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  1. The New York Times June 28, 2008 By BEN SISARIO MONTREAL — On Wednesday night, in the last of his three concerts presented as preludes to the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Leonard Cohen, the 73-year-old hometown poet-hero on tour for the first time in 15 years, said that on his last time through town he was “60 years old, just a kid with a crazy dream.” Between waves of applause and hollers in French and English, he added, “I am so grateful to be here and to be from here.” Mr. Cohen’s math notwithstanding, hometown pride and musical reverence are at the center of the festival, which opened its 29th season on Thursday and runs through July 6. Billing itself as the largest jazz festival in the world, it attracts one million visitors a year to more than 500 concerts in a three-block music zone downtown and brings about $100 million in revenue to the city, according to Canadian government estimates. With CD sales in a chronic slump, the music industry has been turning increasingly to live events for income, and in recent years big smorgasbord festivals have sprouted up all over North America, aiming to present all kinds of music for all kinds of people. But with a setting ideal for tourists as well as for local residents, and a solid history of eclectic programming — among the attractions this year are Woody Allen, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Public Enemy and the local debut of Steely Dan — Montreal has held on to a rare prestige. “There is no parallel in North America and perhaps no parallel around the world,” said Scott Southard, a jazz and world-music booking agent who has 15 artists at the festival. “In Europe or Bonnaroo, for instance, they have to erect an entire village in a remote location. Here you have an urban environment without having to reconstruct the venue infrastructure every year.” Begun in 1980 by two concert promoters, Alain Simard and André Ménard, as a way to fill up what was then a dry summer concert calendar, the festival takes over four concert halls of the Place des Arts performing arts complex as well as numerous theaters and clubs around the perimeter. Several blocks of downtown streets are closed for outdoor stages, retail and food booths and children’s activities. Despite the size, Mr. Simard, the president of the festival’s parent company, L’Équipe Spectra, said that “the goal is not to be the biggest jazz festival in the world, it’s to be the best.” But as the festival approaches its 30th season, it is preparing to grow even bigger, with help from a four-year, $120 million government plan to develop the area around Place des Arts. The first phase, to be completed by next summer, includes a 75,000-square-foot park and performance ground, the Place du Quartier des Spectacles. The festival has also been given a 30-year lease and a $10 million grant from the Province of Quebec to renovate a nearby vacant building; when completed it will add one club for use year-round. As a tourist draw second only to Grand Prix du Canada, the Formula One race held in Montreal in early June, the jazz festival has become an important symbol of Montreal’s cosmopolitan lifestyle, said Charles Lapointe, the chief executive of Tourism Montreal, a nonprofit agency financed through a hotel tax. “The jazz festival exemplifies perfectly what we are presenting on the foreign market,” Mr. Lapointe said. “You can celebrate on the streets without any problems with security and express all the pleasure you want.” Civic pride and creative abundance was clear on Thursday, the official opening. (Mr. Cohen’s touring schedule prevented him from being part of the festival proper; he appears at the enormous Glastonbury pop festival in Britain on Sunday.) During the afternoon crowds gradually filled up the Place des Arts campus, slurping on ice cream cones beside the fountain and listening to the sound check for a tribute to Mr. Cohen featuring Chris Botti, Madeleine Peyroux, Buffy Sainte-Marie and others. Darting between indoor evening concerts by the veteran jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, the young British songwriter Katie Melua and the African performers Vieux Farka Touré and Salif Keita, a visitor could quickly take in half a dozen outdoor concerts, parades and magicians. Two-thirds of the concerts are free. The Cohen tribute drew an estimated audience of 100,000, filling the plaza and nearby streets. But the concerts by Mr. Cohen himself were the clear early highlight. Dressed like a spy in a crisp black suit and fedora, Mr. Cohen, who has said that after years in a Zen Buddhist retreat in California, his lifelong depression has finally begun to lift, sang a sleek and emotional set of nearly three hours. In “Bird on the Wire,” “Hallelujah” and “Tower of Song” he sang of being weighted down by cynicism and starving for affection, but between songs he doffed his hat and smiled broadly for sustained ovations. The festival, a nonprofit enterprise run by the for-profit company L’Équipe Spectra, has an operating budget of $25 million. And though about 18 percent of that comes from national, provincial and city sources, the biggest form of government support is the closing of several blocks of busy city streets. The bulk of the budget comes from corporate sponsorships (40 percent) and sales of tickets and memorabilia (39 percent). The prominence of sponsorships gives the festival a sense of hyperbranding. Looking over Place des Arts, it is almost impossible not to see a giant symbol of General Motors, the lead sponsor: besides GM logos on banners and fliers throughout the grounds, the company also has five displays of new cars for contests, and at least one of the many marching bands wended its way around, wearing black GM T-shirts. Festival organizers say that they have made efforts to ensure that the sponsorship is tasteful and not intrusive. Signs are only seen outdoors, where concerts are free, they say. There is no advertising for the paid concerts indoors, and the organizers say they will not rename the event to suit any sponsor. To create an egalitarian atmosphere, the festival also shuns velvet ropes. “You will never see a V.I.P. area on the site,” Mr. Ménard said. “There’s never a place where people walk and are told, ‘No, that’s not for you.’ The unemployed can stand next to the president of the sponsor company.” For the Cohen tribute on Thursday night, however, there was a small area of bleachers near the stage reserved for the news media and others. But a reporter who lacked the necessary badges was still able to enter with a few kind words. And unlike many large festivals, this one had a network of fenced-off pathways that made quick travel through even a crowd of 100,000 tightly packed fans on Thursday evening easy for anyone needing or wanting to get through. “The vibe is very peaceful,” Mr. Ménard said of the festival. “The fabric of this city is all about the quality of life. The fact is, we have long, deadly winters, so come summertime, everybody is in for a party — but a civilized party.”
  2. Kids will walk without Quebec turnabout KONRAD YAKABUSKI Globe and Mail March 20, 2008 at 6:00 AM EDT Jacques Ménard has got a batting average that has earned him a reputation as the Alex Rodriguez of Quebec investment banking. As Bank of Montreal's Quebec president and chief rainmaker at BMO Nesbitt Burns, Mr. Ménard has been handed some of the toughest M&A mandates Canadian business has ever seen. Yet, like Yankees sensation A-Rod, Mr. Ménard has knocked more than his fair share out of the park. TSX Group's recent $1.3-billion deal to buy an initially hostile Montreal Exchange probably wouldn't have happened – or at least not as quickly – without him. Power Financial's $4-billion (U.S.) purchase, through its Great-West Lifeco unit, of Putnam Investments bore his fingerprints, too. If baseball metaphors come to mind, it's probably because Mr. Ménard saved the sputtering Montreal Expos – twice. In 1991, he put together a group of Quebec Inc. bigwigs to buy the team from Charles Bronfman. And as Expos chairman in 1999, Mr. Ménard negotiated the financially strapped team's sale to Jeffrey Loria, once again preserving major league baseball in Montreal. Even the best strike out now and then, though. Mr. Ménard, now 62, couldn't stop the Expos from ultimately leaving in 2004. And BMO's Quebec team couldn't work miracles for Alcoa in its doomed attempt to buy Alcan last year. Mr. Ménard can accept the occasional walk. It's getting pulled from the batting line-up that really gets his goat. That is essentially what happened when Quebec Premier Jean Charest summarily shelved the 2005 report on the province's cash-sucking health care system that was tabled by a task force led by Mr. Ménard. The latter watched with similar frustration last month as Mr. Charest did the same thing with the recommendations – including higher consumption taxes and user fees – of yet another government-commissioned task force to plug the province's health care black hole. Health care expenses account for 44 per cent of Quebec's program spending. They're headed toward almost 70 per cent by But with the highest debt per capita, highest taxes, shortest workweek, most generous social safety net, lowest productivity growth and most rapidly aging population in Canada, Quebec is already struggling to stay afloat. What kind of future does that suggest for the young Quebeckers who will be left to pick up the tab for the hip replacements and Cialis their baby boomer grandparents seem to consider a God-given right? Hence, Mr. Ménard's cri du coeur in the form of a book, out this week, titled Si on s'y mettait (rough translation: If We Got Busy With It). Part reality check, part road map to growth, Mr. Ménard's essay is aimed primarily at the generation between 18 and 35. They vote far less than their elders, seemingly resigned to watching the politicians of their parents' generation mortgage their future. Few Quebec business leaders these days are willing to go public with their disillusionment with Mr. Charest's failure to tackle such problems. Not Mr. Ménard. “It's astounding the extent to which Quebec's poverty jumps out at you when you come back from a trip abroad,” Mr. Ménard writes, comparing Quebec to a “developing country whose roads have been literally abandoned for generations.” Mr. Ménard dismisses the so-called “Quebec model” of extensive social programs as “a Cadillac with a Lada motor.” The debate over the sustainability of Quebec's public services, given the province's relative demographic and economic decline, has been turning in circles for years. In that respect, the most useful contribution of Mr. Ménard's book probably comes from polling data on young Quebeckers and Canadians the author commissioned himself. It's long been thought that the language barrier and Quebeckers' attachment to their distinct culture is a natural barrier against their mobility. Indeed, governments seem to take for granted that francophone Quebeckers will never leave home. Mr. Ménard's research tells a very different story. Not only are young Quebeckers more outward-looking than their English-Canadian peers, they're more willing to move for a better job. More than half (51 per cent) of Quebeckers between 18 and 35 say they like the idea of working in a foreign country, compared with 43 per cent in the rest of Canada. Forty-five per cent of young Quebeckers say they would “without hesitation” leave Quebec to work elsewhere if a more interesting or better-paying job came up. So, if the best and brightest leave, who's going pay for the boomers' new hips? A wealthy investment banker like Mr. Ménard doesn't have to personally worry about that – leading his critics in Quebec's still-powerful union movement to charge that his policy prescriptions are just part of the same old right-wing agenda to privatize public services. Mr. Ménard denies that. He admits, though, to having his own selfish reasons for writing the book: “I'd like to watch my grandkids grow up without having to go through airports … Mea culpa. I've a got a conflict of interest.” http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080319.wyakabuski0320/BNStory/Business/home
  3. Éric Clément La députée péquiste d'Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Louise Harel, et le député du Bloc québécois dans Hochelaga, Réal Ménard, ont proposé, ce mardi matin, à Montréal, la mise en place d'une ligne de tramway sur la rue Ontario, entre le marché Maisonneuve et la Place des Arts. Les deux politiciens, qui ont dit s'exprimer plus au nom de leurs concitoyens qu'en celui de leur parti respectif, ont présenté un mémoire conjoint lors de la dernière journée de consultation publique de la commission municipale qui se penche sur le Plan de transport dévoilé ce printemps. Tous deux ont estimé que le Plan de transport a occulté une desserte de tramway sur la rue Ontario alors que les Montréalais font aussi des déplacements est-ouest et pas seulement nord-sud. Mme Harel a rappelé que jusqu'en 1959, la population du sud-est de Montréal était desservie par un tramway dont l'emprise se trouvait sur la rue Ontario. La ligne proposée, ont fait valoir les deux politiciens, permettrait de relier de grandes institutions culturelles, religieuses, commerciales et touristiques telles que la Maison de la culture Maisonneuve, la Maison de la culture Frontenac, le cégep du Vieux-Montréal, la grande bibliothèque, l'UQAM, l'Ilot Voyageur, la Place des Arts, etc. «La rue Ontario qui se termine présentement en cul-de-sac à l'est de l'ancienne biscuiterie Viau, où se réalise un important projet de développement résidentiel, pourrait se déployer incluant son tramway jusqu'au boulevard de l'Assomption et servir d'appui à la revitalisation de ce secteur urbain», a dit Mme Harel. Pour Louise Harel et Réal Ménard, ce projet de tramway permettra de rendre ce quartier majoritairement francophone plus attrayant pour l'installation de nouvelles familles immigrantes. Plus d'informations demain dans La Presse
  4. Vers une année record dans la construction 12 juillet 2008 - 11h14 La Presse Hugo Fontaine Le sourire était de mise hier lors de la conférence de presse annuelle de la Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ). Non seulement les traditionnelles vacances de la construction approchent, mais les statistiques de l'année 2008 sont telles que les travailleurs pourront se reposer l'esprit tranquille : l'industrie est en excellente forme. La construction québécoise se dirige vers sa meilleure année depuis 1975. De janvier à avril 2008, le volume de travail a augmenté de 11% sur les chantiers québécois, comparativement à la période équivalente en 2007. Si la tendance se maintient, les 137 000 travailleurs de la province auront enregistré 133 millions d'heures de boulot à la fin de l'année, contre 126 l'an dernier. Même le secteur résidentiel, avec une hausse de 12%, s'en sort assez bien. «C'est pas mal pour un secteur dont on annonce le déclin depuis trois ans», dit le président-directeur général de la CCQ, André Ménard. «La construction semble vouloir garder sa place au soleil et même améliorer son rythme malgré les difficultés économiques nord-américaines», ajoute M. Ménard. La Commission prévoit que l'industrie atteindra les 140 millions d'heures de travail en 2012. Le défi de la main-d'oeuvre Le grand défi réside maintenant dans la main-d'oeuvre. La demande est là, et parmi les 26 métiers de la construction, certains manquent de candidats. C'est le cas, par exemple, pour les métiers de cimentier, ferblantier ou monteur-mécanicien (vitrier). Pour répondre aux besoins, la CCQ veut favoriser la reconnaissance des compétences acquises dans d'autres secteurs. André Ménard donne l'exemple de Lebel-sur-Quévillon, où plusieurs employés affectés par les difficultés de l'industrie du bois pourraient facilement transposer leurs compétences dans le secteur de la construction. «L'an dernier, on a reconnu les compétences de 1596 personnes, souligne M. Ménard. Ce sont des choses qu'on ne faisait pas il y a sept ou huit ans.» La solution passe aussi par la formation. Sur les 14 000 nouveaux travailleurs de la construction en 2007, 5000 étaient des diplômés des différentes écoles de la province. Mais la CCQ voudrait voir ce nombre augmenter à 7000. La tendance est encourageante. «Il y a 10 ans, il y avait environ 1000 diplômés», rappelle André Martin, conseiller en relations publiques de la CCQ. Mais depuis, la construction a bien meilleure réputation. Selon un sondage mené au printemps 2008 par la firme Echo Sondage, 85% des gens jugent que l'industrie de la construction est un bon choix de carrière pour les jeunes. C'est une augmentation de 18 points par rapport à 2001. «L'industrie qu'on dénigrait autrefois a maintenant un attrait auprès des jeunes», dit André Ménard. En 2007, 15% des travailleurs de la construction avaient moins de 25 ans. La moyenne d'âge des travailleurs est passée de 42 ans à 39 ans au cours de la dernière année, a noté le ministre provincial du Travail, David Whissel, lors de la conférence de presse. Rencontré sur le chantier du campus Bell, à L'Île-des-Soeurs, où se tenait la conférence de presse, le travailleur Yannick Labrie a dit percevoir ce nouvel afflux de jeunes. Et ce ne sont pas les débouchés qui manquent. «Si les jeunes veulent travailler et qu'ils ont du coeur, il y a de la place pour eux», dit le poseur de systèmes d'intérieur. Il y a aussi de la place pour les femmes, qui ne composent encore que 1% de la main-d'oeuvre du secteur. «Laissez-nous encore quelques années, dit André Ménard. Nous travaillons à augmenter le nombre de femmes, d'autochtones et de minorités dans le secteur.» Le temps des vacances Près de 82% des travailleurs du domaine seront en congé du 22 juillet au 2 août pour les vacances de la construction, qui sont repoussées d'une semaine. Pour l'occasion, la CCQ leur a remis une somme globale de 246 millions de dollars. La Commission estime que 85% de cette somme sera réinjectée dans l'économie québécoise. http://lapresseaffaires.cyberpresse.ca/article/20080712/LAINFORMER/807120757/5891/LAINFORMER01/?utm_source=Fils&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=LPA_S_INFORMER
  5. http://www.cyberpresse.ca/actualites/quebec-canada/education/200906/28/01-879676-payer-les-eleves-pour-recompenser-leurs-efforts.php
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