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Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Over 40 per cent of those deaths happened in Scarborough

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The morning of Sept. 26 began just like any other for Maria Dorsey and her partner, Jack Miehm. The pair had coffee and, before he left the house to catch a TTC bus, Jack asked what they would do for dinner that night.

“All that boring stuff, it seems like now, but it’s not boring,” Dorsey recalled.

Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Maria Dorsey lost her Jack Miehm in September.
Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Maria Dorsey lost her Jack Miehm in September.  (MOE DOIRON / TORONTO STAR)

“I gave him a kiss goodbye and said I’ll see you later, and that was it.”

Moments after he left the house to go help a friend with drywall work, Miehm, a 61-year-old semi-retired contractor, was struck by a driver as he crossed at a stoplight at St. Clair Ave. E. and Jeanette St. in the Scarborough Junction neighbourhood. He was about two minutes from his front door.

The impact was so powerful Miehm was thrown 50 metres, police later told Dorsey, and the side mirror of the van was ripped off. The driver fled the scene; a suspect was arrested two days later.

Those who knew him say Miehm, who had two children and two grandchildren, was a quiet, friendly man. At the time of his death, he had been recovering from a stroke he had about six years ago with what Dorsey described as characteristic optimism.

“He said, ‘it could be worse.’ That was his favourite line,” she said. “They say the voice is the first thing people (forget) when you lose someone, but I can still hear his laugh.”

Miehm was one of 46 pedestrians or cyclists who have died in Toronto so far in 2018, a number that appears to mark a recent one-year high for the city.

According to statistics compiled by the Star using police and media reports, 41 pedestrians and five cyclists, who together are classified as “vulnerable road users,” have been killed on the streets so far this year.

The most recent death occurred Friday, when a woman in her 70s was found at the intersection of Finch Ave. East and Wayside Ave. in Scarborough.

The 46 deaths so far in 2018 exceeds the number of combined pedestrian and cyclist fatalities recorded in any year in a police database that goes back to 2007. The highest number in the database is 44, which the city reached in both 2013 and 2016.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Brimley and Heather Rds. (Jan. 2); Steeles Ave. E. and Eastvale Dr. (Jan. 7); Eglinton Ave. E. and Birchmount Rd. (Jan. 9); Warden Ave. and Bambaugh Circle. (Jan. 24)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Brimley and Heather Rds. (Jan. 2); Steeles Ave. E. and Eastvale Dr. (Jan. 7); Eglinton Ave. E. and Birchmount Rd. (Jan. 9); Warden Ave. and Bambaugh Circle. (Jan. 24)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

The Star began keeping its own count of traffic deaths last year, in order to fill gaps in the police numbers, which don’t include fatalities that occur on private property or provincially owned 400 series highways.

The Star’s count for 2017 showed 41 pedestrians and four cyclists were killed that year, for a total of 45. The number of deaths in 2018 has now exceeded that total as well, with more than three weeks left in the year.

The numbers show two years after city council adopted the Vision Zero plan intended to eliminate traffic fatalities, the deaths of vulnerable road users haven’t slowed.

The city is spending $100 million over five years on the plan, which calls for reducing speed limits, deploying additional red light cameras, increasing signage, reconfiguring intersections, and adding traffic calming measures such as speed humps.

The victims in 2018 have ranged in age from 5 to 92 years old, although more than half were over the age of 55. At least four of the older victims were riding mobility scooters or motorized wheelchairs when they were killed.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Kennedy and William Kitchen Rds. (Feb.21); Cannongate Trail and Purcell Sq. (Feb. 27); Highway 401 and Warden Ave. (March 1); Greencedar Circuit and Daphne Rd. (March 2)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Kennedy and William Kitchen Rds. (Feb.21); Cannongate Trail and Purcell Sq. (Feb. 27); Highway 401 and Warden Ave. (March 1); Greencedar Circuit and Daphne Rd. (March 2)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

Those who died this year include 5-year-old cancer survivor Camila Torcato, who was pinned by a vehicle outside her school in January; 21-year-old University of Toronto student Emma Leckey, who was run down by an alleged drunk driver downtown; 54-year-old Doug Crosbie, who was clipped by a truck driver while riding his bike on Dundas St. E.; and 50-year-old Isabel Soria, who was struck by an alleged hit-and-run driver while her husband was steps away.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for more than 46 per cent (or 19 of 41) of pedestrian deaths this year, despite the eastern borough containing just 23 per cent of the city’s population and about 26 per cent of its road kilometrage.

A majority of the deaths in Scarborough occurred on or near wide, busy roads such as Ellesmere Rd., Warden Ave. and Victoria Park Ave.

Dorsey said drivers routinely sped down the section of St. Clair Ave. where Miehm was killed.

“We would sit in the backyard in summer, and it’s like a freeway. They race down that street, and I would say to Jack, someone’s going to get hit,” she said.

Nancy Smith Lea, director of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), said the city’s wide streets “really facilitate high speeds.”

“It’s absolutely tragic that people are continuing to be killed on the streets, but it’s unfortunately not surprising because we’re still designing our streets in a way that kills people, especially outside of the downtown core,” Smith Lea said.

She said the road design in Scarborough and the city’s other suburbs, which were planned and built decades ago, have left “a challenging legacy” that can’t be quickly or easily addressed.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Warden Ave. and Fairfax Crescent. (July 30); Claremore Ave. and Craiglee Dr. (Aug. 6); Highway 2A, east of the Highland Creek Overpass. (Aug. 9); St. Clair Ave. and Jeanette St. (Sept. 26)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Warden Ave. and Fairfax Crescent. (July 30); Claremore Ave. and Craiglee Dr. (Aug. 6); Highway 2A, east of the Highland Creek Overpass. (Aug. 9); St. Clair Ave. and Jeanette St. (Sept. 26)  (Moe Doiron/For Toronto Star)

As part of Vision Zero, the city has reduced speed limits on portions of Kingston Rd., Midland Ave., Finch Ave. and other major streets, and deployed about two dozen red-light cameras in Scarborough.

But the physical changes that Smith Lea and other experts say are crucial to slow traffic and making streets safer — such as adding bike lanes and reducing pedestrian crossing distance at intersections — would take longer to install throughout Scarborough.

“There’s not a really easy answer. It’s going to take some time,” she said. She argued a key first step is getting suburban political leaders onside with road safety initiatives.

Smith Lea complained that when a coalition of groups that included her organization sent councillors a survey about making commitments to road safety in the run-up to October’s municipal election, just one out of seven incumbents running for re-election in Scarborough filled it out.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Sheppard Ave. E. and Allanford Rd. (Sept. 26); Victoria Park Ave. and Esquire Rd. (Sept. 29); Ellesmere and Birchmount Rds. (Nov. 9); Ellesmere and Neilson Rds. (Nov. 12)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Sheppard Ave. E. and Allanford Rd. (Sept. 26); Victoria Park Ave. and Esquire Rd. (Sept. 29); Ellesmere and Birchmount Rds. (Nov. 9); Ellesmere and Neilson Rds. (Nov. 12)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

Councillor Gary Crawford, who represents Ward 20, Scarborough Southwest, didn’t fill out the survey. But he blamed a particularly chaotic election season, and said he has heard loud and clear from voters that road safety is a priority issue.

“Major roads, even residential roads out in the suburbs, Scarborough in particular, were designed for certain speeds,” Crawford said.

He singled out Kingston Rd. in particular as a trouble area because it’s “almost a major highway, but it is through residential areas.”

Crawford said in addition to lowering speeds on the street, he’d like the city to consider adding on-street parking in order to slow drivers.

The councillor, who served as Mayor John Tory’s budget chief during this council term, said he could support accelerating and adding more funding to Vision Zero if city staff recommended it.

“Every death is absolutely tragic. We need to continue doing what we’re doing with our Vision Zero. We need to continue the investments, and if need be through the advice of staff, further enhance these,” he said.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were two of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Left: Bellamy Rd. N. and Cedar Brae Blvd. (Nov. 25); Midland and Dorcot Aves. (Dec. 4).
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were two of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Left: Bellamy Rd. N. and Cedar Brae Blvd. (Nov. 25); Midland and Dorcot Aves. (Dec. 4).  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star; Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

Don Peat, a spokesperson for the mayor, said Tory “firmly believes the central message of Vision Zero that fatalities and serious injuries on our roads are preventable, and we must strive to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries to zero.”

Peat said the mayor has joined with a majority of council and supported expanding Vision Zero, and receives “regular updates” on the implementation of road safety measures “to ensure the work is being done as quickly as possible.”

Tory initially supported a version of the road safety plan put forward by city staff in 2016, which set a target of reducing traffic deaths and serious injury by 20 per cent over 10 years. Under heavy criticism from safety advocates, Tory supported changing the plan to set a goal of eliminating road deaths altogether.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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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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