Monthly Archives: October 2009

Louise Harel: the English interviews

When Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel refused last month to participate in a CTV-organized English debate, the decision was widely criticized by anglophone leaders as the PQ séparatiss turning her back on the English-speaking community.

Harel made excuses for her troubles in English, saying she speaks English with her inlaws and she just gets nervous when she’s in front of a camera (or microphone) and worries about making political mistakes with her less-than-perfect language. It’s understandable (she really had nothing to win and a lot to lose by participating in an English debate), but she might have defused the situation a bit better if she just admitted “yeah, I suck at English, but I’m working on it, and in the meantime I’d rather not torture the electorate with my feeble attempts” – at least that would have showed she has a sense of humour.

Besides, she wouldn’t be the first Montreal mayor who couldn’t perform in a Shakespeare play, nor would she be the first sovereignist to run the city’s executive committee.

But instead, partly because of the way her party handled the situation and partly because of media reaction to it, she’s left the anglophone community with the impression that she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them and she can easily get elected without their support. And so her support among anglophones was mired in the single digits in opinion polls.

Still, she reached out. She could have refused questions in English during news conferences, but she took them. She could have limited her longer interviews in English, but she’s made four of them with local English electronic media, by my count.

The first was a disastrous interview with Anne Lagacé-Dowson on CJAD. Disastrous not in that she said anything politically damaging (besides admitting that she’s a sovereignist), but because it allowed the news media to see how she performed in English and understand just how awful her command of the language is. Others (like me) poked fun at her, concentrating on her many stumbles during the interview rather than the points she made. She had to do it, and she had to get it out of her system. Fortunately she did it early. (I asked CJAD a while ago for permission to post the full audio of the interview, but never heard back. Unfortunately it’s not available online.)

In the past two weeks, Harel has had two sit-down interviews with English television stations and one interview with English radio.

Louise Harel with Jamie Orchard on CKMI's Focus Montreal on Oct. 22

Louise Harel with Jamie Orchard on CKMI's Focus Montreal during the week of Oct. 22

Jamie Orchard was the first, getting Harel into a room at Global’s CKMI Montreal (incidentally, on the only non-fake set at the station), and grilling her on her plan to recentralize power in city hall and her views on negotiations with blue collar workers.

Louise Harel with Todd van der Heyden on Wednesday

Louise Harel with Todd van der Heyden on Wednesday

On Wednesday, CFCF’s Todd van der Heyden sat down with Harel for over 11 minutes during the noon newscast, in which he asked all the anglo questions, and got Harel to admit that she doesn’t consider the English colonialists.

Nancy Wood, CBC Daybreak

Nancy Wood, CBC Daybreak

Finally, on Friday morning, Harel was in the studios of CBC Montreal for a radio interview with Daybreak’s Nancy Wood (link goes to podcast MP3 which contains the full interview). Wood asked her about her sagging poll numbers and whether she’s sure everyone working for her party is on the up-and-up. Other than Harel not knowing what “deceived” means (you’d think of all words, that would be one she’d get to know pretty well recently), it went okay.

Maybe it’s because we all know about Harel’s English already, or because the news is too busy covering corruption and horse-race issues, but these other English interviews got very little notice.

Despite legitimate criticisms from the anglophone community, we should at least give her credit for trying. And it’s nice to see that her English is getting at least a little bit better.

Montreal media endorsement tally

Sure, you could go to the party websites, read their platforms, call up your local candidates and decide for yourself who you’re going to vote for. But why do that when the media is ready to just tell you how to mark your X?

Even in this election campaign, where none of the candidates for mayor has prompted Barack-Obama-like enthusiasm, most seem content with endorsing a candidate anyway, and each of the big three is getting a piece of the pie.

In fact, not even do major media outlets not agree on whom to vote for, they can’t even form consensuses within their own newsrooms. Both La Presse and The Gazette have columnists making endorsements for mayor that differ from the main editorial line.

With the candidates neck and neck and neck a day before the election, and no clue how even strategic voting would work, I’m afraid you’re all on your own here.

Still, here’s how the endorsements break down:

For mayor

Gérald Tremblay

Gérald Tremblay, Union Montreal

  • The Gazette: “The least distressing candidate in an unprepossessing field. … Richard Bergeron is clearly not ready to govern. … Harel’s claim to be a unifier is preposterous.”
  • CTV (Executive Producer Barry Wilson): “At this point, it seems not be a case of who is the best, but who is not the worst choice.”
  • The Suburban: “Montreal’s greater good will be served by a mayor who can communicate in English, the lingua franca, to the outside world … by a mayor who does not make war on cars and does not want to make a pedestrian promenade of our busiest commercial artery.”

Louise Harel

Louise Harel, Vision Montreal

  • Le Devoir (Bernard Descôteaux): “Guérir Montréal du cancer de la corruption est un préalable à toute chose. …  L’expérience est ici l’élément déterminant, et entre Louise Harel et Richard Bergeron, il faut donc choisir la première. … Elle possède le sens politique qui lui permettra de créer les nécessaires consensus au sein du prochain conseil municipal.”
  • L’Aut’journal: “L’administration Tremblay a complètement perdu la maîtrise de ses projets au profit de l’entreprise privée. Le candidat Richard Bergeron présente un excellent programme municipal … Cependant, il faut reconnaître qu’il n’a pas réussi au cours des quatre dernières années à s’entourer d’une équipe aguerrie. … Il est nécessaire de restructurer la fonction publique municipale et revoir la répartition des pouvoirs entre la ville-centre et les arrondissements. Pour y arriver, il faudra une grande dextérité politique et seule Louise Harel a l’expérience, le savoir-faire et les années de service pour y arriver.”
  • Lysiane Gagnon, La Presse: “Je crois que Mme Harel fera tout pour réussir la fin d’une carrière gâchée par une fusion mal faite qui s’est terminée par le fiasco des défusions. Et elle est capable de beaucoup. … La souveraineté? De toute façon, le dossier est presque clos. Son anglais boiteux? Elle apprendra. Ses tentations bureaucratiques de péquiste de gauche? La réalité économique de Montréal, qui repose sur l’entreprise privée, la rattrapera vite.”

Richard Bergeron

Richard Bergeron, Projet Montréal

  • Henry Aubin, The Gazette: “There are two approaches for reaching that judgment. One approach – the more common one – is to look at each candidate’s personal record and qualities. It’s this approach that has led to widespread despair. … The other approach for assessing candidates is through the issues. … Bergeron, then, clearly comes out ahead on all matters except sovereignty.”
  • Pierre Foglia, La Presse (I think): “Je souhaite la très improbable victoire de M. Bergeron, même si on me dit que c’est un tata fini et l’homme d’une idée fixe avec lequel cela risquerait d’aller encore plus mal qu’aujourd’hui à la mairie.”
  • Non-media endorsements: John Gomery, Charles Taylor, Québec solidaire, Chris Karidogiannis and Jimmy Zoubris

None of the above

  • La Presse (chief editorialist André Pratte): “Aucun parti, aucun chef n’a donné l’impression de pouvoir fournir à Montréal le leadership dont elle a désespérément besoin. … Lors des élections municipales de 2001 et de 2005, La Presse a accordé son appui à Gérald Tremblay. Depuis, le maire s’est dévoué à sa ville. … Louise Harel n’a pas su offrir une vision claire pour l’avenir de la métropole. … L’aptitude de Mme Harel à manier le balai est devenue beaucoup plus incertaine à la suite des révélations faites au sujet du comportement de Benoit Labonté, son bras droit jusqu’à il y a quelques jours. … Est-il nécessaire que le maire de Montréal parle anglais? Non… mais presque. … À nos yeux, Louise Harel ne satisfait pas aux exigences du poste. … Certains volets de la personnalité de M. Bergeron sont trop inquiétants pour qu’on lui confie la mairie.”

For council

The Gazette did not endorse any specific candidates for city council, but did suggest looking at individual candidates instead of party names, and encouraged people to look at independent candidates and “borough parties”

La Presse’s André Pratte listed several names from each party in his editorial, which makes up most of the list below.

Union Montreal

  • Alan DeSousa (La Presse)
  • Michel Labrecque (La Presse)
  • André Lavallée (La Presse)

Vision Montreal

  • Élaine Ayotte (La Presse)
  • Harry Delva (La Presse)
  • Pierre Lampron (La Presse)
  • Réal Ménard (La Presse)
  • David Hanna (Jeremy Searle, West End Times)

Projet Montréal

  • Étienne Coutu (La Presse)
  • Carole Dupuis (La Presse)
  • Josée Duplessis (La Presse)
  • Alex Norris (Mike Boone, The Gazette)


Alex Norris (a former journalist) also got the endorsement of Thomas Mulcair.

Did I miss any? Be sure to let me know before tomorrow.

Fagstein’s endorsement

Of course, you’re all wondering who I’m endorsing in this election. As if the answer isn’t obvious already, I’ll give the official word in this video:


Don’t forget to vote.

Now it gets interesting

From Friday's La Presse

From Friday's La Presse

The first opinion polling after the Labonté scandal shows the three parties really neck and neck (and neck). Though Harel comes out on top, the real story is Richard Bergeron, whose party is living the wet dream of being a contender.

According to the poll, the number of undecideds has plummeted from 30% to 10%.

Election day is Sunday, and (as a journalist who will spend the night in the newsroom) it’s gonna be fun.

La Presse union deal … or not

La Presse announced on Wednesday it had reached a deal in principle with half its unions (those affiliated with the FTQ), representing advertising, printing and other workers.

The news caught the other unions (affiliated with the CSN) off guard, and they shot off a communiqué accusing La Presse of negotiating in bad faith.

The CSN unions are the more important ones, because they represent editorial and distribution. Without their okay, nothing really changes.

La Presse is about two-thirds of the way to a deadline it has set for its employees to accept wage concessions. It has threatened to shut down the paper on Dec. 1 if its demands are not met.

CTV wants the right to prevent you from watching Grey’s Anatomy

As we all know, CTV – and its growing “Local TV Matters” coalition of conventional television broadcasters not owned by telecom companies – doesn’t want the CRTC to impose fees on cable and satellite companies, but wants the power to negotiate fair rates for their signals. In a new TV ad (yes, they made even more of them), CTV literally brings out a table and two chairs and says “we just want to talk”.

In my last blog post on the subject, I was a bit skeptical of this idea. Cable companies have little incentive to carry local stations, and aren’t about to pay for them. Consumers also wouldn’t miss much if those stations disappeared. Most of their programming comes from the United States, and nothing outside of the newscasts is locally produced. And even then, local news and crappy Canadian programming are increasingly available online, where CTV doesn’t charge Canadians directly to watch. (I can only assume from the “Local TV Matters” logic that I am stealing CTV’s programming from its own website).

I pointed out why I don’t think local stations would have much of a bargaining chip at this table, even with the right to pull their signals:

Unless blocking U.S. channels is part of this plan, Canadians could tune into stations from Burlington, and all we’d miss aside from local news are shows like So You Think You Can Dance Canada.

Well, it turns out that’s exactly what CTV has in mind. This is what they told the Calgary Herald:

“We need a hammer,” says Sparkes.

For instance, broadcasters say they should have the right, as a negotiating ploy, to pull their signals from cable along with the rights to shows they own in their local markets, such as the popular series House — without cable simply importing the show from an American broadcaster.

In other words, if Videotron and CKMI can’t agree on a fee, CKMI would have the right to demand that Videotron not only be barred from distributing CKMI’s feed, but be forced to black out U.S. stations that carry programming CKMI has rights to, like House, Entertainment Tonight, The Office, 90210 and Family Guy.

This proposition is a scary one for consumers. Canadian broadcasters want the right to block out U.S. broadcasters from cable.

Blackouts are common in cable these days, but they’re never imposed by the CRTC. Instead, they’re usually done because of demands from major sporting leagues who have broadcast agreements with different broadcasters in different markets. In each case, it’s the broadcaster that wants to be blacked out to comply with that agreement.

But this is different. And aside from the unbelievable public outrage CTV’s idea would cause if it was ever invoked, and the dangerous precedent it would set, here’s why I think the CRTC should turn them down on this point:

Canadian rights to U.S. shows are set by contract between the Canadian networks and U.S. networks. The CRTC is in no way involved in these deals, nor should they be. But giving Canadian networks the power to block U.S. stations based on these private contracts means that the CRTC (and cable and satellite companies) would be bound by agreements made between private commercial companies. That’s simply unreasonable.

But then, reason wasn’t a part of this from the beginning, was it?

New deadline for Opus renewal: Nov. 15

The AMT and STM have decided to give reduced-fare Opus users a one-time grace period to renew their ID cards (probably since many of them – including my little brother – didn’t know they had to renew their cards, thinking they were good for two years).

Students now have until Nov. 15 (which I guess means they can buy their November passes but they can’t use them past that date?)

The STM says it is buying ads on Facebook to reach many of those students and remind them of this weird new policy.

The New CBC Montreal

On Monday, the great renewal of CBC television took shape, with all sorts of minor pointless changes new, attention-catching refreshening of look and feel.

Nationally, CBC Newsworld was renamed CBC News Network, gained some on-screen furniture (a clock, weather, CNN-like animated lower-thirds, and an obnoxious non-transparent bug in the corner) and got a new schedule which has more one-hour shows and less 24-hour newsroom.

The National was similarly changed to reflect the network’s new look (block serifs and pointless coloured square dots). Most importantly, Peter Mansbridge does the newscast standing up, which is kind of awkward.

Peter Mansbridge, kickin' it old-school - and standing

Peter Mansbridge, kickin' it old-school - and standing

Other reviews of changes on the national level:

Changes in radio were minor: a new World Report at 5am for early risers, and additional local radio newscasts at 6:30pm (short) and 7pm (long).

Online, very little has changed, other than the new block-serifed logo and the Inside Politics blog with Kady O’Malley, freshly poached from Macleans.

But what interested me was the local television news. CBC Montreal hasn’t had a late-evening newscast in a long time, and I was curious how they would do this one ever since I heard about it last month.

It starts with the 6pm newscast, which still has the 90-minute format but gets a new graphical look:

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We’re Number 2.7!

Lookin' good

Lookin' good

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (the people who measure how many people subscribe to newspapers, as opposed to NADbank which measures how many people read them) has released numbers for this summer.

Media In Canada looks at the national numbers, and InfoPresse looks at Quebec. Both cite The Gazette as bucking the trend, with a 2.7% increase (it went up more than that in the spring numbers).

The National Post went down considerably (20% due mostly, I’m guessing, to their decision to not publish Mondays this summer), the Globe went down too (8%), as did Le Soleil (5%) and, just barely, La Presse and Le Devoir (less than 1%).

Sun Media, which owns the Journal de Montréal and Journal de Québec, is part of rival CCAB, and so numbers aren’t available for those newspapers.

Still, a conclusion is hard not to reach here. The Gazette is the only paper with a significant circulation increase, and it is also the only paper that currently employs me.

I expect my huge bonus cheque will be waiting for me in my office mailbox this week.

It’s just copyright infringement

I was reading an article online by Jean-François Lisée, about the whole Denise Bombardier/Pierre Foglia brouhaha, when I came across this:

Denise Bombardier a dégainé dans Le Devoir de samedi le 17 octobre. Le texte L’intouchable (pas en accès libre sur le site du Devoir mais repris ici), vaut le détour et se conclut comme suit:

Le Devoir is one of the few remaining newspapers that still keeps its online articles restricted to subscribers, which is quite annoying to bloggers but nevertheless their choice. Though there are many articles published by the paper that talk about Quebec media (without the awkwardness of being owned by a huge megacorporation like Gesca, Quebecor, CTV or Canwest), I can’t share them because others don’t have access.

In this case, an anonymous member posted the complete text of the article on the public forums of the Cowboys Fringants website, allowing others to read it without subscribing. That forum post was passed around through social media, in lieu of a proper Le Devoir link.

The post is blatant copyright infringement, and Lisée clearly knows that. But he links to it anyway in his blog.

What’s surprising is that this is something I see a lot of from professional journalists online. Maybe it’s a YouTube video of the latest Tout le monde en parle segment that’s getting everyone talking, or some photo they found on the Internet that they want to use to illustrate a blog post. They’ll link to or duplicate something that they either know or should know is infringing on someone else’s copyright.

You’d think professional writers, of all people, would know better.

Polish woman wants to save local Canadian TV

Continuing my research into the origin of stock photos, I should point out that CTV’s Local TV Matters site makes generous use of microstock.

This woman with a bullhorn, which used to adorn its splash page, is from a stock photographer based in Poland.

And that giant “on air” sign is from a 3D animator. It even comes with an off-air version, or one that says “vacancy”. There’s no French version, though, which forced CTV to kind of awkwardly photoshop their own.

Save local TV!

Another championship for Montreal

Hey, remember that Concordia University baseball team I talked about last week?

Concordia University baseball champions (photo by Al Fournier)

Concordia University baseball champions (photo by Al Fournier)

They won the national championship this weekend. This despite losing two of three games in round-robin play. They won a quarterfinal tiebreaker, and then their semifinal match and the championship final of the … uhh … six-team tournament.

Go Stingers!

Opus renewals running smoothly, surprisingly

People get information from workers outside SPEQ Photo at McGill

People get information from workers outside SPEQ Photo at McGill

In early September, when students had to line up for hours to get photo ID Opus cards to take the bus and metro to school, the STM suffered the wrath of users and the media, and appear to be committed to not repeating this problem.

In order to handle increased demand as students renew their Opus photo ID cards, they have setup new temporary locations at Berri-UQAM, Côte-Vertu, Lionel-Groulx, Honoré-Beaugrand and Jean-Talon metro stations, as well as the Fairview bus terminus in Pointe-Claire.

But, as if they were trying to make this whole thing as complicated as possible, there’s one set of locations for renewing cards, and an entirely different set for replacing cards. And they all have different opening hours (and days).

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