing the project successfully and with shared prosperity for those communities. »

Ottawa purchased the pipeline in May because the previous owner, Houston-based Kinder Morgan, was preparing to walk away from the $7.4 billion project which faced stiff opposition from First Nations and the British Columbia government.

An aerial view of the Trans Mountain marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C., in May. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The expanded pipeline would pump bitumen mined in Alberta from its Sherwood Park terminal to tankers docking at an expanded Westridge Terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

The Federal Court of Appeal in August overturned the approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, partly on grounds Ottawa failed to properly consult and accommodate First Nations on the project.

Lampreau said Simpcw decided to sign onto the pipeline expansion to increase its influence over how the project unfolds.

« We would rather be involved in the process than sitting on the outside and have it pushed through, » he said. « At least our concerns are heard right at the front. »

Lampreau said the First Nation has developed an emergency response plan and is currently monitoring and maintaining the existing 50-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline.

‘We have been called sell-outs’

Lampreau said Simpcw has faced a lot of heat on its position from First Nations activists who oppose the pipeline. He said the band leadership has even faced threats over the issue.

« We have been called sell-outs; We have been called traitors, » said Lampreau.

Lampreau criticized the vocal position taken by Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) against the pipeline. He said some of the activists targeting his community are from Neskonlith, about 51 km west of Kamloops. 

Wilson is secretary-treasurer for the organization. Simpcw is also a member of UBCIC. ​Neskonlith and Simpcw are both part of the Secwepemc Nation.

Lampreau said the pipeline crosses within a few kilometres of Simpcw’s reserve boundaries and through about 400 kilometres of its territorial « division » within Secwepemc territorial lands.

« Even though the right is collective, we have our own right within our division and we protect that, » said Lampreau.

« Yet no one from the rest of the nation, including [Wilson] has ever come to us and asked us about what we are doing with the pipeline. »

‘The collective benefit isn’t there’

Wilson said Lampreau’s linking of activists to her community was an attempt to get a legal hook to place responsibility on her leadership.

Wilson said band councils control territory only up to their reserve boundaries and it’s the people of the nation who hold title to Secwepemc territory as a whole.

Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson speaks during an anti-Trans Mountain pipeline news conference on Thursday during the Assembly of First Nations annual December meeting in Ottawa. (Jorge Barrera/CBC)

« Title belongs the nation and it’s collective in nature, » said Wilson. « I think the ones who are trying to claim territory are buying into those colonial notions and the divide and conquer tactics of the government and industry. »

Wilson said a letter has been sent to Simpcw explaining her position.

Wilson said she understands why some First Nations have signed onto the Trans Mountain project, but said the promised economic benefits pale in comparison to the pipeline’s threat to the environment.

« The collective benefit isn’t there for the people and as leaders, that is what we are supposed to be looking at — the collective benefit of our people, the land and water, » she said. « And not be blinded by economic promises that are really false economic promises. » 

Neskonlith chief accuses Trudeau of sexism

Wilson confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday over his government’s failure to obtain « consent » from First Nations on the pipeline project.

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson asks PM about consent on Trans Mountain pipeline 5:23

The exchanged occurred after the prime minister delivered a speech to the Assembly of First Nations during their annual December meeting in Ottawa.

In his response, Trudeau referred to Wilson by her first name, while using the title « chief » responding to the other male questioners. 

Wilson and UBCIC have demanded an apology from Trudeau over what she viewed as sexism.

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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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