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Bell sorry for $788 bill sent to man displaced by Parliament Street apartment fire

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A Toronto man displaced by a major apartment fire at 650 Parliament St. in August says he received a bill for $788 from Bell Canada months after he tried to cancel his TV and internet bundle. 

« I’ve always had Bell Canada in my life, and now I go through this, » Thomas King said. 

The telecom giant apologized for how it handled King’s complaint soon after CBC Toronto called about King’s struggle to deal with the bill. 

« We will be contacting Mr. King immediately to resolve this issue to his complete satisfaction, » Bell said in a statement Wednesday.   

King, 71, has been allowed back in his apartment, in the east end of Toronto’s downtown core, only once since an electrical fire ravaged the downtown highrise on Aug. 21 and forced 1,500 residents to vacate.

King received this bill for the TV receiver and internet modem from Bell Canada — two months after he cancelled his service. (Submitted by Thomas King)

Within days after he relocated, King says, he cancelled his cable plan.

Two months later, he claims, a Bell collections agent phoned him and asked for the TV receiver internet modem to be returned or he would have to pay $788 to cover the cost. 

« It has been frustrating, » he told CBC Toronto, noting he feared the ordeal would hurt his credit rating. 

King says he tried to retrieve the receiver from his unit to no avail. 

The 50-year-old building suffered  significant structural damage in the fire, which started in the basement, and further inspections revealed problems with its electrical distribution system.

The building’s property manager has said all of the ceilings in all of the corridors had to be pulled down to release trapped smoke, and most of the electrical components are being removed and replaced.

Given the damage, residents have been told it will likely not be possible to live in the building until at least June 2019.

An electrical fire tore through this highrise building on Aug. 21 and forced around 1,500 residents to vacate. (Robert Krbavac/CBC)

« They said, ‘You’re not going to be able to get into the building at all. That’s the end of the story,' » King said, referring to the response from the building’s security. 

On Monday, King called Bell’s customer service to clear up the situation. He claims the agent told him it’s Bell’s policy to ask for the money or the equipment back. 

« There’s no budging, » he said.  

Bell’s terms of service allow the telecom to charge for products when a customer cancels service.  

Since King had an HDPVR receiver and modem, the contract requires him to return it or pay $788 for the items. 

Bell Canada admitted it should have been ‘more accommodating’ to King’s circumstances. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

After CBC Toronto contacted Bell Canada about King’s complaint, the national provider apologized for the mixup and scrapped the bill. 

« Our customer service representatives should have been more accommodating in this case, » Nathan Gibson, a spokesperson for Bell Canada, said in an email.

« While we do encourage customers to claim the cost of lost or irretrievable equipment through their household insurance, we understand that customers can sometimes find themselves in unfortunate circumstances beyond their control. »

Damage from unexpected disasters, such as the downtown fire, would typically be covered by many tenant insurance policies, says Pete Karageorgos, director of consumer and industry relations at the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

However, tenants would not be able to recoup the cost of a stolen or smoke-damaged TV receiver and internet modem that was rented from Bell because they have no « financial interest » in the item, Karageorgos said. 

« Technically, he doesn’t even have the ability to insure it, because it’s not his property. It’s the cable company’s, » he told CBC Toronto. 

This situation « isn’t common, » Karageorgos explained, pointing out that only the telecom provider or property manager have the authority to help residents.

Despite the positive resolution, King said the experience has tainted his view of Bell. 

« It’s not very likely that when I get back in I’m going to be using Bell services, » he said.

« I’m going to pack up that stuff and get rid of it. »

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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