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Premier Doug Ford promises all-day kindergarten next fall, but says have to wait before decisions are made on its future

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Premier Doug Ford promises full-day kindergarten will be offered for the next school year, but parents will have to wait to find out what changes are in store.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning at an mental-health funding announcement at CAMH in Toronto, Ford was asked several times about the program for Ontario’s youngest learners.

“We’re consulting with our education partners,” he said. “…But I can tell you that there’s going to be all-day kindergarten next year, and we’ll sit down and you’ll hear from us in the future.”

The premier also said “we look forward to coming up with a solution that’s better than the system that we have right now.”

On Tuesday, Education Minister Lisa Thompson also did not commit long-term to the program, which began almost a decade ago at a cost of $1.5 billion a year.

She said it was “premature” to comment on the program given the consultations with teacher and support staff unions, and trustee associations.

“What I’m saying is this: we’re consulting with our education partners and stay tuned,” Thompson told reporters Tuesday in Scarborough.

“What I’m saying is I’m absolutely respecting the process of consultation. We are listening. We’re asking first, we’re listening and then we’re going to analyze the information that has come back to us.”

Read more:

Education minister says ‘nothing decided’ on class sizes or kindergarten

The government has asked unions and trustee groups to comment on the full-day program, class-size caps in the primary years, as well as a controversial hiring rule known as Regulation 274 that compels principals to choose from among those supply teachers with the most seniority for long-term and permanent positions.

A ministry consultation document asks about full-day kindergarten and it’s staffing model, which is a full-time teacher and full-time early childhood educator with an average class size of 26, with a few exceptions.

The document asks if there are “other models the ministry should consider.”

Before full-day kindergarten was introduced, it was proposed that students continue to be taught by a teacher for a half day, with early childhood educators covering the rest, for an annual cost of $1 billion.

But then-Premier Dalton McGuinty chose the all-day teacher and early childhood education model, adding half a billion dollars to the yearly price tag.

In 2012, in his report to the Liberal government, economist Don Drummond said the $1.5 billion full-day kindergarten program should be scrapped or revamped.

During the 2014 election, former Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak proposed a teacher-only model with a smaller class of 20 kids, saving $200 million.

On Wednesday, Ford said “there’s lots of areas of education that need to be fixed,” and said “I can assure you one thing — it’s very important. Any decision that’s made, it’s going to be better, it’s not going to be worse.”

Ford also said he’s concerned that “half our Grade 6 students have failed math. That’s staggering” and said while teachers “do a great job with our students” they can finish post-secondary studies without any math and then go in and teach our kids about math.”

He was referring to the most provincial standardized testing results that shows 49 per cent of Grade 6 students met the standard in numeracy. The standard is a level 3 or 4, which roughly translates to a B or better.

Ford also said he’d be “more than happy to go in any of the classrooms” to see first-hand what class sizes are like.

Kristin Rushowy is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow her on Twitter: @krushowy

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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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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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