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Royal Canadian Navy culture a barrier to recruitment efforts: retired commander

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The Royal Canadian Navy is reporting a shortage of sailors.

The regular navy force is made up of about 8,000 sailors, according to Commodore Steve Waddell, but they’re currently 10 per cent short of that.

In some trades, the shortage can be even higher, with sailors taking time away from their duties from things like training, parental leave or sick leave.

“When you add that up on some of the more distressed occupations, that 10 per cent can become 15, 20, 35 per cent more,” Waddell said.

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READ MORE: Shortage of sailors a cause for concern for Royal Canadian Navy

Those numbers are alarming, says retired Commander Ken Hansen, but they’re not surprising. He points to a number of reasons the navy may be having issues recruiting.

“They have problems with leadership who abuse their authority,” he said.

Hansen spent over three decades with the navy and did a brief stint in Ottawa working in personnel.

“We used to calculate our loss rate at about three per cent a year,” Hansen said. “When it got to five per cent, that was a serious situation. Seven per cent was an emergency.”

The navy currently operates in a command drive culture, Hansen says, describing it as one in which all considerations come second to the mission and the commander’s reputation. But he says that culture isn’t attractive to the younger generation the navy is trying to recruit.

“People today tell me, and I’ve had this conversation many times, they want to be as loyal to an employer as they are to them, and that’s not happening,” said Hansen.

“Expecting all the effort from the people and the compensation goes upward, but it doesn’t come downward to them.”

WATCH: Naval ship gives Montrealers a glimpse of life at sea






Another barrier, Hansen says, is the lifestyle at sea — particularly the issue of alcohol. Current rules prohibit alcohol on board while sailors are conducting operations at sea, unless they get special permission.

That’s something Hansen says rarely happens.

“So you expect us to do these dangerous things in far away difficult places, [go to] uncomfortable places to live in and we can’t even have a beer in our own… living or dining room?” he said, “It is such an enormous dissatisfier.”

Waddell says most Canadians considering the navy do not consider the rules around alcohol to be a big issue, but he does acknowledge the lifestyle on board can be difficult. The navy is doing what it can to make things more comfortable for sailors, he says.

“We’re always looking to make sure we adapt our framework and culture over time,” Waddell said.

“We’re doing things like tracking, per sailor, their time away from home port so we truly understand how much time they spend away from families,” he noted, “or for doing investments in their physical fitness and well-being by making sure there are gyms in all of our ships. We’re doing things like Wi-Fi at sea to make sure they stay connected to their families.”

Waddell says the changes are already having an impact, pointing to a decrease in attrition levels in recent years. But Hansen says these changes are not enough to attract new recruits.

READ MORE: Ottawa awards long-awaited $60B warship design contract to Lockheed Martin

He recommends looking to other countries that have successful models, like Denmark, where the navy is the country’s top federal employer.

“They have compensatory time off,” said Hansen.

“When you go away for a five to six-month posting at sea, you’re off for an equal amount of time and you can do whatever you want.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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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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