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  1. Reclusive billionaire Robert Miller built a business empire far from the public eye. Now, a bitter divorce has thrown his legacy into question. By Joe Castaldo From Canadian Business magazine, September 27, 2010 http://www.canadianbusiness.com/managing/strategy/article.jsp?content=20100927_10022_10022&page=1 To say Robert Miller is a reluctant interview is a grand understatement. He has avoided attention his entire career, and there are no doubt countless activities he would much rather be doing right now than standing in his opulent office with a reporter. He has previously given a single media interview since co-founding Future Electronics Inc., a multinational distributor of electronic components based in Pointe-Claire, Que., that generates nearly $4 billion in revenue each year. Miller is the sole owner. He has never authorized a picture of himself to be published, and his name is rarely, if ever, attached to his extensive charity work. Miller does not do public appearances. He will never be seen at a ribbon-cutting ceremony or posing with an oversized novelty cheque. His desire for privacy has been his most identifiable trait — aside from his wealth. This magazine estimated his net worth last year at $1.19 billion. Forbes magazine valued him at US$2.5 billion. In the absence of any visible public image, the one surrounding Miller is that of an eccentric billionaire recluse. But now he has welcomed a reporter into his office, extending a large hand and wearing a warm smile. He is a tall, lanky man with a slightly stooped posture, sporting a pair of chunky black orthopedic shoes and rimless glasses. At 65, his hair is tinged with grey. He says he would like to write a book about Future Electronics some day. "It's an amazing story," he says in a gravelly baritone. "It could fill 600, 700 pages." The meeting comes at a time when the comfortable, profitable obscurity in which both Miller and his company have operated is threatened. He is in the midst of a long-running and acrimonious divorce proceeding with his ex-wife, Margaret Antonier, which has thrown this most private of men and his business empire into an unflattering spotlight. The pair was married for nearly 38 years before Miller filed for divorce in 2005. Assets likely totalling hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, are at stake, but the exact details of the proceedings are sealed in a Montreal court. The legal battles do not end there. In June, Miller filed lawsuits in Florida and Montreal against Antonier and the real estate development company they co-own, Miromar Development Inc. He is alleging Antonier and another executive are shutting him out of the company, and have even siphoned money from the firm. Antonier's lawyers, meanwhile, have accused Miller of "horrendous personal behaviour," the specifics of which are outlined in a filing Miller's lawyers have requested the court keep sealed. A Florida newspaper picked up on the case, followed by the Journal de Montreal, which splashed a picture of Miller across its front page, the first photo of him ever published. What it all means for the business empire he built remains to be seen. For Miller himself, it means reluctantly inching from the shadows to take hold of his public image. But that image is anything but simple. Current and former employees — even competitors — describe him as a genius and a visionary. Everything about him, from the way that he operates his company and interacts with employees to the many varied causes he supports (cryogenics research, for one) contribute to the image of a tycoon unlike any other. The more he reveals, the question "Who is Robert Miller?" becomes all the more difficult to answer. The basic biographic details are simple enough: Miller was born in 1945 and raised in Montreal, and later studied at what was then called the Rider Business College in New Jersey. He worked as a radio disc jockey in New Jersey in the 1960s, where his music program, The Bob Miller Show, aired three hours a day during the week and six hours on Sundays. He moved back to Montreal and joined a small wholesaler called Specialty Electronics. Owner Ben Manis, an acquaintance, hired him. Miller threw himself into the job and became close with Manis's son, Eli, who also worked at Specialty. But the younger Manis eventually had a disagreement with his father and left the company. Miller suggested he and Eli go into business for themselves. In 1968, they started Future Electronics out of a small rented office in Montreal. They essentially acted as middlemen, buying obscure electronic parts from component manufacturers and selling them to makers of finished products, ranging from consumer goods to industrial equipment. Manis says he came up with the name. "I just sort of said, let's forget the past. Look to the future," he says. The company grew steadily, and Miller proved to be a workaholic. To Manis, who didn't share his partner's devotion, it wasn't evident Miller had any outside interests. "Something came into his head, and he said, 'What do I need him for?'" Manis recalls. In 1976, Miller bought his partner's half of the company for $500,000. Future operated differently nearly from the start. Distributors in this industry are essentially stores for electronic components, but typically try to limit their inventory, reducing costs and risks. Component prices are volatile, and no one wants to sell product at a loss. Instead, Miller bought large quantities of components when they were cheap. He then charged a significant markup selling to equipment manufacturers when demand hit. Put crudely, Miller made his name as a speculator in electronic parts, and he's an exceptionally gifted one. One former vice-president who asked to remain anonymous recalls only one slip-up in his 15 years at the company, and there were consequences. "Some people were demoted," he says. Miller is often credited with having an intuitive sense of the market, but his moves are based on excellent intelligence. He got to know many of the executives at component makers in part to find out where manufacturing would be constrained. "Just through networking, he got a feel for what commodities would be hot," says the former VP. Holding inventory has another major advantage. "We became known for being the one place you could go to and always find product," says Gregg Smith, another former vice-president, adding that was how Future won new customers. The model works because Future is privately held. Building out the infrastructure to hold loads of inventory is expensive and tough to justify to shareholders. So too are speculative bets. But as the sole proprietor, Miller is accountable only to himself. Today, the product marketing department, mostly housed at headquarters, is the heart of the company. The department buys from suppliers and sets resale prices for Future branches across the world. Competitors assign product marketers to work with specific suppliers, but Miller turns the model on its head. His employees focus exclusively on a component group, becoming experts able to see trends in the market for specific parts. The job is demanding. "The phone is ringing non-stop," recalls a former employee. "It would be usual to have three or four lines on hold while taking another call and trying to close a deal." The pace takes its toll on some. One former employee recalls developing migraines, another, stomach pains. (Future has a medical clinic on-site). Lindsay Blackett worked at Future for six years in sales and marketing, and is now Alberta's culture minister. "Politics, people think it's hardball. But it's nothing compared to Future," he says. In the 1990s, when Blackett worked at Future, Miller would call up individual workers on the floor to inquire about particular deals. "That could be very intimidating, or very rewarding," he says. "He knew what everyone was doing in that building." Competition thrives at Future, which not everyone can handle. "Robert Miller sat on a cloud like Zeus and said, 'Go at it, boys,'" recalls the former VP. "He saw that through confrontation, people would excel." Those who do perform rise quickly through the ranks, and salespeople can make hefty commissions. More than 10 years ago, Future bought massive amounts of tantalum capacitors, used in mobile devices, before the wireless boom hit. When it did, supply was scarce — except at Future. The company sold millions of them a month with a markup as high as 2,000%. Gross profits were so large that for a couple of years, Miller held monthly meetings with sales staff in the auditorium. He handed out their commission cheques individually, from smallest to biggest, announcing the sum for all to hear. The largest topped six figures. Those at the bottom were driven, not only by the desire for bigger commissions but out of embarrassment, to make more and bigger sales. Employees who have little interaction with Miller tend to regard him with a mixture of apprehension and awe. Spotting their boss loping through the hallways is akin to a celebrity sighting. Usually the only opportunities for many to lay eyes on their leader are the addresses he gives roughly once a quarter. He'll often speak for well over an hour, sometimes two. "I always say the intellectual property for Future Electronics is Robert's brain," says Lindsley Ruth, a corporate vice-president. Even employees many years removed from the company still respectfully refer to him as Mr. Miller. Those who work more closely with Miller say he offers plenty of encouragement and room to be entrepreneurial. A few years ago, Jamie Singerman, currently a corporate vice-president at the company, was rolling out a new division called Future Lighting Solutions, which is focused on the LED market. Future didn't have expertise in that area, and building it up required lots of investment. "I went in with a presentation," Singerman recalls. Miller didn't look at it and instead asked if it was the right thing to do. "I said yes, and he said, 'Done.'" Miller is sometimes unpredictable, however. A few years ago, some of the product specialists in Montreal were told not to come in for a month to allow their managers to fill in and become more knowledgeable about the parts the company was dealing with. A former product specialist says many of his colleagues felt they would no longer be needed, and started looking for other jobs. The managers, meanwhile, were overworked and started polishing up their resumés, too. "If the exercise was a natural culling exercise," says the former employee, "it worked." The first time people outside the industry heard of Future Electronics or Robert Miller came on May 7, 1999, when some 30 RCMP officers, in the presence of an FBI agent, raided corporate headquarters. They toted away dozens of boxes of material for reasons officials would not disclose. The company's lawyers successfully fought in court to keep investigators from looking at the seized material, arguing the search was unjust. After six months of media lawyers wrangling in court, the search warrant detailing the reason for the raid was unsealed by the Supreme Court of Canada. The U.S. Department of Justice alleged Future was defrauding a handful of U.S.-based suppliers out of approximately US$100 million a year. The company was accused of maintaining two sets of accounting records — one real, one false — and only Miller and select executives, dubbed the A-Team, had access. The false records were allegedly used to take advantage of debits and rebate programs from suppliers so that Future could pad its margins. Miller never spoke to the press, but Future issued statements denying any wrongdoing and calling the allegations "absurd." There were also whispers the whole investigation was sparked by disgruntled ex-employees, and based on a misunderstanding of how the distribution business worked. More than a year later, Future's lawyers succeeded in quashing the search warrant that justified the raid, and the seized material was returned without having been examined. Nearly three years after the initial search, the U.S. Department of Justice dropped its investigation entirely. Neither that investigation nor anything else has kept Miller from expanding his company to become the fourth-largest electronics distributor in the world. Future Lighting Solutions is booming, scaling up from virtually nothing in 2004 to nearly $350 million in revenue today. The division, which doesn't simply distribute parts but works with customers to meet specific lighting needs, could some day rival the size of the components business. The company is also re-launching a division called Future Active Industrial that focuses on the countless smaller customers generally ignored by larger distributors. The beneficiaries of Future's success spill far beyond the company's headquarters. Miller committed years ago to giving away more than half his earnings to charity. Much of it goes to employees and their families. Miller receives many letters from employees seeking help, often for medical issues. Gina Galardo joined Future 17 years ago as an administrative assistant, but over the years, fielding these requests eventually took over her job. Lori-Ann MacDonald was brought on six years ago to assist. In an interview in a Future boardroom, they explain that when a letter comes in, they conduct research to find the best doctors or specialists, book appointments, provide moral support or anything else that needs doing. Miller has a deep interest in medical research with extensive connections in the community, and can usually immediately recommend a doctor or clinic. He has paid for expensive medical procedures for countless employees, and finds time for hospital visits and phone calls. "Should we get the binders?" MacDonald asks. She makes a phone call, and two other assistants enter, each with two five-inch-thick binders in their arms. The binders are brimming with letters and thank-you cards from employees, organized alphabetically by name. Galardo and MacDonald are soon lost recounting the stories on each page. There is even a section on Ben Manis, the man who hired Miller at Specialty Electronics back in 1967. Manis is in his mid-90s today. Miller employed him at Future for a time and set him up with an apartment across from headquarters. He now supports Manis's accommodations in a seniors' residence, and has allotted money for his funeral. The two have lunch plans for Manis's 100th birthday, however. "I think this sums up Mr. Miller," Galardo says, turning the page. The allegations being made in a Florida civil court against Miller by his ex-wife stand in stark contrast to the benevolent man who never says no to a worthy cause. Miller married Margaret Antonier in 1967. They had two sons, and Antonier remained an active businesswoman. She originally worked in radio advertising, and in 1988, Miromar Development Inc. was formed and received financing from Future Electronics. Miller and Antonier each own 50% of the real estate firm, and Antonier serves as chief executive officer. "I have learned the business from the ground up," Antonier wrote in response to e-mailed questions. "I am pretty hard on myself when it comes to succeeding." Miromar built Canada's first outlet mall, in Montreal, and in the mid-1990s, began developing properties in Lee County, Fla., including an 1,800-acre residential resort with a private beach and golf course. Employed at Miromar was Robert Roop, who had worked at Future for 20 years prior. He served as the company's chief financial officer at the time he resigned and moved to Florida to work at Miromar with Antonier. The lawsuit against the firm states Antonier and Roop became "romantically involved," but does not specify when. In 2005, for reasons that remain under seal in a Montreal court, Miller filed for divorce. Antonier's lawyers in Florida say she filed a demand in the divorce proceeding for Miller's stake in Miromar, a company "she created and operated for decades," be transferred to her and that loans owed to Future Electronics by Miromar be forgiven. Miller sought a valuation of Miromar's assets, and in 2008, he filed a lawsuit in Florida to get access to its corporate records that he was allegedly being denied. The case plodded on until February, when Miller voluntarily dismissed it. But in June, Miller filed new lawsuits in Florida and Montreal, including a declaration from Frank Holder, a senior manager at a forensic consulting firm hired to probe Miromar. Holder concluded Antonier and Roop are violating Miller's rights as a shareholder and director in Miromar by excluding him from the company, and refuse to provide full access to corporate documents. He also claims to have discovered Antonier and Roop engaging in "various acts of misconduct, including theft and diversion of corporate funds." Miller is seeking for a receiver to be put in place. Lawyers for Antonier in Florida refute all of the charges and dismiss Holder's account as baseless, arguing criteria for installing a receiver have not been met. They also contend the suit is designed to delay the divorce proceedings, alleging "wrongful acts" on Miller's part and arguing he has a "desperate desire to avoid the consequences of the Canadian divorce proceedings." That case is sealed, and it is unknown what either party is seeking in those proceedings. None of the allegations in the Miromar litigation have been proven in court, and neither side will comment on the cases. But the disputes and the resulting publicity cut very close to the bone for Miller. Not even during the three-year-long ordeal with U.S. authorities did he speak with reporters. But after researching Future Electronics for weeks, this magazine received a call from the company's general counsel with an almost unprecedented invitation: Miller was willing to sit down and talk. Miller is reticent to say too much about himself or the company. He wants to save the best material for the book. But he has agreed to an interview, provided it is not recorded. Similarly, he would not pose for a photograph. He certainly is not afraid of the camera, however. Hanging on the wall opposite his desk are two huge portraits, one of Miller solo in a suit, another of him shaking hands with Quebec Premier Jean Charest. His aversion to published photographs, he explains, stems from his desire for security for himself and his sons. Miller speaks slowly, but has an intense manner. He leans forward when talking, his bushy eyebrows shooting up when he wants to emphasize point, and rarely breaks eye contact. He has a habit of saying whatever pops into his head. While making a point tangentially related to health, he offers that "I have colonoscopies with startling regularity." He also has a knack for numbers. He can remember exactly when Eli Manis phoned him to say he had quit Specialty Electronics: Nov. 20, 1968, at 4:45 p.m. The phone number at Future Electronics' first office? 418-7701. The number of stairs leading up to that office? Thirty-two. He politely deflects most personal questions. He is more comfortable expounding on Future's unique operating model — based on inventory and market research, rather than pipelining product. "It's so basic that it amazes me that our competitors don't recognize the benefit of having inventory," he says. "Inventory drives sales." He attributes much of the company's success to its privately held status. As a sole proprietorship, it can move much more quickly than its competitors. The fact that Miller doesn't have to answer to shareholders or a board of directors also allows Future to offer the longest customer payment terms in the industry, up to 180 days. "Our competitors can't compete with us. They would be clobbered if they did that," he says. The possibility of taking Future public has never seriously crossed his mind. Miller says he had no business mentors. "It all came to me. It's a gift. I just knew what to do," he says. A strange, metaphysical thread runs through some of his other explanations for his success. Take his work ethic. There was a time he worked 765 days in a row, without a day off, and rarely left the office before 11 p.m. He accounts for this drive by telling a story of walking the streets of Montreal once as a teenager and seeing a red Thunderbird convertible. He knew he had to have one some day. "I recall talking to myself. I said, 'Boy, you're really special.' I think that was a real turning point." He pauses. "But I had just been swimming, and I later read swimming releases endorphins. It's a natural high." He reached another turning point in the early-1970s, when his motivation shifted from material wealth to something larger. When one of his acquaintances passed away, Miller was one of only three people to attend his funeral. "I didn't want that to be me," he says. Charity took on a greater importance from that moment. In fact, growing Future's profits in order to have more money to give away is his primary motivation. "I believe you give till it hurts," he says. Talking about specific causes would take hours, he adds, but he does tell a story of a former employee diagnosed with cancer. Miller sent her to a specialist and ultimately paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for her treatment. "Your encouragement ... for treatment gave me the last three years of my life," she wrote to Miller in a letter delivered after her death in 1995. Nearly all of his charity work has been done anonymously. "I'm not seeking attention," he says. The one area to which Miller's name has been attached is cryogenics research. The Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona has even described Future Electronics as its greatest benefactor. "These people are doing so much," he says. "They're pure, pure people." There have long been rumours Miller will have himself cryo-preserved when he dies. "I'll leave it to my sons to decide," he says. He is in good health today, though. In fact, he recommends the line of "life extension" vitamins marketed by the foundation. "They're the finest vitamins known to man," he boasts. "You should take them." After talking for a couple of hours, Miller signals an end to the interview. It's 10:30 p.m., and he's been awake since five in the morning. He walks to the door, again proffering his hand and a smile. There are still many unanswered questions: the backstory to all of the legal proceedings, what he has in store for Future, and whether his new-found openness will last. But he's closed the door. We'll have to wait for the book.
  2. Comme membre de cette communite pour 2 annees, j'entends beaucoup de bitchage. Nous bitchons que notre sort et a cause du federal/du provinciale/les anglais/les quebecois hors de Montreal etc etc. We have the power to change. If Montrealers united together to a project, an idea of rebuilding Montreal into a great metropolis - there is no reason why we cant get there. Why are we so focused on secondary or tertiary issues (language/NIMBY's/scandals).. instead of focusing on primary issues (economic prosperity/infrastructure investment/festival and idea generations). We are a product of our thoughts and intentions - and one cant help but to see how mediocre we've become in this city. We can change the city - its nobody's fault but OURS We let go of Mr.Drapeau dreams, we let go of thinking big, I cant help to think that Toronto stole our dream. End of rant...
  3. I started to work at this small company here in Montreal called "Dolbeau" we make ties, bow ties and pocket squares. Later on will be expanding to other products also. Plus all the ties are made here in Montreal, only thing not from here is the fabrics and those will mostly come from Europe or Japan. Here is the previous ties.. The website not up yet, it should be up by November 15th. All I can say is, it will be an interesting experience for people looking to buy accessories. Plus the price point for the ties / bow ties might be around $100. There will be a pop-up store at Rooney in Old Montreal, coming up in a few months. Also if you sign up to the company newsletter, you get $10 off. Old Packaging (will be quite different most likely)... Interesting thing about the packaging, you will get a card to show you how to tie a tie (just in case you forget). Plus you will get a small letter saying thank you for purchasing a product from Dolbeau (it will be signed probably by all 4 of us). Website
  4. Close Up on [FURNI] VBS.tv did a small video interview on Mike Giles of Furni. He does a lot of wood work. I had a chance to work at Furni for a day and use the laser cutter. Seeing he is good friends with the person I am doing my internship with. Blog So if your in the mood, buy one of their clocks for yourself or a present for someone Please check him out. INSIDER INFO: He is also working on Hi-Fi headphones. It is a concept form at the moment. I will tell you more or post pictures when I see the finish product. All I can say, the idea will be similar to GRADO's GS1000i but far less expensive.
  5. http://www.cbc.ca/m/news/canada/montreal/toys-r-us-in-quebec-refuses-to-sell-english-only-daniel-tiger-doll-1.3031253 Toys "R" Us in Quebec refuses to sell English-only Daniel Tiger doll Montreal father says it should be up to parents, not province to determine what toys kids play with Apr 13, 2015 8:13 PM ET Kate McKenna, CBC News A Montreal man is criticizing Quebec language laws after trying to buy a toy from a local Toys "R" Us — and being told by a clerk he wasn't allowed to purchase it. Chez Geeks board-game store gets OQLF complaint Quebec government stance dismays francophone school supporters Looking back at 40 years of French as Quebec's official language Blue Dog Motel bar no longer in hot water with OQLF Nick Messina tried to purchase a "Daniel Tiger" plush toy for his infant daughter Carina after noticing her eyes "lit up" while watching the popular children's TV show Daniel Tiger's Neighbourhood. Hoping to buy it as an Easter gift, he drove to his nearest Toys "R" Us, which didn't have the toy in stock. Then he called another Toys "R" Us in Montreal where clerk informed Messina there were two of the toys in stock. However, the clerk told Messina that he couldn't buy a Daniel Tiger because the toy is unilingual. "It's kind of saddening."- Nick Messina, father Daniel Tiger talks and sings 14 different phrases — but they're all in English. Messina said the clerk thanked him for letting them know the toy only spoke English, and said it would be shipped back to Ontario. "I kind of felt a little bit turned off. I felt it was discriminatory against the English-speaking community in Montreal. After all, Montreal is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural," he said. Not giving up, the father tried to purchase the doll online — only to discover the Toys "R" Us website wouldn't ship the product to Quebec. English-speaking toys illegal Messina didn't know until a few weeks ago, but because of Quebec's language laws, it's illegal to sell a unilingual toy unless the toy has a French-speaking counterpart. He says it should be up to parents to decide what toys they can buy for their kids, not the province. "I don't understand why, when it comes to the choice of purchasing a toy for our children, that we have to be subjected to these kinds of rules and regulations," he said. "It's kind of saddening." Toys "R" Us admits mistake In a statement to CBC News, a spokeswoman from Toys "R" Us apologized for the inconvenience, but said the toy shouldn't have been on the shelves. "Toys 'R' Us shipped in error the English-speaking product to one of our Quebec stores and a customer tried to purchase it. Our store did not sell the product to the customer and we apologized for the inconvenience that this caused our customer. We immediately communicated to our store that this product cannot be sold," said the statement. Happy ending for family Messina's perseverance paid off. He did manage to buy the doll eventually; he bought it on Amazon for about $50 more than what Toys "R" Us was asking. Though it was more than he planned to pay for the doll, Carina adores her new toy. For Carina Messina, it was love at first sight for this Daniel Tiger doll. (CBC) sent via Tapatalk
  6. Further to my notes that YUL is a high volume low yield market, Lufthansa for summer 2016 has just loaded the high density A340 with only 18 business class seats. The operations will be done by Lufthansa-Jump, the white Star coloured A340s without Lufthansa logo's for labour reasons.
  7. :confused: The product I subscribed to a while back was this: http://whitecapresearch.com/ I barely used them, its nice that I am getting a refund but it be nice to know why
  8. Google Pairs With Sony, Best Buy, DISH On TV Aaron Baar, May 20, 2010 01:58 PM First, the Web. Then the phones. Now Google wants to change the way people watch television. At a developer's conference on Thursday, Google announced it would develop an open platform to bring the World Wide Web to the television, and it has enlisted partners such as Intel, Sony, Logitech, Best Buy, DISH Network and Adobe to help. The new product, Google TV, is based on the company's Android mobile platform and runs the company's Chrome browser. IT will allow users to access traditional TV channels as well as Internet content, including Adobe Flash video. Both Logitech and Sony have committed to creating products using Intel's Atom processor and the Google TV platform later this year, to be sold through Best Buy locations. Though the product can be used with any TV operator, Google said the experience will be "fully optimized when paired with DISH Network" at the product's launch. "We are very proud to be working with this distinguished set of partners, all of whom have decades of experience in hardware, design and retail," Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman and CEO, said in a statement. http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.printFriendly&art_aid=128632
  9. Yesterday I realized my METRO (Van-Horne at Darlington) is selling lots of expired products (like cheese that expired three months ago). I always check and this had rarely happened before, but a large amount of the products I checked yesterday were expired. Then when I went to return a particular product which escaped my obsessive checking, I realized that about 10+ items (more than half of the items) of that product were expired. I put them in a cart and took them all to the cashier, who was all like "ohhhhhh, you didn't have to do this". I told her that I did it for the people, not for the supermarket (I'm a hero, I know). Do you think I should file some kind of complaint? I know it's legal to sell expired products, but it is not legal to knowingly do it. Anyways be careful next time you buy groceries
  10. Has Canada slipped into recession without anyone noticing? July 16, 2008 - 6:35 pm By: Julian Beltrame, THE CANADIAN PRESS OTTAWA - Canada is within a hair's breadth of slipping into a technical recession, economists said Wednesday, a day after the outlook for the North American economy soured sharply. But they add that it won't seem like recessions of the past. In fact, says University of Toronto economist Peter Dungan, Canadians may already have lived through a technical recession - two quarters in a row of a shrinking economy - and not noticed. "Our forecast is there's a recession now," Dungan said. "There may be a slight revision to the first quarter, but the second (which ended June 30) is almost certainly negative. "This is nothing like the recessions we had in the early '90s and early '80s, however, when we had serious recessions and serious unemployment," he added. The early '80s recession came after two major oil price shocks in the 1970s that battered the North American economy and led to a restructuring of heavy industry, especially steel and autos, with the loss of millions of jobs. The early 1990s recession produced widespread bankruptcies in real estate and retail before growth resumed a few years earlier. Speaking in Calgary, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty expressed confidence that the economy would stay on the positive side of the ledger and insisted Ottawa won't fall into a deficit as a result of the slowdown. "We are on track in terms of our budget in Canada, that we will continue to run a surplus," he said, adding that the country's "strong fundamentals" and status as an emerging energy superpower will keep it in better shape than the United States, although not immune to a global economic slowdown. "Canada is not an island," Flaherty said earlier in a speech to a Calgary Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Following a first quarter contraction that saw gross domestic product fall 0.3 per cent and continuing signs of stress, economists and policy makers have been routinely revising their growth projections for the year, all trending downward. In the last week, Canadians have been hit by a series of bad news announcements. Employment fell in June for the first time this year and full-time employment tumbled for the second straight month. Average home sale prices edged down during the month, the first year-over year price decline in nearly a decade. And General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM) announced plans to lay off 20 per cent of its white collar staff in North America, a further cut of thousands of jobs. Meanwhile, the Bank of Canada warned of rising inflation Tuesday while lowering its 2008 growth forecast from 1.4 per cent in April to one per cent. On Wednesday, the Conference Board of Canada downgraded its projection from 2.2 per cent this spring to 1.7 per cent. For both, it was the second downward revision so far this year. Both are overly optimistic, says David Wolf, chief economist with Merrill Lynch Canada, who says gross domestic product increase will likely come in at a tepid 0.5 per cent this year, a statistical blip from recessionary times. "Absolutely, by the informal definition of recession we could be in recession," agrees Global Insight economist Dale Orr, noting that nobody will know for sure until late in August, when Statistics Canada releases the second quarter growth tally. But Orr also points out that the Canadian economy still has some legs, particularly in the resource and oil and sector, consumer spending, and employment and housing that while slowing, are coming off record-setting years. Even manufacturing showed signs of life in May. Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that manufacturing sales rose 2.7 per cent from April, the fourth increase in five months. The details behind the aggregate number were weaker as sales remain below last year's levels and most of the gain was due to higher prices, not increased production. The strongest pillar remains high-priced commodities, particularly Alberta oil, which is bringing tremendous wealth into the country and helping grease the general economy through corporate profits, job creation, and higher government revenues that get passed along in lower taxes and higher spending. "Perhaps the volume of what we produce is going down, but the wealth effect (from commodity exports) is very much there," said Pedro Antunes of the Conference Board. "We often think that's beneficial for some regions and sectors, but there have been redistributive effects. The federal government has collected dividends that's been fanned out to all Canadians in the form of tax cuts, and the effect on stock prices, wages, employment have been distributed all over the country." That has kept nominal gross domestic product growth - which measures the actual worth of what Canadians produce - above four per cent, as opposed to the flat performance in real growth, which measures the amount produced. "The hurt in Canada is narrowly focused in the trade sector," Orr says. "If you are in Windsor, Ont., where unemployment is near 10 per cent and the value of your home is falling, or in the auto sector, or if you are in a forestry one-industry town in northern Ontario or Quebec or B.C., then you are really hurting." But for most Canadians the slump has yet to register and likely won't if forecasts of a second-half improvement prove accurate. And for those who live off the resource sector, this is boom times, says Orr. Dungan says another difference between today and recessions of the previous two decades is that inflation, while rising, remains relatively tame, and governments now have the wherewithal to stimulate the economy or at least not inflict further harm. "The Bank of Canada is trying to keep inflation from rising, not reduce it, and generally speaking prevention is not as costly and not as unpleasant as cure," he explained. "And our government balances are basically OK. It's not like 1991 when we had huge deficits and therefore you couldn't do anything, if anything you were trying to raise taxes to make those better, which only makes the downturn worse."
  11. Montréal welcomes PaperWeek International 2008 from February 5 to 7 MONTREAL, Jan. 24 /CNW Telbec/ - From February 5 to 7, Montréal will host the 94th annual meeting of the Canadian Pulp and Paper Technical Association of Canada. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Exfor, the world's principal annual exhibition of the pulp and paper industry. These two events, both to be held at the Palais des Congrès, will bring together over 2 000 delegates and 250 exhibitors to interact, share ideas and discuss, among other things, new technological advances, marketing trends and environmental challenges faced by the pulp and paper industry. '"We are extremely pleased to once again host this prestigious conference this year," comments Charles Lapointe, President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal, "We are particularly proud that PAPTAC members chose our city for the 50th anniversary celebration of Exfor. This choice confirms Montréal's excellent reputation as a host city for large-scale, professional events. In addition to the delegates having the opportunity to discover our wonderful city, this major event will result in an economic fall-out of $4.1 million for Montréal's tourism sector" concludes Mr. Lapointe. The three-day programme includes approximately 200 technical presentations to be given by industry specialists through the course of thirty sessions. Topics will include research and development, quality control, manufacturing processes, recycling and energy sources. New to the programme this year is the Business section, which will discuss the actual state of the industry, globalization and supporting innovation. PAPTAC is a Canadian-based, non-profit organization, dedicated to improving the technical and professional capabilities of its members worldwide, and to the advancement of the pulp and paper industry. Tourisme Montréal is responsible for providing leadership in the concerted efforts of hospitality and promotion in order to position the destination on leisure and business travel markets. It is also responsible for developing Montréal's tourism product in accordance with the ever-changing conditions of the market. For further information: Pierre Bellerose, Vice President, Public Relations, Product Research and Development, Tourisme Montréal, (514) 844-2404, [email protected]
  12. J'y suis déjà allé, et c'est pas mal bon. Ça pourrait faire du super street food! http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Authentic+taste+Venezuela+alive+Catherine/8889481/story.html
  13. Quebec awash in 'real style' Karen Mazurkewich, Financial Post Published: Monday, January 14, 2008 Allen McInnis For National PostQUEBEC FIRMS CHIP AT EUROPEAN MARKET: Wetstyle's Helene Bourgault says Quebec's dominance in the bathroom niche market can be attributed to entrepreneurship and copy-cat reflex. MONTREAL -- Quebec has become the bathroom capital of Canada. More potties, tubs, sinks and facets are produced in La Belle Province than anywhere else in the country. Move over Philippe Starck, Duravit and Villeroy & Boch and Boffi. With its hot design and low price point, the province's bathroom manufacturers are taking a bigger bite out of the hip European marketshare. Companies such as Wetstyle, MAXX, Neptune, and BainUltra have squeezed into the marketplace. So how did Quebec become the new home spa design mecca? According to Helene Bourgault, cofounder of Montreal-based Wetstyle, the company behind the uber-hip OVE tub, the Quebec niche can be attributed to entrepreneurship as well as a healthy copycat reflex. Designers have co-opted materials originally developed by the aerospace and power sports industries. But the cluster of manufacturers in the bathroom fixture sector is also because the newest entrants are spin-offs from its pioneers. Wetstyle is case in point. In 1979, Ms. Bourgault and her husband were both in the real estate business. One day, she got a call from a mechanic who wanted to sell his small business making marble countertops. "It was literally a shed in a field," she says. Her husband, Jacques Parise, was so intrigued with the vanity moulds he bought them. During the next year, he purchased more moulds from several bankrupt firms. The renovation industry was picking up, the options were few, Ms. Bourgault says. So the duo gave up real estate and started Maronyx, developing coloured bathroom vanities to appeal to a more sophisticated buyer. Their sinks were made from a thick polymer composite that was later patented as Nacryl. In 1996, the company merged with a furniture manufacturer, Creations Decor-Bois du Quebec, so the couple could explore more options. But four years later, Ms. Bourgault and Mr. Parise broke away. "We were not looking in the same direction," she says. In 2002, they started over, this time making more modern styles of bath products using a more refined composite resin dubbed "Wet-mar." Gone was the Quebec farmhouse look. The real estate agents-turned-designers looked to the Orient for inspiration. Their stylish Cube collection, which ranges from $500 for a sink to $6,000 for a tub, was a hit and they've adapted a European style of overflow system that gives their latest line a sleek look. The prototype for their next line is a translucent tub with embedded cables that can alter the colour of the tub. "There's always something in the pot cooking," says Ms. Bourgault. Meanwhile, the original company Maronyx still churns out the traditional look. Wetstyle has evolved into a niche company for the luxury market, with more than 100 distributors in the United States and 11 in Canada, bringing in modest annual sales of $4-million. But their marketing position may have protected them from a global downturn in bathroom sales. Although more Americans were remodeling their bathrooms in 2007, the construction of new bathrooms fell 21% last year from 2006 levels. The high Canadian dollar and weak housing market in the United States has affected MAAX Holdings Inc., a pioneering firm that developed an expertise in acrylic corner baths and drop-in models. The company's net sales for its second quarter ended August, 2007, decreased 14.9% to $109.9-million from net sales of $129-million. In December, it announced that it was unable to make its interest payment on senior subordinated notes. "People are always asking why Quebec is a leader in the bathroom business," says Mr. Bourgault. "I believe that to be good you have to be surrounded by people who are also good and push you to be better." The success of the pioneers inspired others to follow suit, hence the cluster manufacturing phenomenon.Valerie Parent, director of marketing for Saint-Nicolas-based BainUltra, agrees. Thirty years ago, the company invented the air-jet bath to compete against the traditional whirlpool models. Throughout the years, the company expanded its product line and now makes dozens of models and shower stalls priced as high as $10,000. "I know at BainUltra, we have inspired others," she says. One of its ex-employees started their own air-jet bath company, which was later sold to Acryline USA, she says. There are no hard feelings. "For Quebec, it's a point of pride to develop something that changed the face of the North American industry," she adds. Even Neptune was created by a former employee of Alcove Canada Bath Tubs & Whirlpools. Whatever the reason, consumers are benefitting. Jackie Allen, who is renovating a new home in the posh Rosedale district of Toronto, is putting a Wetstyle OVE tub in the center of her new ensuite bathroom. The deep, softly rounded tub will be set against a marble wall. "My architect says it will be the centrepiece of the room," she says. Her Toronto-based architect, Stuart Watson, was first turned on to the Wetstyle line of bathrooms after seeing displays at a local design show. "It was something fresh and different," he says. In the past, Mr. Watson recommended European designers, but more recently he's been promoting Wetstyle baths because they have a transitional look. They can go into both a modern or traditional home, he says. Then there is the question of price. A Starck bathtub would cost two to three times more, he adds. "This is real style for a reasonable price." DOING UP THE WC IN STYLE: Here are some of Quebec's high-end dealers in bathroom furnishings and fixtures - Bain Ultra Specializes in air jet baths and home spa units. 956, chemin Olivier, Saint-Nicolas www.bainultra.com - Wetstyle High concept, Japanese-style baths and vanities that work in both contemporary and traditional homes. All product made by a unique polymer. 276 Saint-Jacques, Suite G-02, Montreal www.wetstyle.ca - Neptune Mid-range line of bathroom tubs, showers toilets and faucets. A popular product is its folding shower door. 6835, rue Picard, Saint-Hyacinthec - MAAX Looking for a corner tub or drop-in tub, MAAX has a huge product range. 600 Cameron Road, Ste-Marie Source: Financial Post http://www.nationalpost.com/story.html?id=237326