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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh under pressure after widely panned TV interview – National

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OTTAWA – Critics of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh say his performance in a weekend TV interview is a sign he may not be prepared for the challenges of the election year ahead.

His supporters shrugged it off as an inconsequential moment that only those within the “Ottawa bubble” actually care about.

During an appearance on the political show CTV Question Period, Singh appeared to be unaware of a news story that made a lot of headlines last week.

Singh was asked how he would respond, if elected prime minister, to the recent statement by China’s Canadian ambassador Lu Shaye, that Canada and its Western allies’ calls for the release of two Canadians detained in China is rooted in “white supremacy.”

READ MORE: Chinese ambassador pens op-ed on Canadian detainees, slams ‘Western egotism and white supremacy’

“Sorry, who accused who of white supremacy?” Singh asked his interviewer. He later told the Toronto Star he didn’t hear the initial question. Host Evan Solomon repeated it in full and asked how Singh would have responded if he were prime minister.

“I don’t know if there is any evidence of that suggestion,” Singh said, then quickly pivoted to talking about U.S. President Donald Trump.

WATCH: Trudeau comments on ‘arbitrary and unfair’ detention of Canadian citizens in China







The performance spawned a social-media backlash from NDP supporters and foes alike.

Karl Belanger, the NDP’s former national director, said Singh’s response to the China question is not a big problem on its own, but he believes these kinds of things can add up. Whether he didn’t hear the question properly or he wasn’t fully briefed, Belanger thinks Singh should have been able to handle it better.

“Frankly, it’s not helpful to have answered the way he answered because it feeds into a narrative that Jagmeet Singh is not ready to play at the same level as the other main party leaders,” Belanger said.

READ MORE: Campaigns hit high gear in Burnaby South, where NDP leader seeks a seat

Singh, elected the NDP leader about 15 months ago, is in the political fight of his life as he seeks to win a seat in the House of Commons for the first time. He is currently devoting almost all his time to that campaign ahead of the Feb. 25 vote but has said even if he doesn’t win he will continue to lead the party into next fall’s general election.

British Columbia NDP MP Peter Julian, who has been canvassing the riding alongside his leader, said Burnaby voters like Singh because, compared to the candidates from other parties, he has a lot to say on the issues that are most important to people in the riding, like housing affordability, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and education.

“We’re certainly seeing, both with the phone calls we’re making and the door to door, very strong support,” said Julian, who insisted he’s heard absolutely nothing about Singh’s response on the China question.

“It’s just not something that people are talking about in Burnaby South and that’s, I think, indicative as well of the difference between the kind of issues that are talked about in the Ottawa bubble and the types of issues that people are actually talking about.”

WATCH: Canada-China relations take another hit







Belanger said Singh absolutely has to win the byelection.

“Failure is not an option. Despite what some might say, he must win if he wants to remain leader and lead the NDP in the next general election,” he said.

Nationally the NDP is at around 16-per-cent support in polls, which supporters argue is good by historical standards.

READ MORE: NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh faces potentially career-defining byelection

One party insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, acknowledged there’s pressure on Singh, but said there were times in the NDP’s history when it would have “kill(ed) to be hovering around 16 per cent.”

However the NDP hasn’t polled that low in an election since 2004, when it won just 19 seats, fewer than half the 44 seats won in 2015.

The insider said the party expects more people to tune in as the October general election gets closer. They’re also confident Singh is going to take the Burnaby South seat, which NDP candidate Kennedy Stewart won by just over 500 votes in the 2015 election. Singh is running against Liberal candidate Karen Wang and Conservative hopeful Jay Shin. The Greens have decided not to field a candidate.

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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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