Sunday, November 28, 2010

First snow of the 2010-11 winter season

Took a great long walk up on Mont Royal today. Most invigorating!

This is the bath that Charlie jumps into when the weather is warmer.

This did not seem to deter anybody. I guess it's just their way of absolving responsibility if you wipe out, which seems like a fair deal to me.

Charlie grooving out to some stalwart out of season drummers.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Parking Anxiety

So the latest freak-out in the saga of Luc Ferrandez' eco-fascist municipal administration is his attempt to take control the parcomètres in the Plateau. Earlier, Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay announced that the administration and revenue from street parking would be turned over to the Boroughs. I am actually ill-informed of the reasoning behind this insane decision (from the mayor's perspective at least) and I can well imagine the boroughs pounced upon it.

Luc Ferrandez, our borough mayor and member of the ecologically-minded and forward thinking Projet Montréal party (with the radical platform of hey guess what urban cores are not giant shopping malls or waypoints for suburbanites to drive to and through), seized on the opportunity and announced an extension of parking meter hours, locations and a price hike. Merchants freaked out about this and put up a bunch of retarded posters. Today, the mayor balked and announced that he wasn't giving up control yet. I suspect the business lobby has a lot more power over Tremblay at the city level than they do over Ferrandez at the borough level. I can only imagine the many levels of pressure the business lobbyists applied to Tremblay and his people.

Emotionally, I can sympathize with drivers to some degree. The few times that I've driven around town and had to pay for parking, I'm shocked at how expensive it has become. You might as well use a credit card, because coins won't do the trick anymore unless you have a pirate-sized bag of loonies and toonies. On the other hand, compared to other North American cities I've parked in (Vancouver, San Francisco-Bay Area and New York; though this last has its own special craziness that isn't all bad), the availability of parking is really good here.

That being said, financially, if you can afford to drive a car, having to pay a bit more for parking should be well within your budget. I'm sure there are a percentage of people who drive for a living or need a car to get to work (though I am very hesitant to say "need" there given the ease with which people who have public transit, bike and foot options use it to justify their owning a car) who have very tight margins and a parking increase will cause them to sacrifice. I suspect that percentage is very low and most people can afford the hike.

I'm a resident here in the Plateau and cars for the most part are not welcome in my world. They are polluting and dangerous (no children play in the street on my residential road) and take up space. More importantly, I pay a lot of municipal taxes to live here. A big chunk of that money goes to road repair and road cleaning and I don't even drive. So if you are driving your car into my borough, then you need to be paying for the costs that creates. My block is full all day with people who work nearby. They pay nothing for that space. I'm glad they have jobs in my neighbourhood or come and do shopping. But they need to throw a little in the piggy bank to pay for the repairs to the road and the snow clearing, just like I do.

It's the reaction of the businesses that I don't quite get. For the shitty, faux-fancy restaurants on St. Laurent south of des Pins, I can see how they are worried about losing their weekend suburban meal tickets, but don't those people usually park in some pay parking lot anyway or take a cab? It was really surprising to see Sakaris have the anti-Ferrandez poster in their store. Most of their clients come on foot for sure and the ones who come in car are usually the older Portugues ladies whose husbands drive around the block while they buy the entire store. I wonder if a lot of these proprietors just got browbeaten by a few vocal leaders of this business group.

It's amazing how profoundly attached people are to their vehicles. It's an ignorance and short-sightedness that goes far beyond any other consumer item (about which we all have our blinders and loyalties to one degree or another). Car owners can seriously equate a parking rate hike to an attack on their freedoms, likening the Plateau administration to "maoist guerrillas". I kid you not, this was a comment over at the Montreal City Weblog. It used to be the left that tended to make those kinds of hyperbolic historic comparisons, but more and more it is the people who fear change who are starting to talk like this. Maybe they should spend a month with some real Maoist guerrillas (if there are any left, maybe in Tibet?) and then make the comparison.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Friday, November 05, 2010

For those of you who lack confidence about speaking french here

I realized last night during a work discussion around beers that after 5 years on my job, a part of which entails me dealing with a wide range of the public, on the phone or in person, I have only had one person give me shit about not being a true francophone or not speaking french correctly and he was already in a rage about our organization and our phone system (and rightly so on the latter). Quebec is, very broadly speaking, still an insular society and often reverts to a self-defeating defensive stance, but the people are fundamentally generous and accepting. My french can be rough at times and I have to talk about a crazy range of things with some of the calls I respond to (geothermal, cats stuck in trees, taxes, government databases, real estate to name just a few from the last couple weeks). People are always very patient when I am lacking a vocabulary word. Sometimes I can even hear them trying to make me feel like there is nothing wrong with my french, when I know that I have just said something completely incomprehensible. The worst that has ever happened is that sometimes people switch to english, but strangely, this is very rare over the phone. Maybe there are some visual cues that help people determine what your native tongue is?

In any case, if you feel insecure or worried that people are going to laugh at you or be offended when you try and speak french here in Quebec, push those worries aside, go forth and speak your mind. When you slip, the francophones will be ready to grab you and make sure you don't fall.