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Time to ‘push back’ against federal government, Conservative leaders say at Sask. pro-pipeline rally

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The battleground for pipelines and the oil and gas industry was set in Moosomin, Sask., on Saturday, as the federal  Conservative Leader blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his handling of the energy file.

« His attack on Canada’s energy sector is by design. It’s on purpose, » Andrew Scheer told the audience gathered for the pro-pipeline rally, also attended by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Conservative Senator Denise Batters.

« This is the one area where he’s doing exactly what he said would do. »

Trudeau has spoken about transitioning Canada away from fossil fuels. Scheer says, if he becomes prime minister, he would  promote Canadian oil and gas. 

« I will travel around the world promoting Canadians’ energy sector, as a source of ethical and responsible and sustainable energy around the world, » he promised, to cheers from the audience.

The federal government had bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in order to make progress on a stalled project, but a Supreme Court blocked further progress, ruling that Canada’s efforts to meaningfully consult with Indigenous people, as required by law, fell short.

Scheer criticized Trudeau for overpaying for the pipeline by $1 billion.  

« Justin Trudeau paid more than the sticker price for a pipeline that he can’t even build, » he charged.

Crowds gathered in Moosomin, Sask. to hear from various politicians and other pipeline advocates. (Trevor Botherel / CBC)

Scheer had set the stage for Saturday’s pro-pipeline appearance with an appearance in Saskatoon on Friday night, talking about the need to build pipelines.  

« We know that the best way to transport that energy, the most environmentally friendly way, taking oil and gas off of rail cars, is to build pipelines, » Scheer said, while speaking in Saskatoon on Friday, one day before news of a derailment of a train carrying crude oil in Manitoba.

« We need a government that has a plan to get them built through the private sector by providing certainty and clarity in approvals process and that’s what my plan will do. »

Scheer said his plan, if he is to become prime minister in this year’s election, would be to repeal a carbon tax and repeal Bill C-69, which he argues muddies the approval process for pipelines. Bill C-69 provides a process for assessing the environmental, health, social and economic effects of pipeline and other projects.

Instead, these pipelines need to be declared in the national interest, because of the benefits they confer to every single region, said Scheer.

« And come October, after forming government, we will start to clean up the mess that [Trudeau’s] left us, » he promised the crowd.

Moe also took to the stage, saying the strength of the audience on a frigid February day spoke volumes about their frustration with the downtrodden oil and gas sector.  

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe walks through the crowd before speaking at a pro-pipeline rally. He said ‘It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard’ against the federal government. (MIchael Bell/Canadian Press)

« For far too long, this conversation has been dominated by those who disapprove of how you and myself and and our neighbours in this province make a living in our communities, » he said, adding the federal government was simply not listening to people whose livelihoods depended on sectors like oil and gas and mining.  

« The moment has come in the nation of Canada. It’s time for us to begin to push back and we need to push back pretty hard. »

Speakers were scheduled to address the crowd on issues affecting the oil and gas sector. (Trevor Botherel / CBC)

Moosomin economy driven by energy 

The rally was organized by Moosomin Economic Development, with Moe saying that the southern Saskatchewan town of about 2,500 people was among the communities that depended on a thriving oil and gas industry. 

A news release indicates « Moosomin would have played a part in the cancelled Energy East project with a 1,050,000 barrel tank farm planned for the Moosomin Compressor Station and a feeder pipeline from Cromer, Man.,  to the Moosomin Compressor Station, both part of the Energy East plan. »

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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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