Saturday 14 September 2013

Which federal party will try and draft Maria Mourani?

When it comes to the federal political scene, Maria Mourani is the equivalent to  a star free-agent in hockey.

Mourani was booted from the Bloc Québecois  caucus after speaking out against the PQ government's controversial proposed Charter of Quebec Values. She subsequently quit the party altogether, hinting that she will also renounce sovereignty.

Let us all remember that Jean Lapierre was a founding member of the Bloc, but returned to the federalist fold and even served as a cabinet minister for the Liberals under the short-lived Paul Martin government.
Maria Mourani

As the Member of Parliament for Ahuntsic, Mourani has plenty of time to contemplate her political future.  The next federal election is scheduled for the fall of 2015, but it will likely be earlier.

So who should be pursuing Mourani?

-Let's start off with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has absolutely no Tory MPs on or near the island of Montreal. Drafting Mourani and handing her a cabinet post would provide him with an invaluable asset possibly able to rebuild the dwindling Tory base in all of Quebec.

-Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has already praised Mourani's stand. Ahuntsic was a Liberal riding held by Eleni Bakopanos until Mourani took it in 2006.

-The NDP already has a number of soft nationalists with loose PQ affiliations on board. Leader Tom Mulcair is probably best positioned to  grab her. He would be well advised to try and do so quickly, for having Mourani campaign for his party in the upcoming Bourassa by-election in multicultural Montreal North would be a coup.

On CTV's Question Period, Mulcair seemed to nix the idea.  "It has never come up,” he said, noting how he doesn’t see how someone from the sovereignist Bloc Quebecois could transition to the New Democrats. 

“Being a strong federalist party, I can’t see how that would work out,” he said.

Let us remember that Nycole Turmel, the NDP MP who was chosen interim leader after Jack Layton died, was a card-carrying member of the Bloc Québécois only months before the last federal election. And there are others in his party who are probably on the bubble when it comes to sovereignty.


Thursday 12 September 2013

In the wake of Peterson, Bird and Desjardins dismissals, what is next at CJAD and TSN 690?

On the day the intolerant PQ government let loose its controversial Charter of Quebec Values, CJAD Radio made big news of its own by letting go longtime program host Ric Peterson, sportscaster Chantal Desjardins, newscaster Claude Beaulieu, weekend host Sharman Yarnell and demoting Suzanne Desautels to a more limited status. Over at the new Bell Media sister station, TSN 690, morning show co-host Ted Bird was shown the door. Is this just the beginning?
Chantal Desjardins
"Seems the soul of English Montreal radio was gutted yesterday," former CJAD/CHOM/Virgin Radio boss Rob Braide wrote on his Facebook page. "So many great broadcasters with years of service and first class performance and ratings thrown out the door to crank the margins by a few cents. Shameful!"
Today, I am told, the hosts of TSN 690's weekend morning show called The Franchise were told they are gone. Both The Franchise and Bird are expected to play a more active role on the very popular Montreal Hockey Talk internet radio show. 

Peterson broke his silence on Facebook as well, writing: "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," he wrote. "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, probably the most versatile broadcaster in Montreal, has temporarily taken over the Ric and Suzanne Noon to 3 p.m. slot. Dan Laxer, who lost his full-time status two years ago  when Aaron Rand was hired, returned Wednesday evening to his old 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.  spot once known. Laxer has been a good soldier, never making waves over his dismissal. He continued to co-host the Sunday Trivia Show and filled in doing traffic and other shows whenever called upon. In order to pay the rent he became a personal trainer, a programmer of Yiddish theatre and social media specialist for a local school. I have never hidden my  admiration for Laxer, who I think is a natural on radio.
Dan Laxer (with his daughter).

"It felt fantastic to be back in that role again, even for just one night," Laxer told me. "That was my timeslot when I first started in 2006. I don't know what management has planned for evenings, but I've told Chris Bury that I'd gladly jump in there, if they'll have me."

I am quite shocked to see Beaulieu cut loose. We just spoke last week. Wearing my PR hats for Canadian Jewish Congress and the EMSB, Claude and I communicated regularly. An impeccably bilingual professional, it is sad to see him go.

CJAD and TSN 690 program director Chris Bury was not able to talk to me today, understandably busy. This was the first day of TSN 690 studios debuting under the same roof as CJAD, CHOM and Virgin Radio. Convergence has begun and we  should expect  a series of big changes to come. Dropping Desjardins, who had amazing chemistry with Aaron Rand, can only mean that sports will soon be centralized at TSN 690. So will Rick Moffat soon do morning sports on both CJAD and TSN 690 and Mitch Gallo split his time between Melnick and Rand? Where does  Abe Hefter stand? Will the Alouettes and Impact broadcasts be moved over to TSN 690 for next season?

Whenever the much anticipated AM600 Radio begins airing, perhaps the likes of Peterson and previous CJAD casualties such as Peter Anthony Holder,  Kevin Holden  and Sol Boxenbaum can resurface. Former CJAD boss Steve Kowch is presently charting a course for the new station, which has no projected air date. 

I spoke to Kowch today.  "In radio, it's not if but when you get fired," he said. " Being on air is like being a star on a sports team. Eventually someone else comes along who hits more home runs or shoots the puck in the net more often. And like the sports personalities, radio personalities have fans who get upset when they're let go.

"I've spoken to Ric Peterson, Ted Bird and Claude Beaulieu since their departure and they're all taking it in stride - upset yes, but at the same time they're looking at others options. I wouldn't be surprised if some give up radio all together and do something else.  I always told students when I taught talk radio in college, that they were getting into a profession where there is no gold watch waiting for them in 30 years.

"What is surprising with this round of cuts is the timing. Montreal radio is two weeks into the fall ratings season. Normally management makes these kind of moves before ratings or after the 13 week rating period. This isn't the first time local radio personalities have been let go and it won't be the last. It's not a Bell thing, it is just the nature of the beast called radio."
Steve Kowch

Desjardins has done some sportscasting for CTV Montreal. She's gorgeous and personable and would be a great pickup for Global TV or 925 The Beat FM.  Is there a spot for Peterson on CBC Radio One?

Every time I see something like this happen I thank my mother for convincing me not to make radio broadcasting a full-time endeavor. There are the lucky ones who can spend a lifetime in the business.  Then there are others who find themselves unexpectedly on the unemployment line.

Check out the amazing Fagstein's analysis and colourful comments section.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Professional baseball returning to Montreal...for two days

Nine years after the Montreal Expos left town for good,baseball fans got some encouraging news on September 10 via the folks at evenko, which announced  that   a two-game pre-season series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets will take place at Olympic Stadium on March 28 and 29.

No, we are not getting a big league team back here. The Montreal Baseball Project and ExposNation continue to work hard on that front. But as local broadcaster and PR guru Matthew Ross, the man behind ExposNation, shared with me this is an opportunity. Major League Baseball will indeed be watching closely and if crowds of 30,000 plus attend eachj game it will send home a very important message. My brother Chuck suggested that the owner of the Tampa Bay Rays be invited to Montreal to see the game and move their team here.

Alex Anthopoulos
I must say that there was a very nostalgic feeling as I walked on to what used to be the Expos playing field. There were some youngsters in baseball uniforms, a patch of artificial turf and both the inning by inning and diamond vision scoreboards in operation. Journalists were treated to hotdogs, chips and popcorn. We were told that this event, initiated by evenko, was actually two years in the making.

I had the chance to interview Town of Mount Royal native Alex Anthopoulos, the very bilingual general manager of the Blue Jays. He got his start in the business working in the mail room for the Expos in 2000.  Below is my video interview with him.

“Being from Montreal personally, this is going to be a great thrill," Anthopoulos said. "I started my career with the Expos and spent many a game at Olympic Stadium. It will be exciting to see the Big O come to life again with Major League Baseball.” 

Added Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston: “We are excited to bring the Blue Jays to Montreal play in Montreal and give the fans a taste of Major League Baseball again. This will be a very meaningful experience knowing the strength and passion of baseball fans in Quebec. We hope that these games will rekindle their interest in the Blue Jays and Major League Baseball."

I have a few suggestions to make this event click. For starters, how about honouring Expos legend Tim Raines at one of the games and former GM and manager Jim Fanning at another. Both are presently part of the Blue Jays organization, Raines as a minor league instructor.

Will we ever get a big league team again? I am not sure, but the activity going on to make this happen is impressive. I have been pushing for a Can AM League franchise in Montreal, to join the likes of Quebec City and Trois-Rivieres. Ottawa is also expected to join the minor league loop, which has a short season June through August schedule.
Marc Griffin

Marc Griffin, one Quebecer who almost made it in the majors and now does baseball commentary for RDS, is among those individuals who has been working behind the scenes to try and bring Can AM here. A report in today's Le Journal de Montreal suggested that Montreal may get a team  by 2015 at either a retrofitted Gary Carter Stadium in Ahuntsic or a new stadium in Laval.

"We need that stadium," said Griffin. "That is what has held this up for so long. At one point we looked at building a new one on the South Shore. The Ahuntsic option has parking issues. Laval would be a great spot, but they have to create something from scratch. Finding the land to build a $15 million stadium has been our true challenge."

 Baseball Québec will be directly involved with specialists on site to offer baseball clinics on the field on Sunday, March 30. To promote the development of the sport among young people throughout the province, Baseball Québec will participate in many initiatives and programs that will be put forward as part of this two-game series/

“After more than a decade without Major League Baseball in Montreal, we are proud to welcome this special baseball event  between two leading teams," said  evenko executive vice-president and general manager Jacques
Aubé.  "We are also pleased to provide Quebec fans with exciting baseball while contributing to the growth and development of the sport, thanks to the involvement of Baseball Québec."

As a financial partner of the event, Tourisme Montréal is supporting this initiative.  Baseball fans will be able to buy tickets starting September 14 at 10 a.m. on Those who purchase tickets for both games will get a 10 percent discount. Special prices for children are also available.