Old Man Winter’s latest and hopefully last snowfall for the year. The winter wonderland effect will only last a few hours as temperatures are forecast to be above freezing today. DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and […]
When Montrealers elected Valérie Plante as our first female mayor last November there was much excitement. Not just because of her gender, but because she was a new voice. Her predecessor, Denis Coderre, had ruled in a very heavy-handed manner. Making many decisions that would come back to sting him and ultimately lead to his downfall, including the FormulaE race debacle.
Life was good for Ms. Plante in the immediate aftermath of the election. She canceled the remaining FormulaE races that Coderre had agreed to, which was a campaign promise she made. Of course, there will be a cancellation fee that some estimates put it in the millions of dollars, but Mayor Plante is not worried: “What we know is that whatever the cost to cancel the race, I believe it’s worth it, because at this point, it doesn’t pay off.”
This event was intended to bring spectators to the city, something along the lines of the annual Formula1 race that pumps millions of dollars into the city’s economy each June. Unfortunately for Mayor Coderre the race proved to be a flop and the city took a bath. Even with the fee, Plante was lauded for scrapping the project as promised.
She did not fare quite as well however when she increased taxes beyond the cost of living, which she promised not to do. But she is hardly the first and will no doubt not be the last politician to fiddle and fudge when it comes to taxes.
But an odd notion has started to cross the minds of many Montrealers: based on some recent ideas and proposals, Mayor Valérie Plante seems to have something against downtown Montreal. A bit of an axe to grind for some reason. Not a typical position for a mayor.
Aside from acting in a Coderre-like manner by deciding unilaterally, i.e. without any public consultation, to stop through traffic over Mont-Royal, traffic that may well be on the way to downtown restaurants and bars, she now wants to revamp St. Catherine Street, one of the main commercial roads in the city, turning downtown into a mall.
If she gets her way one of four main east-west conduits in the downtown core will be reduced to one (yep one) lane for traffic while the sidewalks will be doubled in width. The mayor has floated this trial balloon in the latest salvo against downtown. St. Catherine Street is already suffering, evident by the many empty storefronts that seem to appear every day. How can making it more difficult to get to these businesses possibly do anything but hurt them?
The mayor claims public transit is the key. Get more folks on the buses and Metros. I agree that Montreal has a pretty good transit system, but I think I speak for many with whom I have brought up the topic when I say that people who are paying for a vehicle are loath to pay again for public transit. If you make public transit free, then you may be talking.
I use public transit because my wife takes the car to work. She could use the bus and subway, but it would take over 90 minutes each way. Not a feasible option. When we travel downtown we use the car; rather than paying for the numerous expenses and then leave it sitting at home only to pay bus fare, we drive.
I would humbly suggest to the mayor that an increased number of parking spots, even if metered, is the realistic way to go. Trying to find a spot on a Saturday evening so we can spend our hard-earned cash in a downtown restaurant has proven difficult, although several streets are for reasons not apparent deemed no parking while other have meters that are covered in red bags denoting no service. Many frustrated potential patrons are forced to take their business out of the downtown area to the parking-friendly suburbs. The pipe dream of public transit will only face the possibility of becoming real once the fare has been eradicated. No one wants to double dip – paying car fees and transit fares.
With the month of March upon us, not coming in very lion-like here in Montreal I must admit, can spring be far behind? Another harbinger of better weather to come, something that restarts the soul after a long winter, is the annual Montreal St. Patrick’s Day parade in a couple of weeks. This year there has been a spanner chuck into the works with the shifting of the long-used parade route. However, When I came across the news release below I felt relieved.
Once again this year members of the Montréal branch of the International Brotherhood of Little People – the Leprechauns, will be present for the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. With just over two weeks until St. Paddy’s day we are pleased to confirm our role in this year’s activities.
With the traditional route of Montréal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade unavailable due to road work on Ste. Catherine Street a new venue has been announced. Not only will the parade be moved one block north to Boulevard de Maisonneuve, but it will also move in the opposite direction, from east to west.
This will no doubt confuse many, so to ensure the smooth flow of the parade as well as help spectators find their way to the new route, our members will be present in the downtown core getting out the message. From Friday, March 16 to parade day on Sunday, March 18 we Little People will be in attendance at various Irish drinking holes (and let’s face it, that weekend they’re all Irish), and on street corners passing out maps and telling stories. While these may well be free, of course, a wee nip is never unappreciated.
When it comes to Leprechauns, some of you reading this may not be believers – yet. However, I can assure you that not a year passes without several revelers swearing they have seen one or more of us, often in places where, according to the LPS (Leprechaun Positioning System) we use, no record exists of a brother having been stationed. We understand that the taking of drink is often to blame for this odd phenomenon. Further, we stress that searching for pots of gold while intoxicated will be fruitless at best, and potentially dangerous.
So come St. Paddy’s weekend don’t be a stranger, when you see one of us introduce yourself and remember, mine’s a Guinness.
According to Wikipedia: With access to six universities and twelve junior colleges in an 8 kilometer (5 mi) radius, Montreal, Quebec (Canada) has the highest proportion of post-secondary students of all major cities in North America. This represents roughly 248,000 post-secondary students, one of the largest numbers in the world.
Many, certainly not all, of these students not only attend school in the city but also live there. There are numerous student residences and much housing geared to students. To say nothing of the plethora of condominium developments, of which a new one seems to pop up every day. This is just one of the ingredients that give Montreal an actual livable downtown. Unlike many cities in North America with downtown cores that are essentially abandoned once the business day is over, there is an entire group of Montrealers who live right downtown. A vibrant community that keeps the sidewalks from being rolled up at a certain time as is the case in many other cities.
However, the last few years have been hard on the downtown merchants. Several multi-year infrastructure repair projects, no doubt much required, have put a strain on many restaurants and bars. Some have seen their front doors blocked by an assortment of equipment while others have had their streets torn up for months on end, both of which make access to the business tricky if not impossible. In a city encrusted with bars and restaurants of all stripe, competition is fierce at the best of times. These poor owners must feel like a boxer with an arm tied behind his or her back.
A debate is currently brewing about a road that passes over the mountain (it isn’t really a mountain, more of a hill, but that’s what it’s called, Mont-Royal). The newly elected mayor and her cohorts have decided, without public consultation (there is a petition here), to end through traffic over Mont Royal. Instead, they would allow vehicles from the east to go only as far as one parking lot, and those coming from the east only as far as another lot.
Let’s say you wanted to take visiting friends to see the lovely large park that sits atop Mont Royal – designed by the same fellow who did New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted – you would have to enter from the west. If you then wanted to scoot along to the look-out on the other side of the mountain you would have to backtrack, circumnavigate Mont-Royal and enter from the east. Less traffic over the top, perhaps, but no doubt havoc on summer days on other streets.
But more than just an inconvenience, to close the road to through traffic would be just one more hindrance to gaining access to downtown. Granted not a major conduit to downtown’s bars and restaurants, but with so many other nuisances this is timed very poorly for long-suffering merchants.
Dear Mayor Plante,
In the months since your election last fall I think it fair to say things have been a bit rough for you. Not because you canceled the Formula E race and not because you axed a few big projects that would have cost millions (frankly the way climate change is affecting our city heated sidewalks seem outdated anyway). No, you took a lot of heat – citizen, not sidewalk generated – for increasing taxes after saying you would not. I’ve got a hunch you are not the first nor will you be the last elected official to do this.
But in light of your rocky start, I thought I would try to give you a heads-up regarding another issue. During your campaign, you mentioned that you would like to extend the Metro system by adding a pink line. Before we embark on that pricey undertaking, my concern is a much cheaper line: the green line. No, not the existing Metro Green Line, but the green line that is usually painted down Ste-Catherine Street marking the route of the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
This year because of a multi-year major project on Ste-Catherine the parade has been moved one street north. And just to further confuse both parade goers and marchers, the direction has also been changed. After many years of moving from west to east on Ste-Catherine this year the parade will travel east to west on de Maisonneuve.
I understand that you have many things on your plate, and I realize that small details sometimes fall through the cracks. I am not suspicious about the line being omitted to cut costs, so with over a month to parade day on March 18th I am calling upon you to take this issue to heart and see to it that the green line is duly painted on de Maisonneuve. This is not only a long-held tradition but a harbinger of spring for thousands of Montrealers as well.
Recently I have had several medical appointments. Some in hospital clinics, some in private offices. Regardless of where the doctor is located, there is one thing they all have in common: those ubiquitous blue booties.
In places with winter weather going out is a tiresome experience with many layers of clothes and footwear required for comfort. Arriving at an appointment involves not only the removal of coats and hats and scarves but outdoor footwear.
In the days when many people, primarily men, wore galoshes over their shoes this was less of an issue. Simply kick off the heavy overshoes and Voila you’re aptly clad in your own shes. But the galosh has gone the way of the dial-up modem in favour of boots that provide better traction on ice and snow. These boots are more comfortable than galoshes and certainly more fashionable. But they must be removed when entering a house or office. Enter the blue booty conundrum.
In some offices the procedure is to remove one’s wet, snowy, slushy shoes, place them on a boot tray and don the little Smurf-like plastic bags. This way the booty remains dry and can be reused. In other offices the rule is to place the booty over the offending wet boot, thereby placing a sheath between slop and floor surface. Booties used in this manner are either turfed out or inverted and left to dry.
All fine and dandy until someone screws up and goes against the grain. Nothing quite as annoying as slipping your stockinged foot into a cold wet bag. Can we not simplify this situation? Why can’t we have one method and stick to it? Pass a law, enact a statute, whatever it takes to alleviate this nuisance. My personal choice is for the boot-off-booty-on technique, but I am open to the other. Just as long as we can all get on the same page!
As an aside I must admit this post has taken me much longer to research and write than I had anticipated. Evidently, there is another kind of booty that is much more popular on Internet search sites.
You learn something new every day.
Permit me to rant. Montreal’s weather patterns seem to be changing. Call it climate change if you want, but we have experienced ups and downs like never before. Snow then rain then back to freezing again has made for more than a few sidewalk wipe-outs. A friend of mine who works at a large hospital told me that one week in January saw three times as many broken bones from falls on icy sidewalks.
The process of clearing snow has a pattern as well. Based on my observation, the main streets and adjacent sidewalks are cleared first, followed by secondary streets. The secondary sidewalks is where the problem arises. Evidently municipalities deem these less than essential and therefore get around to clearing and sanding them later.
That’s understandable given they cannot clear everything at once; they have to prioritise. Make the lost of the available labour force. Keep buses and heavy traffic areas – both vehicular and pedestrian – cleared of snow and ice.
One side effect of this is that when pedestrians do find themselves on side streets with impassable sidewalks they are left with no alternative but to walk on the cleared street. This has been true for years, and for years drivers and walkers co-existed on the street. Cars would slow down when passing pedestrians, often exchanging a smile or wave. When possible vehicles would move over allowing the walker a wide berth and feeling of security.
In my experience those days are, for the most part, gone. Today the sidewalks on a street I take were knee-deep in snow, necessitating the use of the road for cars and pedestrians. I was passed by about five cars, not one of which slower or moved. Zero. Nil. What happened to common decency? Logic? Basic safety?
Drivers maintained their usual speed as they zipped by me and others who had been forced onto the road. Are they insane? I can’t blame the entitled millennials for this as a straw poll showed me the drivers were both men and women and of varying ages.
So to any of you who may find yourself driving on a snowy icy day in Montreal please bear in mind that when the sidewalks are not suitable for walking, we both must share the road. Got it?
The excerpt below from the Montreal Gazette illustrates the proper way for public officials to handle making a mistake – admit it, adapt and move on.
The city of Montreal, which intended to let the past week’s snowfall melt, has now reversed it’s (sic) decision and will start clearing streets Sunday evening.
The head of snow removal, Jean-François Parenteau announced the reversal on Saturday.
Parenteau explained the change because of cooler temperatures. The decision not to clear the snow was a bad choice on his part and he apologized.
A snow removal operation costs an average of $1 million per borough. The City of Montreal has carried out four clearing operations since the beginning of winter.
The snow budget of $160 million makes it possible to make five per winter.
However, the decision not to clear the snow but let it melt is one with which I, as a 90% pedestrian, abhor. The snow melts under the wheels of vehicles no doubt. The resulting slushy swamps and pools of filthy water end up being splattered hither and yon, making sidewalk navigation a royal pain.
I understand the savings, but there has to be a way to convince drivers that it is not acceptable to ignore pedestrians on sidewalks as they plow through the slop, drenching folks as they walk. There was a time when drivers, those with an inkling of common decency, took this into consideration and would slow down, to a crawl if necessary. But I fear those days are long gone.
So thank you M Parenteau for doing the right thing!
Mother Nature sure likes to show she’s the boss. The dominant one. Here in the northeast, we can deal with snow and rain. But when the two come together the challenge is significantly upped. Commonly known as freezing rain, it happens when a cold from and a warm front come together. Over the last few days we had snow, then the temperature rose and the snow became rain. Not enough rain to wash away the newly fallen snow. But enough to deposit an icy finish on roads, sidewalks, cars, and buildings.
Imagine Mother Nature zipping along on her Zamboni, giving everything a candy apple appearance. It is lovely to look out at from the safety and warmth of your home, but venturing out is something that requires much consideration. Yesterday all the school in the Montreal area were closed. They had stayed open during heavy snowfalls, we are Canadian after all, but freezing rain has us crying uncle.
There are several precautions to keep in mind when the forecast calls for freezing rain. Not least of which is to put your windshield wipers, as they say on planes, in upright and locked position. As I found out earlier this winter the rubber adheres to the cold glass; once you turn them on they pull away and often pull away from the wiper arm as well. This leaves giant gaps in driver visibility, never a recommended driving tactic. Some folk actually place plastic bags over their wipers, while others cover the windshield with cardboard for easy cleaning.
A word often used to describe the population cohort referred to as Millennials is entitled. Somehow many of those born around the turn of the millennium, and therefore in their twenties and thirties now, have a sense of entitlement. I must admit I don’t have much interaction with this age group, so I was at a bit of a loss to understand the concept.
Then along came the drive-sharing app called Uber. Essentially a taxi service, Uber uses GPS to put people looking for a lift in touch with drivers willing to take them. No money exchanges hands as the passenger’s credit card is charged automatically. But buyer beware, prices can “surge” if demand is high as many Uber users found out on New Year’s Eve a couple of years ago.
Sounds all fine and dandy doesn’t it? Only one problem. Montreal, like most cities already has a taxi industry. To be a taxi driver here you need a taxi permit. Once paid for and obtained, and assuming you pass the police and background checks, you can legally drive a taxi, whether you own it or rent it from an owner.
To own a taxi is something a little bit more complex. This requires a taxi license. These were originally sold by the government to prospective owners for something in the neighbourhood of $20,000. With such a plethora of cabs on the road, the authorities stopped issuing new licenses, which help create a market-value system. As the ad below from Kijiji shows, current prices are in the $130,000 to $150,000 range (keep in mind, that does not include a car). So purchasing a taxi license here is akin to securing a mortgage. With tough competition making a living in the taxi industry is difficult at best.
Along comes Uber, a source of direct competition with taxis but without the license and other requirements. Whenever I ask an Uber user, or driver for that matter, if they perhaps feel any sense of guilt for undercutting taxis they inevitably sa no. As far as they are concerned they can do what they want when they want: they are entitled to do so.
I had a discussion with a Millennial bartender one day. He was all in favour of Uber and had no problem with the issue of bypassing the license and gouging clients during busy periods. I explained to him that in Quebec bar owners must obtain a liquor permit to be allowed to sell alcohol. The price is significant and varies depending on your establishment. In addition bar and restaurant owners must sell only liquor purchased from the Société des alcools du Québec outlets dedicated to such establishments. The price per bottle is significantly more that a regular consumer would pay, given the mark-up by the restaurant or bar. Run out of Jameson’s on a busy Friday and just nip up the street to the local store to buy one in a pinch and you face sever fines.
My bartender pal understood the system, no doubt better than do I. So I asked if it would be acceptable for me to concoct a strategy whereby I buy a bottle of whiskey at the regular price, skip the liquor permit altogether, and set up a card-table outside his bar selling shots for $2 instead of the $5 he charges inside. Because to me this is exactly what Uber is doing.
He could not see the parallel. From his point of view taking money out of his pocket by flouting the regulations was a bad thing. Yet he seemed to have no trouble screwing some taxi driver by Using the Uber app on his phone. I guess he was entitled to do so.