Irony is Dead

These two men are protesting the same thing.
These two men are protesting the same thing.

I’m not sure who snapped this photo from a student anti-austerity demo a few days back, but in any case, chapeau Monsieur, whoever you are, for capturing the innate irony and hypocrisy of protest in Quebec.

The cop and the student with his hands up are essentially protesting the exact same thing – cuts to government services.

In the case of the cop, government’s desire to increase fiscal efficiency has manifested as proposed pension reform.

In the case of the student, government cuts to education and proposed increases to the cost of tuition are two parts of the same issue – government is transferring debt onto the backs of students, asking them to pay more for the accreditation and training only universities can provide and that are fundamental to entering and competing in our local job market.

In both cases you can argue the government’s efforts to get back in the green are being done in a manner which is unfair to civil servants and students alike. It’s unfair to ask police, firefighters and other municipal workers to contribute vastly more to their own pensions than was previously the case because at one point in time pensions were mismanaged. Moreover, almost by necessity municipal pensions should focus more on a defined benefit rather than a defined contribution. That’s always been the trade-off for the civil workforce, what you don’t get in pay you make up for afterwards with a generous pension.

This photograph is striking to me because it shows two people who should be united in a common cause, yet one is permitted to protest and the other is not.

Perhaps it’s an indication of what we as a society are willing to tolerate, but that leaves even more questions.

Why is it okay for police and firefighters to play dress up and vandalize public property (let’s call it for what it is) and not okay for students to assemble in public and demonstrate?

Why do we assume students will be violent when time and time again it’s the police that instigate violence?

Why do we give the police carte-blanche to disrupt student demonstrations when they themselves are actively demonstrating their opposition to austerity measures?

And if the students were to adopt the tactics of the police, firefighters and transit employees – such as vandalizing public property with propaganda, dressing in camouflage, starting fires in front of City Hall and then ransacking a city council meeting (etc) – would we tolerate that?

I think not.

Frankly, if the students were to apply any of the tactics used by municipal employees, we’d likely have P-6 amendments to limit the wearing of camouflage in public.

And any effort by the students to congregate in front of City Hall, let alone entering the building, would be resisted with force by the same people who allowed their firefighter friends to do just that.

It’s hypocritical, unfair, illogical and many other things too, but the bottom line is this – as a society, we tolerate strikes and various protest actions by established unions with actual political clout, and do the exact opposite with regards to students.

So with that in mind the students need to change their tactics. They have no hope of repeating the Printemps Erable, and shouldn’t want to go down that route anyways. While protests did allow for a maintenance of the tuition freeze, it did not result in any major changes to benefit the provincial economy, nor did it do much of anything to get austerity measures off the table. Jean Charest did not lose the 2012 election because of how he handled the student strike, but more because of the perceived corruption of his administration. In the end a PQ minority government was formed that lasted about 18 months and ended with the Quebec Liberals returning to power, albeit with a majority government and a presumed mandate to do what was necessary to get Quebec back in the green. The Marois administration did nothing of consequence for Quebec, and after a year and a half of gaffes and poorly thought-out social policies were thrown out of office.

Hope and change may have been the ideal of 2012, but it was far from reality.

Fast forward to today and the students have an even greater battle before them. Couillard is premier until 2018 and doesn’t have the Charbonneau Commission into corruption and collusion in the construction industry dogging him. People don’t want to pay any more taxes and increasingly view the students as entitled if not hopelessly unrealistic.

I don’t necessarily share this view, and personally believe the cost of education should be lower than it is today by a considerable margin. I also believe education access, standards and funding should be nationalized and not an issue of provincial control.

That said, the case needs to be made in a different way. Street battles with police do not and will not change public perception in favour of the students.

Whereas once upon a time a photo like the one above would shock people out of their stupor and propel societal change, the videos and photos of police brutality are now shrugged at. Too many people in this province applaud the police for ‘teaching the brats a lesson’. Too many people in this city see street protests as an inexcusable inconvenience. And too many students seem to believe Paris ’68 is a fait accomplit, waiting just around the corner to happen here.

Dare I say it, it seems too many Quebec students are beginning to view protesting as a legitimate component of the student experience, something no university education is complete without.

Obviously this should not be the case; street protests should be a last resort, not the only card to be played.

I would welcome news from the student associations that they’ll make their case in a different way, one that doesn’t resort to the same tired tactics that basically boil down to disorganized street theatre and opportunities to deploy a ludicrously expensive riot squad. By protesting, students are actively adding to provincial and municipal debt – all those cops on the riot squad are paid bonuses, overtime, danger pay etc.

And they most definitely will be paid. Their unions are stronger than the student unions by a considerable margin.

As was the case in 2012, the students’ grievance is not self-evident and there seems to be a lack of cohesive planning and purpose. If the public doesn’t even understand why students are protesting, or what they’re proposing in lieu of austerity, there’s no hope the students will ever be able to change public opinion in their favour.

The few people who will change their minds after seeing a photo like the one above won’t make waves and won’t result in societal change. If there’s a case to be made against austerity (and there is), it should be clear, concise and to the point.

It also shouldn’t prevent students from attending class.

When trying to educate the public about an alternative way forward, it seems remarkably foolish to me to begin by making enemies first on campus (by disrupting classes, such as we witnessed at Concordia this week) and then with logical potential allies.

How much do you want to bet ASSÉ never reached out to the SPVM or their union?

Montreal’s Impossible Car Chase


Blazing Magnum (1976) 1971 Ford Mustang VS… by Z-cinema

Found this clip on Reddit Montreal.

It’s a car chase scene from an Italian detective/crime flick from 1976 called ‘Shadows in an Empty Room‘.

It’s not quite Bullitt but not bad either.

There are a few ‘goofs’ in this sequence, namely that the car chase route is completely impossible (i.e. turning from Bleury onto René-Lévesque, then winding up in NDG and then the Turcot Yards). According to IMDB you can also spy a cop walking into a sex shop and can further spy a truck advertising Cinévision, one of the companies involved in the production (not exactly goofs per se, the latter a clumsy attempt at product placement).

I’d love it if someone could throw together a sketch of what route the cars took based off the clip above, just to further demonstrate the convoluted nature, but also to see what aspects the cinematographer wanted included.

And that said, we need more car chase scenes filmed on the mean streets of Montreal. As much as I want to get cars off our city streets, this is an exciting city to drive in and car chases seem to make our roads look somewhat more decent and less congested than they actually are.

Operation Gamescan 76

Operation Gamescan 76 by Michael Brun, National Film Board of Canada

Operation Gamescan 76.

Roll that around on your tongue for a moment.

It was a thing. It happened here.

And if you find the name as intriguing as I do, you’re in luck. Operation Gamescan 76 is damned fascinating, especially when you consider it within the context of how we do large scale security operations nowadays, not to mention the actual capabilities of our current military. I say this because I believe Gamescan 76 was a demonstration of a high water mark attained by the Canadian military, at a time many today think it was ill equipped and purposeless.

And if you don’t give a damn about military propaganda, that’s fine too. It’s not exactly a propaganda piece to begin with. If you like archival footage of Montreal in the ‘good old days’ of the mid-1970s, then this video’s for you. The city looked good that summer.

But on to the issue at hand – what was Gamescan 76?

Simply put, during the 1976 Summer Olympics and for several months before it, this city of Montreal was a veritable fortress or modern citadel.

16,000 personnel were deployed just to Montreal and the affiliated sites of the Olympic Games, providing not only security, but communications, logistics, medical and even protocol services for the Olympics. They had combat fighter aircraft at their immediate disposal, in addition to various transports and surveillance aircraft, not to mention a considerable number of helicopters. Several large warships were deployed to provide additional support and elements of the Airborne Regiment, precursor to today’s JTF-2 and Canadian Special Operations Regiment, were on standby, ready to rappel or parachute into anywhere in and around Montreal in a moment’s notice.

Operation Gamescan 76 was and likely still is the single largest peacetime Canadian military operation, ever. What’s particularly interesting to me is that it was done without withdrawing forces deployed in West Germany (Canada had a mechanized brigade deployed in support of NATO, supported by its own air wing and occupying two bases at the time, representing about 5,000 personnel), the Sinai, Golan Heights or Cyprus (three large peacekeeping deployments we were involved in at the time, representing several thousand more troops and their equipment). At the time the bulk of our local air force was operating in support of NORAD and most of our Navy was Atlantic-centric and almost exclusively focused on hunting Soviet submarines. And yet despite this absolutely massive deployment of Canadian Forces personnel and major equipment assets, we could still manage to pull together 16,000 military personnel and provide them all the equipment they needed to ensure Canada’s first Olympic Games would not suffer the same fate as Munich four years earlier.

Munich. The brutal murder of Israeli athletes by masked terrorists, captured live by television cameras and broadcast into tranquil living rooms the world over. What was supposed to be a triumph for liberal, reformed post-war West Germany became a spectacle so tragic and awful some commentators honestly thought the Olympics as an institution would crumble. Who would risk hosting a Games if terrorists could slaughter athletes on the six o’clock news? Who would pay for the security that would be required to prevent such a thing from happening again, who had the expertise to handle such an immense project scope, and who could be reasonably expected to deliver on all fronts?

It was obvious at the time that the Canadian Forces would take on the job so as not to overburden local law enforcement, leaving the bulk of the Montreal police and Sureté du Québec to focus on their day to day affairs.

The military would secure the city, the island, the key nodes of transport, command and communications, and most importantly the Olympic Park and its affiliated sites. The out of town troops took up residence in public schools closed for the summer, the depot at Longue Pointe housed all Games-related equipment and was humming along twenty-four hours a day. The military was deployed to all the airports in the region at that time (there were five by my count, including Mirabel, Dorval, St. Hubert, the Victoria STOLport and the old Cartierville airport, the latter two no longer exist), and patrolled the highways and port as well. Throughout the documentary I marvelled at the fact that the overwhelming bulk of work was carried out by soldiers armed only with walkie-talkies, binoculars and metal detectors.

We had several thousand people employed to literally ‘keep an eye on things’, and several thousand more coordinating and communicating everything they saw.

What really strikes me is how few guns you see in this documentary. When you do see Canadian soldiers well equipped with the latest fighting gear, it’s principally when deployed abroad. Throughout the doc the Canadian Forces look pretty geeky – it seems as though the bulk of the security apparatus in 1976 were lanky young men in their late teens or early twenties, in their dress uniforms (no camouflage), without any prominently displayed guns or offensive fighting equipment.

In other words, it was discrete. Subtle security. The documentary points this out several times.

Quite a contrast to security at the most recent Canadian Olympiad. Fewer than 5,000 Canadian Forces were deployed to two sites at the 2010 Vancouver Games, backed up by 5,000 law enforcement and about the same number of private security contractors. Security was armed, armoured and obvious. I would argue the collective whole of modern public security is menacing and invasive, and based on the video evidence offered here, it seems efforts were made to make the military look and behave truly as an aid to the civil power. It seems that they were keen to demonstrate the military being used differently, and to not offend the public by appearing overly menacing. The images of armed soldiers patrolling city streets during the October Crisis were still quite fresh in people’s collective memory.

So what we have here is archival footage of how they struck a balance. Yes, a massive amount of Canadian military strength was available and operational in Montreal at the time, controlling a security, communications and logistics operation of epic proportions we’d have trouble, I’d argue, doing again today. It just wasn’t particularly intrusive given its size.

It was the era of less is more I suppose. Government didn’t want images of men with rifles in newspapers or on television. Today the opposite is true; remember the G8/G20 Summit in Toronto? That would have been unfathomable in any Canadian city in 1976.

Today our government wants to empower a formerly outward facing spy agency to turn inwards with all the power of your local police force, and quite possibly make dissent a crime worthy of prosecution. Protesting may be considered terrorism, for your security (as the mitten-wearing class in Ottawa tells us day after day – limitations to our freedoms and liberties are always being done for our security…)

Forty years ago the military could provide security with binoculars and radios. Today the police has become militarized while the military and the state’s intelligence services are being used for police purposes. We are told constantly that we are not secure, not safe, and that an attack is eminent. We are even told that recent attacks in Ottawa and Saint Jean sur Richelieu were terrorist attacks, though the culprits in both cases had no ties to international terrorism and both were known to have suffered from severe mental illness.

In 1976 government spent no amount of time trying to convince the people we were threatened by terrorism. They spent their time coming up with films like this to show the discrete and sophisticated ways by which they assisted in actually providing high level security to the nation’s gleaming metropolis.

As I mentioned above I find this film infinitely fascinating, at least in part because it seems to be evidence of a far better use of government resources to achieve a superior end result.

And it wasn’t even that long ago either… how far have we let things go since then?

Yesterday and Today

The bell tower of the former Saint Jaques Cathedral and the parking lot that preceded Place Emilie-Gamelin, 9th of June 1976. Photo by Vincent Massaro, credit to Archives de Montréal
The bell tower of the former Saint Jaques Cathedral and the parking lot that preceded Place Emilie-Gamelin, 9th of June 1976. Photo by Vincent Massaro, credit to Archives de Montréal

This is Berri Square on June 9th 1976, the year of our Olympiad.

I find this photo significant for a few reasons. First and foremost is that UQAM had not yet built its main campus.

That came three years later.

It only took three years to build UQAM’s main campus.

Let that sink in and think about how long it has taken the province to build the MUHC. Or finish the Dorval Interchange. Or complete the Train de l’Est.

Need I go on?

Why don’t we build as fast as we did thirty some odd years ago?

Warts and all, I find the Latin Quarter far more inviting and appealing today when compared to the photo above.

Back in 1976 there was no Grande Bibliotheque nor UQAM’s main campus. There was no large public space either (Place Emilie Gamelin would only be completed in 1992).

To think that the roof of Berri-UQAM was a parking lot for all those years…

This doesn’t feel like the transit and institutional hub I know, it feels barren and disconnected.

I guess that’s the second thing I find fascinating about this photograph – it’s deceptive.

There seems to be a lot of stuff missing, and the openness and lack of any kind of green space makes the area feel impoverished, and far less significant in terms of its function within the urban environment. This appears to be almost some kind of accident of urban planning.

But then you have to consider Berri-de-Montigny station (as it was called back then) had been completed a decade earlier and would have been as much of a transit hub as it is today. Consider Saint Denis would have been similar to how it is today in terms of its reputation as an ‘entertainment district’. UQAM’s main pavilion hadn’t yet been built but the university was using the building facing the bell tower of the former Saint Jacques Cathedral. The old bus depot would have been newish back then, and the large warehouse across the street was the main distribution centre for a major local grocery chain, and doubtless was humming with activity all night (it was later converted into a roller rink and concert venue). Place Dupuis would have been relatively new as well, offering high end commercial and corporate real estate as well as the Hotel des Gouverneurs, one of the first large hotels in the are aside from the old Gare Viger railway hotel.

Even though there’s virtually no green space (and consider as well the grounds around the remnants of the cathedral were closed to the public), the area nonetheless has a more open feel. I can imagine this area felt very different with all that open space and open sight lines allowing perspectives of the city that have been lost to time. Montreal would’ve looked different back then, and perhaps arguably looked better at a distance than it may have been up front.

That said, I think we need to be careful in how we look at Montreal’s urban past. This photo was taken in 1976 and a sizeable chunk of downtown Montreal looked a lot like this – large parking lots, large open lots, a lot less green space and fewer major institutions occupying the centre of the city. How could 1976 have been any kind of a ‘golden year’ in our city when so much of what makes our city great today simply didn’t exist at the time?

I’ve often argued we look at our past, particularly as it concerns our urban environment and urban quality of life, with rose coloured glasses.

Sure, we hosted the Olympics, the Habs were winning Stanley Cups left and right, the city’s economy was stronger and a Montrealer was Prime Minister.

But consider as well the exceptionally higher violent crime rates of the era (i.e. a hundred homicides a year), or that Montreal police morality squads prowled for young gays on Mount Royal. Consider the mansions and historic neighbourhoods replaced by skyscrapers and obliterated by highways, or the population shift to the suburbs and a downtown that turned into something of a ghost town after 6 pm. Imagine Montreal without Le Plateau or a resurgent Saint Henri, or any of the prized urban neighbourhoods we so covet today; we are a far more livable city now than we were then.

Forget about Montreal’s Golden Age. It hasn’t happened yet.

Brain Drain

Pierre-Karl Péladeau during a press scrum - credit to Toronto Star
Pierre-Karl Péladeau during a press scrum – credit to Toronto Star

Today was just one of those days I suppose. Perhaps you’ve had them too. A day were you read the paper and see the headlines and wonder just what it is you’re doing living in Montreal. Today wasn’t even particularly cold out either.

Rather, it was the enlightened goons who (somehow) managed to get elected to represent the collective interests of Quebec, with an apparent total disregard for the interests of many of its citizens, particularly those noble enough to stick it out in what’s increasingly starting to look like a city on the verge of real failure.

And I’ve been accused of being an apologist, not only for Montreal but Quebec as well.

In case this has all been too glib allow me to get straight to the point.

In an era of heightened awareness concerning campus sexual assault, the education minister has given his own ringing endorsement to fully legal strip searches of minors without parental consent or even police involvement, so long as it’s done in a ‘respectful’ manner. If you’ve just spewed coffee out onto your laptop reading that last sentence take a moment because there’s more. The strip searches are justified in terms of the student’s security, just like every invasion of the state into the personal domain. Always for our own interests, legally speaking. The reason this is news is because a fifteen year old girl was strip searched by her principle and another woman who worked at her Quebec City high school. They were looking for pot. They found nothing. The girl was coerced into removing all of her clothing without legal representation, without the involvement of police, an without notifying her parents.

She complained to a newspaper she felt violated. No kidding. This is Quebec in 2015 and it makes my blood boil.

Especially because you’d figure Yves Bolduc would have the common sense to realize he’s opened the door to so much potential abuse of minors in Quebec schools. Did he learn nothing from the Residential Schools Scandal?

And that’s just for starters.

Then the enlightened (pure sarcasm) head of the poorly named CAQ decided to let us all know he thinks every mosque in Quebec should be investigated so as to determine whether or not the imam/congregation preaches values that are in line with Quebec values.

What Quebec values?

The discrimination of ethnic and religious minorities? Undue persecution? Are those the values of which he speaks?

François Legault co-founded Air Transat. He was an education minister during the Landry Administration. He is an accomplished individual by any standard. Yet in Quebec he can afford to make statements such as these and be taken seriously, statements that would void whatever political credentials one might have in just about any other political jurisdiction. A career-limiting move, in corporate parlance.

Not here. In Quebec saying ‘every Muslim is guilty until proven innocent’ is just fine for the leader of a provincial political party. The only other political party in all of Canada that came close to this type of nonsense was the wildrose Party in Alberta and they imploded under the weight of their own ineptitude. Is it any wonder some Muslims living in Quebec (and by that I mean Montreal, let’s be real) don’t feel welcome and may actually get pushed towards embracing the more conservative if not fundamentalist aspects of their faith? They come here expecting liberty and tolerance and discover they’ve immigrated to the part of Canada that still hasn’t accepted Canadian values as defined in our constitution and charter.

Quebec is governed by a collective siege mentality that has ruined our economy and has entrenched social, cultural, political and economic divides across the province (all of which intersect as if at a bull’s eye squarely atop Montreal).

And then, rounding out the shameful day that was February 18th 2015 in Quebec, the heir-presumptive to the throne of the Parti Québécois, Pierre-Karl Péladeau, said that a referendum would not be necessary to achieve independence, and that a PQ electoral victory would be sufficient. A few hours later his aide would insist that this was not the case, that he misunderstood the question.

Independence. Nothing’s working and we’re still talking independence.

Some days I hate living here. Some days I hate living in the place I have always called home.

I don’t know why I’m able to somehow force myself not to be bothered by it on some days, while on others it forces me into the pits of despair. I also don’t know why I put up with it. Everyone I know tells me to leave or tells me that’s what they’ll tell their children; that there are no opportunities here, and that it’s foolish and naive to think things will change for the better.

I know too many people who made the right choice and left.

How awful it is to live in a city as tantalizing and generally enjoyable as Montreal, only to be made ultimately untenable by poisonous and petty provincial politics.

Gutting the City

Dix-30 aerial photoAn aerial view of Quartier Dix-30 in Brossard. Not my work. Ceci n’est pas une ville.

We need a Dix-30 styled “innovative multi-use urban project” like we need a gaping hole in the head.

For one, there’s nothing innovative about shopping malls.

For two, TMR’s industrial park is hardly urban.

For three, it’s projects like these that lead to boarded up windows on Saint Catherine or Saint Lawrence.

***

Let’s back up a bit.

There’s a firm that’s aiming to build a massive brand new shopping, entertainment, hotel and office park at the intersection of highways 15 and 40 in the Town of Mount Royal’s industrial park.

They’re calling it 15/Quarante and so far have refused to go into anything but the absolute vaguest of details. It’s the same company, Carbonleo Realty, who’s responsible for the Quartier Dix-30 shopping mega complex built in Brossard to much undeserved fanfare a few years back.

Now this same company is looking to repeat its success on island, on a significant portion of real estate currently occupied by factories and warehouses.

And who needs that right?

Instead they plan on replacing the means of production with the means of mass consumption and build big box stores.

They’re also indicating office towers and – get this – a concert hall – are all in the works.

I’m telling you right now: there will never be a concert hall located in TMR’s industrial park. That’s bullshit right there. Multiplex movie theatre – sure, why not, that could happen.

But concert hall?

Nope. Not ever.

For one there’s no way public money would serve to build in TMR what has just been built in a more sensible location at Place des Arts.

As to office towers, again, I’m very skeptical. A landing corridor passes right over that highway junction and it’s debatable whether Montreal on the whole needs more office space.

I can imagine there’s plenty of reason to suspect a mega mall in the style of Dix-30 would work (in that it would make money for the Town of Mount Royal and for the developer); there’s already a lot of that in that area anyways and there’s interest in redeveloping the old Blue Bonnets race track into a large residential project. The mall proposed would thus be located close to a large body of people and at a major traffic junction. How could it fail?

This is precisely what the people at Decarie Square, Place Vertu, the Cavendish Mall and that other short-lived mall further south on Decarie (that was abandoned throughout much of the 1990s) were thinking. The rules of retail and real estate are the same – location, location, location. And superficially it makes sense they would choose to locate the mall in the area they’ve chosen.

The first problem I see is that adding a mega mall will only exacerbate congestion. Without a considerable public investment in redeveloping the surrounding roadways the proposed mega mall runs the risk of being inconvenient to get to despite its proximity to major traffic systems and residential areas.

The second and bigger problem is that projects of this size wind up destroying independent businesses and obliterating established commercial thoroughfares. If we want more successful small businesses on The Main, on Saint Catherine, on Saint Denis, Queen Mary and Notre Dame West, we can’t allow for more big box stores and shopping malls. It’s really just that simple. I think the single greatest economic challenge to Montreal in the last forty years is the threat posed by large multi-national retailers who sell high-volumes of attractive garbage at unbeatable prices. We should have legislation on the books to keep such companies out of our city simply to maintain competitiveness and entrepreneurialism.

Simply put.

If you are a capitalist you should be against projects like this and just about every ‘big box’ retailer operating in our city.

They are literally undermining the economic foundations of our city.

Yes, it’s true the Economist ranked Montreal as the world’s second best city to live in (absurdly taking a back seat to Toronto, the city fun forgot).

THIS DOESN’T SPEAK VERY HIGHLY OF OTHER MAJOR WORLD CITIES.

As much as I love Montreal, we need to face reality and acknowledge we got the high rank simply because it’s cheap to live here and broadly speaking we enjoy a high standard of life. It was not because of any local economic or political dynamism, that’s for sure.

A Brookings Institute study that came out roughly around the same time as the Economist report put Montreal in 285th place out of 300 major world cities in terms of economic productivity.

And more locally the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses put Montreal dead last in terms of best cities for doing business in Canada.

Given the state the world’s in right now, sure, Montreal’s a great place to live to ride out the storm.

We know we have an enduring economic problem in this city, and have been particularly vocal of late, bemoaning job losses, folding restaurants and boarded-up windows.

And yet, we do nothing to fight that which is driving these failures. The answer to some of our economic problems lie in protectionist legislation at the municipal level.

Every time a new McDonald’s, a new Starbucks, a WalMart, Home Depot, Tim Horton’s or Target opens up, small businesses fall by the dozens, and with it goes a crucial component of our city’s economic foundation. The city needs to stand up for competitiveness, choice and entrepreneurialism by promoting small business over volume retailers and corporate chains.

It’s the highly localized investment capital generated by small businesses that form the real backbone for long term economic growth, as family run businesses are passed down from generation to generation and local legacies are established. In the long run the city benefits from the regular returns of these businesses far more than could possibly be expected from high volume retailers and franchises that are notorious for short shelf lives.

In sum, malls die and are emblematic of unsustainable economic policies. The downtown core has already demonstrated the adverse effects of ‘chain and franchise’ dominance, and as a result feels increasingly alien. Sainte Catherine is more a poor man’s Times Square than something iconically Montreal; the neon used to advertise theatres, cabarets and restaurants. Today it advertises the exact same stores I find in the shopping malls of suburbia or the Underground City.

And it’s for that reason that I rarely find myself on Sainte Catherine or shopping downtown. Too little choice.

The last time I can recall spending an afternoon ‘out shopping’ was last summer on Bernard in the Mile End. I went across town from where I was living at the time and walked along the street, stopping in several stores (all independently owned) and making a variety of purchases, some planned, others more spontaneous. Then I got a bite to eat at a local bistro, had an espresso and then met up with a friend to have a drink on a terrace.

Yes, conceivably I’ll be able to do all this, and possibly more, at the proposed TMR Mega Mall.

But I wouldn’t on principle no matter what kind of branded lifestyle or savings it promises.

I don’t think I’m alone either.

In any event, I don’t know how to close this, so here’s Glenn Castanheira of the Saint Lawrence Merchant’s Association discussing why he thinks it’s a bad idea on CTV Montreal… and Castanheira again in debate with the Mayor of the Town of Mount Royal, Philippe Roy.

The view from Mount Royal