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Donald Trump undermined Canada on Huawei arrest, says former U.S. ambassador

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Former U.S. ambassador to China Gary Locke said today that U.S. President Donald Trump undermined Canada over the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou when he said that he would intervene in the case if it could help secure a trade deal with China.

In an interview with CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, Locke said the extradition process has always been viewed as independent and separate from politics. But Trump’s offer in a Reuters interview to insert himself into the case — « if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made » — may have made Canada’s actions appear to the Chinese as an attempt at securing leverage.

« And so if the president is intervening, then the Chinese will say, ‘OK Canada, why don’t you intervene? Why don’t you just simply refuse to extradite this person to the United States? » he said.

Canadian officials have maintained that the Dec. 1 arrest of Meng happened without political interference and that the process is unfolding in accordance with the rule of law and international treaties.

The U.S. is seeking Meng’s extradition on charges related to the alleged violation of U.S. sanctions on Iran.

At a press conference last Friday alongside U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered what could be interpreted as a veiled rebuke of Trump’s remarks.

« Canada understands that the rule of law and extradition issues ought not to ever be politicized or used as tools to resolve other issues, » said Freeland. « That is the very clear position which Canada expresses to all of its partners. »

Further escalation?

Following Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadians on Dec. 10 on suspicion of « endangering national security. »

Locke said he sees the two events as linked and describes China’s detention of Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor as typical of Beijing’s tactics when it wants to send a warning to a foreign government.

Locke’s remarks echo the assessment of former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques, who told Power & Politics last week that « in China, there’s no coincidence. »

In terms of escalation, though, Locke said he doesn’t think there’s more to come on the Chinese side — at least in the short term.

« I think there will be a pause until they see what happens in that extradition hearing. Will Canada extradite the CFO to the United States? » said Locke.

« It really puts Canada in a difficult predicament because law enforcement between the United States and Canada (has) long had a history of good cooperation — apolitical, nonpolitical. But of course, the charges against the CFO of Huawei right now come at a very difficult political moment during these very tense and delicate trade talks and trade friction between the United States and China. »

Huawei security concerns

Meng’s arrest has also led to renewed scrutiny of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei, the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world and the second-largest manufacturer of smartphones, after Samsung.

U.S. lawmakers and intelligence officials have long warned of national security concerns stemming from Huawei’s murky connections to the Chinese government.

Locke said those security concerns revolve around the company’s equipment and the role it plays in telecommunications infrastructure.

« The fear is that somehow Huawei, with its close ties to the Chinese government, will have the capability of putting some sort of devices or spying on or collecting information from the people of the countries in which their equipment is installed, » he said.

« Or that they can somehow use that equipment to disrupt the normal flow of telecommunications, if the Chinese government were to direct them to do so. »

Several countries have moved to bar Huawei equipment from their 5G network infrastructures, including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

Canada is currently conducting a comprehensive review of the 5G technology movement, but has not yet announced a ban on Huawei technology.

Watch the full interview below.

Former U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke joined Power & Politics Tuesday to discuss the state of Canada-China-U.S. relations in the wake of the Canadian arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou and the subsequent Chinese detention of two Canadians. 13:20

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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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