Category Archives: Montreal

Midnight Poutine on indefinite hiatus, podcast finds new home

The Midnight Poutine podcast crew, from left: Theo Mathien, Amie Watson, Gabrielle LeFort, Gregory Bouchard

The Midnight Poutine podcast crew last summer. From left: Theo Mathien, Amie Watson, Gabrielle LeFort, Greg Bouchard

Midnight Poutine, the local culture/lifestyle/other stuff blog, has been shut down. But it’s coming back, someday. Hopefully.

The website stopped posting updates just before new year’s, and its homepage has been replaced by a page announcing a “new and improved” version launching “soon”.

The website, whose archives go back to September 2005, is owned by Toronto-based Fresh Daily, and is published by Tim Shore. Its sister site is the more popular Blogto, which continues running as normal. (A third Fresh Daily blog, Vancouver’s Beyond Robson, went dark in 2011.)

“We’re planning some big changes to the site — both in respect to the site design and content strategy — so we thought it would be best to put it on hiatus for a short time period,” Shore told me.

He wouldn’t elaborate on what those changes would be or what the focus of the new site would be. He also wouldn’t say when it’s coming back. “We’re not releasing either of these details to the public just yet,” he said. “Sorry.”

One thing that definitely won’t be back is the Midnight Poutine Weekend Playlist podcast, which passed the 300-episode mark in June. The last episode posted to Midnight Poutine’s website, No. 318, was dated Dec. 19, and featured the hosts saying goodbye and alerting listeners that they would be moving to a new site.

Greg Bouchard, who managed the podcast and acted as Midnight Poutine’s main editor, stepped down last month because he moved to Toronto for work. He insists there’s no animosity either way in his departure, but the podcast is being moved.

The new site is called Radio Cannon, and it’s owned by Bouchard. He describes it as a website devoted to helping people discover music through personal recommendations, and a complement to more automatic ways of recommending music used by sites like Rdio or Pandora.

“It was never the intention for the site to focus primarily on music,” Bouchard said of Midnight Poutine. “It was supposed to be a more balanced culture blog.”

But as a site that didn’t offer much (if any) money to contributors, it was a slave to what those people wished to contribute. More newsy elements of the site would come and go in waves, as new eager contributors came in and eventually got bored and stopped. In Bouchard’s case, his interest was mainly music, which meant the site had a strong music focus.

Bouchard wouldn’t get into much detail about his reasons for leaving, beyond the obvious one of having moved to Toronto. But he said he wanted to focus on music, and expand the podcast’s concept nationally, and Midnight Poutine did not seem to be the proper outlet for it.

Joining Bouchard at Radio Cannon are his podcast co-hosts Theo Mathien, Amie Watson and Emily Hill (Gabrielle LeFort, who was one of the podcast co-hosts last summer, left in September to take on a job with Evenko).

The Radio Cannon Montreal Podcast is basically identical to the Midnight Poutine one, right down to the “Hello Internet, salut cyberspace” introduction (though now enhanced with the sound of a cannon firing). Still about an hour a week of indie or underground music from bands that are playing at smaller venues in the city over the coming week, interspersed with some chatter about them (and details of their upcoming concerts) by the hosts.

Bouchard says he plans to start a similar one for Toronto in the next couple of weeks (he’s looking for a co-host) and eventually Vancouver as well. “As long as we can find the personnel, we’ll expand to other cities,” he said during the last Midnight Poutine podcast.

He notes that there’s a romanticized notion that Montreal’s music scene is more diverse or bigger than other cities, but at least in the case of Toronto “it’s just not true.”

He also wants to set up streaming music channels (some playlists are already up).

Will this turn into a business?

“It’s still a hobby, but we’d like to try to make a go at making it bigger,” Bouchard said. They’d be looking at getting sponsors, having audio ads incorporated into the podcasts, or finding other ways to generate revenue.

As for Midnight Poutine, its future is unclear. The rumour is that the relaunch would be more focused on food than music, but officially we don’t know anything. Will it be days, weeks, months? Who knows.

One thing is for sure: Without the podcast and its associated talent, it’s going to have to work much harder to build an audience. And to be successful, that work won’t come free.

UPDATE (March 13): Radio Cannon’s Toronto podcast has launched.

Montreal TV ratings: Global and City morning shows tied

Global Montreal morning show cast, from left: Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross

Global Montreal’s Morning News, with Richard Dagenais, Jessica Laventure and Camille Ross, hasn’t fallen to new competitor Breakfast Television. At least not yet.

The first ratings report after the launch of City’s local programs is out, and so we can finally say which of the two local English morning shows has won the first ratings battle.

As it turns out, neither. They’re tied. Though both of them are far behind CTV’s Toronto-based Canada AM, which has three times more viewers in Montreal than the other two shows combined.

I have some analysis of ratings, and some quotes from the various parties, in this story, which appears in Friday’s Gazette.

But let’s get into some detail.

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No Pants Subway Ride this Sunday

As we continue to wade through a cold spell in a cold month, the timing seems about right for the annual No Pants Subway Ride.

Started by the group Improv Everywhere in New York in 2002, the event has grown in popularity and spawned copycat events throughout the world, including Montreal. It involves people going into the subway system, taking off their pants, and then getting onto trains as if everything’s normal. The fun is in seeing people’s reactions (which requires staying in character throughout the event).

The 2014 Montreal event is Sunday at 1:30pm, starting at the Université de Montréal metro station. It coincides with the flagship event in New York on the same day.

The Montreal event has about 50 people saying they’re going as I write this. Considering the Facebook ratio of “Going” to “actually show up”, expect a small event unless this goes a lot more viral between now and then.

One of the tricks with this event is that it can easily be ruined by professional or unprofessional journalists. It’s hard to pretend that everything’s normal when you have a cameraman lugging a giant HD camera on a tripod. Improv Everywhere has since set up official guidelines for journalists that basically say don’t take video of the event, use our B-roll from last year instead. (The group shoots the event using hidden cameras.)

Five years ago, a Montreal event was canned (well, mostly) because of all the photographers and cameramen that showed up.

Hopefully that won’t repeat itself this time. If you want to bring a camera, make sure it’s well hidden, or just talk to people before and after the event.

Katie Brioux, the new Montreal stamp lady

Katie Brioux shows off one of her stamps

Katie Brioux shows off one of her stamps

When Katie Brioux emailed me out of the blue to tell me she had started making and selling rubber stamps of Montreal’s architectural heritage, one of the big questions I had in my head was “that’s cool, but what would people do with these?”

As paper becomes less important a part of our daily lives, these stamps seem to be going the way of the dodo as well. And unlike the “APPROVED” and “PAID” and other useful office stamps you get at Bureau en Gros, these ones seem destined to lose their novelty quickly.

Thankfully Brioux isn’t making this her career. She’s a graphic designer, one I met two years ago when I was asked to speak to some journalism students and she was doing cool graphics for The Concordian. (I also follow her father, Bill Brioux, who writes about television for a living.)

As she explains in this story, which appears in Saturday’s Gazette, she created a series of stamps as part of a Concordia Student Union orientation campaign. Inspired by the passports used at Expo 67, it was a way to get students to visit all of the venues and events, each of which would have a different stamp to mark their passports with.

Later, she brought those stamps to colleagues in the design industry, and they loved them, encouraging her to make more and sell them. And so a small business was born.

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ICI launches, giving Montreal its 10th local television station

Afromonde host Henry Ngaka on his virtual set, as seen through a monitor in ICI's studio.

Afromonde host Henry Ngaka on his virtual set, as seen through a monitor in ICI’s studio.

As radio stations that were supposed to launch in 2013 seek delays in whole or in part because of technical problems, an independent startup television station has managed to get on the air just under a year after getting a licence from the CRTC.

ICI began airing regular programming on Wednesday morning, launching on Videotron at the same time. (Apparently on Bell Fibe it’s still “coming soon”.) And so I’ve written about it in this story, which appears in Wednesday’s Gazette, and this story, from a more technical and business angle, for Cartt.ca.

As I’ve been watching the channel on and off on Wednesday, I notice it’s been lacking a bit of regularity right out of the gate. There were long awkward seconds of dead air, at one point a single ad or video aired three times in a row, leading to eight minutes between actual programming.

The station has very little advertising to start with, limited to some ads that look more like sponsorship messages, including one from Mike FM, whose parent company CHCR produces the Greek program. As a result, commercial breaks are only a few seconds long, enough for a station ID, and the hour is backfilled with music videos or other short-form programming.

For the quality of the actual programming, I’ll wait until they’ve had a chance to air more of it (and even then I can’t comment much on content because I can’t understand the language most of the time), but my first impression is that it’s uneven. Some of it looks like the kind of long-form talking-head shows that fit the stereotype of low-budget ethnic TV. The only thing that’s different is that it’s in a green-screen set and in high-definition, and has flashier computerized graphics (though not quite as well produced as the stuff you’ll find on the big national broadcasters). The shows are better when they take their cameras out in the field, which they do and want to do more (at least when the weather is nice).

It’s considered a soft launch, without a major marketing push behind it, and it’s being run by a group of people who, while they have experience in television production, don’t have much experience running television stations.

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Ethnic TV station ICI sets Dec. 11 launch date

Sam Norouzi in the control room at ICI's studios in Ahuntsic

Sam Norouzi in the control room at ICI’s studios in Ahuntsic

“I lose more and more hair,” Sam Norouzi says with a laugh, “and what’s left is getting more and more grey.”

The manager of CFHD-DT (ICI), Montreal’s newest television station, has had to deal with all sorts of technical headaches while trying to launch it. But with the last of the technical issues resolved, he has finally set an official launch date: Wednesday, Dec. 11.

It’s been almost a year since the CRTC granted Norouzi’s 4517466 Canada Inc. a licence to operate a new multilingual ethnic television station as part of a three-way deal that saw CJNT switch hands from Channel Zero to Rogers and become an English-language City station.

As part of that deal, ICI will receive $1.067 million from Rogers for programming, in addition to free content from Rogers’s OMNI network. It also gets a loan of up to $1 million from Channel Zero, plus five years of free master control services. All this for simply taking over CJNT’s ethnic programming obligations and clearing the way for a City station in Montreal.

ICI had hoped to launch by late spring or early summer, but a series of unforeseen problems caused delays. Like when his new antenna was delivered and parts of it were shattered in a million pieces. Or when, after finally getting a repaired antenna installed, it caused interference with a Sûreté du Québec antenna on the same tower (moving the SQ antenna up a bit solved that, but that took a long time because of all the coordination work involved).

And, of course, there was the legal threat from the CBC, which wants to use the “ICI” brand for itself. That case is still ongoing.

In August, the station began transmitting a test signal. It was then pulled off the air when the SQ interference problem came up. Last week, it returned, repeating an Italian-language program about Montreal’s Italian Week. The station is still officially testing until Dec. 9.

ICI green-screen studio with new HD cameras.

ICI green-screen studio with new HD cameras.

When the station does launch on Dec. 11, it will meet its requirement of 14 hours of original local programming a week, though Norouzi said that some of its producers are still waiting for some acquired programming.

ICI is run as a producers’ cooperative. So the producers who work in various languages will buy airtime and produce or acquire their own programming and sell their own ads with it. Norouzi’s production company Mi-Cam Communications has been put at their disposal to help with the technical production aspects.

ICI has a small green-screen studio at the Mi-Cam offices on Christophe-Colomb Ave. in Ahuntsic, though Norouzi said he wanted as much programming as possible to be shot in the field. No more poor-quality interview shows people are used to seeing on previous incarnations of Montreal’s ethnic television station.

Shows ready to go include a Portuguese soap opera Norouzi says looks very good, as well as a cooking show and other programming from OMNI. ICI will, at least at first, carry OMNI News programs in Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi about 2-3 days a week. But overall the amount of OMNI programming on the station is very small, Norouzi said.

Carriage: Norouzi said ICI will be carried on both Videotron cable and Bell Fibe when it launches. (Because ICI is a local station, its carriage is required by local cable companies, and that carriage comes without a fee.) He said he’s in talks with others (notably Bell satellite TV) for additional coverage.

CRTC says yes to Bell English community TV in Montreal

Subscribers to Bell Fibe TV will soon have access to English-language community television programming in Montreal.

On Friday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved an amendment to Bell’s broadcasting distribution licence allowing it to spend 2% of its gross revenues on each of a French and English community TV service in most cities of southern Quebec and Ontario.

CRTC policy requires that large cable companies spend 5% of their gross revenues on Canadian content, usually through contributions to funds like the Canadian Media Fund. But it also allows these companies to spend up to 2 of that 5% on a community television service. And recently it has allowed distributors to spend another 2% on a second community television service in the minority official language, leaving just 1% for other Canadian content contributions.

Where Bell’s community TV service differs from existing ones is that it is being made available exclusively on Bell’s video-on-demand service. There’s no linear channel to tune to. The advantage is that nobody has to worry about filling a 24/7 schedule, the programming can be of any length, and people can get the shows they want whenever they want. The disadvantage is that it’s harder to discover the content, and it’s harder to broadcast live content (like junior hockey games).

Bell Local has so far launched in English in Toronto and in French in Montreal. With this new licence amendment, an English service in Montreal will be in the works. Louis Douville, station manager for CTV Montreal and Bell’s point person for the Bell Local project here, tells me that they will now finalize the budget and start hiring staff. “I expect we should start delivering some programs early in the new year,” he said.

Videotron, the main distributor in Quebec, has also applied to the CRTC for an English community channel. Unlike Bell’s, Videotron’s would be a linear channel with 24/7 programming.

2013 Montreal election night coverage plans: TV prime time stays untouched

Graphics that will be used on Global Montreal's News Final election special.

Graphics that will be used on Global Montreal’s News Final election results special.

When the polls close at 8pm on Sunday, Montrealers will be turning to their televisions to watch the results come in. And many will be disappointed.

Though there are municipal elections happening throughout Quebec, and Montreal’s election in particular has been getting a lot of attention, none of the broadcast television stations in Montreal is carrying election coverage before 10pm. Most are keeping the lucrative Sunday primetime schedule as is, and holding live election coverage until the late evening.

For the all-news networks, meanwhile, it will depend on your preferred language (just like with every other story, Montreal/Quebec news is national news in French but not in English). RDI and LCN will have election coverage starting at 6:30pm (presumably covering cities across Quebec, not just Montreal), while the three English networks have no election specials planned.

Here’s what’s going on for each network:

Local television

  • Radio-Canada: Tout le monde en parle until 10:18pm, followed by Le Téléjournal (presumably leading with election news), then simulcasting RDI’s election special starting at 10:42pm going until about 1am
  • TVA: Regular Sunday night primetime (a special Le Banquier with Céline Dion, On connaît la chanson), followed by TVA Nouvelles at 10pm, then a movie at 11pm
  • V: No live election coverage (the network only airs newscasts in the morning now)
  • Télé-Québec: No live election coverage (Télé-Québec stopped having live news long ago)
  • MAtv Montréal: No live election coverage
  • CBC Television: Local news as usual at 11pm, focused on election results, hosted by Thomas Daigle. Prime time (Battle of the Blades) is untouched. Results throughout the night online.
  • CTV Montreal: Regular late local news at 11:30pm, focused on election results. Five field reporters, plus political panel. Hosted by Paul Karwatsky and Caroline Van Vlaardingen. Prime time remains untouched, but results are promised during “extended news breaks”, with an on-screen crawl when the winner is named, says news director Jed Kahane. Results throughout the night online.
  • Global Montreal: News Final is extended from half an hour to an hour, starting at 11pm. It will also be streamed online. Jamie Orchard hosts, with live reports from Tim Sargeant (Pointe-Claire), Elysia Bryan-Baynes (Beaconsfield) and Billy Shields (CDN/NDG). “We’re also working with the best election graphics in the industry,” says station manager Karen Macdonald. Former city councillor Karim Boulos will be in studio as an analyst. Online, election results and a live blog will be posted as of 8pm. Like its Focus Montreal mini debates, Global plans to focus on demerged on-island suburbs in results and analysis.
  • City Montreal: No live election coverage

Cable TV

On cable, we can expect extensive coverage from the French networks, but not so much from the English networks:

  • RDI: Election special from 6:30pm to at least 1am. Hosted by Patrice Roy, with Véronique Darveau providing results and Carole Aoun following social media. Reporters are promised at the four Montreal party HQs, plus Laval, the South Shore, Quebec City, Gatineau, Trois-Rivières, Estrie, Saguenay, Abitibi and eastern Quebec. Analysts include former mayor Jean Doré, former Quebec municipal affairs minister Rémy Trudel, former Baie St-Paul mayor Jacinthe Simard, and former CBC Montreal anchor Dennis Trudeau.
  • LCN: Election special from 6:30pm to at least midnight. Hosted by Pierre Bruneau, with Jean Lapierre and Mario Dumont as analysts.
  • CBC News Network: Nothing special scheduled. It will run The National from 9 to 10pm as usual, presumably with news from Quebec. Otherwise the primetime schedule is documentaries on Julian Assange, Princess Diana and a chimpanzee.
  • CTV News Channel: No election special, but CTV News Weekend with Scott Laurie is expected to check in regularly with Montreal reporters covering the election here from 6 to 10pm. After 10, it’s the usual plan of simulcasting CTV National News for the first half of each hour.
  • Sun News Network: Schedule lists the usual repeats of opinion shows from earlier in the week. There normally isn’t live programming after 5pm on Sundays.

Radio

On radio, things are much better, with news talk stations carrying live election coverage after polls close:

  • CBC Radio One (88.5 FM): Live coverage as of 8pm, hosted by Mike Finnerty, with analyst Bernard St-Laurent and results from Joanne Bayly.
  • CJAD 800: Live coverage as of 8pm (end time will depend on results, but probably at least midnight), hosted by Aaron Rand and Tommy Schnurmacher. “We will have a full complement of newscasters and reporters scattered on and off-island. We will also be providing a live feed of the victory speech of the next Mayor of Montreal,” says program director Chris Bury.
  • ICI Radio-Canada Première (95.1 FM): Live coverage from 8pm to 11pm, hosted by Michel C. Auger, with journalists Frank Desoer, Jean-Sébastien Bernatchez, Benoit Chapdelaine, Francine Plourde, Dominic Brassard and Alexandre Touchette. Bernard Généreux, president of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities and mayor of Saint-Prime, will be an analyst. Coverage is promised from all regions of Quebec with Radio-Canada staff. Quebec City and Gatineau will have their own local election night specials from 8pm to 10pm, the rest of the network will carry Auger’s show.
  • CHMP 98.5 FM: Election special from 8pm to midnight hosted by Paul Houde. Panelists Marie Grégoire, Liza Frulla and Jean Fortier, guests Pierre Curzi, Jean Lapierre and Mario Dumont, and journalists Philippe Bonneville, Chantal Leblond, Catherine Brisson, Any Guillemette, Julie-Christine Gagnon and Geneviève Ruel. Other Cogeco Nouvelles stations will also have election specials from 8pm to midnight:
    • Jean-François Gilbert in Quebec City at 93.3 FM (starts at 8:30pm)
    • Martin Pelletier in Sherbooke at 107.7 FM (starts at 8:30pm)
    • Roch Cholette and Louis-Philippe Brûlé in Gatineau at 104.7 FM (8pm to 11:30pm or midnight, depending on results)
    • Claude Boucher in Trois-Rivières at 106.9 FM, which will also be presented on local community channels Cogeco TV and MaTV.

Online

And of course there’s online, where almost everyone is promising extensive coverage and live results.

I’ll be spending election night on the Gazette news desk, which has all reporting, editing and managing hands on deck, and will be feeding its website throughout the night.

Live blogs:

And, of course, you can just go to see the election results yourself.

The debates

The four main candidates for mayor were in what seemed like different debates every day, as just about everyone organize their own. If you missed them, here they are again (links to videos where I could find them):

In addition, Global Montreal held four short debates among mayoral candidates for demerged suburbs on the island on its weekly Focus Montreal show: Montreal West and Pointe-Claire on Oct. 19, and Beaconsfield and Hampstead on Oct. 26, and a debate among candidates for mayor of the Côte des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grâce borough on Nov. 2.

They’re all good and bad, but Montrealers have choices for mayor

It’s a day before Voting Day, and I still don’t know who to vote for.

I’ve watched the debates, I’ve seen the posters, I know the main talking points of each of the parties’ platforms, but nothing has come out and grabbed me yet. It’s not so much because I think all the choices are bad. It’s that I like each of the four main candidates for mayor, for different reasons, and I’m also keenly aware of their faults.

Denis Coderre

There’s Denis Coderre, the front-runner (though we haven’t seen a poll in two weeks, so who knows, really). He’s a veteran politician who has been criticized for being more about shaking hands than building policy, and for adopting so many former Union Montreal councillors that he’s seen as its de facto successor.

Those are valid concerns. But Coderre hasn’t given any reason to doubt his personal integrity (then again, neither did Gérald Tremblay). Coderre’s point about avoiding guilt by association is a valid one. He was in the Liberal party, but had no connection to the sponsorship scandal. And while he has many people from Union Montreal on his team, it’s because those people are well respected by their local constituents, and I suspect most of them will be re-elected.

I like Coderre. It’s hard to fake the kind of sincerity he has when he meets people. Yes, he’s a politician, but he doesn’t think that alone should condemn him.

On the flip side, there’s his ego. Even while he was just a Liberal MP, he seemed to have an addiction to the media. He’d rarely turn down an interview or media appearance, and it always seemed more about wanting to see his face on TV than wanting to put forth an idea. His party is literally just his name, as if “Denis Coderre” is the only thing it stands for.

I don’t know if his populist, “proche des gens” attitude is fake. I suspect he really believes it, either way.

But my big question is about loyalty. If he finds out about something embarrassing in his administration (whether it’s illegal or not), will he come right out and expose it, or will he do like almost any other politician, and weigh his options first?

In short, where does Coderre’s loyalty lie: In the city, or in his party and his political career? The party carries his name, so for better or for worse he’s married to it.

Marcel Côté

There’s Marcel Côté, the administrator whose poor on-stage presence and ties with Vision Montreal (and Louise Harel in particular) have left him in last place in the latest poll (though that poll is more than two weeks old).

Côté should be the ideal candidate. He’s not a politician. He’s an administrator. He’s not the leader of a party, he’s the leader of a coalition made up of Vision Montreal and some Union Montreal councillors like Marvin Rotrand and Bernard Blanchet and even some former Projet Montréal councillors like Carl Boileau and Piper Huggins. His party has united former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Louise Harel with former Liberal MNA Russell Copeman.

If Montrealers are interested in someone who cares more about getting things working again than being in the political spotlight, Côté will be our next mayor.

But here’s the secret that nobody wants to admit: Style is, in fact, more important than substance to voters. Côté has failed miserably to get his message across. And that’s why he’s doing so poorly, and why his party members are trying to campaign around him now.

And style is important. A mayor isn’t just an administrator. He’s not a guy who sits at a desk all day making decisions. A mayor is a leader, who has to rally the troops, whether it’s the city council, or municipal employees, or the population at large, to make things work. Someone who has to convince other levels of government to go along with ideas. If Côté can’t communicate with us effectively during an election campaign, how can we believe he’ll communicate with anyone well when he’s in office?

I’d love for Côté to be part of the next city administration, in a senior management position. But as mayor, I’m left with the impression that he’d be a lame duck before he even took the oath of office.

Richard Bergeron

There’s Richard Bergeron, the guy who’s perceived as — and let’s not sugar-coat this — the crazy 9/11-truther leader of the party that hates cars and is obsessed with wasting our money on a tramway.

If there’s any election that Projet Montréal should have a chance at actually winning, it’s this one. The alternatives are unappealing, and Bergeron is the only candidate for mayor with actual city council experience (with the advantage that he’s not tainted by the corruption scandal). It’s the only party that hasn’t had a candidate withdraw or be forced out due to a scandal. The party is currently running two boroughs, and despite complaints about reversing the flow of one-way streets or installing parking meters, they actually haven’t been doing that bad a job.

But Projet’s popularity has an upper limit. There are those in the city who are attached to their cars, want highways to be bigger, not smaller, and want downtown turned into a giant parking lot. These people are never going to vote for Projet. And there are those that are scared of what an organization based on ideology will do if handed the keys to the city.

Projet Montréal is the only party with a serious, detailed platform, while the other parties are criticized for having plans that are either obvious or vague. If actual promises were what mattered, the party would be coasting to victory.

But they’re not. Because specific promises don’t make for good politics. People can dislike specific promises. They can’t dislike general, vague ones like making government more transparent or saving money by ending corruption.

Take the tramway. Many people have oversimplified Projet’s platform as being obsessed with this project, that has been highly criticized. It’s more expensive and less flexible than buses, and it’s slower than the metro. My main problem with it, and with a similar project proposed by the Tremblay administration, is inflexibility. Both projects included a route going through Old Montreal, from Peel to Berri, along the route of the 715 bus. But when that bus was put into service (as the 515), it turned out to be way less popular than expected. The buses went around empty, and service was eventually reduced and the route changed. That’s much easier to do with a bus line than with a tramway.

On the flip side, no one can argue that service along roads like Côte des Neiges and Parc Ave. would be unpopular. And while everyone criticizes the tramway, nobody running for office seems to be terribly opposed to the much more expensive metro extension project whose usefulness is far from proven.

Projet could also point to its administration of the Plateau borough as reasons to vote it into office. After the 2009 election, it became clear that this borough would be a testing ground for the party’s ideas, and that people across the city would judge them based on their performance here.

The borough has changed. One-way streets have been reversed as a traffic-calming measure, annoying drivers and (law-abiding) cyclists alike. Areas have been greened, parks have been improved, more bike lanes have been painted, the budget has been brought under control, and the administration is more transparent than its neighbours. Some decisions have hardly been unanimous, but you can’t fault them for lack of creativity.

But Projet’s record in the Plateau isn’t all good. Businesses have complained that measures put forth by the administration have hurt them. Mayor Luc Ferrandez has been criticized as being stubborn, unwilling to consult with people before making a major decision that affects them.

The problem with a party based on ideology is that ideologies don’t change.

Ferrandez, of course, disagrees, as does his party. And I think his critics have exaggerated their positions. But perception is what gets to voters. And the perception is that Projet Montréal is on the radical left, when there are plenty of other alternatives that are more moderate left.

Voters might want to give Projet Montréal another mandate in the Plateau and/or other boroughs before trusting the party with the big chair at city hall.

Mélanie Joly

There’s Mélanie Joly. She’s new, she’s hip, she’s different. She has no experience in politics and she thinks that’s great.

Joly’s candidacy was dismissed at first as non-serious. She wasn’t invited to the first English debate (which preceded the first poll) because it was thought she wouldn’t have a chance. Then the polls showed her support rising rapidly, and everyone started to take notice.

Joly wouldn’t be the first candidate to jump into politics as a fresh face and go right to the top. She’s been compared to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, whose political career also began with a mayoral campaign that relied a lot on social media, or Régis Labeaume, who became Quebec City mayor in 2007 on a wave of popularity.

But other than being pretty and new, what is Joly? Her platform is short on many details, though it includes some ideas like a bus rapid transit network, open data and amnesty for construction companies that clean up and pay back. Would she even know what to do in office when she gets there?

And there’s her team. (Can you name five of its members? Three? Even one?) When the Bibiane Bovet scandal became all she could talk about, she finally admitted that Bovet’s candidacy was last-minute and she didn’t have time to vet her properly about her bizarre economic views. This hardly inspires confidence, and points toward Joly being more of a politics-as-usual person than a hopey-changey candidate.

But as embarrassing as the Bovet situation was for Joly, this is hardly the first time a party with a sudden surge in popularity has been left with untested candidates. Regime change has been rife with examples, from the Progressive Conservatives in 1984 to the Reformers and Bloc in 1993 to Ruth Ellen Brosseau and the Quebec NDP MPs in 2011. (And Brosseau hasn’t been nearly the kind of embarrassment in office as some had suspected.)

The surge in popularity for Joly (I’ve heard too many anecdotal stories about surprisingly large support for her to believe it’s more than a coincidence) should be both a message that Montrealers want change from the politics of old, and a warning that image is more important than substance in local politics. Joly is basically a “none-of-the-above” candidate, and many would rather take a gamble on a blank slate that could be filled with anything than with parties whose plans are easy to understand.

Michel Brûlé and the independents

Michel Brûlé’s campaign has gotten some coverage, but he isn’t being treated seriously, and with good reason. His “100% français” program based on hatred of anglophones (he refuses to even give interviews in English) is a joke.

The remaining candidates are all independents, and we know nothing about them. That’s unfortunate. I would have liked to see more attention given to each of them, even if it was only a story or two in each media. Most are running on a platform focused on corruption, and while I don’t doubt their sincerity, I can’t imagine administrations so weak could ever take on organized or even disorganized white-collar crime.

Where does my X go?

Having written all that, I still don’t know where my vote for mayor is going to go. I may be making my final decision while standing at the ballot box, pencil in hand. But I know I’ll be voting.

And you should too. For all the criticism against these candidates for mayor, I wouldn’t pack up and leave if any of them won. I could live with an administration by any of them. (And with all the borough-level parties running, it’s unlikely any of them will have a majority on council anyway.)

The only thing that’s clear is that there are choices, and that nothing is predetermined. If you want a strong populist leader who will shake your hand and sit in back rooms with politicians in Quebec and Ottawa, vote for Coderre. If you want an administrator who’s going to shake up the civil service and run it like a business, vote for Côté. If you want a grand vision, a transportation revolution and a leader who isn’t afraid to make decisions that are unpopular that he believes are right, vote for Bergeron. If you want someone young who will use high-tech ideas to try to make Montreal cool, vote for Joly. And if you want to drive anglos into the St. Lawrence, vote for Brûlé.

But vote. I know it’s cliché, but this is your chance to make a difference, and you can’t complain if you sit at home and abdicate that chance.

Polls are open from 10am to 8pm Sunday.

CBC’s new local TV shows debut Saturday; Sonali Karnick to host Our Montreal

Sonali Karnick will host Our Montreal, airing weekends on CBC television.

Sonali Karnick will host Our Montreal, airing weekends on CBC television.

During its last CRTC licence renewal hearing, the CBC committed to increasing the amount of local programming it airs on its stations in large markets, including Montreal, bumping it up to 14 hours a week, consistent with private stations in large markets.

But rather than just adding more newscasts, CBC also committed that for these markets, at least one hour a week would be non-news local programming. Even after their licence renewal was approved, the CBC couldn’t say what form that programming would take. And even after the new licence came into effect on Sept. 1, there was no announcement, just confirmation that the new program would be an hour a week repeated twice over the weekend.

So without a new show ready, CBC Montreal has met its requirements for non-news local programming since Sept. 1 by re-airing the Absolutely Quebec series produced this summer.

Finally, today, even though the new show has been on the electronic schedule for a week and a half, we’re just now getting information from the public broadcaster about what these new shows are.

Our Montreal

Here’s what we know so far. The new show is called “Our Montreal” (There’s also “Our Toronto”, “Our Ottawa”, “Our Calgary”, “Our Edmonton” and “Our Vancouver”, because local programming is still very much decided in Toronto). It’s an hour-long current affairs show, hosted by Sonali Karnick.

What will be on the show? According to the press release, it’s “the stories that made headlines and had everyone talking … weekly highlights plus a look behind the headlines on the issues everyone’s been buzzing about … the week’s top news stories plus timely features on books, health, one-on-one interviews and an interactive web column.”

The shows debut Saturday at 6am in every market — what kind of audience they can expect to get with this horrible time slot I have no idea* — and repeats at 11am on Sundays and 11am on Mondays.

Karnick will continue to host All in a Weekend on CBC Radio One in Quebec. Which means that her radio show and her television show will be on the air at the same time. Which also doesn’t make much sense.

I’ll be speaking with Karnick tomorrow for a story for The Gazette. I’ll ask her and others at the CBC about what they want the show to be, and which show she wants fans to listen to on Saturday mornings. If you have any other questions, let me know.

*Okay, I have some idea. Ratings for that timeslot show 1,700 viewers on average in Montreal last fall and spring. But will early risers for kids shows translate well into early risers (or insomniacs) among local current affairs watchers? We’ll see.

UPDATE: The story is here and in Friday’s paper. It goes into a bit of Karnick’s background, including her 2011 departure for Toronto and her quick return to Montreal. It also goes a bit into the timeslot. I never did get a very good answer, either from the local office or CBC nationally, about why 6am Saturday was chosen. Everyone reminded me that the show airs three times and is available online, and that some people are up that early on Saturday.

But while airing local shows at 6am is not unusual, it’s odd for that airing to be the premiere (unless it’s a three-hour morning show). Global Montreal used to repeat its evening newscasts at 6am the next day to meet CRTC local programming requirements. Some other stations elsewhere in Canada still do this, and even CTV Montreal has done it on occasion when pre-empted or cancelled newscasts have pushed it below its weekly minimum.

Maybe it’s just semantics here, and having a show air at 6am Saturday and repeat at 11am Sunday is no different from premiering at 11am and repeating at 6am.

But that 6am Saturday time slot still seems odd, especially because the Absolutely Quebec reruns were done at a much more reasonable hour of 11am or noon on Saturdays.

The press release

CBC Montreal launches “Our Montreal”: A weekly review program

Starting Saturday, October 12th on CBC Television

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 — Join CBC Television this Saturday, October 12 for Our Montreal an hour-long current affairs review program that looks at the best of Montreal.

“Each week, Our Montreal will bring you the stories that made headlines and had everyone talking,” says Shelagh Kinch, Managing Director, CBC Quebec “At CBC Montreal, we’re dedicated to sharing local stories and issues that matter to Montrealers. This program gives weekly highlights plus a look behind the headlines on the issues everyone’s been buzzing about.”

Hosted by Sonali Karnick, Our Montreal includes the week’s top news stories plus timely features on books, health, one-on-one interviews and an interactive web column.

“Montrealers love to boast about their city and what secret gems they’ve uncovered. And I’m no exception,” says Karnick. “It’s really a privilege to host this new program and talk about the people and places that make our city one of the best places to live.”

In addition to Our Montreal, Sonali Karnick will continue as host of All in a Weekend, Saturday and Sunday mornings, 6-9am (88.5/104.7FM). Our Montreal airs on Saturdays at 6 am on CBC Television with encore presentations on Sundays and Mondays at 11am.

The other shows

The CBC’s commitment applies to its stations in large “metropolitan” markets, which are defined as those in which the population “with knowledge of the official language of the station” is one million or more. The six largest metro areas in Canada each have a CBC station meeting this criteria. (The next largest is Quebec City, whose population is mainly French, and then Winnipeg, with a population of 730,018.)

  • Our Toronto, hosted by Marivel Taruc
  • Our Ottawa, hosted by Lucy van Oldenbarneveld
  • Our Calgary, hosted by Holly Preston
  • Our Edmonton, hosted by Adrienne Lamb
  • Our Vancouver, hosted by Gloria Macarenko

Numbers — not politics — is why the metro should extend toward the east first

When the PQ government made a big-splash announcement that the blue line of Montreal’s metro would be extended toward the east, plenty of anglophones took the opportunity to once again complain that there’s no extension toward the west.

To them, the reason was simple: politics. The PQ is more interested in francophone voters in St-Léonard than anglophones in the West Island, they argue, and so the West Island will never get improved transit service as long as the PQ is in power.

The problem is that the logic doesn’t hold up.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of politics involved in high-cost consumer-oriented projects like this. And there’s plenty of politics involved in this particular announcement. But let’s set a few things straight before we come to incorrect conclusions:

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Jeanette Kelly looks at Quebec textiles in half-hour documentary airing tonight

CBC’s Absolutely Quebec series apparently isn’t just a summer thing. As the documentaries that premiered this summer get a second airing on weekends while the broadcaster prepares a new local current affairs show set to begin next month, a new half-hour documentary has been added, and it’s airing tonight.

Looming Large is described by the CBC as “a look at innovations in Quebec textiles at the crossroads of business, art and technology” and a “unique documentary about the future of textile in Quebec.” You can see a 30-second promo for the show here.

It’s hosted by Jeanette Kelly, who hosts CBC Radio’s 5 à 6 on Saturdays and was also host of An Evening with Janina Fialkowska, the first of this year’s Absolutely Quebec specials. It’s directed by Carrie Haber, who produces the Absolutely Quebec series and told me this week she’s starting work on discovering next year’s batch.

The Looming Large documentary airs Thursday at 6:30pm, right after the evening news, on CBC Montreal. It repeats Sunday at 11:30pm

Review: Only in Montreal is an entertaining window into the city’s life (but it needs a better timeslot)

Only in Montreal's cast: Matt Silver, Dimitrios Koussioulas and Tamy Emma Pepin

Only in Montreal’s cast: Matt Silver, Dimitrios Koussioulas and Tamy Emma Pepin

We’re seven episodes into the 30-episode first season of Only in Montreal, the weekly local lifestyle series that airs on City TV. That’s about a quarter of the way through, so it’s time for a review.

When it was first announced in April, I was surprised. This show wasn’t part of Rogers’s promise to the CRTC when it purchased CJNT from Channel Zero. Unlike its daily morning show and weekly sports show, this wasn’t part of the licence obligations, and it wasn’t necessary to meet a local programming quota.

As it turns out, the CRTC is a big part of the reason why this series was ordered, because of two recent decisions that set quotas on Rogers Media.

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ELAN hosting public meeting about Videotron community channel MYtv

As the CRTC considers whether it should allow Videotron to launch a second community television channel for Montreal, this one in English, the group that has been pushing for exactly that has called a public meeting to get input from that community.

ELAN, the English-Language Arts Network, is meeting Monday, Sept. 23, at SHIFT Space, 1190 St. Antoine St. W., at 7pm. People seeking to attend are asked to RSVP to admin@quebec-elan.org.

I spoke with Guy Rodgers, ELAN’s executive director. He told me that the group had “started to think about this in 2010 when the CRTC was revising its community TV policy.” The CRTC suggested they speak with Videotron, which they hadn’t. Rodgers said that, at the time, the cable provider was “totally uninterested in anything to deal with the English community.”

But in the past few years, Rodgers believes the commission has been more concerned with things like official languages equality. This makes sense considering recent decisions. The only two new services to get mandatory carriage were one that offered a French version of an existing English service, and one devoted to representing francophones outside Quebec. Other decisions made during acquisitions, such as Rogers’s acquisition of CJNT and Bell’s acquisition of Astral, also included commitments to support the English minority in Quebec. During these recent proceedings, ELAN and other groups like the Quebec English-language Production Council have been more present.

This year, with Videotron’s licence coming up for renewal, ELAN decided to give another push to the English channel idea. “We thought we had pretty compelling arguments,” he said.

At Videotron, there was a complete turnaround on the issue. A new team, under the direction of Isabelle Dessureault, was “completely receptive to the idea” of producing more for the English community when they met this spring. (Whether that has anything to do with Bell’s proposed English community programming for Montreal is a good question.)

Rodgers said they proposed a separate channel in English, rather than something like having one or two programs on MAtv be in English. After thinking about it for a bit, Videotron’s team came back and said this was a good idea and one they wanted to move on quickly.

The CRTC is still accepting comments on Videotron’s proposed channel until Oct. 7. But ELAN wants to get the community involved from the ground level. The MYtv channel would have 21 hours of original local programming a week, of which 11 hours would be “access” programming coming from the community. ELAN wants to make sure that there’s enough demand for that kind of access programming, and share that with the CRTC.

Rodgers said representatives of MAtv will be present to present the plan and answer questions, and then those present can discuss it.

“We really want community involvement in this process,” he said.

For an idea of what kind of service is being proposed, you can see this promotional video for MAtv’s fall season which was just published:

Picture an English version with many of the same themes: public affairs, local culture, humour, young up-and-coming personalities, lots of talk shows.

UPDATE (Oct. 2): ELAN has an opinion piece in The Gazette arguing in favour of the MYtv project.

Axe falls at Bell Media: TSN 690’s Ted Bird, CJAD’s Ric Peterson, Chantal Desjardins and Claude Beaulieu fired

Ric Peterson, who hosted early afternoons, is out at CJAD.

Ric Peterson, who hosted early afternoons, is out at CJAD.

A month after Chris Bury was named program director at TSN 690, in addition to the same role at CJAD, some veteran broadcasters are losing their jobs: Morning man Ted Bird has been fired from TSN 690, and mid-day hosts Ric Peterson and Suzanne Desautels have had their faces scrubbed from CJAD’s website.

My Gazette story on the changes is posted here.

“I wasn’t given a reason, only told that my services were being terminated. That’s all I can say for the record,” Bird writes me in an email. His Twitter account has disappeared as well, but he says he’ll be back “after the trolls finish their feeding frenzy.”

Desautels, who four years ago was let go from the Q92 morning show, sparking outrage from listeners, addressed her job change indirectly on Twitter Wednesday morning:

She then clarified:

She told me she will continue doing the weather for Andrew Carter’s morning show, and is taking over the Saturday morning travel show as well. That move means Sharman Yarnell is off that show and the station. “And this couldn’t have happened at a better time for me,” she tells me. “I am pursuing my travel writing career, as well as my new PR company A.C.E. (Arts, Culture & Entertainment) with Tracey Hill. This does not mean I won’t be back on radio, though!”

After a day of radio silence, Peterson posted this to his Facebook page on Thursday morning:

After more than 30 years of broadcasting in Montreal I thought my first day off the air would be one without much talking on my part. I was mistaken. I am very touched by the many phone calls and moved by the texts, emails, comments as well as the posts to my social pages. Your kind words are very much appreciated. It pleases me to know how many lives I’ve touched, thank you for listening. Some wise soul once said, “man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward” I am looking forward to sharing my future adventures with you all.

Barry Morgan, who’s filling in for everyone these days, it seems, hosted the noon to 3pm show Wednesday on CJAD.

The cuts and changes also mean CJAD sports reporter Chantal Desjardins is out of a job. She made light of the news on Twitter and Facebook:

Bell confirmed with me this afternoon that CJAD reporter Claude Beaulieu has also been terminated. Spokesperson Olivier Racette wouldn’t confirm how many jobs have been cut.

I’ve also heard from multiple sources that assistant CJAD program director Teri-Lee Walters is gone. But because she’s not on-air staff, Bell did not confirm that name. An email sent to her at work prompted an automated response saying it had been forwarded to Bury.

Bury wasn’t allowed to comment directly about the changes. All comment from the employer was filtered through Racette. Here is what he wrote to me in an email:

We are consolidating our Montréal-based radio stations in one location at 1717 René-Lévesque [E.] this week to improve operating efficiencies. We have made reductions in a number of positions that would have become redundant as a result of the move.

Additionally, the move provided the opportunity to make some programming changes, which will see the departure of TSN Radio 690’s Ted Bird and CJAD 800’s Ric Peterson, Sharman Yarnell, Chantal Desjardins and Claude Beaulieu. They are all highly-respected figures in Montreal radio and we thank them for their contribution to the success of both TSN Radio 690 and CJAD.

TSN’s move from its Greene Ave. office to the one at the corner of Papineau Ave. housing the former Astral stations took place Thursday morning at 10am. Shaun Starr and Elliott Price were the last people to broadcast from 1310 Greene.

UPDATE (Sept. 12): Word has come out that TSN has cancelled The Franchise, the weekend morning show. Host Nick Murdocco says the show will continue, broadcast 8-10am weekends on MontrealHockeyTalk.com.

His co-host, Gary Whittaker, had this to say on Facebook:

Had a great 4 year run at TSN Radio working the weekend mornings, which has now officially come to an end. I want to thank everyone for their support since we started at CJLO. Definitely not over for The Franchise…sometimes you need to be pushed out of the nest in order to fly, and this is exactly what we plan on doing…taking off to bigger and better opportunities for us to make a full time career out of it.

Racette confirmed the news, saying “the TSN Radio 690 [weekend] morning show is headed in a new direction. Details will be announced at a later date.”

UPDATE (Sept. 30): Producer Sheldon Fried is also reportedly among those let go.