Thursday 13 March 2014

Introducing the Unity Pin - two West Islanders step up to the plate

In the heat of a nasty Quebec election campaign, it is always refreshing to see initiatives like J’ ♥ l’anglais! (J’aime l’anglais!).
 Itsik Romano  (Sarah Eirew photo)
Two concerned West Island businessmen are hoping that this little sentence will be a way for Quebecers of all backgrounds to express their love and support for English communities within the province.  Itsik Romano is the co-founder of the Unity Pin Group, an advocacy organization that is selling a wearable pin emblazoned with this slogan.  His partner, named Mitch, prefers not to give his last name.

Romano says the pin is not only a way to show one’s pride,  but a  portion of  the proceeds from each pin sale will go to help finance legal support to defend actions brought on by the Office québécois de la langue française against local businesses.

 “Our main objective is to give people a powerful way to express their objection to the recent surge of the Marois government versus the English language with the enforcement of Bill 101, the introduction of Bill 14 and the abuse that some small businesses are taking from the OLF," said Romano. “It's time to unify. And not just our politics or our ideologies, but our people. Our Unity Pin is exactly that; a shout-out to the powers-that-be that we are ‘unpinning’ ourselves from the shame and humiliation of being made to feel like second-class citizens.”

The Unity Pin,  as well as other Unity products,  can be found at  for as little as $2.49 each. Special orders can be made to show support for different languages with pins, coffee mugs and bumper stickers that say "J'aime I'italienne!", "J'aime l'arabe!", "J'aime l'espagnole!" and "J'aime la chinoise!" The Unity Pin Group also hosts a blog on their site.


Wednesday 12 March 2014

Wayne Bews excited to get started as new GM of The Beat 92.5 FM

One of the nicest guys in radio is back in his comfort zone. After six months as the regional sales manager at CTV Montreal, Bews took an offer he could not refuse to become the general manager/sales manager for  92.5 The Beat FM.

Wayne Bews and morning show traffic and newscaster Natasha Hall.
Bews, of course, broke into radio sales with CHOM FM and Oldies 990 in 1992. He was elevated to sales manager six years later, remained in that role when the TEAM 990 was born in 2001, and assumed the GM duties in 2005 when his mentor and the man who held that title Lee Hambleton died. What followed was an incredibly impressive performance in which he kept a struggling all-sports station alive, secured the rights to Montreal Canadiens broadcasts and managed a highly political situation when owners  Bell Media tried to shut the place down and transform it into  French RDS Radio. Bews kept his employees in line, listeners revolted and the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) kept the now TSN 690 Radio alive. When Bell Media got its act together and sought permission from the CRTC to keep TSN 690 intact even after it purchased CJAD, CHOM and Virgin Radio, all was well. Bews was rewarded for his loyalty with the CTV gig.

"CTV was an amazing experience," Bews told me when I visited his new offices at Place Bonaventure. "I really enjoyed it. But I have been in radio for 21 years. Frankly, I did not see any radio general manager post opening up in this city. So when Mark Dickie resigned as GM of The Beat I was surprised. Interestingly, I had called Mark last year just to tell him that at those times when I was flipping the dial elsewhere than TSN 690 I really liked what I heard on The Beat. The same goes for my wife and daughter."

It was probably very logical for Cogeco Media, the owners of The Beat, to reach out to Bews. From what I could see he is a perfect fit. At least four staffers I met told me. "We just love Wayne!"

Let me repeat something I have said many times before. Wayne Bews is one of the most consummate gentlemen I have met in the radio business.

One of the first tasks for Bews is to hire a new program director as Leo Da Estrela is stepping aside to work on his own business. "I told Leo that even though he is leaving, I will still be calling upon him for expertise," he said.

Bews does not intend to get directly involved with programming matters. "Sure I will share my opinion," he says, "but I will leave most decisions up to the experts."

I just wonder, though, whether Bews will find a way to bring Ted Bird back on to mainstream Montreal radio. Bird, of course, quit CHOM FM a number of years ago and resurfaced at K103 FM. Bews lured him over to TSN 690 as part of the morning team and he was outstanding. When the Bell Media merger with CJAD occurred, his former bosses showed him the door. Bird is now doing mornings on KIC Country 89.9 FM, but he belongs on one of the major players. I would love to see him as part of a team with Cat Spencer, Sarah Bartok and Natasha Hall in the AM.

Ironically, Bews left CTV Montreal just as  Linda Fraraccio arrived, after having served as the promotions manager at The Beat.  She is being replaced by Stephanie Lagacé, who was the Quebec maketing manager for  Best Buy Canada.
Stephanie Lagacé

Let`s sit back and watch. Mark Dickie, now in Ottawa working for Corus Entertainment, left Bews with a pretty good product. And it can only get better.

Tuesday 11 March 2014

Why Noah Sidel decided to run for the CAQ

The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) may have found its best English spokesperson anywhere in Noah Sidel, the ever so enthusiastic candidate in the April 7 election (the day he turns 33) for the riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG). Full disclosure: I have know Noah for some 15 years and seen his determination at every task he undertakes.

Sidel has spent most of his life in NDG and is well known for his involvement in sports and as a writer for local weekly newspapers. While his main opponent is incumbent Liberal Member of the National Assembly Kathleen Weil, a former provincial cabinet minister, Sidel truly believes he can score an upset.

Noah Sidel

The CAQ is headed by former Parti Québecois cabinet minister François Legault.  He renounced sovereignty and created this new party prior to the last election in 2012. The CAQ  won 19 seats in the  last vote and were the main reason why the PQ only came into office with a minority government.  While the polls are not being kind to them this time around, Sidel said people should think otherwise when they head to the ballot box.

“If we go down, then you are looking at a majority PQ government,” said Sidel.

The holder of a BA in journalism from Concordia University, Sidel has been working as freelance journalist since 2004. From 2004 to 2010, he was also part of the  Montreal Alouettes  communications and marketing team managing the team’s social media network and crafting the team’s digital marketing program.  He currently serves as the vice president of operations & marketing with National Dispatch Services, a bilingual Montreal-based, family-owned maintenance specialization enterprise that employs a dozen people. Not only did he grow up in NDG, but he owns a home there today with his wife Johanna Miller and their two young children.

“Noah is a young father who has had an impressive career to date,” commented Legault. “I am certain he will contribute strongly to our mission of lowering the tax burden on Quebec’s families. I wish him the best of success and I look forward to working with Noah to re-launch the economy of Quebec.”

Sidel, a card carrying member of the federal Liberals, said that he has been a card carrying member of the CAQ for over two years. Last summer he sat down with the party president and heard their call to reach out to the anglophone community. “I knew right then that it was people like me, young anglo federalists, who needed to step up,” he remarked. “I ended up having Mr. Legault over to my house. It was a wonderful experience.”

At the time Sidel’s daughter was two and his wife was pregnant (she gave birth two months ago). “It did not seem to be the best timing for me to run,” he said. “Yet my wife stepped up and told me, ‘you better do this. You can make a difference.’ I could not have possibly asked for a more supportive wife.”

Sidel is one of two Jewish CAQ candidates, with West Islander Valerie Assouline being the other. “I  think the Jewish community can be confident to support the CAQ because we stand for stability. “It is time we get away from the old Liberal-PQ situation. Our party is called a Coalition for a reason because we represent everyone.”

On the controversial Charter of Values, Sidel supports the CAQ position that the charter is necessary, but that the PQ ban on wearing religious symbols, such as Islamic veils, the  kippa, religious turbans and large crucifixes, is “too radical.” Sidel sees nothing wrong with a ban of religious symbols limited to public sector personnel in positions of authority, namely judges, police and prison officers and teachers. “Personally,” he says, “secularism is not something I am comfortable with. The CAQ’s position is responsible."

Monday 10 March 2014

Is Peladeau candidacy good or bad for Quebec's NHL chances?

Is news that media king Pierre Karl Peladeau will be a star candidate in St. Jerome for the Parti Québecois good or bad for the return of the Quebec Nordiques?  I would lean towards the latter.
Pierre Karl Peladeau

Quebecor spokespersons were quick to dismiss those concerns on Sunday, but I do not buy it for a minute.

Peladeau`s Quebecor media empire obtained  multimillion-dollar naming rights for the future hockey arena in Quebec City and made it clear that his goal was to  find an NHL tenant to play there. Peladeau was exactly the type of owner Quebec City Mayor Regis Lebaume and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman wanted. His TVA Sports Network just inked a huge deal with the league, but they will  only have a handful of Canadiens games  each season. Bell Media, which owns RDS, has a stake in the Habs so clearly there is room for the Nordiques on perhaps the main TVA stations.

If the PQ wins the April 7 election and Peladeau is successful in St. Jerome, it is likely his involvement with hockey will end there. Or is it?  Sure Quebecor could buy the franchise --likely part of an NHL expansion plan  -but this was to be Peladeau's baby. He would certainly have been an  active owner.  As a Member of the National Assembly, a probable high ranking Minister and a very likely successor to Marois, he would be unable to involve himself in any outside interests.

Perhaps voters in Quebec City will digest all of this and vote for the Liberals or the CAQ, hoping that Peladeau would choose an NHL team over sitting in opposition.

The fact is the Nordiques left Quebec for Colorado because there was nobody with deep enough pockets to keep the team there. Who else is out there with Peladeau dollars? If I were Lebaume, I'd be pretty disappointed right now. Quebecor officials insist they can pick up where Peladeau left off. Perhaps that is true and there is no question their empire has the dollars. But Peladeau was the personality the NHL desired.

If the new Colisée  building fails to attract an NHL team, Quebecor will pay $33 million for naming rights for 25 years, another $3.15 million per year for management rights, and it will also hand the city 15 per cent of profits from the building. But if Quebec lands  a team,  the fee jumps to $63.5 million.