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First Saudi Arabia, now China — Canada has a new foe, and its southern ally isn’t helping – National

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First U.S. President Donald Trump attacked Canada on trade. Then Saudi Arabia punished it for speaking up for human rights. Now China has the country in its cross-hairs, detaining two Canadians in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive on behalf of the United States.

Canada is caught between two super powers and taking the punishment — and its ally to the south has been conspicuously absent in coming to its aid.

WATCH: Tim Kaine: Trump has alienated Canada on USMCA, Huawei arrest






“We’ve never been this alone,” historian Robert Bothwell said. “We don’t have any serious allies. And I think that’s another factor in what the Chinese are doing. … Our means of retaliation are very few. China is a hostile power.”

The two Canadians, Michael Kovrig, a former diplomat in China, and Michael Spavor, an entrepreneur who lived in northeastern China near the North Korean border, were taken into custody Monday on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endanger the national security” of China, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said. Canadian consular officials have had no access to them.

WATCH: Morneau calls detained Canadians in China a “challenge,” but sticks to trade relations rhetoric






Their detentions ratchet up pressure on Canada, which arrested Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei, on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States. The U.S. wants her extradited to face charges that she and her company misled banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. A Canadian judge released Meng on bail Tuesday.

The case has set off a diplomatic furor among the three nations in which Canada has been stuck in the middle.

Until now, Canada had a largely good relationship with China, forged by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s father, late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who helped establish the one-China formula that enabled many other countries to recognize China in the 1970s. Canada acknowledged there is one government of China and does not officially recognize Taiwan.


READ MORE:
Why China is trying to bully Canada (and not the U.S.) into releasing Huawei CFO

China has since become Canada’s second-largest trading partner, after the United States. Chinese investment has powered real estate booms in Vancouver and Toronto. And one-third of foreign students in Canada are Chinese. Justin Trudeau has even talked about a possible free-trade agreement with China in a bid to diversify Canada’s trade, which relies on the U.S. for 75 percent of its exports.

But the Canadian prime minister has said little since news of this week’s arrests became public. Opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said Trudeau isn’t being forceful enough with the Chinese.

“This situation demonstrates that Justin Trudeau’s naive approach to relations with China isn’t working,” Scheer said.

It’s Canada’s second dispute with a major power this year. In June, Trump vowed to make Canada pay after Trudeau said he wouldn’t be pushed around in talks to hammer out a new North American trade agreement, an unprecedented attack on America’s closest ally. Trump called Trudeau weak and dishonest, words that shocked Canadians.


READ MORE:
‘China will take revenge’ if Canada doesn’t free Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou: Global Times editor

Then Trump said this week that he might intervene in the Huawei case if it would help clinch a trade agreement with China, upending U.S. efforts to separate the court proceeding from U.S.-China trade talks and contradicting Canadian officials who said the arrest was not political.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland took a swipe at Trump, saying it was “quite obvious” any foreign country requesting extradition should ensure “the process is not politicized.”

“Normally, Canada can count on the United States to back them up on such an issue,” said Laura Dawson, a former economic adviser at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa and director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center think tank in Washington. Dawson said it’s unusual for Washington to “leave Canada hanging high and dry.”

“President Trump has made it clear that old alliances don’t matter so much anymore,” she said. “He has made no secret of his preference for a go-it-alone approach and his lack of regard for traditional alliances.”

WATCH: Trade minister continues to endorse commerce with China in wake of Huawei, diplomat arrest






In years past the U.S. might have defended Canada when came it under attack and other countries would know the U.S. had Canada’s back. Not now. In August, the Saudi government expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and withdrew its own ambassador after Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted support for an arrested Saudi activist. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave. No country, including the U.S., spoke out publicly in support of Canada.

And now the stakes are much higher. Canada is one of the few countries in the world unabashedly speaking out in defense of human rights and the international rule of law. And Chinese trade with Canada is increasingly key as Canada looks to boost its exports in Asia as its trade with the U.S. is threatened by Trump’s tariffs on Canadian goods.

WATCH: Amid Huawei CFO arrest, B.C. trade mission to end trip early, foregoing China visit






“At the beginning of Trump there was this idea that maybe the Chinese would replace the Americans” as Canada’s pre-eminent trade partner “but that’s just nuts,” said historian Bothwell, a University of Toronto professor. “Relations for any smaller country with China are really grave.”

Derek Scissors, a China specialist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called China’s actions toward Canada “thuggish.”

“You detain a Canadian because the Canadians can’t do anything. It’s bullying behavior,” he said.

WATCH: Huawei CFO’s arrest triggers questions about Canadians in China






Noting Canada was just following a routine extradition process with the United States, Scissors said America should be saying:  ‴Why are you picking up Canadians? You have a problem with us.’”

David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said not only the U.S. but other Western nations should be standing up for Canada.

“It would be nice if publicly and also behind the scenes if countries like the United States, the U.K., Australia and France would put in a word on our behalf and let the Chinese know how damaging this is to their reputation and to the notion that China is a safe place to work and pursue a career,” Mulroney said.

“I think a lot of foreigners in China are looking over their shoulder right now,” he added.

Christopher Sands of the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington said the world took note of how Trump treated Canada during trade negotiations and how the U.S. stayed silent when Saudi Arabia overreacted to Canada’s expression of human rights concerns over treatment of the Saudi dissident.

“In normal times, the U.S. sends a signal, usually discreetly, to allies to cut it out and play nice,” Sands said.

“What makes this worse is that China is lashing out at Canada not for Canada’s initiative, but for Canada’s honoring of a U.S. warrant. The damage done by our silence in terms of alliance relations is truly awful,” he said.

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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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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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