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Man rescued from collapsed B.C. pier says he wants to apologize for ‘foolishness’

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The man who ended up on the wrong side of a crumbling pier during a « devastating, » deadly windstorm on Thursday says he wants to apologize for his « foolishness. »

Oren Perry, 42, was caught on the far end of the pier in White Rock, B.C., after it collapsed in the early afternoon. Waves churned by 90 km/h winds had ripped nearby boats from their moorings and sent them crashing into the century-old pier, beating against the wooden beams until they cracked apart.

Other people on the pier ran back to safety at the first signs of collapse, but Perry says he didn’t feel safe.

« Embarrassing. That’s about it, » he said of being the only one caught on the wrong side.

The mayor of White Rock said Thursday’s windstorm was the worst he’s seen in his 50 years as a city resident. Gales led to fallen trees across the province’s South Coast, killing one woman on Vancouver Island and knocking out power to tens of thousands of homes over the course of the day.

The 104-year-old pier was badly damaged in Thursday’s windstorm. (Submitted by Max McGratten)

Hopes to wait it out

Perry went to the beach with his wife and son around noon Thursday. They were storm-watching from the beach promenade, but Perry’s wife and son went inside a restaurant for a break when the weather worsened.

« The waves were a little bit too big for my son, who’s two, and he was nervous, » Perry said over the phone Friday.

Alone, he decided to walk down the pier to join the crowd watching the waves and boats — « the excitement of the storm, » he said, adding that he’s watched storms from the pier before.

Perry said it took a few « tries » before boats started to break through the beams holding up the 104-year-old pier.

« At first, I was stuck with some other people and it didn’t seem like it was safe enough to cross, and I thought, ‘Well, the storm is going to die down in about an hour and we’ll just wait it out,' » Perry said.

He said he walked further out to get away from the break. Meanwhile, RCMP were onshore shouting for people on the pier to sprint to safety.

Everyone did, except Perry.

« I guess the police showed up to encourage the other people to run through, but I didn’t know … then I wasn’t close enough to make it a make across in time, » he said. « It didn’t seem like it was safe enough to cross. »

Eventually, a section of the pier tore away from the rest and left a gap over the ocean.

A boat is battered by waves and is slammed into the White Rock pier, which was severely damaged during a windstorm on Thursday. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Perry said he hoped to wait out the storm on the far end of the pier, but a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter from Vancouver Island lifted him to shore just after 3:30 p.m.

« I just felt foolish. Especially with everybody watching onshore, » said Perry.

A person was airlifted to safety after getting stranded on a pier broken in two by a powerful storm. 0:47

« Shout-out to the first responders. They did a great job — all of them, » he added. « And I have to apologize to everybody for getting stuck out there. »

Oren Perry, in black, wraps his arm around his wife after being rescued from the end of the landmark pier in White Rock. (Tom Ewasiuk)

The pier was open when Perry walked across. RCMP shut down the area after the collapse and it remained closed Friday.

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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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