Previous month:
January 2009
Next month:
March 2009

February 2009

Changes to VDN Cable

Many residents of District 2 subscribe to VDN Cable for television and Internet service. First let me say what an exceptional company this is. The complex where I live was among VDN's first clients. Then owner Phillip Gale use to make regular visits to our property in person. Well the little company grew and a few years ago it was purchased by Bell Canada.

You cannot just pick up the phone and subscribe to VDN. They have contracts with specfic buildings. In the case of District 2, most condos and apartments are with the VDN family. It is a wonderful alternative to Videotron. The TV channel selection is generous while the cable internet hookup is lightning fast. They also have good customer service.

A few weeks ago I was surprised to see VDN switch their American affiliates from Plattsburgh and Burlington to Boston. For viewers whom, for instance,taped the Guiding Light soap opera at 3 p.m. on CBS weekdays, the Boston affiliate runs the show at 9 a.m.

Here is what Terry Shannon, Director of the Bell Video Group responsible for VDN & Wireline Video Operations, told me.

When customer complaints and escalations regarding related poor signal quality and outages were brought to his attention in December he asked his team to investigate severity, frequency of occurrence and intervals. The results of his investigation highlighted consistent service degradation, an unacceptable customer experience, an increase in customer complaints and many customer disconnects. VDN then proceeded to establish an action plan to come up with alternate signal feed options as well as a change notice communication to customers. The initial plan called for a formal advance notice to all VDN customers in the March 2009 billing invoice mail out. Six weeks following mail out, they were to proceed with respective channel changes. Due to the increasing number of customer complaints and the need to improve the situation sooner than later, they opted to change plans and act quickly Mr. Shannon says he personally listened to customers who advised that they were disconnecting their service because they could no longer tolerate such poor signal quality. They could not watch or record their favourites without experiencing problems. In several instances, VDN customers had made arrangements to view TV at their neighbour's residences because they could no longer count on watching their favourites from beginning to end without a service interruption. "At the end of the day, our valued customers were asking why they were paying for such a poor quality viewing experience," he said.

"As it is our responsibility and privilege to provide quality products and services, we made the decision to immediately address customer concerns / complaints and change to alternate feeds. While customer response was immediate and very positive with many calls of thanks noting evident new quality of service, we remained very concerned about making such changes prior to our planned communication to our customers. While customer complaints and escalations about signal quality ceased, we certainly did receive calls from customers about the lack of notification prior to respective changes. While we fixed one problem in the sincere interest of customer service and a positive customer viewing experience, we unfortunately created another by upsetting some of our customers due to lack of notice and their unfamiliarity of new feeds. The communication to VDN customers will continue as planned with the March billing invoice mail out although in this particular case it is unfortunately after the fact."

There is also the matter with grid information which needs updating. Mr. Shannon says VDN engineers are working on the alignment of the program guide to ensure that all stations reflect accuracy including call letters and logos. The audio / video sync is also being finetuned.

Log on to to read more about this service.

Meeting Yolande James

MikeYolande  Mike and the charming Yolande James.


I had the chance to meet Quebec’s dynamic Minister of Immigration and Cultural Communities, Yolande James, and to say I am impressed with this young woman is an understatement.  As part of Black History Month Ms.  James was visiting Coronation Elementary School in Côte des Neiges to address the students. Ms. James  became  the first black woman elected to the National Assembly in 2004 and  the first black cabinet minister upon her initial appointment by Premier Jean Charest in the spring of 2007. Born in Montreal,  she attended Pierrefonds Comprehensive High School, Vanier College, Queen’s University and Université de  Montréal, completing degrees in common and civil law before being called to the Bar in 2004.  Soon after she was elected as the MNA for Nelligan. What I liked most about Ms. James was her down to earth nature.

Kildare Road pipe to be replaced

Since January 15, 2009 there has been four breaks of the aqueduct on Kildare Road, between Rembrandt and Merrimac. In conversations with the mayor and our department of Public Works, I insisted that something be done to rectify the situation. At the February 9, 2009 council meeting I moved a resolution which modifies the work schedule as per our infrastructure program for this year and now includes the replacement of 200 meters of eight inch pipe at a cost of $240,000. In order to get this on the "urgency list" we had to postpone planned work on Merton Road, between Borden and Pinedale. I would like to thank the mayor and council for supporting this initiative. Residents of Rembrandt and Ilan Ramon in particular have been greatly inconvenienced by these breaks, not to mention all motorists travelling down Kildare Road. This work will likely be done in the spring when the weather is more appropriate.

Winter Carnival a success


Congratulations to the staff at Parks and Recreation and my colleagues, Councillors Mitchell Brownstein and Allan J. Levine, the co-chairs of 2009 Winter Carnival. This year the event has been redubbed "Winter Carnival Month."  It began with the Montreal Juniors game  Feb. 2, was highlighted by the day-long Winter Carnival activities at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park and the Samuel Moskovitch Arena and will conclude Feb. 14 with our first ever Sock Hop. I must make special mention of the Côte Saint-Luc Figure Skating Club. There exhibition is always outstanding. I was able to join some other members of council to hand out trophies and present a cheque to the Manoir Ronald McDonald for $2,500 from money we raise at winter carnival.


Wintercarnival 2009group

The death of The Monitor - print edition

The Monitor Newspaper produced its last print edition on February 5. For most of the paper's 83 years, it had circulated in Côte Saint-Luc, along with N.D.G., Snowdon, Montreal West and Hampstead. In recent years the paper, owned by Transcontinental, was publishing very thin editions. So it was not surprising that Transcontinental decided to stop the bleeding. Instead of completely folding the paper, though, they indicated that The Monitor will live on via an internet edition at

While I admire the efforts to keep a West End instution going, I do not believe we have reached the stage whereby readers will log on to a community weekly in the numbers the paper had in the past. However, if they can manage to do some kind of marketing plan they might attract a new readership. After all, The Monitor can now publish seven days a week and produce breaking news.

I owe my career in communications to The Monitor. When I was 16 years old I crushed  two vertebrae on my spine in a hockey game. I was in Grade 10 at Wagar High School, looking forward to a job as a counsellor at a summer camp. Well, the injury took some time to heal. I had to forego the camp job. My main summer activity ended up being the continuation of something I had begun a few years earlier: statistician for the Côte Saint-Luc Slo Pitch Association.  One of the things I did regularly was type up the weekly standings and batting leaders and bring them in to the sports editor. His name was Anthony Wilson Smith. Well, I approached Anthony and asked him whether I could submit a weekly story for the paper about the league. He agreed and my days as a journalist had begun. In the fall, Anthony gave me my own column - complete with my photo - to cover the local hockey leagues. I remained with The Monitor for several years. Anthony would go on to write for The Gazette and then Macleans Magazine. Today he is a senior executive at Canada Post. We will do keep in touch.

I left The Monitor to write for The Suburban (  and remained there for some time. But in 1989 I was lured over to a brand new paper called The Weekly Herald. It could not compete with The Suburban and by this time The Monitor had stopped circulating in Hampstead and Côte Saint-Luc. When The Herald folded I got a call from Don Sancton. At the time he was the editor of The Monitor. Louise Wolman, an ad rep, had recommended he contact me. I was offered a chance to be their new city columnist.  I jumped at the opportunity and happily returned to my roots. Sancton soon left to join the pharmaceutical company Pfizer and a series of editors succeeded him, including the likes of Julien Feldman and Leonard J Gervais. Distribution returned to Côte Saint-Luc and in addition to my column I began covering City Hall. It was at this time that I first thought about one day running for council.

Near the end of my second stint with The Monitor I brought in a couple of sales reps who never worked for newspapers before. They were a husband and wife team. The husband had sold cleaning products, but had fallen upon hard times. He took to this business famously and virtually single handedly turned the paper around. The Monitor was publishing 52 page editions and swimming in large profits. Not surprisingly The Suburban plucked the two of them away. In 1996 they did the same with me. I got an offer I could not refuse and returned to The Suburban, where I still happily write today. Nonetheless, I maintained a good relationship with The Monitor and its subsequent editors. They changed the paper's name to the West End Chronicle and for a time the ad rate seemed to improve. The Monitor moniker came back only recently, perhaps abit too  late to try and revive what was once a legendary journal.

I will miss having the paper delivered to my door. Ditto for its coverage of City Hall. Yes, I know they will have an internet edition. But for people living in the constituency I represent,  many are not yet online. That will change. I hope is still around when it does.

Wonderful partnership with Montreal Juniors


I spent part of the game sitting with players from our Minor Hockey Association.

The Montreal Juniors game against the Halifax Mooseheads on Monday, February 2 at the Verdun Auditorium was declared Côte Saint-Luc Night. Players from the Cöte Saint-Luc Minor Hockey Association, most with their dads, took in the exciting matchup, which saw Montreal lose 4-3. Before the game team captains Matt Fillier (Montreal) and Graham Bona (Halifax) took part in the opening faceoff with (Cöte Saint-Luc Councillor Ruth Kovac, Mayor Anthony Housefather, team president Martin Routhier and linesman David Taveroff, by day Côte Saint-Luc's director of Parks and Recreation. Mayor Housefather and Councillor Kovac were joined by myself and Councillors Steven Erdelyi, Allan J. Levine and senior Parks and Recreation staff at the game. During the first intermission In Fusion Catering, based on Westminster Ave. in Côte Saint-Luc, hosted a dinner for the mayor and council in the Juniors' VIP room. Montreal is in its first year of competition in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Businessman Farrel Miller, who plays in the Côte Saint-Luc Executive Hockey League, purchased the franchise from Newfoundland and moved it to Montreal. Côte Saint-Luc was pleased with this first effort at a partnership with the team and hopes to repeat this. I am proud to have initiated this event, which kicked off Winter Carnival Month in the city.


Allan J. Levine and Mayor Housefather with some of our hockey players at the game.