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Hazardous conditions expected overnight as weather continues to wreak havoc in Toronto




The GTA weathered a heavy storm Monday, enduring more than 20 cm of snow with strong winds and hazardous travel conditions that are expected to continue into Tuesday morning.

Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning for the City of Toronto around 5:30 p.m., replacing the snowfall warning from earlier in the day.

The weather had a significant impact on the Monday evening commute, with blowing snow reducing visibility almost to zero at times.
The weather had a significant impact on the Monday evening commute, with blowing snow reducing visibility almost to zero at times.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

Inclement weather had a significant impact on road conditions throughout the day Monday and through the evening commute, with visibility reduced almost to zero at times. The weather forecaster has said blowing should slowly taper off overnight but road conditions are expected to be treacherous.

Shortly after 11 p.m. the weather agency issued an update advising people to “avoid travel tonight and Tuesday morning if possible.”

Air travel was heavily affected throughout the day on Monday. Hundreds of flights — over 30 per cent of all arrivals and departures — were cancelled at Pearson Airport throughout the day. According to GTAA spokesperson Robin Smith, the airport and various airlines “agreed on a reduced rate of departure,” meaning flights were staggered for “safety’s sake.”

Dozens of flights at Billy Bishop Airport were delayed or cancelled throughout the day as well.

Police reported trouble with stuck cars on the Don Valley Parkway northbound near the Don Mills exit around 9:30 p.m. Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson tweeted that there were “many cars” stalled or unable to manage in the snow. Officers requested the assistance of any available tow trucks to help free the cars.

According to Metrolinx, buses experienced up to 30-minute delays in the afternoon, increasing to delays of up to 80 minutes through the evening. As of around 8 p.m. Monday evening, all train lines were operating with 10- to 15-minute delays.

Metrolinx media relations spokesperson Fannie Sunshine said Metrolinx’s TTC GO protocol was in effect through Monday evening and night to alleviate some of the snow-induced chaos. The protocol allows commuters to use GO transit within the City of Toronto on a TTC fare, and vice versa.

The TTC shut down Line 3 around 4 p.m., replacing service with 17 shuttle buses between Kennedy and Scarborough Town Centre stations. TTC media relations spokesperson Stuart Green cited operator visibility challenges and significant snow buildup as the reasons for the closure.

“Better safe than sorry,” he tweeted.

The TTC also experienced a closure unrelated to the weather around 8 p.m. when police received reports of a man with a gun approaching people at Dundas station. Line 1 was closed between Bloor and Union stations for several minutes while police investigated.

The man was eventually arrested.

Toronto Transportation Services began salting main roads around noon and continued through the evening rush hour.

Plowing operations for the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway began around 5 p.m., with plowing for main roads beginning at 6 p.m. and continuing through the evening.

Sidewalk plowing on high-volume routes took place from 6 p.m. to around 2 a.m., and then resumed around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Schools across the GTA remained open Monday despite the weather.

Toronto District School Board spokesperson Ryan Bird said no classes were cancelled, but warned parents to expect afternoon school bus delays.

Both the Peel District School Board and Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board cancelled all buses to schools in Mississauga and Brampton, though schools remained open. The latter board also shuffled high school exam schedules as a result of the storm.

Commuters were hit with heavy snow Monday as they tried to leave the city and head home. (Toronto Star)

The Halton District School Board cancelled all after-school activities, and the Peel District School Board cancelled continuing education courses, night school, adult ESL programs and adult credit classes for the day.

Post-secondary institutions across the city closed their doors as well. George Brown College closed at 3 p.m., the University of Toronto Mississauga and Sheridan College UTM campuses at 4 p.m., and U of T’s Scarborough campus at 5 p.m.

Ryerson and OCAD Universities cancelled all classes after 6 p.m. Ryerson campus remained open, while OCAD closed all school buildings. All Humber College campuses and the University of Guelph-Humber also closed at 6 p.m..

U of T’s downtown campus cancelled classes and course-related activities at 6 p.m., although campus remained open.

Environment Canada predict snowfall accumulations of up to 25 cm by Tuesday morning. The highest amounts were predicted closer to Lake Ontario due to extra moisture from the lake. The snowfall was the result of an Alberta Clipper that crossed the region.

Winter storm warnings are issued when multiple types of severe weather are expected to occur together.

With files from Mississauga News.

Ilya Bañares is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @ilyaoverseasRhianna Jackson-Kelso is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @RhiannaJK


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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal




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




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




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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