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Trump lies his way through a visit to the border with Mexico as he escalates his ‘emergency’ threat

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WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump lied his way through a visit to the Mexican border on Thursday, returning again and again to false claims as he attempted to promote his proposed wall project.

He unleashed the dishonesty barrage, which included at least 10 false or misleading claims, as he escalated his threat to declare a “national emergency” if he cannot convince Democrats to agree to spend $5.7 billion on the border wall.

He said he would “probably” declare an emergency, if there was no deal to end the 20-day-long government shutdown he initiated because of the wall dispute, and he added, “I would almost say definitely.”

Declaring an emergency would possibly allow Trump to build and fund a wall without Congress’s approval.

But it would be certain to be challenged in court and prompt abuse-of-power accusations, and several senior congressional Republicans have already said they would not support such a drastic measure.

NBC and The New York Times reported Thursday that the White House was looking at the idea of funding part of the wall using billions in unspent money that was allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers budget. NBC and the Times said the funding pool includes money intended for projects in areas hit by natural disasters, including Puerto Rico and California.

Trump has previously threatened to deny federal assistance to hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico and to fire-damaged California, whose officials have criticized him.

The shutdown will be the longest in U.S. history if it continues until Saturday, as appears likely.

Pressure has mounted on Trump as it has dragged on.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are scheduled to miss their first paychecks on Friday. The organization representing FBI agents issued a Thursday letter demanding an end to the shutdown, arguing that “financial security is a matter of national security.”

Trump’s Thursday dishonesty began even before he left Washington. He told reporters that, when he had promised during his campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, he had never said this would be a direct payment.

“Obviously, I never said this, and I never meant, ‘they’re going to write out a cheque,’ ” he said, adding: “When I said ‘Mexico will pay for the wall,’ in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously they’re not going to write a cheque. They are paying for the wall indirectly.”

He had not promised a “cheque” during the campaign, although he explicitly said “they may even write us a cheque,” but he had, in fact, made clear he was talking about a direct payment; a document still on his campaign website promised he would threaten Mexico with financial harm until it made an “easy” decision: “make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion.”

Trump claimed that the indirect payment he is now talking about would effectively be made by Mexico through the new North American trade agreement he has negotiated with Canada and Mexico.

But even if the agreement is eventually approved — Congress might take years before voting on it — it will never create a funding stream that can be allocated to an infrastructure project.

When he arrived in McAllen, Texas for an immigration roundtable at a Border Patrol station, Trump derided critics who dismiss walls as outdated and ineffective.

He said some old technology, such as the wheel, is timeless.

“A wheel is older than a wall,” he said.

He repeated it a few seconds later: “The wheel is older than the wall.

“Do you know that?”

Defensive walls predate wheels by thousands of years. (Jericho’s famous wall existed around 8,000 BC; the wheel is thought to have been invented around 3,500 BC.)

Seeking to portray Democrats as divided on the shutdown, Trump described a “big article” in which he said newly elected Democrats broke with party leadership and described the party’s “no wall” position as “indefensible.”

That did not happen.

An article in Politico merely included two Democrats expressing mild concern about how voters would respond to the extended shutdown.

Both of them continue to oppose the wall.

Trump again sought to use past presidents to bolster his case for the wall, suggesting that they, too, had wanted to build a wall: “They were going to build this wall in 2003, in 2006. They were going to build it 20 years ago. They were going to build it forever.”

While George W. Bush approved 700 miles of border fencing in 2006 — not the kind of giant concrete wall Trump campaigned on. Democrat Bill Clinton was president 20 years ago, and he made no effort to build a wall. Nor did Republican predecessors George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan; indeed, Reagan explicitly opposed the idea.

As he did in his Tuesday prime-time address, Trump offered a misleading description of Democrats’ position on the wall: This time, he said, “They said, ‘We don’t want a concrete wall.’ I said, ‘That’s OK, we’ll call it a steel barrier.’ ”

Democrats have objected to the project on the whole, not to Trump’s choice of material.

Trump left the Border Patrol station and went to the border, itself, at the Rio Grande. There, he told reporters, “The nice part about the wall or the barrier is I can have that worked out in 15 minutes. We can start construction.”

The construction process, which involves planning, study, contracting, and contentious property acquisition, would not begin nearly that fast.

Trying to exaggerate the problem of illegal immigration, Trump said of the Border Patrol: “They have done a fantastic job. Never so many apprehensions, ever, in our history.”

In reality, the number of apprehensions on the Mexican border in 2018, about 400,000, was not even a quarter of the total in 2000.

Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8

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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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