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Trump caves on shutdown, agrees to temporarily reopen government without wall funding

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WASHINGTON—Donald Trump caved.

In a move that amounted to a concession of at least short-term defeat, the U.S. president announced Friday that he had agreed with Democrats to sign a bill to fund the U.S. federal government for three weeks, until Feb. 15, without getting any border-wall funding in return.

U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to a bill that would temporarily end the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government. Trump had initiated the shutdown to try to pressure Democrats into agreeing to pay for the wall on the Mexican border.
U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to a bill that would temporarily end the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government. Trump had initiated the shutdown to try to pressure Democrats into agreeing to pay for the wall on the Mexican border.  (MANDEL NGAN / AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

“I am very proud to announce today that we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government,” he said in a speech at the White House.

If he keeps his word, his climbdown will end the 35-day-old partial shutdown Trump initiated to try to pressure Democrats into agreeing to pay for the wall on the Mexican border. The shutdown has forced 800,000 federal workers to go without pay, slowed or stopped hundreds of government activities, and done serious damage to Trump’s popularity.

The president’s move will not mean the permanent end to the fight over the wall. Trump implicitly alluded to his threat to declare a national emergency and seize government funds for the wall, if Congress did not use the three-week reprieve to work out a long-term deal that included billions for his proposed wall on the Mexican border.

But he had repeatedly insisted he would not sign any bill without wall money. Senate Republicans, acting on Trump’s wishes, had voted down such a proposal the day before.

“Is there a white flag flying above the White House?” Bill Kristol, the conservative commentator, wrote on Twitter.

Trump’s announcement at the White House came hours after Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser and a renowned political trickster, was arrested by the FBI and charged with obstruction, lying to Congress and witness tampering by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the relationship between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian interference in the election.

And it came after a series of shutdown developments that weakened his negotiating position.

On Friday morning, a large number of absences by air traffic controllers, who are going unpaid, caused significant delays at major airports in New York, Atlanta and elsewhere. And FBI Director Christopher Wray released an extraordinary video message to employees in which he said, “Making some people stay home when they don’t want to, and making others show up without pay — it’s mind-boggling, it’s short-sighted, and it’s unfair. It takes a lot to get me angry, but I’m about as angry as I’ve been in a long, long time.”

Trump’s lack of leverage was made clear in the Senate on Thursday, when a Democratic proposal — two weeks of government funding, no wall funding — received more votes in the Republican-controlled Senate than Trump’s proposal that included the wall funding. The Republicans who voted for the Democratic proposal included two who face difficult re-election battles in 2020.

The end of the shutdown may allow for the State of the Union address to be held next Tuesday as originally planned. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had refused to allow Trump to give the speech in the House chamber, as is traditional, until the government was funded, forcing him to surrender on a promise to do so regardless of her wishes.

Trump’s poll numbers had worsened significantly over the shutdown, particularly with independent voters. The latest poll, by the Washington Post and ABC and released on Friday, put his approval rating at 37 per cent. Other polls this week also had him in the 30s; the Associated Press had him at 34 per cent, the lowest in more than a year.

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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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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