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It’s a snow day! All TDSB and TCDSB schools closed in Toronto

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Kids across Toronto are jumping for joy after a snow day was declared Tuesday morning, shutting down both public and Catholic schools for the day.

It’s the first snow day for the Toronto District School Board in eight years. The last time TDSB schools were shut down because of snow was in February 2011, the night before a potential storm coined by the public as “Snowmageddon.”

A woman gets blasted Tuesday morning by wind and snow in the West Don Lands, at Lawren Harris Square and Lower River St.
A woman gets blasted Tuesday morning by wind and snow in the West Don Lands, at Lawren Harris Square and Lower River St.  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

That decision drew sharp criticism as countless parents were left scrambling to find backup care for their young children. What made it worse was that the storm never came that day, angering parents even more.

Eight years later, the TDSB tweeted Tuesday that it would shut down shortly after 6 a.m. Not a snowflake had hit the ground when the decision was announced. But this time, the storm did start rolling in at around 8 a.m.

“We always make the decision the morning of, so that we have the absolute latest available information,” said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird. “There have been cases in the past where there has been a forecast, but it hadn’t (arrived) or was delayed later in the day.”

The TDSB sent an email to parents Monday about the pending storm.

“As I hope you can appreciate, the decision concerning whether to keep schools open or closed has a major impact on the lives of thousands of families across Toronto and that is why we strive to keep them open whenever possible,” wrote John Malloy, director of education, before the storm hit. “Should all schools be closed, it causes significant hardship for many families, some of which have no other options readily available for their children.”

The region’s two French-language public school boards, Conseil scolaire Viamonde and Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir, have both also closed schools across the GTA.

On Monday, Environment Canada had issued a winter storm warning for Toronto, calling for high winds and between 15 and 25 centimetres of snow, ice pellets and possible freezing rain.

“Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become difficult to navigate due to accumulating snow,” Environment Canada said. “Visibility will be suddenly reduced to near zero at times in heavy snow and blowing snow. There may be a significant impact on rush hour traffic in urban areas.”

Pearson airport and Billy Bishop airport are experiencing delays and cancellations Tuesday morning. There have already been more than 400 flights cancelled at Pearson as of 9 a.m. Travellers are advised to check in with their airlines to confirm flight status before leaving for the airport.

Click here to check on status of your flight

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt called the highways “a mess.”

“We’ve got about a dozen crashes right now in the GTA,” said OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt.

All northbound lanes of Highway 400 are currently closed at Teston Rd. because of an earlier multi-vehicle crash that left the male driver of an SUV with life-threatening injuries, Schmidt said.

Other GTA school boards rolled out various cancellations.

Universities and colleges also cancelled classes ahead of the storm’s arrival.

  • Ryerson University is closed, including all classes, university-run events, research labs, business services and administrative operations.
  • The University of Waterloo closed all campus locations. Classes, events, labs and administrative operations are cancelled.
  • George Brown College and Centennial College campuses are closed. George Brown tweeted that child care lab centres will also be closed and continuing education classes will be cancelled for Tuesday evening.
  • All of Centennial College campuses will be closed, including Ashtonbee, Downsview, Morningside, Progress and Story Arts Centre. The college tweeted that the closures include all daytime and evening classes, child care centres and other services. Campuses are expected to reopen Wednesday.
  • Seneca College is closed. In a tweet, the school said it expects to reopen Wednesday.
  • Durham College remains open and all activities are expected to continue as scheduled, although the college said it’s keeping a close eye on the weather.

“We are expecting quite a bit of snow,” Environment Canada meteorologist Gerald Chang said. “If you can plan to avoid going out altogether, that’s the ideal way to deal with it.”

The snowstorm was so bad, even the Raptors cancelled their scheduled practice at the Toronto Raptors Training Facility, their last chance to hold a practice before the NBA all-star break.

The city, police and the TTC say they are keeping close track of the storm and preparing to take extra precautions — especially in light of the city’s last serious snowstorm in January.

The TTC is reminding riders to give themselves extra time for their commute — and asking drivers not to park in the paths of streetcars, which caused massive delays last time.

Toronto police plan to remove vehicles blocking streetcar tracks “as expeditiously as possible” by patrolling the most problematic routes, and making tow trucks readily available, spokesperson Brian Moniz said.

“Depending on the snow level and the degree of obstructions and infractions that may take place, we’re ready to mobilize our staff and provide dedicated resources to the routes,” he said.

City staff will be monitoring streetcar corridors to clear snow “as quickly as possible,” spokesperson Eric Holmes said.

“Every vehicle we have is on the road,” said Holmes. “Typically for this kind of storm, the average amount is 10,000 tonnes of salt city-wide.”

The city has 1,100 vehicles at its disposal, which includes on road plows, driveway machines, snow plows and salt trucks to cover 5,600 streets, 7,000 km of sidewalks and separated bike trails.

The highest priority routes for snow-clearing are expressways, which the city has promised to clear within two to three hours of snowfall. Arterial roads and streetcar routes will take six to eight hours; collector roads, bus routes and all other local streets will be clear after 14-16 hours, according to the city’s levels of service commitments.

With files from Jack Hauen

Stefanie Marotta is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @StefanieMarotta

Emerald Bensadoun is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @twerk_vonnegut

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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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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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