First, let’s talk about our existing rights as workers.

On June 12, 2018 the National Assembly passed legislation changing Quebec labor law, presumably for the better. Some of the changes came into effect immediately, others only as of this January, and others as of May 2019. This article will discuss those changes, what’s missing, as well as provide a crash course on the existing rights of workers in Quebec.

When I was looking for a job I, like many others, had my CV up on a couple of job search websites with a profile indicating that I was actively looking for work. Within a couple of days of posting my CV I was bombarded with phone calls from companies asking me to come in for an interview for customer service work. Upon arriving at the interview I was given the ugly truth: the “job” that was being offered was commission-only and there would be no base pay for my work.

According to Quebec’s Act Respecting Labour Standards, all jobs in Quebec have to pay a wage. That means that whether you sell something or not, for example, your employer still has to pay you.

So these jobs are either illegal or have found a way around the law, possibly by not considering their workers to be employees, but rather independent contractors. If it’s the latter, then be aware that you also won’t be eligible for benefits like paid vacation.

If you are confident enough in your selling skills you feel you can get by this way, then by all means, give the “job” a try. Just be aware that you will also not be able to avail yourself of the important legal protections outlined in this article.

The minimum hourly wage employers must pay you is set by the government and currently stands at $11.25 an hour. As of May 2019, the minimum wage jumps to $12 an hour. Those who make minimum wage with tips will see their hourly pay increase to $9.80 per hour in May.

You are not considered to be paid unless the amount can be deposited within two days of receipt. If you get a call asking you to come in for an interview for customer service work, be sure to establish whether or not you will be paid a wage for your work so you don’t waste your time.

Quebec’s human rights laws also include protections for employees. According the Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights, employers are not allowed to discriminate in “hiring, apprenticeship, duration of the probationary period, vocational training, promotion, transfer, displacement, laying-off, suspension, dismissal or conditions of employment” on the basis of “race, colour, sex, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap.”

The only time the law allows for discrimination on any of the above is if the organization is a non-profit, charitable, religious, or other organization devoted exclusively to the well-being of a given ethnic group.

In addition to paying you and not being a discriminatory douchebag, here’s a couple of other things your employer must do:

  • Allow you to do your job. That doesn’t just mean giving you access to your workspace, it means protecting your health, safety, and dignity in a way that’s consistent with the nature of the work.
  • If your boss decides to fire you, they must give you a reasonable notice of termination, taking into account, once again, the nature of the employment, the circumstances in which the work is carried out, and the duration of employment.

If your employer infringes on your rights, you have a couple of options. You can try to resolve the dispute privately with them, you can go to the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST – what we still call “Normes de travail”), or, if it’s a case of discrimination, you can go to the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

If you choose to resolve the dispute with your employer amicably, be sure to speak to a legal professional or the CNESST’s information line before you sign anything. There are lots of affordable and pro-bono legal services available in Montreal. Contact one.

Important Changes to Quebec’s Labour Law

Under the old law, employees were entitled to three weeks of paid vacation after five years working for the same employer. As of this January, you only have to have worked for said employer for three years in order to get three weeks paid vacation. It also allows for more paid time off for illness and or if you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse or sexual assault.

Under the old law, employees had ninety days to report psychological harassment at work, and sexual harassment was not considered a form of said harassment. As of June 12, 2018, sexual harassment falls under the definition of psychological harassment, and victims have up to two years to report the incident, presumably to ease their fears of immediate reprisals.

As of January 2019, employers must have a psychological harassment policy in place as well as complaint management procedures. The CNESST even has a guide available online for employers to help establish such policies and practices.

The new rules also address absences for family reasons, with the definition of “family” expanded to include the family of a spouse or partner. Under the new rules, employees are allowed up to five days off following the death of a loved one instead of the one day under the old law.

The changes also allow employees up to sixteen weeks a year to take care of a loved one, with more time allotted if the person in need of care is a minor.

Another significant change to the rules is that employees have a legal right to refuse to work more than two hours beyond their normal work hours. This change is clearly meant to address the issue of unstable working hours, forcing employers to give at least five days notice if they want their employees to work more than the aforementioned two hours.

The changes, brought in by the previous provincial government, are a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they’re incomplete.

They fail to address the increasingly common practice of treating long term employees as temporary hires to avoid paying them the wages and benefits of a permanent hire. Ideal labor legislation in Quebec would penalize employers with workers that have been with them a year or more without permanent employee status.

The government that voted in the changes to Quebec labor law has been voted out. We have a new government in place that wants to fix the labour shortage without bringing in new people.

If the government wants to encourage people to fill vacancies their advice to employers should be simple: treat your workers nice and pay them better.

A recent study conducted by the University of Guelph showed that the average Canadian household can expect to pay $411 more for fruits and vegetables in 2019 than they did last year. This also means that families that are already struggling to put healthy food on the table will have to pay a heftier price for the essentials. As a result of this low-income families will forgo healthier items for the much cheaper processed food counterparts.

While food prices going up is nothing new, this year’s increase for fruits and veggies, according to the Canada Food Price report, will be 3.5% compared to 2018’s 1.5% jump. This can have a big impact on healthy living as fruits and vegetables are considered essential to a balanced healthy diet.

However, the price of meat products is expected to drop for the first time in a decade. But recent surveys have shown that many Canadians are eating less meat in order to adopt a healthier diet.

The price of eating out will go up, too. This has to do with the rising minimum wage and the higher cost of food.

So, what can you do if you are struggling to buy groceries to combat these new high prices? First, start by making a monthly budget with how much you are going to spend on food. Second, look for sales and specials, Thirdly, use point cards to take advantage of special that may be offered.

Finally, try and buy things from stores that sell in bulk or when you see specials buy items that you can freeze and store for a later date.

If you are someone who enjoys eating out, maybe cut down the number of times you do: only on special occasions or maybe a few times a month instead of a few times a week.

But whatever you do, try and be a smart shopper. Looking out for specials and deals can save you a lot of money this year.

Featured image via Sunrise POS Creative Commons

A brief history of tea, according to me:

We figured out fire (ouch & yay), and soon put water near said fire. Look! Bubbles! Hey, those leaves smell good, let’s throw them into the bubbles! Wait, these flowers are pretty interesting, what if we… Well, that worked out. Now, what if we add some candy cinnamon lips?

This bring us to modern day, where purists roll their eyes, and the curious fairly ask, but is it tea? No, some of it’s tisane, but that’s not the point.

Personally, I’m excited by all the impressionistic flavors, not to mention all the wonderful names they come with. It makes shopping for teas a whole adventure as I explore, sniff, sample, and come home with packages wrapped like bonbons.

But sometimes, I don’t wanna. It’s cold, it’s gross out, I’m comfy where I am, screw pants. I still want creative teas though. Now.

Oh, hi, MyTeaBox.ca, fancy meeting you here!

First up, it’s Canadian, and I love that. Plus, I’m tired of the sticker shock when online prices convert to CAD and then add exorbitant shipping costs.

Another perk, small but important, is that the package fits in an apartment sized mailbox, which is super awesome if you live somewhere prone to thefts, or if your package pick up point is in an inconvenient spot, and I check both of those, so I was thrilled. Good start.

Plus, the packaging itself was charming, and it felt like I was receiving a gift from a Pinterest minded friend, which is exactly what Alisa Donaldson had in mind when she started the company. She told me by email that she “really connected with the idea of receiving a surprise in the mail every month (kind of like Christmas, or your birthday, but every month!).”

And my reaction is exactly what she was going for: “I love sharing that joy with our subscribers every month. I’m thrilled when we hear back from our subscribers about how much they love getting their tea boxes . We’re so happy we’re able to make that experience for them; it’s the reason we do what we do.”

Each box comes with three loose tea/tisane blends, and because this was my first box, I also got a handwritten card, and heart shaped infuser. Small touches are almost everything, and this felt really thoughtful.

This was the December box, and might I say, I was pretty relieved that there were no chai or “spice” variations in sight. I dig both, but everyone gets a little seasonally flavor specific, and I’m full of them right now, thanks.

I found the infuser glitchy, and I couldn’t get it to stay closed. I blamed myself, but my bf tried too, and we never solved it. No biggie, it was a bonus, and probably only the right size for a small cup, anyway. The instructions for each flavor were based on 8oz cups, and I like my tea big and strong, so I busted out my own gear, and started steeping.

First up, was Frosted Sugar Plum which the tagline called “sweet and fresh, like a ballet on your tongue”. Man, I do love me a good tagline. I don’t love black tea however, so this one was kind of bound to be my least favorite.

It was floral, and did help me evoke thoughts of tiny ballerinas on my tongue, but then I wanted them to leave. Not the tea’s fault, and this one was hands down my boyfriend’s fave, proving there’s something here for everyone.

Next was Chocolate Mint Perfection, and here’s a flavor that lends more to the drinking than the describing. It was perfectly mint chocolatey, wonderfully balanced, and aptly named.

My hands down fave was called Dessert but not Dessert, and I’m almost out of it. It was zingy and fruity, and reminded me of summer flavors, and maybe some shortcake, or crumble type thing.

It was a vibrant red, which cleared the darkest edges of my winter blues. I let it get cold, and yup, it makes a wicked good ice tea too, all fresh and juicy.

This box was fantastic, and super satisfying. As for the subscription, you can prepay (three months, six months, and one year) or pay $24.99 a month, which I would easily spend if I braved the snow, (slush, wind, rain, and whatever else is happening these days) to go find fun teas.

While this box was sent to me free for review, I definitely feel like I got $25 worth of enjoyment, and this one is on my shortlist of Presents I Intend To Buy Myself.

Cheers 🍵

January in Montreal means many things: frigid weather, atrocious driving, and from a commercial perspective, Valentine’s day prep. There is no clearer demonstration of this than at the annual Salon de l’Amour et de la Seduction.

Sponsored by MyFreeCams.com, it’s held every year towards the end of January and is a massive combination of trade show, educational conference, and performance festival. The rules are that it’s eighteen plus, you must be respectful and mindful of consent, and though you’re welcome to dress to impress, you must keep your genitals covered at all times. Inclusion and open minded-ness are the name of the game, and the Salon does a lot to make sure its disabled attendees are comfortable, with ramps and seating areas for those with visible and invisible illnesses.

As a reporter who’s had the honor of covering the event every year, the differences between this year and last year’s Salon did not go unnoticed. One of the biggest changes was clearly due to Canada’s recent legalization of recreational marijuana.

Though in previous years, vendors of bongs and pipes had one or two tiny booths, this year their presence was much grander. One massive booth offered pipes, vapes, and bongs in a variety of materials and price points. Another booth was devoted to HighonLove.ca, a Canadian company that makes hemp-based massage and bath oils, lubricants, and even chocolate body paint.

Though their products seem sound, their prices are quite high, with a bottle of massage oil going for as much as sixty bucks. The representative I spoke to said that this was because the product contained no fillers, though it is clear that their prices are also driven up by their fancy packaging, which gives it the appearance of a luxury brand.

Among the sex educators present this year was Morgan Thorne, author of A Guide to Classic Discipline, Exploring BDSM: A Workbook for Couples and Medical Aseptic Technique for BDSM. Thorne is not only a sex educator who runs BDSM workshops and offers Couples Education and Coaching both in person and online, but she is also one of the only visibly disabled exhibitors present at the Salon.

Morgan Thorne

She spoke to me in depth from her wheelchair as I leaned on my cane about the difficulties disabled women face getting treatment for pain issues. The impression she gives off is one of empathy and open-mindedness and also has free BDSM educational videos.

Among the many sex toy vendors at the Salon this year was Bliss, which had a second booth for their other company Spank Toys. Of all the vendors at the Salon, their prices for vibrators were some of the most reasonable, with a decent model going for as little as thirty dollars.

Bliss

I noticed upon arrival that there were fewer exhibitors this year. A representative of the company named Jeff told me that this was because the cost of exhibiting at the Montreal show – the Salon also has events in Las Vegas, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Red Deer, and Toronto – was particularly high this year. Despite the high cost, some smaller vendors were also at the Salon to showcase their works.

One such vendor is DicksWithWicks.com, which sells penis-shaped candles. I asked their representative whether her products were modeled on a real penis and she told an amazing story. She was on social media one day when a man sent her an unsolicited dick pic. Her horror and sense of violation quickly turned to empowerment.

She asked him for more photos of his junk from different angles, which he freely and willingly provided. The photos were then used to make the mold for the candles. When the man in question saw the products, he demanded a share of profits, to which she rightfully replied that he sent the images freely and with no presumption of privacy and she therefore owed him nothing. In the era of #MeToo, we need stories like hers more than ever, and it is companies like these that we need to support.

Another small vendor present was Exotique Spa Candles, a company that makes blacklight sensitive candles for sex play. Designed to not burn you when the wax is poured on your skin, the proceeds of their products go to the Alberta sex positive education and community center, a sex ed group that gives courses and workshops on consent and sexual health.

Their representative spoke to me in depth about how there is still a lot of shame tied to sex and sexuality in Canada and that the shame keeps people from having healthy discussions about it. A lack of discussion and health education has led to such problems as the increasing rates of gonorrhea and syphilis among people over the age of fifty. Information about their non-profit can be found at Aspecc.ca.

In addition to vibrators, dildos, candles, and lingerie, the Salon features the latest sex toy tech. La Marquise Sex Toys had a lifelike sex doll on display. Their rep said the entire doll costs around ten thousand dollars, but they also had lifelike hips with vagina and anus built in for four hundred dollars.

.Another company, Robot Sex Machine, had two machines in operation, demonstrating how their technology could be used to rhythmically move dildos and pocket pussies.

One of the biggest disappointments of the Salon this year was their kink corner. Though in the past the kink section had ambient lighting and tamer displays of kink, this year was a demonstration of mismanagement and a lack of discussion about what should be shown.

When I arrived the kink corner on Saturday around 2 pm, the area was impossibly dark due to a lighting issue that had never been resolved, and the displays of kink were too hardcore even for this crowd.

Many who come to the Salon and check out the kink corner are not kinky themselves, but curious and perhaps tempted to try it. That means that what they see should not be overly shocking, and should certainly represent healthy BDSM relationships to dispel myths resulting from the Jian Ghomeshi trials and the abuse portrayed in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Unfortunately, while one section showed a tame display of rope play, a kinkster in another section was furiously spanking and whipping a sub with few check-ins or after care. It was a display that turned the stomach of my friends, some of whom are kinky themselves.

It was the kind of display that would scare some off and give others the impression that abuse is acceptable if you call it BDSM. That said, I know the kink community can do better, and here’s hoping they do so next year.

The Salon de l’Amour is a lot of fun. Not only can you get quality sex toys and lingerie at discount prices, but you’ll also see great shows, see innovations in sex toy tech, and learn about sexual techniques, identities, and kinks. Your ticket also has the benefit of helping small businesses and educational groups that in the era of #Metoo need our support more than ever.

Check it out, have a blast, and leave your judgments and biases at the door.

Photos by Kerry Ann Cannon

When people fantasize about winning the lottery, they talk about things like world travel, lavish homes, fast, shiny cars. If / when I win it big, I will be filthy with subscription boxes. Enough to keep a courier in business just bringing mystery prezzies to my door, preferably daily, if I plan correctly. In fact, I will probably need a dedicated Subscription Box Manager to deal with things like timing, finding new, fab boxes, and figuring out how much it will cost to get them to Canada (if they’ll ship here at all).

Until then, allow me to be your subscription box advisor. Let me just wipe away this silver scratchy stuff…

Please note, that the boxes in this series have been sent to me for free and for the express purpose of review.

Per their website, Kawaii Box (part of Japanese-owned Kawaii Group) wants to spread kawaii culture around the world, and help you “kawaii-fy” your life, with the belief that “even a tiny dose of cuteness can provide a boost of positivity to our life.” That’s an ethos I can get on board with.

I received the winter / Christmas box, which is an extra perfect time to get fun surprises, and this one was a candy store for my eyeballs!

Oki, what all do we have here?

For starters, I received a pair of smiling pink decorative baubles balls. They’re absolutely tree decorations, but considering the look of them, these mamma jammas will be hanging around my house all year long making me happy.

There was a pack of Christmas stickers (that made their way into someone else’s stocking, where they were properly appreciated), and also Christmassy was the pink and white candy cane pen. Theme be damned, I’m picky discerning about pens, and this one writes really smoothly, and it’s soft to the touch, so I intend to use this one long after the thaw.

There was also a mermaid change purse shaped like a shell, and I was glad that it wasn’t a unicorn.

Can you have a kawaii box without Sanrio? Probably, but I didn’t have to find out, because I got a Cinnamoroll eyeglass / all-these-touch-screens cloth, which naturally doubled as a blanket for the ridiculously cute Amuse Alpacasso pastel rainbow alpaca. Holy smokes, this little dude made my day.

It’s impossible to say exactly why, as with any kawaii (or any style group, really), it’s all in how it hits, and this one got me in the feels. It made its way into my bag for a road trip to the East Coast, where it made me smile each time I came across it.

When I saw the ring pack, I was ready to wear flowers on my fingers all through the snowy season, but unfortunately, they were the tiny plastic ones made for kiddie party bags. In hindsight, it makes sense, but they really woulda looked so cute on me all at once (they fit my alpaca though).

Munchies on the other hand, fit everyone. There was a duo of cookies, quite like tea biscuits with chocolate, and while they probably would’ve made another adorable stocking stuffer, I ate them instead, and they were ok.

The scene stealer was a bag of tasty, crunchy goodies. While they were akin to oversized cereal bits, they were more than that. The texture was more complex than just cereal, somehow a little velvety before the crunch, and they were perfectly sweet without being too much.

My boyfriend and I ate the bag in no time, and we both agreed that it was probably a good thing that we couldn’t run to the dep for more, or we def would have. Often.


And I think that’s what this box is best for: those treats that you’re unlikely to encounter elsewhere. For instance, Kit-Kat is one of the partner brands, and Kit-Kat Japan has so many intriguing flavors and limited editions going on that you’ll never stumble upon here.

For me, the box was something of a sugar rush, brightly coloured and short-lived. I think it would be best suited for a kawaii minded adult with a li’l one on hand so the smaller trinkets get properly appreciated, while the grown-up eats the good candy, because c’mon, don’t waste good candy on kids.

Some of the other partner brands include Disney Tsum Tsum, Pocky, Pokémon, and Pusheen, so open the box while the kids sleep, and keep the best bits for yourself.

Shipping is free worldwide (yay!), and the subscription price is def worth the amount of fun:

  • $26.41CAD/month
  • $25.09/month with a 6 month subscription
  • $23.76/month with a 12 month subscription

The fab folks over at Kawaii Box are giving one of our adorable readers a free box to spread the smiles!

Forget The Box Kawaii Box Giveaway

Next Time: MyTeaBox.ca

It’s the New Year and if you are like many people you have reflected on the last year and made promises to yourself about the upcoming one. But if you’re like most people, you will find that your New Years resolutions won’t last beyond a few weeks. So why do New Year’s resolutions not last long?

Well its simple, when the New Year begins it’s easy to make ambitious goals, but the hard part is following through. This is because people make resolutions that are not easily achievable.

There is nothing wrong with making goals about planning on losing weight, saving money, making new friends or whatever they may be. The problem is how you go about it. For instance, instead of making a resolution to lose 50 pounds, plan to lose ten by a certain date and another five by another date.

By making little goals you are more likely to meet your ultimate goal. Instead of making a resolution to save thousands of dollars, make a plan to save smaller amounts of money in order to make your long-term goal. Once you have achieved the smaller goal it will be easier to achieve the long-term goals that you have set out for yourself.

Normally when people make ambitious goals and fail, they abandon all their other goals as well. This is why its best to make smaller goals so you can see the process you have made and get the motivation you need to continue with what you started.

Another way to keep focused is by creating a goal board. This is where you write down or illustrate things you would like to accomplish and achieve. You can draw pictures on a blank canvas, cut pictures out of magazines or write down your goals. How you do it is not important, making sure the goal board is somewhere visible in your home to remind you of your goals and expectations for the year ahead is. This will help you stay focused on your goals and resolutions.

Finally, if you tell your friends and family what your goals are, they may be able to motivate you to help keep you on track. They can give you tips, motivation or little words of advice when you’re having a downtime.

Keep focused and Happy New Year! Let’s make those resolutions count!

* Featured image by Creativity + Timothy K. Hamilton via Flickr Creative Commons

Tourisme Montréal released a new promotional video a few days ago. It features…no wait, summarizing it can’t really do it justice. Just watch it for yourself:

In general, response has ranged from “WTF was that?” to polite attempts to find something positive about it. Even Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said “Huh. Okay, that’s interesting interesting,” before adding that at least it was getting people to talk.

But will that talk and the video it is about work? Well, I suspect it will work wonders for singer Mathieu Samson’s career.

Curious, I googled him and found another video he released, without
Tourisme Montréal funding, but with the same cheesy 80s-inspired effects. He just got huge exposure doing something completely in keeping with the style he was already going for.

But will Tourisme Montréal achieve its goal with this video? The short answer is maybe. This becomes more apparent when you properly define what the goal of this particular video is.

The chorus of the song goes “Québec, Reviens-Moi” and the outdoor scenes are winter scenes. The goal clearly isn’t to bring people from Vancouver, the US and Europe here in June, but rather to suggest Montreal as a winter destination, possibly just a weekend destination, to people elsewhere in Quebec.

Understood as such, foregoing beauty shots of the city in favour of a giant, miniature and normal-sized Samson visiting places everyone in the intended audience already know about makes sense. They aren’t even going full cornball. If they were, there would have been a shot of our infamous “ugly”Christmas tree.

Instead, the cheap 80s effects are a fun way to remind Quebecers on a budget that an affordable and fun vacation is just a (relatively) short drive or bus ride away. Still, the video does drop the proverbial ball a few times.

It seems to harp, both lyrically and visually, a bit too much on the Ferris wheel in the Old Port. Sure, it’s open year round, but I live here and haven’t felt inclined to take a ride, can’t imagine it being as big a draw as they think it is.

Also, while the Habs are definitely a sellpoint for the city in general, bringing up the fact that we still have pro hockey here, as the video does in one verse, may hit a bit of a sore spot for people in Quebec City. Plus, do we really need the Big O to make an appearance?

While some might see this as akin to the National Anthem for the Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles Borough the previous Coderre Administration paid $50 000 for out of our 375th Anniversary funds, it’s not. Sure, both are cheesy and municipally funded, but that’s where the similarities end.

The RDP/PAT anthem used (way too much) public money destined to promote the city as a whole internationally to placate some people in one borough. This video is a targeted campaign to bring a specific set of potential tourists to the city.

It may or may not work, but it’s not the vapid piece of hipster irony it comes across as to many, including me at first. Honestly, now after writing about it, I kinda like this video.

It’s the holidays and that means food, family, and tons more ways to get into trouble. I’m here to help.

This article is going to be a guide on how to get through the holidays with the least amount of damage to your life, property, and freedom. For the purposes of this article, the laws mentioned will pertain primarily to Montreal. Check online for your city’s particular rules and regulations.

Let’s start with fires

Between cooking accidents, overloaded sockets, and highly flammable wrapping paper, the risk of fires is higher around the holiday season. There is also the matter of fireplaces, which I will tackle first.

In the City of Montreal it is no longer legal to use fireplaces and other solid-fuel-burning devices. Those who wanted to keep using their fireplaces had until October 1, 2018 to have them modified to conform to certain environmental standards. Those who have not and still use their fireplaces in the City face stiff fines.

Now let’s tackle the kinds of fires that could happen and what to do about them. It should go without saying that you should keep your smoke alarms on and with fresh batteries. It should also go without saying that if a fire is particularly large you’re better off calling 911. If it’s something you think you can handle, here’s how.

Grease fire

This is the kind of fire that generally happens on the stove when oil gets too hot. The quickest and best way to put out such a fire is to smother it. That means covering the pot or pan with a lid or other pot big enough to cut off the fire’s oxygen supply, making it die out.

Electrical fire

Electrical fires are common during the holidays due to overloaded sockets and powerbars. If there’s an electrical fire, turn off the device and unplug it, then smother the fire with a blanket or use a Type C fire extinguisher.

DO NOT USE WATER TO PUT OUT GREASE OR ELECTRICAL FIRES. Water conducts electricity, thus putting you at risk of an electrical shock. Using water to put out a grease fire can cause the oil to splash, thus spreading the fire.

When to use water?

Trash fires.

If it’s your Christmas tree that caught fire, determine the nature of the fire and go from there. The bigger the fire, the better off you are calling 911.

Once the fire is out, open as many windows as you can to get the smoke out and turn on a fan to help it along if you have one.

Now let’s talk about alcohol

Family time will undoubtedly lead to an increase in alcohol consumption so to reduce the risk of deaths on the road, we need to talk about Canada’s drunk driving laws.

As it stands the legal blood alcohol limit is eighty milligrams of alcohol in every hundred milliliters of blood. Driving with a blood alcohol level over this limit is a criminal offence.

The government recently updated its drunk driving laws and they are now stricter than ever.

Under the new law the police can demand a breathalyzer test from anyone they pull over (the fact that this will likely exacerbate racial profiling by the police is another can of worms altogether). Those who refuse to take the breathalyzer test can be charged with impaired driving.

In addition, the Bolus defense – a defense by which you can raise a reasonable doubt as to whether you were driving impaired by arguing that you had just consumed the alcohol and therefore had not absorbed it enough to be impaired – is no longer a viable defense in drunk driving cases.

Refusing to take a breathalyzer test comes with a fine of two thousand dollars for a first offense. A first offense for driving over the legal limit comes with fines ranging from a thousand to twenty-five hundred dollars depending on how high your blood alcohol concentration was above the legal limit. Subsequent offenses lead to automatic jail time.

That said, drink responsibly. If you’re drunk, sleep at a friend’s house, get a lift, or take a taxi or Uber. If you insist on going home that night, call Operation Red Nose at 514-256-2510. They’ll send a volunteer to drive you home. If you’re a woman, best to take a cab or Uber with someone you know given the risk of sexual assaults by drivers and how little the police have taken them seriously in the past.

Speaking of sexual assault…

It’s time to talk about consent

Between the booze, the Mistletoe, and New Year’s Eve, the risk of sexual assault is high, so here’s a reminder of how consent works – though I find it utterly tragic that I need to keep issuing these reminders.

Consent is defined as the voluntary agreement to engage in the sexual activity in question.

Consent can be withdrawn at any time. That means that if – for example – your partner wants to stop and you keep going regardless, the sexual encounter is no longer consensual and becomes sexual assault.

There is no consent if the person is too young, too drunk, or unconscious. If the person is consenting to something drunk that they wouldn’t have consented to sober, they are probably in no position to consent. If you have any doubts, DON’T do it.

You’re not only fucking someone over physically and psychologically, you risk bringing in the New Year with a charge of sexual assault.

Last but not least, if you feel compelled to use fireworks on New Year’s Eve, do so responsibly. Every New Year’s Day reports storm in of people blowing their fingers off and setting fires because they didn’t know how to use the pyrotechnics they bought for the occasion. Check your city’s by-laws on fireworks use, read and follow the instructions on all the fireworks you buy, and don’t light anything while impaired.

Happy Holidays Everyone! Play Safe!

* Featured Image by Joe Buckingham via WikiMedia Commons

It’s supposed to be the happiest time of the year. The lights are flashing, the Christmas trees are up and everyone is generally in a great spirit.

Most of us reflect with family and friends about how grateful we are that we have them in our lives. We sing Christmas Carols, drink Eggnog and have a big feast.

However, there something no one wants to talk about that also happens during the holidays. It’s the Christmas Blues.

A lot of people struggle with deep depression and anxiety during this time of year. Whether it’s the stress of Christmas shopping or the sadness of not having loved ones around, Christmas time can be stressful and, sadly, depressing for many people.

So why are people so depressed at Christmas? Well, the answer is there is no straight answer. For some people it can be a mood disorder brought on by the changing seasons, for others, it’s the pressures of financial hardship and expectations that are brought on by the holidays.

Seasonal depression is a very real disorder. In fact, there is a name for it: Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This can be so serious that it can cripple people’s quality of life. Some spend long hours in bed, overeat and have other serious symptoms.

However, if you or someone you know suffers from this, there are a number of treatments that can help overcome this depression, such as artificial exposure to sunlight, counselling with a psychiatrist and medication.

If your depression is brought on due to financial hardship, you are not alone. Christmas is the season where consumers rack up more debt on their credit cards than any other time of the year. It’s easy to see how people can fall down the rabbit hole of debt.

It’s important to remember that it’s the thought that counts. Putting yourself in debt is not worth the long-term financial stress over one day.

If you are depressed because you can’t see your family or you’re not able to be with them for any number of reasons, try and keep your self busy by volunteering at your local food kitchens or helping others less fortunate than you. There are studies that show that keeping busy can help you get out of a potential depression.

So, this holiday season try and keep your head up and try not to let the Christmas Blues get you down. Featured image by Randi Hausken, via WikiMedia Commons

* Featured image by Randi Hausken, via WikiMedia Commons

The prospect of Major League Baseball returning to Montreal has gone from one out and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth to runners on first and second, but a rookie coming up to bat. If I bungled that baseball metaphor, it’s because I haven’t really watched that much baseball since the Montreal Expos left town in 2004.

Now, though, the prospect of them returning seems to have shifted into the realm of possibility, though it remains a longshot. Here’s where we are:

  • Toronto Blue Jays pre-season games played in our Olympic Stadium continue to draw a crowd.
  • A recent report commissioned by business leaders hoping to bring a team here produced positive results provided there was a new stadium close to downtown.
  • Stephen Bronfman met with Quebec Premier François Legault to pitch the idea. Legault tweeted about the meeting and also told Bronfman that provincial investment in a new ballpark was possible if accompanied by private money.
  • While clearly not as gung-ho as her predecessor, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has said she is enthusiastic about the idea and was happy about the results of the report, but she also reiterated her campaign promise that she would put any investment of municipal funds in a new stadium up to a referendum.
  • The Tampa Bay Rays are running into a bit of trouble and may leave a spot open in the American League East.

The last point may be the most significant. Montreal would need to be in the same division as the New York Yankees, Boston and Toronto to make it work.

Bronfman and company are pushing the idea that a local audience could support a team if they didn’t have to travel to the East End to catch games. That’s only half true, we would need the baseball tourists, too.

I can easily see Yankee, Red Sox and even Blue Jays fans regularly making the trek to Montreal to catch their team play ours, especially when the tickets are cheaper and easier to get. People from Atlanta, not so much.

Come to think of it, if the problem with the Expos the first time was really that we were in the National League and not the commute, why not use the Big O for a new team? Are you telling me that a Yankee fan who regularly travels to the Bronx to catch games would come to Montreal but balk at a trip on the Green Line?

OK, I know that’s not going to happen, MLB would never buy that argument. Just thought I would throw it out there. Moving on…

If We Build It, Will They Come?

Last time Montreal built a stadium, it was for the Olympics. We already had a pro baseball team at the time, and moving them into the new digs just made sense.

This time, we don’t have a team and have no other reason to build a new stadium but to host one. If we do decide to build, I seriously hope, at the very least, that it is with a team confirmed.

We don’t want a repeat of Quebec City building a new arena for the Nordiques and then not getting a team. If we do get a team and the new stadium isn’t ready, they can play in the Big O until it is.

So, let’s say that there is a team on its way and we are building a stadium in the Peel Basin, just across the canal from Griffintown, which seems to be the site of choice. The area isn’t residential, so we’re not looking at mass expropriations, which is good.

It is closer to downtown than the Olympic Stadium, but while the Big O is connected to Pie IX Metro, this is roughly a 20 minute walk from Bonaventure. There’s supposed to be an REM stop there, though, plus buses, you can bike to it, probably decent for driving, and if Plante gets the Pink Line off the ground, maybe a closer metro stop.

But what about when there’s no baseball game? Well, the Alouettes could use it in place of Percival Molson Stadium for regular season games, though they kinda have a good thing going there. The Impact could use it instead of Saputo Stadium, though that’s unlikely given how much money went into making them a permanent, soccer-specific home.

That leaves concerts and other non-regular events that require a large venue. Assuming we’re not going to try for another retractable roof, it would be either closed, in which case these events could happen year-round, or open-air, meaning they would be seasonal.

So, basically, the new baseball team would have to pack the place or at least come close for most of their season for a new stadium downtown to be feasible. They can’t rely on other organizations and events to make the enterprise worthwhile.

Our Survey

While Bronfman may have done a survey and produced a report, he obviously was hoping for certain results, and he got them. I’m sure his process was accurate, but why not get a second opinion from different people with (presumably) different questions and no desired result on our part.

With that in mind, here are seven quick questions and a spot to add your comments. You can also add your comments in the comments below.

We will publish the results when we have enough responses to get an accurate picture. It takes less than a minute, less than a Buzzfeed quiz. Have your say on everything but the team name, because we all know it should/will be the Montreal Expos: 

Featured image by Eric Molina via WikiMedia Commons

In light of the recent #MeToo Movement, several radio stations removed the duet Baby It’s Cold Outside, a holiday classic, from rotation. Some, like the CBC, later added it back.

Critics consider it inappropriate and suggestive of date rape because of a line the woman has: “Say, what’s in this drink?” If you are familiar with the early 1940s, when the song was written, you will realize that was said as part of harmless banter.

Things were simpler, people were nicer, and conservative morals reinforcing the stereotype of the good (chaste) girl were ever-present. Most people who were courting did not end their nights in bed together unless they were married, to do otherwise broke a social taboo.

So, it is really sad that the song is being perceived in any way but innocent and sweet banter between two lovers. Banning it is ludicrous, especially considering what other songs we have playing on the radio today.

If this song is banned, then half of the playlist should be banned too. Eminem’s Guilty Conscience, Robbin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, Eminem and Rihanna’s Love The Way You Lie, Jay Z’s 99 Problems and many other songs that convey mistreatment of women in one way or another still play with no protest to ban them.

It’s truly sad that a beautiful song that was written in the 40s as romantic flirtatious banter can be put through such scrutiny and judged by today’s standards while songs written a few years ago aren’t.

It is true that violence against women is an issue that needs to be exposed and spoken about on a more regular basis, but removing a holiday classic from radio play is not the way to go about it. Especially since there are far worse songs out there than Baby its Cold Outside.

November 20, 2018, can be seen as a sad day in the US and for women around the world in the fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). A US federal judge Bernard Friedman ruled against banning a practice that harms millions of young women globally.

His ruling found a 1996 US federal law banning FGM unconstitutional, allowing the two doctors charged under it to go free. This can only be seen as a great defeat for the millions of young girls and women who have suffered due to this harmful act.

Female Genital Mutilation is the act of changing or altering the female genitals for non-medical reasons but rather cultural ones. However, it is seen across the globe as a violation of human rights against girls and young women alike .

FGM, or Female Circumcision as it is also called, is a practice that goes back thousands of years in many countries, communities and in many cultures around the world. When it started is unknown, but the root of it is to control female sexuality, conception and to continue to build a strong inequality between both sexes.

FGM/C may differ depending on the countries and regions but the results are still the same. Women are subjected to a lifetime of problems regarding their physical and mental health. Many lose their desire for sexual pleasure, have complex deliveries often resulting in Cesarean section; along with a number of different medical problems, that may arise from the use of unsterilized equipment. This practice can have serious complications leading to the death of some young girls and women as a result.

There are many types of FGM/C; but there are three forms most often practiced:

The first consist of the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the prepuce. The circumciser pulls the clitoral glans with her thumb to remove it.

The second form is complete or partial removal of the inner labia and clitoris. The clitoris is the organ that allows the female to enjoy pleasure during sexual activities.

The final form, which is considered to be the most severe of the three, is the removal of the total female genitalia. Once done, the vagina is then sewed closed with the exception of a hole often the size of a pencil tip for the passage of menstruation and urination.

Not only is the act rather harsh, but girls and young women are more likely to get infections and countless other problems because of unsterilized equipment. They are often faced with diseases such as fistula and numerous other disorders and infections.

It is estimated that between 125-150 million young women have been subjected to this practice. It happens all over the world, though predominately in African countries.

Although, FGM/C can be harmful to a women’s health not all women would like for this practice to end. Some people in many countries and regions where this act is practiced consider it a rite of passage or a celebration of coming of age for young women.

FGM/C is sometimes compared to male circumcision. Male Circumcision is the act in which the male foreskin that is covering the head of the penis is removed from the male penis.

Both of these customs can cause physical and mental pain and a lifetime of complications. However the female version of this custom is deemed, by many, to be much more severe because, unlike their male counterparts, many females who have this procedure done never experience sexual pleasure or any sensation other than pain in their vaginal area.

The males that are circumcised can experience sexual sensation and any pain they feel usually dissolves after a while. Whereas many females who have experienced the procedure have a lifetime of pain and complications. Some women who experience this procedure feel as though they are missing part of their body.

In many countries and regions where the act of FGM/C has become illegal, there are classes and lectures on the consequence of FGM/C. When young women attend these classes, they are becoming educated on the severity of this practice.

Unfortunately, not all young women have a choice in this matter. This is why the recent US ruling on FGM/C can be seen as a sad one and as a step backwards especially since organizations such as UNICEF, Plan Canada and numerous others are working tirelessly to educate communities where FGM/C is still practiced about the effects on young girls and women around the world.

* Featured image by World Bank Photo Collection via Flickr Creative Commons

Unemployment in Quebec is the lowest it’s been in forty years. Despite this, Quebec has a massive labour shortage and it’s only getting worse.

The baby boomers are retiring in ever increasing numbers and they and the generations that followed didn’t have enough children to fill the vacancies they leave behind. The newly elected Coalition Avenir du Québec (CAQ) does not feel that immigration is the answer, but business owners in Quebec see no other way out.

As stated in my previous article, the jobs that need to be filled in Quebec fall into two categories: survival jobs – defined here as low paying jobs that require little experience or education i.e call centers, retail, etc., and highly skilled workers. It is the latter category that I will be discussing today, specifically with regards to one major obstacle in the filling of skilled jobs: the recognition of foreign credentials and work experience in Quebec.

The employers in Quebec wanting skilled workers are not looking for anyone with any university degree. They are looking for people with specific degrees, skillsets, and certifications.

Rather than bring in more skilled people to fill the labour shortage, the CAQ wants to cut immigration to Quebec by twenty percent and make use of people already here. The problem is not just that Quebec is lacking in skilled workers, it’s also that the skilled immigrants we have cannot get their work experience, education, and other credentials recognized so they can fill those jobs.

It’s a huge problem in Quebec, with many immigrants overqualified, underemployed and unable to find jobs in their respective fields. During the recent election, the concerns of recent immigrants lay in the fact that the best jobs they could get were survival jobs like working in call centers.

All parties in the election recognized the issue and the fact that many immigrants opt to leave the province because of it. Within ten years of their arrival, many immigrants leave Quebec.

Provincial governments have always treated the problem as a language issue, but that’s only part of it. To fully succeed in the Quebec job market, you need to speak French, but as it stands, lessons are primarily offered in classroom settings which don’t work for new arrivals needing steady incomes to feed their families. This is only part of the problem because many immigrants to Quebec are French speakers from North African countries like Tunisia.

The Quebec government does offer services other than French classes to help skilled immigrants. One such initiative is the website qualficationsquebec.com.

Created with funding from the province’s Immigration Ministry, it’s a quick way to see if your qualifications will be recognized in Quebec and if they are not, what you need to do to work in your profession. Unfortunately, the website is mostly in French and clicking on the English option at the top of the page will only get you a phone number to a career counsellor.

If you can manage in French, here’s how it works: type in your profession and click the search icon. You will then have the option to enter information about your age, sex, whether you’re currently in the province, and where you got the education related to your profession, a step you can skip. It will then bring you to a page indicating the likelihood of getting a job, a link to the possible annual salary, and what professional orders you have to join.

Professional orders act as gatekeepers to many of the skilled professions in Quebec and can pose a major barrier to immigrants working in their fields. Without membership in said orders, engineers, registered nurses, appraisers, chartered accountants and many other skilled professionals from abroad cannot work in their fields in Quebec. Membership is not easily accessible, and requests to have your education and credentials recognized by an order are often costly.

Quebec’s Order of Charter Appraisers, for example, charges a $200 fee for the evaluation of your credentials. And that’s only after you get a Comparative Evaluation for Studies done outside Quebec.

This is an assessment provided by a government expert at Immigration Quebec comparing your education to similar degrees obtained in the province. The Evaluation fee is $170 and does not guarantee you a job even if your education is deemed equivalent to a Quebec education, and only works for certain professions.

For those learning French, access to the orders can be even more difficult. Though the Ordre des infirmières/infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ), the province’s nursing union, allows applicants to write their entrance exams in English, the union came under fire in 2015 for the poor quality of the exam’s English translation. This resulted in a 47.3% pass rate for those writing in English, compared with the 78.7% pass rate for those who wrote the exam in French.

This reporter spoke to a Filipino nurse who arrived in Canada in the late sixties seeking a better life. She was able to join the OIIQ and worked for over 25 years before retiring. She had some choice words about the Ordre des infirmières/infirmiers du Quebec.

“They’re racists,” she said.

Which brings us to the other barrier facing skilled immigrants looking for work in Quebec: discrimination. Discrimination does not necessarily refer to overt acts of racism. Most employers know that openly discriminating against anyone can have serious legal consequences.

That said, the province still has people like Abdul Waheed, a chemist from Pakistan who told the CBC in September of this year that despite sending out hundreds of CVs, he could only get a job in a call center. Though we have tons of skilled immigrants, employers are still showing a preference for applicants with Francophone or Anglophone names, a likely result of the fear of change immigrants may or may not bring to Quebec language and culture.

The CAQ has promised to make skilled professions more accessible to the immigrants we have, but they cannot do it alone. The professional orders and government bodies in charge of recognizing the skills of immigrants need to work together and to do it faster. If they don’t, the labour shortage will get worse and they’ll have only themselves to blame.

After being infamously evicted from his St. Laurent Boulevard location by his landlord last October, Terry Westcott has re-opened his jewel of a bookstore, the Librairie T. Westcott.

The revived store is in the St. Hubert Plaza, a bustling shopping area that promises to provide a new community of devotees for the beloved old landmark. The address is 6792 St. Hubert, and its accessible location – halfway between the Jean-Talon and the Beaubien metro stations – makes it an easy destination for bibliophiles. (ED’s Note: Yes, we know the area is currently under construction, but even in Montreal, that won’t last forever)

“It’s a good location, it’s a nice long store,” Terry says, “and I have the same number of bookcases I had before.” The space is indeed long and narrow – actually quite a bit longer than the previous store – and perfect for housing Mr. Westcott’s extensive collection.

Not so long ago, on a bleak and rainy day, I’d been a grim witness to the effects of rising rents, as a chunk of the 20 000-volume Westcott collection was carted away by a 1-800-GOT-JUNK dump truck for recycling. I asked Terry how much of his collection he’d been able to save.

“There are certain sections I’ve had to rebuild – my Latin American history section, my Jewish History section, my travel books, my Chinese History, my Russian History.” But, after 25 years, he’s not starting over from scratch.

Most of his treasured collection survived the purge. Concerned about his wide-ranging science fiction section, I was relieved to discover it was intact, although still packed up.

Did he have any misgivings about opening an English bookstore in a largely francophone part of town?

“Oh, I looked around,” he explains. “The problem with NDG, for example on Monkland, or in Verdun – they’re busy on the weekends but they’re slow during the week because those are mostly residential areas. People are at work. Children are at school. So on weekdays it’s very quiet. But St Hubert Plaza is quite crowded, seven days a week. That’s what a bookshop needs to survive. And of course it’s much busier on the weekends.”

Terry adds: “There are a lot of people moving over to the Petit-Patrie from the Plateau. Everything’s so expensive over there and so things are shifting over here.”

I wonder how it seems to be working out so far, considering the preponderance of English in the store. Terry is upbeat.

“A lot of French people are glad to have an English bookshop [in the area],” he says. “There are two French book stores down the street – a Renaud-Bray and Librairie Raffin– and there’s also a second-hand bookshop, Parenthèse. Most people in the Montreal area that read are fluently bilingual. So they’re happy to get an English bookshop. This is their chance to get a lot of English books, and also publications like Indiana University Press or South Georgia University Press that are never going to be translated into French.”

As before, Terry will no doubt make use of every square foot in the store, where the books were organized by subject and piled almost to the ceiling. Finding what you wanted was sometimes a challenge, as well as a balancing act, but Terry seemed to always know what he had, or at least, where it was likely to be found if he had it.

I express my relief that he didn’t have to retire and spend his days watching golf on TV, something he’d contemplated during the demise of the old shop. Instead, he’s now looking forward to having his bookshop become a new community hub again, like it was in the old location on St. Laurent.

Then I notice a photo of an impressive feline on the wall. Terry denies that it’s there as a reminder of his previous cat companions Emma (as in Jane Austen) and Eliot (as in T.S.) who had the run of the place.

“It’s a Florida panther,” he explains, “and they’re endangered. So I leave it up there so people can see…. He’s got a very intelligent look on his face. No deception: ‘I am what I am.’”

Whether deliberate or not, there couldn’t be a more apt metaphor for Terry Westcott and his resilient bookstore. While some see bookstores as endangered, Terry is steadfast in his chosen occupation.

He is what he is – and so as long as there are people with a passion for books, Terry Westcott and his Librairie will serve a vibrant new community of readers.

* Photos by Dan Svatek

Considering the dreamy climate and the friendly culture in the Land of Down Under, there’s no better way to explore this incredible continent than to backpack across its rural and urban hotspots. What makes this way of traveling even more appealing is that you’ll make unplanned stops, meet numerous people from all over the globe, and come across such breathtaking vistas that you’ll inevitably want to return. However, such an endeavor comes with a hefty price tag, even for the most experienced explorers among you.

While certain lifestyle habits will differ from one person to another, and thus alter the final price of the trip, you can make certain changes to your travel routine without sacrificing any of your travel comfort. In fact, many of these budget-saving travel tips will increase the level of travel satisfaction and provide you with a new perspective of this land!

Be accommodation-smart

Bungalows in Tasmania, Pixabay

Since Australia is known to be rather pricey in terms of private accommodation options, you might want to consider something less conventional than a hotel or a motel room. Living in cities such as Sydney or Melbourne is particularly expensive, while more rural areas are significantly more acceptable in terms of their pricing. Plan ahead and do some research on your best couch-surfing options, as well as camping areas, especially if you’re traveling during summer (which is during winter for the rest of us in the Northern Hemisphere).

You can come across camping areas which are completely free of charge, while others come with a more than reasonable overnight fee. Other frugal options include housesitting, which may limit your movements in an area, but you can at least have your rent covered by the fee you’re paid. For hard workers among you, staying on local farms and working for your room is another popular option which will get you immersed in the local life and provide you with a roof over your head!

Simplify your habits

You may be accustomed to traveling by plane inside the country as well, especially since Australia is truly vast, but this is as pricey as it is convenient. For the sake of your budget, you may want to consider less expensive options, such as using the local buses (trains are also pricey), while car shares are becoming more popular, and you can always rent a van or a car with your backpacking companions to share the expenses. Booking in advance also often means a discount for the regular last-minute price, so make sure to book as early as possible and plan your routes beforehand.

Another common expense on the list of many travelers is bottled water, since most of us come to a new country not having a clue if the local water is suitable or safe to consume. Luckily for you, Australia’s tap water is perfectly safe and you can bring your own reusable drink bottles instead of wasting cash on plastic ones, which are not just pricey, but also harmful for the environment. Opt for the ones that are insulated so that your water can stay cool and fresh, and refill them as you travel through the country!

Restructure your menu


Restaurant & Street Food in Australia, Pixabay

Foodies, beware, because Aussies are famous for their love for coffee and all things culinary, whether local or international. You’ll find that most of their restaurants offer a variety of local delicacies mixed with international influences, and you can certainly take your pick from fresh groceries on the farmers’ markets and eateries alike. However, your budget-friendly approach should be based mostly on eating home-cooked meals, although an occasional takeaway dinner cannot hurt.

What you should really pay close attention to is your alcohol intake, since the prices can be quite high, and it’s truly not worth it. You can use the same amount of money to cover a day of your eating expenses with fresh food. If you have a store in your vicinity, head to Woolworths or Coles, both of which have considerably lower prices than their competitors. For the duration of your stay, it’s best to stick to a DIY meal plan!

Work on the go

By far the best and the easiest way to cut your expenses significantly and to cover a portion of your travel budget is to put in some work during your explorations. However, make sure that you choose the right line of work in order to adapt your travel plans – if you decide to work online, check if your destinations have ample Wi-Fi spots with a reliable connection.

You can make arrangements well before your travel date, with the local hostels, farms, and cafés, as most of them offer seasonal, part-time work which can come in handy for someone like you. Digital freelancing is a great way to supplement your travel budget, especially if you’re proficient in English, which opens up a whole world of teaching opportunities in the Asian market.

Learn about freebies

Trams in Melbourne, Pixabay

Finally, Australia is quite a generous country. You’ll come across so many free activities, galleries, museums, festivals, and events that you’ll most likely be able to fill your entire schedule with those alone.

The Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney not only has an abundance of exhibitions for you to visit, but also free movie nights, music recitals, as well as workshops you can enjoy. All it takes is a bit of research, and you can always talk to the friendly locals and learn about those less advertised events that might be more to your liking.

Yes, winter is coming, but this spring, Canadians will be able to legally stream Game of Thrones without a cable subscription. Crave (formerly Crave TV), Bell Media’s Netflix competitor, just added an extended package that includes all HBO and Showtime content, including new episodes and a feature called On Air that allows you to watch shows from those networks as they air on TV before they show up in the on demand menu.

You have to get the basic Crave subscription at $9.95 a month and then add the extended package for another monthly $9.95, so $20 a month plus tax for HBO and Showtime, plus a bunch of recent movies (including what looks like all of last year’s Best Picture nominees), shows like Star Trek Discovery, and original content like Letterkenny. There’s even a very interesting back catalog with classic sitcoms like Cheers, but no Night Court…like c’mon, someone pick up Night Court, please. 

It’s currently available on computers and mobile devices and will be available on Samsung Smnart TVs, Apple TV and other platforms as of November 15th. From the looks of it, it’s a better deal than Netflix.

While I’m clearly gleefully plugging this product, this article is not sponsored content, but rather rare editorial praise for Bell Media from a frequent critic. It looks like they have finally embraced the way a good chunk of the population consume TV and have stopped trying to push an old model on those who clearly don’t want it.

Even as HBO made all of their content available, with no strings attached, through their GO app in the US a few years ago, Bell, which owns the Canadian rights, refused to see the light. Sure, they made an app, too, called TMN GO, but you had to get a cable or satellite TV package first and then subscribe to HBO Canada on TV before you could pay the ten or so bucks for it.

So basically, in a lot of cases, the choice was pay over $100 a month on top of the cost of an internet connection to watch one show or risk getting an angry letter for illegally downloading it. Yes, HBO is much more than GOT, but that show’s the hook for people living in a post-cable world.

Bell was effectively ignoring a potentially huge market that they could easily get with no risk of losing the cable and satellite market they already have as a result. My friend’s parents who have been paying for a satellite package and HBO for years aren’t going to cut the cord just because the same content is now available in another format.

Meanwhile, people who don’t give Bell Media any money but still consume the content might be inclined to pay and go legit if presented with a reasonable offer and become customers Bell wouldn’t have any other way. Now, it looks like Bell Media has finally accepted and embraced that fact.

This will only help them promote original content, too, as it will now be running on the same platform as really popular shows. Come for Game of Thrones, stay for Letterkenny.

The future is an internet subscription and two to four streaming services. With the Crave expansion, Bell Media clearly wants a part of that future. Now if only they could add Night Court.