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Miramichi couple thankful to be alive after snowmobiles sink in river

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Tom King had travelled the Miramichi River on his snowmobile countless times before. So he and his wife, Darcie Stewart-King, didn’t think much of making a journey up the river on Friday night.

The conditions looked good. There had been a few cold days and they were following the tracks of someone who had done it recently.

Now they are thankful to be alive after both plunged through the river surface in an icy dunking.

« Just as we’re heading up we got to an area and I looked and didn’t like the way it was looking, » King said. « And I veered over and the next thing my sled was bogging and bogging and it was going out from underneath me because it was floating. It actually dropped way below — gone. »

Snowmobile was submerged

King was in the water, surrounded by ice, with his snowmobile submerged.

« I was trying to get over to the ice and trying to get up onto the ice, » he said. « And it was breaking away from me and all I could do was kick in and think, ‘I got to get out of here.' »

He thought Darcie was safe, but worried she would try to come to his rescue. « So I was worried for her. And I was worried for our children. »

King harnessed a final burst of energy and pulled himself out of the water and onto the ice. He pulled off his helmet and gloves and started calling for his wife. He hoped that she had veered off and that she wasn’t in the water.

« I looked around and I couldn’t see Darcie. I couldn’t see any light so then I started calling her name. »

He called her name four or five times before she answered. She was about 90 metres behind him, stuck in the water. He tried to dial 911 but his phone, either because of the water or the cold, wouldn’t work.

« So I was crawling out to her and and she kept saying, ‘Don’t come any closer. Don’t come any closer, our daughter needs one parent — at least there’s one of us,’ because up until this point, she thought I was dead. »

Stewart-King was able to get her arms onto the ice. When her husband got a little closer, she threw her phone to him.

Soon heard sirens

« I couldn’t access her phone because my fingers were so cold that I couldn’t access her code, but I was able to hit the emergency button and call 911. »

Soon, King said they started to hear sirens. Then, on the Chatham Head side of the Morrissy Bridge, they saw a light.

« The light started to get closer and then we just said, ‘No, don’t come closer, just get help.’ And when the light got closer she said, ‘I am the help.' »

Const. Julie O’Donnell had been in the area and arrived before the rest of the first responders.

« She’s a little smaller frame than I am … and she was able to get a hold of Darcie’s arms. And then I was able to get a hold of her and, between the two of us, we were able to pull Darcie out of the water. »

Police officers, firefighters and paramedics soon arrived and the couple was taken to hospital. Stewart-King was kept overnight as her core temperature was low. Now they’ve both been released.

King isn’t sure what exactly went wrong.

« Traditionally, there’s fast water underneath the Morrissy Bridge and maybe it was fast water that didn’t freeze. I was following another track going up, So and then I saw where things changed. The ice may have cracked, there could’ve been a high tide — anything could have happened, »

Conditions hard to predict

Scott Ralston, president of the New Brunswick Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, said this winter it has been particularly difficult to predict what conditions will be like off the trails.

« This year certainly has been a little different because we’ve had a couple of thaws and there’s been some some high water late in December and it certainly affects the safety of river crossings, » he said. « And, some areas of the province, actually the ice broke up and started to flow. So it certainly kind of plays havoc. »

Ralston said drivers should stick to the trails and marked crossings to ensure their safety.

What happened Friday night hasn’t affected King’s love for the sport. He said he would get on a snowmobile today if he had one.

« We just happened to be in a snowmobile accident — our lives didn’t end, they very well easily could have. But they didn’t. So life has to go on. »

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Anglais

‘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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Anglais

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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