Introducing my new podcast: please tune in

For many years now I have thought about starting my own podcast. 

Now it is a reality at :

On your iPhone or iPad go to  the Podcasts folder and in the search engine type in "Mike Cohen Podcast" and subscribe.



I graduated from Concordia University's Broadcast Journalism Program in 1985 and a future in radio or TV was definitely on my radar screen. Yes, I was able to get some freelance assignments. Mitch Melnick,  then  with CJAD, gave me my first taste in the business when he arranged for me to do some post game reports at Montreal Expos games. A number of years later, I served as the Montreal correspondent for The FAN all-sports radio in Toronto and for two  years co-hosted the Expos pre  and post game shows on the old CIQC Radio 600 (a successor to the old CFCF Radio). It  was a blast. Meanwhile, as the then national director  of communications for Canadian Jewish Congress I became an official spokesperson and did countless interviews. That continued  in 1999 when I joined the English Montreal School Board as communications and marketing specialist, a position I still hold today. Responding to media inquiries is a huge component of this job. From time to time I also get to  do a sports radio bit on TSN 690 with the likes  of Tony Marinaro and Matthew Ross.

In 2005 I was elected to city council in Côte Saint-Luc. I started this blog as a way to regularly communicate with my constituents. Last September my colleague, Councillor Oren Sebag, started his own podcast. I think that was the wakeup call I needed to launch mine. My intent is to draw from the people I interact with via my three main jobs: the EMSB, city council and as a writer for a number of publications, notably The Suburban. During the present COVID-19 pandemic,  interviews will be done by phone. As such the podcasts will not have a lot of bells and whistles attached, but I do hope to  chat with different players in the field under the three hats I wear. I greatly look forward to the day when I can go on location.

My first interview is with the Liberal MNA for D'Arcy McGee David Birnbaum. David and  I go back decades. We first met when he was  the communications officer for the former Protestant  School Board of Greater Montreal and I was a reporter for The Suburban.It was David,  in fact, who recommended me for my job at the EMSB.  I thought it would be interesting to get his take  on the COVID-19 pandemic. How does it impact local MNAs? Is the CAQ government doing a good job? Where does the Liberal leadership race stand? Will Bill 40, the school board reforms, be enacted on time? Please give it a listen and stay tuned for more.

You can click on this direct link:

and this one  for my interview with Anthony Housefather:  






The Free Press Newspaper shuts down operations

The Free Press Newspaper, serving NDG, Côte Saint-Luc and Hampstead, prints its final edition today and we are all the poorer for this.

I would like to personally thank publisher David Price and chief reporter Isaac Olson for the excellent job they did. As a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc and the communications and marketing specialist for the English Montreal School Board, I truly appreciated their community approach to journalism. The paper was delivered to every home in its circulation area by Canada Post and dropped off at apartment buildings, condos and other depots. Price also publishes The Westmount Independent, which successfully ran the Westmount Examiner out of business.


Sadly, the Free Press did not get sufficient advertising support to keep on going. The Quebec Liberal government, in one of its infinite bonehead moves, has now given municipalities the option NOT to advertise by-laws to the public and instead do so on the web. In Côte Saint-Luc, we will not go that route. I know that in my particular district there are still many seniors? We are not there yet. Nonetheless, our Premier Mr. Couillard once again is going forward with legislation without doing any proper consultation. But I digress.

We are fortunate to have The Suburban Newspaper, which I write for. Because of its wide circulation reach, business remains pretty good. It was still nice to have two papers covering City Hall and the community. The Montreal Times has a large drop off circulation, but I have still not figured out its editorial mission. It is too bad that municipal affairs is not on its priority list. Then there is The Montreal Gazette. Just a few weeks ago I heard Tommy Schnurmacher on CJAD with Aaron Rand, predicting that The Gazette will fold up and The National Post will take over as our paper with a small Montreal section. I remain an avid reader of The Gazette print edition. But I am among a minority in that department.

The Free Press filled a void left by The Monitor, which folded in 2009. It began as an NDG paper only and expanded to Hampstead and Côte Saint-Luc. Perhaps the writing was on the wall a few months ago when Price had to let go his only sales representative and he assumed that role as well.

Isaac Olson is one terrific reporter whom I hope finds employment elsewhere. 

The newspaper business is no doubt in trouble. It is sad to see the Quebec government kicking it in the teeth.







District 2's Quartier Cavendish profiled in The Montreal Gazette

A fresh start in Quartier Cavendish


On land that was once home to a larger Cavendish Mall, a family builds just what they want


Custom-built four-plus-one, three-level stone home took eight months to build on the vacant former mall site.

Sometimes, it’s all about second chances, even when it comes to finding the right home.

When Evan and Keren bought their first house four years ago, the young couple thought the turnkey, four-plus-one-bedroom bungalow in Côte St-Luc was a keeper. But it didn’t take long before they realized it wasn’t quite a perfect fit.

“It was on a busy street, and all the rooms went off the main hallway, so it seemed as if we were on top of each other,” said Keren.

“It wasn’t the right house for us.”

When a new housing development in Côte St-Luc offered an opportunity to build from the ground up, Evan jumped at the chance.

“The idea of doing our own house was appealing,” he said. “The other places we saw, there was always something. If we were going to spend that kind of money, then we thought, ‘Let’s do it the way we want.’”

In 2010, Cavendish Mall was downsized. The site was transformed into a town centre that became known as Quartier Cavendish. The southern end of the mall was demolished to make room for a residential development that included single-family and semi-detached homes and townhouses.

By the time the family bought 5,500 square feet of land in September 2011, the area was a large tract of dirt. “There were no streets. They were just tearing the mall down, so you didn’t know what you’re getting into,” Evan said. His wife and their parents “thought I was crazy.”

Buying the land was easy compared with what came next; finding the right professionals to design and build the house. They weren’t happy with plans an architect came up with. With time running out, they decided instead to just use a builder, Paolo Presti.

It took eight months to build the 3,200-sq.-ft., four-plus-one, three-level stone cottage. The couple wanted a clean, modern interior with some classical touches such as crown moulding, sloped ceilings and curved arches in some doorways. Instead of opting for a “man cave” in the basement, they dedicated that space as a play area for their two young daughters, and built a main-floor study for Evan to read, relax and savour his collection of fine scotches. They also wanted a formal dining room and a large master bedroom with a two-sided gas fireplace, a separate sitting room, a huge walk-in closet and bathroom ensuite with a European-inspired toilet — in a nook with its own door for added privacy.

A formal living room, however, was not in the plans.

“We had one in our other house and we didn’t use it,” said Keren. “A formal living room didn’t work for us.”

Instead, they had the builder design a spacious, functional kitchen with eating area that flowed into a large, comfy den with a fireplace and built-ins to create a great room.

“We like an open concept, with the kitchen looking onto the den, like a family room,” said Keren. “It’s the place we all like to hang out.”

Once the bones of the house were finalized, the couple focused on other details. They chose rich chocolate brown Brazilian wood for the floors in the den, dining room, study and bedrooms, and glossy 24-by-24-inch porcelain floor tiles for the vestibule, entrance hallway and kitchen.

In December 2012, the family moved in, and while it really was their dream house, it still didn’t feel like a home. Many of the rooms were empty. Evan’s love for traditional trappings were evident in the furniture they had brought from their first home, such as the heavy wood table, chairs and breakfront in the dining room, an imposing round wood pedestal kitchen table with large upholstered chairs, and two oversized brown leather couches in the den. But pleasing Keren’s more contemporary tastes proved to be a challenge.

“I needed help,” said Keren. “I needed pieces to make the house pop. I remember our other house; everything was wood. I wanted this house to look more modern or contemporary.”

A friend recommended interior designer Lori Anders, who was hired to bring together Evan and Keren’s diverse tastes while creating a livable, family-friendly space.

“It was a beautiful house, but it was bare,” said Anders. “Everything was brown.” On the first walk-through, Anders was gentle, but told the couple one thing: “You’re not allowed to bring in more brown.” Keren and Evan laughed.

Anders tackled one room at a time, sourcing unique pieces of furniture, rugs and accent pieces to add warmth to each space.

“Very modern can be very cold,” said Anders. “They wanted people to feel that when they walked into the house it wasn’t a museum.”

For the vestibule, with its irregular shaped, angular walls, she chose a low-back upholstered chair in a warm grey leather treated to look worn, or distressed, with a wooden frame and nail-stud detailing, added an octagon-shaped, antiqued mirror above it and a small distressed round table beside it to create a welcoming entry.

In the master bedroom, the walls and drapes were a Champagne colour, but the space and adjoining lounge area were bare.

“They wanted a romantic and elegant feel,” explained Anders. “They had ordered the bed, and Keren was very unsure about it. She felt it wouldn’t look nice because it was a brown leather upholstered headboard. It was heavy, and we needed to go lighter and softer with the other things.”

Anders tied it all together with two distressed mirrored side tables and light-coloured, textured be d coverings and an assortment of pillows with grey and rust accents. The lounge area, or nook, with its long, narrow shape, didn’t lend itself to a full couch, so Anders chose a slim, grey upholstered chaise longue. A white sheepskin rug, colourful painting, tall lamp and small side table completed the look.

The master bedroom is probably Keren’s favourite room in the house. With a large flat-screen TV over the fireplace for the adults, and a small one on the floor at eye level for the children, it’s a place the family loves to gather, relax and spend time.

“If I had a fridge in there, I would never leave,” said Keren.

More than two years after deciding to build their own house, Evan and Keren are now proud to call it a home.

Our wonderful Côte Saint-Luc Courier Newspaper

While I will be posting my own District 2 Year in Review shortly, a  magnificent 2012 look back edition of the Côte Saint-Luc Courier Newspaper will soon be delivered to every door. I am proud to serve as the chairperson of this publication. Hats off to editor Darryl Levine  and graphic artist Ruth Farrugia  for a fantastic piece of work.

You can read it by clicking on the link below.

Download CSL Courier Dec2012_EN-web

New Virgin Radio morning show co-host Freeway Frank's first interview

The Freeway is about to run down Forte Street in downtown Montreal. On Monday morning, the new Freeway and Lisa in The Morning Show debuts on Virgin Radio. Freeway Frank Depalo, born and raised in Montreal North and Rosemount, was repatriated by station brand/program director Mark  Bergman quite soon after Cat Spencer’s surprise announcement that he was leaving to take over mornings on The Q 92.5 FM. Cat will succeed Aaron Rand, whom we are told will do his final show towards the end of April. But here is the rub: Cat’s contract with Astral Radio does not conclude until August 31 and from everything we have heard  there is no desire to spring him loose from that agreement prematurely so he can chalk up strong ratings for the competition. It is smart strategy. Put him on the sidelines and move the new guy in as soon as possible in order for him to develop a following.

I have a feeling that Freeway will become an instant favorite here. He has a vast amount of radio experience  and 18 years after leaving his native land to pursue a career in radio elsewhere he is back home. “I always told my late father that my dream one day was to come back to Montreal as either a program director or morning show host,” Freeway told me in an interview at the station. “Well Mark is doing a great job as program director and I certainly did not expect Cat to leave. So, when I got the call and the offer I was pleasantly surprised. My mom is so excited she wants to invite Cat for dinner. I think that will happen. I will reach out. We have never met in person, but I think that will happen. He may now be my competitor, but I consider it a friendly competition.”

Freeway was working at Energy 101.5 FM in Calgary when he got the call from Bergman. He and his girlfriend owned a home there and the basement walls had Montreal Canadiens logos painted on it. “I was lucky to rent the house to some friends and they got rid of the Habs stuff,” he laughed. “I have always remained a huge Habs fan. It is so exciting to be back and able to follow them every day and even talk about them on air.”

Freeway & Lisa In The Morning When I reached Player (at the left with Freeway), who has been a morning show staple here for seven years, she was busy walking her dog Roo. She was excited about beginning this new partnership and is confident it will work. “I felt good about Frank the first time we met,” she said. “We will just build from there. This is just like a new couple getting together and you know sparks will fly.”

Frank is eager to introduce his seven month old dog Enzo to Roo, who is 11 and a half.  Let’s watch if this bit makes it on air.

Frank took English Literature and History at Concordia University while serving as program director f or campus station  CIRL. Upon graduation he got work at the old 990 HITS, a previous incarnation of CKGM. He was known then as Frank Kelly. He spent three years there and moved on to Vancouver (Z 95.3 and LG 73), Toronto (Mix 99.9) and of course Calgary. For four years he also hosted the Canadian Top 20 Countdown, which is carried on Virgin Radio on Sundays.

Oh yes, and how did he get the nickname “Freeway?” While working in Vancouver in 1995, the motion picture Free Willy came out. “The station wanted me to go by the name “Free Willy” Frank,” he explains. “I opted  for Freeway.”

I asked Bergman, who grew up in Côte Saint-Luc, how he snagged a star like Frank so quickly. “We have a big network of hosts that we have on our wait list,” he said. “Frank was number one on that list.”

Also joining Virgin to take over from Heather B in the early afternoon is spunky Nikki Balch  from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Bergman feels she will bring new energy and flare to Virgin, noting that she possesses an incredible love of hit music, pop-culture, and social media.  Nikki comes from out East, where for the last five years, she was the morning co-host at Z103.5. In 2008, she was the recipient of the Coast Award for “Best Radio Personality.”

Nat Lauzon remains on air from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cousin Vinny and The Rush are on from 4  p.m. to 7 p.m. and then Tony Stark takes over.

Log on  here for more information.




Exclusive: Co-anchor Jennifer Hall to depart CBC TV News

 CBC Montreal’s Television News will be losing one of its co-anchors exclusive news  I sadly must report that the truly wonderful Jennifer Hall (below right) has given her notice and will leave in June. News Director Mary Jo Barr confirmed to me that she is already keeping her eyes open for another female to team up with the young and talented Andrew Chang.Jen Hall  The pair have made an extraordinary team since CBC introduced a 90 minute 5 p,m. newscast on September 8, 2009.
“It is definitely with mixed emotions that I leave this fabulous team at CBC Montreal,” Jennifer shared with me. “For reasons that have everything to do with family, we have decided we need to move back to Southwestern Ontario. As a family, we have embraced all the wonderful experiences the West Island has to offer and we've truly enjoyed our time here.  It's so easy to fall in love with Montreal.  I've also felt privileged to work as a journalist with the best newscast in town. I will miss my CBC family terribly but will never be too far out of touch.”
Barr sounded understandably sad.  “We will miss her dearly,” she commented. “ She is a strong journalist and a warm and engaging anchor.  She has been a ray of sunshine in our newsroom.  She is witty and gracious to everyone. I know this was a difficult decision for her to make.”

Hall joined the team at CBC Montreal from Parliament Hill, where she was national affairs reporter for CTVglobemedia's 'A' network. Prior to that, she was both host and producer of the provincial current affairs program Inquiry with Jennifer Hall. Her move to the anchor desk was familiar territory, as she held the role for many of the previous 20 years.

Does she have a job lined up in the London, Ontario area?  “Since this truly was a decision about family, I decided to plan my next move later,” she confides. “ I do have some exciting ideas I will  pursue in the months ahead.”

I got to know Hall since she arrived in my role as the head of communications and marketing for the English Montreal School Board. She is a very involved anchor, actively pursuing stories and feature ideas of her own. When I asked her to come speak at a high school Career Day she did not hesitate to agree and the kids really liked what she had to say.

Thank goodness CBC resigned weather forecaster Frank Cavallaro, who brought aboard a nice following of his own.

Nancy Wood So who will replace her? Here are some of my suggested candidates: Kristy Snell and Nancy Wood (below left) from the radio side, Kristin Falcao from TV  or from CTV Tara Schwartz, Lori Graham or Aphrodite Salas.

Freeway Frank to replace Cat Spencer on Virgin Radio

Well, Cote Saint-Luc raised Mark Bergman has not wasted any time in finding a successor to Cat Spencer.

The Cat is moving to The Q 92.5 FM to replace Aaron Rand at a date to be determined. Just last week it looked as if he would be required to complete his contract co-hosting the Virgin Radio morning show with Lisa Player, making him unavailable to his new employers until September 1.  Rand is expected to depart at the end of April.

Freeway Frank (below right), no stranger to local listeners as the host of the nationally syndicated Canadian Top 4o Countdown,  will debut on the newly dubbed "Mornings With Freeway & Lisa" on Monday, March 21 at 5:30 a.m.Frank1

“It’s been my dream to host a morning show in my hometown of Montreal since I was a kid.” Said Freeway Frank. “My heart’s never left this city, and I can’t imagine a better place to be, than the top rated radio station in Montreal! My late father would be proud.” Lisa Player has co-hosted Virgin Radio’s #1 rated Breakfast Show for the last 7 years, where her unique personality and quick wit has made her a staple on the Montreal radio scene. “Change is inevitable; it's what makes life interesting” said Lisa Player. “From my interaction with Frank so far, I know it's going to be more than just a little interesting. Looking forward to having some good times in the morning! Welcome back to Montreal Freeway!” Mornings with Freeway & Lisa, will debut on Monday March 21st 2011, at 5:30am.

Freeway Frank (Frank Depalo) was born and raised in Montreal, and went on to become a popular Canadian radio personality over the last 20 years.  His return here will mark the first time that Frank will be playing in the city where he was born and raised. “Montreal has just found its next attraction," says Bergman, the station's Brand Director. "I’ve never met a guy with more passion for being on-air, online, and onsite! Freeway Frank will soon be to ‘Montreal’ as smoked meat, bagels, and The Habs! Cat Spencer had a great run at Virgin Radio; we will miss his contagious smile and professionalism. We wish him well.” 

As for Freeway Frank, he notes  "“It’s been my dream to host a morning show in my hometown of Montreal since I was a kid. My heart’s never left this city, and I can’t imagine a better place to be, than the top rated radio station in Montreal! My late father would be proud.”

Player, who  has co-hosted Virgin Radio’s #1 rated Breakfast Show for the last seven years, sounds excited to work with her new partner. “Change is inevitable; it's what makes life interesting,”  she said .“From my interaction with Frank so far, I know it's going to be more than just a little interesting."

Lots of changes on Montreal radio scene

There has been a lot of movement in recent days on Montreal radio.

First and foremost, Aaron Rand (below right) announced that he will be leaving his job as  morning show host on the Q 92.5 FM at the end of April. After 26 years with the station, this move caught a lot of people by surprise. Aaron Rand A year and a half ago his friends and co-hosts Paul "Tasso" Zakaib and Suzanne Desautels were fired and Rand was told his show needed less talk and more music. He adhered to the edict set forth by program director Brian DePoe and even attended a station boot camp.  The Q introduced a new, hip morning crew. Aaron changed his style and the ratings blossomed. I do not think we have seen the last of him. Aaron is made for television. Years ago he and Tasso taped a demo late night talkshow for CFCF TV. It never reached the small screen. Perhaps Global TV Montreal would consider him for the new morning show they intend to launch in 2012.

DePoe, by the way,  quietly left the Q in December for an opportunity with CHUM Radio in Ottawa. He has been replaced by Leo D'Estrella, a former Rand producer. Rand is under contract to the Q until August 31.

No sooner had Aaron made his announcement, Astral Radio confirmed that Cat Spencer would be leaving Virgin Radio as their morning show host to join the Q - but not for several months. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Cat and Lisa Will Cat bring Lisa Player (left) with him? Will Murray Sherriffs stick around now that his sidekick Aaron is leaving? Will Aaron switch places with Cat?  Program and Brand Director Mark Bergman has his work cut out for him. He is already in the midst of seeking a replacement for Heather B, the afternoom show host who left a few weeks ago for a gig in Cleveland. I know that CBC weather guy Frank Cavallaro would probably love a chance to get back into radio. Cousin Vinny Barrucco is doing a great job on the drive home. Is he ready for a premature promotion? My personal favorite is Patrick Charles, who was part of the Cat and Lisa team initially, but is now more of a background contributor. Cat's contract also goes until August 31. Will Virgin really want a lameduck host sticking around the airwaves.  Radio insiders suggest that they will find a replacment sooner than later and have Cat sit home until he can legally join the Q on September 1.

Over at CBC Radio One, talented female sportscaster Sonali Karnick (below right) is leaving Daybreak. Sonali She got offered a chance to work at CBC in Toronto. In probably one of the sharpest moves CBC has made in recent years, Karnick's replacement is Andie Bennett. Andie (below left) has impressed everyone who has followed her career these last six years on THE TEAM 990 and the Melnick in the Afternoon Show. Her bubbly personality is AndieBennett infectious and has a real strong knowledge of sports, especially hockey.  Andie also happens to be a very attractive young lady, so look for her to get some face time on the CBC TV News. I see a TV network career opportunity for her one day.




Gazette's Mike Boone Column on Rapper Annakin Slayd


Last summer, after watching rapper Annakin Slayd's amazing Expos tribute video, I contacted him and asked whether he would consider doing something similar for the public school system. Read Mike Boone's column, see the Global TV interview and the actual  video below:

Lending some street cred to stay-in-school message
Annakin Slayd, reluctant messenger, is bringing the message to LaurenHill Academy's junior campus tomorrow.

The hip-hop artist (among other things) - whose medicare card lists his name as Andrew Farrar and his age as 32 - is still trying to get his head around this spokesman thing. He and CJAD newsman Andrew Peplowski will be visiting the high school to promote the public education system, but salesmanship runs counter to hip-hop's street ethos.

"It was a really tricky thing," Farrar says of Go Publique, the video he recorded for the English Montreal School Board. "It could have come off as really hokey - me trying too hard to attach myself to a product. I asked them to assure me it wouldn't be some sort of pamphlet."

It isn't. Go Publique is a bilingual, colourful and very personal endorsement of the role education played in making Farrar who he is. And it's winning a new audience for Annakin Slayd.

"After the school board song," Farrar says. "I'm everybody's mom's favourite rapper."

He is a favourite of Mike Cohen, who handles communications for the EMSB. Like most sports fans, Cohen loved Farrar's hip-hop tributes to the Canadiens (Feels Like '93) and Expos (Remember), and he approached Farrar to do Go Publique.

Farrar was born in St. Léonard, but his family moved to Chomedey when he was 4. Farrar graduated from Dawson College's theatre program and went to New York to pursue an acting career.

As a 21-year-old rookie in the big leagues, he spent two years doing what young actors do: performing in off-Broadway productions, scrambling to pay the rent and hoping no one would notice his lack of a green card.

"Auditions were sparse and I wasn't making any money," he recalls.

"Then I saw a call for hip-hop auditions."

Farrar had grown up with that style of spoken-word music.

"I had friends in Montreal who were into funk," he says. "I'd get on the mike and drop a 16-beat verse, just for fun.

"I figured I was in New York, nobody knew me, I had nothing to lose, so why not take a shot at it?"

Farrar ended up cutting three tracks for "a label that wasn't really a label."

Then he ran out of money, returned to Montreal and began to record some hip-hop sides.

His stage name was inspired by the Wu-Tang Clan, members of which meshed comic book and film character names to create their aliases.

Farrar took his handle from Annakin Skywalker, a character in the Star Wars movies, and Slayd, from "a really obscure comic-book."

"I could have used nicknames like 'MC White-boy' but decided not to," Farrar says.

"I wanted something personal because the sides were reflecting my beliefs."

Eminem has established street cred for white rappers. They still can't pull off the gangsta thing without risking ridicule, but someone like Farrar has something to say. And hip-hop recording and performance (including a recent tour of Europe) are only two components of his multi-disciplinary career.

"My job is the arts," he says. Farrar has many creative irons in the fire, including TV and film writing, theatre and voice work on an animated TV series.

"This is one of the first years when I've made equal money being a writer, an actor and a hip-hop artist," Farrar says. He is quick to credit his girlfriend of seven years for making enough money, as a high-end hair stylist, to keep the household afloat through his lean periods.

The upside to being an Annakin of all trades is mastery of many forms.

"It's easier than it's ever been to dabble in things," Farrar said. "I just shot a movie using an iPhone. It's HD, so the footage is going to look as good as Spielberg's."

Schindler's Contact List? Farrar credits Jean-Michel Simard for shooting and editing the slick Annakin Slayd videos that you can watch on YouTube.

Farrar will tell LaurenHill students about his career and the potential of the online world.

"You can upload videos of things that are more interesting than your cat or your friend falling on the ice," he says. "Everyone can be a star, and we have the technology to further that dream."

[email protected]

ALSO, please see this interview with Annakin Slayd on Global TV