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Kamala Harris, schooled in Montreal, announces bid to unseat Trump in 2020 – Montreal

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A suburban Montreal high school is leading the cheers north of the border for graduate Kamala Harris, the California senator and former prosecutor who confirmed Monday she’s seeking to become the first black woman elected president of the United States.

“Run Kamala Run!!” Westmount High School’s social-media feeds gushed after Harris confirmed what much of the rest of the U.S. had assumed: she plans on being the Democrat who pries President Donald Trump out of the White House in 2020.

READ MORE: Democrat Kamala Harris officially enters 2020 presidential race

In a memoir Harris describes the heartache of moving from Oakland to chilly Montreal so her mother Shyamala Gopalan, a breast-cancer researcher, could take a job at McGill University.

“The thought of moving away from sunny California in February, in the middle of the school year, to a French-speaking foreign city covered in 12 feet of snow was distressing, to say the least,” she writes in The Truth We Hold: an American Journey released earlier this month.

Her initial foray into Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, a school for native French-speakers, was a challenge: “I used to joke that I felt like a duck, because all day long at our new school I’d be saying, ‘Quoi? Quoi? Quoi?’”

WATCH: Kamala Harris speaks about presidential bid, how she’ll win


By the time she was enrolled at Westmount, Harris had mostly adjusted to her life in Quebec, recalling fondly how her by-then divorced parents both attended her graduation, her mother resplendent in a bright red dress and heels.

“We’re super happy, we’re super proud — we’re always happy when a Westmount grad does well,” said teacher Sabrina Jafralie, whose school counts songwriter Leonard Cohen, former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day and prime ministerial spouse Mila Mulroney among its famous alumni.

“I think she’s a role model for all of us. Coming from a great school like Westmount, possibly to the White House, is a great story to tell.”

It’s no accident that Harris, whose mother is from India and father from Jamaica, chose Martin Luther King Jr. Day to confirm her plans, which she did during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.

“My parents were very active in the civil-rights movement, and that’s the language that I grew up hearing,” she said.

“(King) was aspirational like our country is aspirational. We know that we’ve not yet reached those ideals. But our strength is that we fight to reach those ideals … We are a country that, yes, we are flawed, we are not perfect, but we are a great country when we think about the principles upon which we are founded.”

Harris was far from the only Democratic hopeful, declared or otherwise, who was out and about on what would have been the civil-rights leader’s 90th birthday — evidence that thorny issues of race, gender and ethnic tensions will be prominent in the coming primary battles among an already dense and growing field of candidates.

READ MORE: Elizabeth Warren makes first step towards 2020 presidential run

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the 2016 challenger to eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, attended a church service and a rally Monday in South Carolina, where he fell short two years ago and will need support from black voters to contend again.

“It gives me no pleasure to tell you that we now have a president of the United States who is a racist,” Sanders told rallygoers.

WATCH: Kamala Harris says the government needs to reopen, slams Trump for shutdown over border wall






Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, both in the race, also attended public MLK events, as did a number of other “maybe” names, including former vice-president and presumptive front-runner Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Gillibrand said “white women like me” must share the burden of fighting for equality. Warren offered a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote. And Biden, who lingered on his close relationship with former boss Barack Obama, lamented his support for a crime bill in 1994 that imposed harsher sentences for crack-cocaine possession.

WATCH: Presidential hopeful Kirsten Gillibrand tells crowd ‘I will fight for your children’






Harris, too, faces tough questions on issues of justice.

As a California district attorney and later as the state’s attorney general, Harris frequently opposed or ignored criminal justice reform measures aimed at levelling a playing field critics say is unfairly tilted against black defendants, the former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent wrote last week in the New York Times.

During a question-and-answer session at Howard University in Washington, Harris acknowledged having regrets about some decisions during her tenure. But her office also introduced a number of initiatives to address racial profiling and bias in law enforcement, as well as sentencing reforms, she said.

“Instead of deciding either you’re soft on crime or tough on crime, let’s understand that if we’re going to be smart with the taxpayer’s dollars, let’s get people out of the system instead of cycling through the revolving door of jail,” she said. “One of my biggest regrets is that I’ve not had more time to do more, but it’s my intention to keep fighting for it.”

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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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