Monthly Archives: March 2008

Tremblay breaks the law

Here’s one of those you-be-the-editor moments.

On Saturday, mayor Gérald Tremblay went out for a photo op to show off the city’s new pothole-fixing technique. Basically, it involves repaving a thin layer of asphalt across a large surface instead of just filling the hole itself. It’s supposed to last four years and make everyone happy.

The photo op involved Tremblay sitting atop a repaving machine and driving it for a couple of feet while journalists take pictures.

In jest, reporter Max Harrold apparently asked Tremblay if he had a license to operate a heavy vehicle like this. Tremblay, with a basic Class 5 license, does not. So technically, he was driving illegally.

That little bit didn’t make it into the story published on Sunday next to the photo.

Should it have? Is it an important piece of information, or is it just pointless trivia that won’t make any difference in anyone’s life?

Mayor Labonté

So Benoît Labonté is running for the Vision Montreal leadership. Try to contain your shock.

After leaving Gérald Tremblay’s Montreal Island Citizens’ Union party and being coy about whether he would join the opposition, then joining the opposition and being coy about whether he’d run for its leadership, he’s running for its leadership and I can only assume desperately searching for something else to be coy about.

Considering even well-informed Montrealers would be hard-pressed to name a single other member of the Vision Montreal party (Pierre Bourque? No, he retired, remember? Yeah), the chances of Labonté facing real opposition is about on par with the Quebec government announcing fast-track funding for a West Island metro extension. Nevertheless, he’s putting quite a bit of effort into his campaign, because he’s really starting his run for mayor.

He’s setup a website (look how visionary and leaderistic he looks, staring off to the side with a mild squint). It has some working links, including to his Facebook and MySpace profiles, and a blog at the easy-to-remember URL of

I know I’ll be typing that one into my browser every morning.

He’s also on the YouTubes, his first video showcasing why he’s not just some other boring ex-businessman running for mayor:


  • He left the governing party over fundamental disagreements with its leader, though he couldn’t name any specifics other than “they’re not doing enough”
  • He introduced a plastic bag recycling system to replace the messy green boxes downtown. So now instead of a zero-waste system that was so successful it was overflowing, the borough has to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying and distributing millions of special plastic bags to residents who will just turn around and dispose of them, which might happen cleanly assuming that they aren’t mistaken for garbage bags or ripped open by homeless people looking for returnable bottles and cans
  • He introduced the Parco-don, a voluntary parking meter that accepts all those pennies we have no other use for, and distributes the money raised to homeless people (assuming, of course, that the loose change brought in is higher in value than the cost of emptying the machines regularly).
  • He created places for kids to graffiti legally, thereby solving Montreal’s graffiti problem forever.
  • He wants to make downtown streets, like Ste. Catherine Street in the Gay Village, pedestrian-only in the summer, an idea he and Tremblay are fighting over credit for.

Audace, indeed.

(via Lagacé)

UPDATE: See Labonté’s way-too-long and way-too-political-cliché-filled manifesto.

Gazette launches new opinion section

This morning The Gazette introduced its new Viewpoints web page, which includes some not-good-enough-for-the-paper web-exclusive opinion pieces (the first an anti-tuition rant from McGill student union types) and a link to Editor-in-Chief Andrew Phillips’s Ask the Editor blog (which now has real posts).

The paper devotes its entire op/ed page today to a massive guide to the website, for those readers too Internet illiterate to navigate a web page properly.

The web page still needs a bit of work (some links aren’t working yet and I caught a lorem ipsum on one page), but it’s a step in the right direction.

One less sexy change which readers will appreciate is a new layout for the editorials and letters page. The change is simple: instead of putting the Aislin cartoon above the letters, it will go above the editorials. That will mean letters take up a full half of the page, and there will be two editorials a day instead of three (a number I always thought to be a bit too much if you want to make profound statements with each one). The immediate result of this is that the paper will be able to print longer letters (take, for example, this one) instead of hacking everyone’s arguments down to bite-size 35-word paragraphs.

(Full disclosure: I’m a copy editor at The Gazette, but I didn’t edit the op/ed pages, so don’t blame me if you found a typo there or you think your letter was badly edited)

Pundits rally behind Roy jersey retirement

Patrick Roy jersey

With the whole Patrick Roy scandal still fresh in everyone’s mind, a new debate has been sparked by The Gazette’s Red Fisher: Should the Canadiens retire his No. 33 jersey, as they’re expected to do next year?

Red says they shouldn’t:

Roy abdicated his rights to that honour with his capitulation to irrationalism on Dec. 2, 1995, when a stunned Forum crowd saw him allow nine goals on 26 shots in an 11-1 meltdown to the Detroit Red Wings. It was only then that he was taken out of the game by coach Mario Tremblay.

That move sparked lots of reaction in the newspaper punditosphere, as columnists left and right start debating the same topic.

I was going to put together a roundup of their positions, but I quickly realized that almost all of them are in favour of retiring the jersey. (Though some, like Réjean Tremblay — who went on vacation during all this but isn’t standing behind Roy — haven’t yet weighed in)

It’s not that they’re giving knee-jerk reactions to this. Most of them give solid, reasonable arguments, showing they seriously considered their positions first.

The arguments against retiring the jersey (by Fisher and others) are as follows:

  • Roy is a hothead off the ice, getting into disgusting brawls, and is not fit to share an honour with Jean Béliveau and other such legends
  • Roy turned his back on the Canadiens in 1995, showing he puts himself above the team
  • Roy is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame, which honours excellence in hockey, but retiring a jersey is an honour above that, that shouldn’t be given out to someone just because he was a good goaltender

The arguments for:

  • Roy is being honoured for his contributions on the ice, not in a bar or as a minor-league coach
  • We don’t revoke such honours just because someone got into a couple of drunken fights (and really, was Maurice Richard the epitome of gentlemanliness off the ice?)
  • It’s not like Roy killed anyone here
  • That whole abandoning-the-Habs thing was all Mario Tremblay’s fault
  • It’s already a foregone conclusion — he’s just too big to not have his jersey retired

It’s a tough decision that the Canadiens management will have to make this summer (hopefully while chugging champagne out of the Stanley Cup). But other columnists have already said they think it should happen.

Here’s what they have to say:

Réjean Tremblay (La Presse):

Cependant, je pense que le Canadien peut encore retirer le chandail 33 de Casseau sans insulter ni les anciens ni les partisans de l’équipe. Patrick Roy a été le meilleur gardien de but de l’histoire. Il a gagné la Coupe Stanley deux fois à Montréal.

Il n’a pas été parfait. Mais va-t-on me faire accroire que Doug Harvey était parfait ? Et Serge Savard ? Et Guy Lafleur ?

Oui, Roy a manqué de jugement, mais il se donne corps et âme à ses Remparts. S’il passait ses hivers en Floride en jouant au golf et en comptant ses millions, il serait un meilleur citoyen ?

Patrick Lagacé (La Presse):

Oui, Patrick Roy a fait plusieurs conneries, ces dernières années. Oui, c’est un type arrogant et désagréable. Mais il n’a tué ni violé personne. Le retrait d’un chandail de joueur de hockey est relié à ses exploits sur la glace. Il n’y a pas de points bonis pour le travail auprès des démunis, des malades et des exploités quand on décide de lui conférer cet honneur. Inversement, on ne devrait pas prendre en compte le fait que le gars est déplaisant dans ses relations avec les autres avant d’accrocher le maillot sur un cintre qui sera accroché au plafond de l’aréna.

Pierre Durocher (Journal de Montréal):

Ça ne change rien. On retire un chandail pour ses exploits sur la patinoire et non son comportement en dehors. Patrick est le meilleur gardien de tous les temps avec Martin Brodeur.

Jacques Demers (ex-coach):

Certains partisans ne se gênent pas pour prétendre qu’ils vont huer Roy lorsque son numéro 33 sera hissé dans les hauteurs du Centre Bell.

Mais, en général, je crois que les amateurs vont se souvenir de sa carrière phénoménale.

Stéphane Laporte (La Presse):

Si on retire son chandail tricolore, c’est pour ce qu’il a fait avec le tricolore. Point à la ligne. Et Roy a fait beaucoup.

Yvon Pedneault (RDS):

Patrick Roy a été un gardien qui a permis au Canadien de gagner deux coupes Stanley. Il est, jusqu’à nouvel ordre, le meilleur gardien de l’histoire du hockey. Son leadership, bien qu’exercé de façon pour le moins particulière, mena son équipe vers des objectifs parfois impensables.

Ce qu’on doit retenir avant tout c’est que l’an prochain selon le scénario envisagé par la haute direction du Canadien, on doit retirer le chandail d’un athlète… et non le chandail d’un entraîneur qui roule sa bosse dans la Ligue de hockey junior majeur du Québec.

Stu Cowan (The Gazette):

There still seem to be a lot of sports fans who expect something more from the players they cheer for. They seem to think that just because someone can dunk a basketball, hit a baseball or stop a hockey puck that they should also be a pillar of society.

When they hand out the Academy Awards, only acting ability is taken into account – not what Hollywood’s stars do when they’re not being filmed. Why shouldn’t it be the same way with sports?

Coming down on Red’s side? So far, only fellow Gazette columnist Jack Todd:

I think it was Maxim Lapierre who said last week that it’s all about the numbers and that nothing else should matter. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When it comes to this particular honour, it’s about the numbers and everything else.

The numbers say Roy belongs in this company. Everything else says he does not.

Non-pundits, meanwhile, are staying on the fence.

Jean Béliveau:

Honnêtement, je ne sais pas ce que je ferais. Est-ce qu’il faut séparer les exploits sur la glace de la vie courante? Faudrait-il attendre avant de retirer son chandail? Ce sont certainement des questions que le comité devra se poser.

Guy Carbonneau:

The Montreal Canadiens have been here for 100 years and they’ve made a lot of good decisions over the years. I’m sure they’ll sit down and talk about it and make the right decision on this.

CBC launches two boring digital TV channels

Digital TV subscribers across Canada are noticing two new channels that weren’t there before. The CBC has arranged free previews on all the major systems, including Videotron (digital), Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice.


Bold is, near as I can tell, CBC’s answer to Showcase or Bravo. Its programming includes a bunch of second-run drama and comedy shows from CBC’s library, including MVP, The Tudors, Da Vinci’s City Hall, The Border, Intelligence, Dr. Who and a bunch of other shows I’ve never heard of.

It replaces CBC Country Canada, that other cable channel that nobody watches.

Bold can be found on Videotron Illico channel 106 and Bell ExpressVu channel 641.


Documentary is self-explanatory, taking a bunch of stuff from CBC Newsworld and the NFB. It’s basically just a rebranding of The Documentary Channel, which the CBC bought a controlling interest in.

Documentary can be found on Videotron Illico channel 151 and ExpressVu channel 336.

The free preview lasts until April 29.


Attention: Un feu dans l’autobus nous oblige à … run for your lives!


Bus on fire

The text, in case you can’t read it:

COOLING IT  Montreal Transit Corp. crew and a city firefighter check a 211 bus that caught fire outside the Lionel Groulx métro station yesterday. The fire was caused by mechanical problems, police said, and no one was hurt.

Death trap? What death trap?

(As I mentioned to a concerned fellow traveller yesterday, nobody is seriously injured in these kinds of fires, since they take a while to get this intense and the buses are pretty well designed to be able to get everyone out quickly. Still, spontaneous combustion is a concern.) launches, The Gazette’s “hyper-local” website serving West Island and western off-island communities, officially launches today. Page A2 in today’s paper has an article from editor-in-chief Andrew Phillips discussing the new site.

The site is pretty well unchanged since last time I mentioned it, except it has fewer bugs and more updated stories. (No changes based on Craig Silverman’s comments, for example.)

Phillips’s article also mentions upcoming changes to the editorial page, which will reduce space given to editorials and increase space given to letters to the editor (a change I think most people will welcome). There will also be more web-only opinion content, and Phillips’s blog, which I mentioned last week. The changes all go live on Monday.

Media critic, criticize thyself

Yet another example of a photojournalist fudging the truth out of laziness and manufacturing an award-winning photo of an event that never occurred.

What amuses me is the blog this was posted on, of the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade:

Greenslade blog

You’ll notice two identical photos of him, which appear to be part of a template for article pages on the blog.

You’ll also notice that one of the photos is flipped horizontally. Last time I checked that was a journalistic no-no, even if one is under the delusion that human faces are symmetrical and it doesn’t matter.

I guess some photo manipulation is more acceptable than others.

Anglo ads on franco websites?

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but some astute francophone bloggers are noting English-only advertisements on French-language websites like Cyberpresse and Le Devoir.

Assuming it’s not a technical malfunction or clueless advertising agency, should it be a scandal that an ad on a French-language website be in English? A lot of anglophones read French newspapers, watch French television and go to French websites when they can’t find what they need in English. Why not put forward some ads that cater to them?

For example: If The Gazette put a TV ad on RDS during a Habs game to promote its Habs Inside/Out website, in order to reach anglophone Habs enthusiasts who can’t watch the game on another network, or francophone fanatiques who want to immerse themselves in everything about Les Glorieux, would that be so bad?

Or if an anglophone school board had ads in French promoting… oh wait, they already did that. And people are pissed.

Bilingual doesn’t mean French at Carleton

In a move sure to piss off francophones from coast to coast, Carleton University’s journalism department has decided that students no longer have to demonstrate a proficiency in French to graduate. (via J-Source)

Considering that half the summer interns The Gazette picks every year come from Carleton (the other half tend to come from Concordia), this seems like a bad idea.

As Graham Fraser, Canada’s official languages commissioner, points out, this isn’t just about journalists working in Quebec. Even those in Victoria will occasionally have to find themselves translating French text into English to understand a story better.

Carleton’s reasoning, and I suppose it’s understandable to a point, is that many students choose to work elsewhere (like outside the country) when they graduate. And many of those students come from elsewhere in the first place. They have no use for French.

But if that’s the reasoning, why bother having language proficiency at all? They require students to have a basic understanding of English and now another language of their choice. What’s the point if not to have the proper skills to practice journalism in Canada? Should learning about Canadian libel law also be optional for people who expect to work overseas?

CSU: One party is enough

It’s that time of year again, folks: Concordia student elections!

As the years pass and my connection to my alma mater fades (despite the Alumni Association’s pleas that I donate money and give back), I realize that I don’t know the people studying there anymore. I’m not familiar with the day-to-day issues. And more importantly, I don’t care.

But it’s fun to watch as this year’s vote becomes more of a farce than ever. There’s only one set of candidates running for the executive this year, the Left having been so demoralized by seven losses in a row that they’ve retreated to a legislative-only party. Even the apparent joke party was disqualified when it turned out that its members were signed up to run without their permission or even their knowledge.

The last time an election for CSU executive was uncontested was … I don’t know if it’s ever been done.

Despite the protests from the media about a one-party system being de facto undemocratic, the election goes on, with prizes handed out to a few random voters. Even with that, it’s hard to see this election breaking any turnout records.

Oh Concordia…