Only in Montreal (suite)…

In our Top Spots survey we asked Spacing Montreal readers to tell us what makes this city unique. Some of your answers were posted last Sunday. There were, of course, mentions of bixis, bagels and poutine (all of which are best consumed at 4am) and even a shout out to the OPCM.  Here is another batch of your elegies and rants:

People, culture & contrasts

“the obvious: the students, the cultural mix, the dual role of the city as francophone economic and social capital and anglo gateway to francophonia.  the slightly less obvious: the promiscuity, the self-consciousness, the eccentric landlords, the cavalier attitudes to minor crime, the small-statured peace officers, the ludicrous imprint left upon the city from the progress era, the anarchistic kids coming in from the regions doing their things, the quaint little art scene, the insularity and consequent megalomania, the hard-drinking meat-eating culture, the legacy hoods, etc.”

“Un mélange de saleté, de poutine, de vélo, d’anglophones et de francophones, d’une proximité de new york, d’un désir d’être une grande ville, de goût et de mauvais goût, de bonne nourriture, de températures extrêmes, de cultures différentes et de nostalgie. C’est la recette de la beauté de Montréal.”

“Seriously: les gens font la ville; the city is made of people. For example: les ruelles du Plateau: mélange de public et privé; propre et désordre; accessible mais peu fréquentées; trimmed and wild; dirty but decent; all of this (et d’autres) existe parce que les gens vivent “comme ça”: les ruelles reflètent à la fois les actions et la tolérance des voisins et des passants.

“Un centre-ville dense, habité, vibrant et animé. Des quartiers centraux avec une âme. Des gens d’horizons divers qui, par leur culture, contribuent tous et chacun à faire de Montréal une ville cosmopolite et ouverte sur le monde.”

The seasons

“«coolitude tranquille» de l’été: les terrasses, la végétation dans la rue et devant les maisons, les ruelles, les odeurs de fleurs, être tout le temps à vélo, les barbecues dans le parc…l’énergie de l’hiver: la lumière ( reflet sur la neige+ grand soleil), l’excitation de la première tempête, le dimanche sur le Mont-royal plein de monde”

“Le printemps quand les gens sourient le soleil nous réchauffe les terrasses sont pleine.”

“…les gougounes au mois de mars”

Unconditional (and unmerited?) love

“That we love it so much depsite the fact that we were recently listed as #120 in a list of top municipalities in Canada… I repeat… IN CANADA!!!  As much as we love it, there is a lot of work needed to improve our city and raise our game.”

“L’amour que les gens porte à leur ville. Leur façon de croire qu’elle est unique et parfaite, alors qu’elle ne l’est pas. Un “overating” constant de la qualité de vie montréalaise qui fini par nous convaincre que Montréal est fabuleuse et qui nous amène à tenir des discours semblables à notre insu. Bref, on se surprend à y croire aussi.”


  1. Regarding this quote in the article, “That we love it so much depsite the fact that we were recently listed as #120 in a list of top municipalities in Canada… I repeat… IN CANADA!!! As much as we love it, there is a lot of work needed to improve our city and raise our game.”

    First of all, which survey was this ranking taken from? Recent data I’ve found paints a considerably more flattering picture. For example, Montreal came in *21st* in the international Mercer Quality of Living survey (May 2010). That’s right, 21st in the WORLD.

    We also came in 21st in the MacLean’s survey measuring city efficiency across Canada. Not a great achievement, mind you, but a far cry from the ranking of 120th mentioned in the quote. (Are there even 120 municipalities in all of Canada?? Just kidding…) :-)

    Second, I’d like to see a survey comparing Montreal’s efficiency / transparency metrics with those of European cities, rather than North American metrics. In terms of our values and priorities here in Québec, we are just too different to be held to the same standards as the rest of the continent.

    Having spent over a decade living in two of those modern American wonder-cities before returning home to Montreal, I can tell you these rankings and surveys fail to take into account the utter soullessness, homogeneous blandness, and puritanical zealousness for accounting, modernizing, and standardizing that rules these places. There’s no mystery, no romance – just rows and rows of strip malls, perfectly-paved highways, orderly neighbourhoods, and the roar of commerce humming behind every square inch of it.

    To hold Montreal to the same standard as these places is analogous to comparing your beloved, decrepit vintage sportscar to your brother-in-law’s brand-new Honda Accord. If living in a well-run, efficient, transparent municipality is a high priority for you, Montreal will drive you crazy. But if you need a city with soul, this is the place to be.

  2. Hi, I wrote that statement after a Gazette article I read earlier this spring: Here’s the link to the study: (I do admit you can skew anything but it’s still embarrassing – although do note that jobs had partly to do with it so during this recession, government cities fared far better). And just yesterday I read another editorial from Henry Aubin at the Gazette that describes how slowly this government works: . Meanwhile, recently I read this article in the Globe & Mail which was not flattering: I might upset some by stating all of this – I love this city but our municpal government is not instilling the kind of confidence that could make me believe they are going to make some great substantial changes. Old Montreal looks beautiful to tourists but outside of that, there is a lot that is falling apart and needs updgrading (real upgrading, not just maintenance). I just don’t really see it happening. I want to believe it though.

  3. Thanks Eric for posting the link to the study.

    Montreal actually came in 1st in the country for Transit and 2nd for Culture. Evidently, however, these factors didn’t count for much in the eyes of The fact that Ottawa came in first further confirms that their metrics placed disproportionate weight on economic factors and not enough on actual quality of life.

    Interesting also that Laval (a suburb of Montreal) came out 13th of 179 cities, compared with Montreal’s rank of 120th. Montreal got dinged for having lower average income, higher overall unemployment, higher crime, lower growth, and higher housing prices compared to Laval – all symptoms and results of the suburban exodus off the island in recent years. And Laval scored bonus points due to the number of new-car purchases in the last year. (Since when is this a good thing?)

    I didn’t see any metrics related to factors which, to me, represent a city conducive to high quality of life: number of households that are within walking distance of a restaurant, cafe, bakery, pub, or dep…number of small independent businesses…availability of duplex-style housing (as opposed to McMansions or condos)…cultural and age diversity of the population…number of households WITHOUT a car…number of books available via library system…number of festivals, concerts and cultural events each year / number of residents who attend them…kilometres of bike paths…and so forth. Granted, these factors are more likely to be meaningful to people who appreciate the amenities of urban life.

    Now, if only the city of Montreal could do a better job of *selling* these amenities to the right demographic. The recent advertising campaigns targeted to young families have only revealed the administration’s utter cluelessness about why so many people are choosing to leave the island. But that’s a discussion for another day.

  4. I can’t argue much about the study’s flaws as you are definitely right (it remains a good kick in the butt though as we can all improve – even Ottawa and might I add, especially Gatineau which can’t possibly be #1, sorry). I just wish our city would do a better job of running our city and turning talk into action. I definitely agree that the campaign to lure people to Montreal was not great. Simply bad marketing… and again, it has to be backed by real concrete action, and not just words on a sign.

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