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Otter found living under garbage bin in downtown Winnipeg




The Winnipeg Humane Society’s emergency response team has had some pretty odd calls over the years, but likely nothing otter than one it received Friday afternoon. 

The agency responded to a report of an otter living under a downtown dumpster.

Nihal Bhullar, a 20-year-old University of Winnipeg student, called authorities after stumbling along the otter over her lunch hour.

Bhullar was walking back to class when she noticed a small crowd around a garbage bin between two apartments on Balmoral Street, across from the university’s east doors.

Bhullar thought she had misheard the man who told her there was an otter under the garbage.

« He showed me a video and I was like, ‘Wait, what?' »

‘He needs to be saved’

Eventually the crowd dispersed, and Bhullar found herself alone with the otter.

« I thought, ‘I’ve got to call someone because he clearly does not belong here,' » she said.

« He’s far from home; he needs to be saved. »

Bhullar was joined by Dawn Williams, who lives in the apartment at 391 Balmoral St. next to the otter’s chosen dumpster, and the pair waited for help to arrive.

Nihal Bhullar, left, and Dawn Williams stand next to the garbage bin where the otter was found Friday. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

Bhullar said they talked to the otter and made sure the misplaced mammal didn’t leave the safety of the garbage can.

They also gave the otter a name.

« We called him Otty the otter, » laughed Bhullar.

« Me and Dawn were outside in the freezing cold for two hours with him — obviously we came up with a name. »

The pair said Otty looked healthy and happy enough to be living under a garbage can, at least until until crews arrived.

That’s when Otty took off running, said Bhullar.

The otter can be seen surrounded by garbage at the dumpster. (Photo courtesy of Nihal Bhullar)

« He managed to escape from them and run under a fence, and then he went under another fence and another one after that, » she said.

After his flight, Otty ended up in a gap behind the apartments.

Thankfully, Williams was there to let rescuers in the front of the apartment block and lead them to the back door where they came face to face with the wily animal. 

‘It was not natural habitat for him’

After a further brief chase, crews caught Otty using a net, and put him in their truck bound for the humane society, where Heather Neil, the manager of investigation and emergency response, said Otty spent the afternoon « resting comfortably. »

« We have him tucked away, we keep the lights dim and kind of keep him away from people so we don’t cause him any stress, » she told CBC News.

« Otherwise, he seems to be OK. »

Neil can’t say why or how the otter got under the dumpster, but figures Otty had been there for a few days based on reports they had received and the fact the otter had built a pair of small slides in the snow leading to the dumpster — just like the animal does to get down riverbanks in the wild.

Otty the otter relaxes at Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre while waiting to be released back into the wild. (Photo courtesy of Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre)

« We don’t come across otters, generally, you see them along the riverbanks, and that’s where their natural habitat is, but this one was quite a ways away from the river, » she said.

« I have no explanation about how he got there, but it was not natural habitat for him. »

She said it’s the first time the humane society had received a call about an otter.

A spokesperson from Manitoba Conservation said otters can live within city limits along the Red River and have occasionally been reported roaming in the city.

Resting, eating fish

Otty was taken to a Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre, where director and animal care volunteer Dan Diawol said the out-of-the-water otter has been relaxing on a soft towel and enjoying a diet of frozen fish.

Diawol said Otty, a male around a year old, came in weighing around six kilograms — a little on the light side for an otter — but otherwise healthy and with no physical injuries.

« He seemed in fairly good shape, generally speaking, » he said.

Dan Diawol, a director and animal care volunteer at Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre, says Otty arrived at the centre healthy with no physical injuries. (Warren Kay/CBC)

He doesn’t know for sure, but Diawol thinks the otter may have came up from the Assiniboine River to start his adventures in downtown Winnipeg.

« If they have a den, they’ll keep an opening available — kind of like a ice fishing kind of thing — where they’ll be able to go into the water, » he said.

« Who knows? Maybe with the cold weather, that froze over and it was unable to get back into the water so it was just wandering around looking for food. »

Diawol said it’s unusual, but not concerning, to find an otter wandering the streets of Winnipeg.

Otty has been enjoying a diet of frozen fish since arriving at Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Centre. (Warren Kay/CBC)

« There’s wildlife everywhere in urban areas and in most cases we just simply don’t see them, » he said, adding the otter-spotters did the right thing to notify the humane society.

« In many case, they should be leaving wildlife alone, » said Diawol.

« It’s very natural for them to be out there, but because of the situation [in this case], it’s something that we would recommend to come to our care, only because it was in such an unnatural setting. »

Diawol said the centre will work with Manitoba Sustainable Development to decide where and when to release the intrepid otter back into the wild.


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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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