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‘I scared them off’: Woman, 83, uses medical alert device to call for help after break-in

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An 83-year-old Oxford, N.S., woman who used the medical alert device she wears around her neck to call for help after men broke into her home says she scared off the home invaders.

Willena Payne was asleep on Dec. 9 when she was woken up by a loud bang around 1:30 a.m. She heard male voices going down into the basement of her home, and then coming upstairs toward her bedroom door.

« And this man was standing in the door into my bedroom and I just looked down and I said, ‘And who are you?’ And he just whirled around and started hollering, ‘Go, go, go, go, go!’ And you could hear footprints running and they disappeared, » Payne told CBC News.

Payne said at first, she wasn’t sure if she was dreaming. She went out to the porch and turned every light on and saw her back door was wide open.

It was then Payne realized someone had broken into her home. She tried calling a relative, but because it was so late, no one picked up.

After home invaders broke into her home late one night in December, it was too dark for Willena Payne to see the phone to call police. She said her medical alert device helped get help to her house fast. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

« And so I thought, I got to call the RCMP. But then I couldn’t see the phone, 911 — I couldn’t see it on the phone … and I thought, oh, my Lifeline and I pressed that button, » Payne said, gesturing to her medical alert device.

« And I was standing right beside the phone when I pressed it. And she called me, the [dispatcher], and she said, ‘Are you all right? Do you need help?’ I said, ‘I’m all right, but somebody just broke into my house.’ And of course by then my voice was getting all shaky and weak. »

RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said police arrived within 10 or 15 minutes and checked the home.

Payne said she wasn’t sure how many people were inside because she wasn’t able to see them, but said there were at least two and their voices were male. 

« I scared them off, scared them to death I think because he just whirled around and started running and all I could hear were these footsteps running and they went out the door, » Payne said.

RCMP find tracks

In the snow outside, police saw tire tracks leaving the woman’s home. Later that day, during patrols in the area, they saw the same tire tracks pulling in and out of several other driveways. There was also a break and enter reported.

« It’s pretty clear what the intent of these individuals was, however this particular lady, I don’t believe the suspects realized that she was home and I don’t think they would have tried to get into her home if they knew she was there, » said Clarke. « At any rate, she’s very lucky.

« I’ve never heard of someone using a medic alert device to contact 911 before, but in this person’s case it was absolutely the best thing for her to do. »

The RCMP are still investigating and Clarke said they hope people will come forward with information.

Payne said her son told her later she was lucky she didn’t get hurt. She said she never even considered that possibility.

« I just hope nobody ever has to go through it and I just hope … the people that are running around breaking into places could please think of the people that are living there. »

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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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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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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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