Friday 8 April 2011

Montreal Gazette staffers to vote on new contract

It has been nearly three years since the Montreal Newspaper Guild, the union representing Gazette newspaper employees, have been without a contract. Union members in the editorial and reader sales and services departments voted overwhelmingly against a management offer in January 2009. At the time the paper was owned by CanWest Global.

There was a strike mandate in the books, but Gazette staffers were wise not to go that route. All they had to do was look at what happened with Le Journal de Montréal. Journalists voted to strike and Quebecor Media CEO Pierre-Karl Péladeau called their bluff and locked them all out. He proceeded to operate the paper by having editors do the writing along with writers from the QMI Agency he created just a few months before the lockout. When the dust finally settled two years later, 61 people got to keep their jobs, out of 253 who had been locked out. The rest got severance packages.

I do not know what deal is on the table, but The Gazette's new owners, Postmedia, headed by Paul Godfrey (pictured), will make them an offer this Sunday, which will be voted upon. I bet it is accepted. For the editorial team at The Gazette has no taste to collect strike pay.

Despite media storm, Larry Smith remains a top-notch star candidate

I have known Larry Smith for a number of years and could not help being impressed with his charisma and great oratory skills. As commissioner of the Canadian Football League, president of the Montreal Alouettes and publisher of the Montreal Gazette, he always seemed to have the right words to say. It was therefore no surprise to see him handpicked by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to become one of his star candidates in this election, entering the political field a few months ago as an appointed Senator.

At first glance, Smith looked like a viable threat to incumbent Lac St. Louis Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia in this election. However, he has been under fire for some comments he made on the campaign trail. First he said French does not need protection in Quebec. More recently, he commented that it is "normal" that more of Ottawa's money should go to Conservative ridings, as opposed to those held by opposition MPs.

I believe the media have been unfairly critical of him. Was he really wrong with either of his comments? I suppose it depends upon whom you speak with. Should he have actually said these things on the record? Perhaps not. In any case, none of this should scare away voters in Lac St. Louis. If he is elected, he will be far more high profile than Scarpaleggia and as a certain high profile cabinet minister the riding will indeed be the beneficiary.

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Blogging for The Suburban

While I have been blogging for a number of years now via my own personal site, I am ecstatic that The Suburban has introduced this as a special feature on our revamped website. This will give me an opportunity to reach readers directly 24/7. We all know that the internet plays a huge role in the future of journalism. In the case of The Suburban, I know that most people still prefer to read their hard copy each Wednesday. However, the introduction of The Suburban website a few years ago opened the door to an entirely new group of readers from outside of our traditional circulation area on and near the island of Montreal, across Canada and truly around the world. They read us on the web and on their ipads or iphones. Now we are able to expand this format.

I hope to use my Suburban blog to expand upon items in my two Wednesday columns while delivering breaking news whenever that might occur. Thanks to this new feature, you do not have to wait for Wednesdays anymore to get the latest scoop.

I welcome your feedback at

In this week's column, for instance, I tell you about a documentary produced by Montrealer Ari Cohen (no relation). Here is an expanded look.

The Uluit: Champions of the North provides a rare view into the victory as well as the struggle faced by a culture and community steeped in tradition yet living among the demands and changes of a modern world. Each episode weaves together intimate portraits of these diverse Inuit women embraced by the beauty of the land that surrounds them.

It was originally aired in March, but its now being rebroadcast on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network beginning April 12 and playing numerous times over five weeks.

Arnait Video Productions has produced feature documentaries such as Anaana (Mother),Unakuluk (Dear Little One), and the short fiction film Ningiura (Grandmother). Before Tomorrow, the company’s first feature-length fiction film, won Best Canadian First Feature at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2008 and was selected for the International Competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

Cohen is the founder of Rotating Planet. He has created films about artists, social issues, identity politics and unique individuals from around the world including the Gemini-nominated documentary Too Colourful for the League, Being Osama, TV series Women Warriors, The Instrument Bank, Falafelism and now The Uluit, a project that celebrates Inuit women.

For additional airdates, please visit: