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Man facing eviction from family home on Toronto Islands gets reprieve — for now

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Days before Christmas, Don Sampson learned he had been voted off the island — and out of his childhood home on Algonquin Island.

Eviction day was scheduled for Monday. Locks would be changed, forcibly if necessary. Possessions removed. The home at 8 Omaha Ave. would then be sold by the Toronto Islands’ trust, which instructed Sampson to vacate the property in a letter dated Dec. 20.

“The Trust will neither be evicting anyone from 8 Omaha nor changing the locks at that address on January 7, 2019,” Lorraine Filyer, Toronto Islands’ trust board chair, wrote in an email to the Star on Sunday. She did not respond to a followup email asking if the trust would — or would not — evict anyone from that home after Monday.

Sampson, when told of Filyer’s statement, was skeptical.

He said he received another letter from the trust on Friday that suggested “we’re going to carry on” with eviction plans. He added he hasn’t been contacted directly by the trust about dropping the eviction demand.

“I would love to hear that it’s happening,” said Sampson, who hosted a “Save Our Sampsons” rally at his home on Sunday — the letters S.O.S. were drawn on signs filling the front windows.

“I would like to have an email from the trust itself before I can be assured (that he can remain in the home).”

And if a crew shows up to evict him?

“If they come to try and change my locks (Monday), of course I’ll stand here and try to prevent them,” Sampson said.

He said he has support from friends who showed up for an afternoon barbecue he hosted Sunday. Many of them have known the Sampson family for 60 years. Some pledged to form a human chain around the home Monday if an eviction is attempted.

Councillor Mark Grimes (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), another long-time Sampson friend, recalled when they played baseball together on the island in the 1980s.

“It’s a family home and I think it should stay in the family,” said Grimes, standing in the home’s front yard Sunday.

Grimes spent part of the morning reviewing his friend’s documents and said he would reach out to the province to learn more about how the trust operates.

Mayor John Tory said at a Sunday event in Scarborough that he would not interfere in the island dispute.

Sampson’s property battle with the trust surrounds the deed to the family home, which was in the name of his brother, Bruce, who had cancer and died in 2017. Though Don Sampson is named in his brother’s will to inherit 8 Omaha, the house cannot be transferred to him — a quirk of trust rules.

Sampson was informed by the trust that the home must be sold by the trust to someone on its waiting list, which has about 500 hopeful island buyers on it.

The letter Sampson received from a trust lawyer advised he had until Jan. 7 (Monday) to relinquish his house keys. If not, the letter states the “Trust will forcibly enter and change the locks.”

He also was directed to remove all possessions from the home by that date as well, but Sampson, as of Sunday, hadn’t moved a stick of furniture.

Sampson was born in the Algonquin Island home in 1957 and moved away when he was about 30 years old. He had a family, raising three sons — twins Dylan and William, 27, and Dustin, 25 — in a Toronto apartment, and then moved back to the island full-time two years ago to care for his terminally ill brother. Bruce had no spouse and no children.

Sampson said he thought that because he was part of the original island community that fought and won the right for islanders to stay put, the trust would let him stay after his brother passed away. He claims the trust has made exceptions to the rules for others in the past.

Filyer told the Star’s Marco Chown Oved in a Dec. 30 story that privacy concerns prevented her from commenting on an individual and that she was not aware of any exceptions made to the property transfer rule.

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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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