Updates from September, 2019 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 20:11 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

    Justin Trudeau says this is not the time for the federal government to challenge Bill 21; interim PLQ leader Pierre Arcand says he won’t get mixed up in suggesting what the feds should do about it. François Legault is demanding that the chiefs of the federal parties promise to refrain from challenging the law – not just during the campaign, but forever – and both Trudeau and Andrew Scheer appear to tacitly agree to keep paws off the law for the time being.

    How does it feel if you’re a wearer of religious signifiers, but the two main candidates for PM have just said they’re at best in no particular hurry to defend you?

    • Ginger Baker 15:21 on 2019-09-12 Permalink

      There’s that leadership they keep talking about.

  • Kate 12:09 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

    Property assessments will go up an average 13.7% as of next year. This covers three years and the whole agglomeration.

    The city is promising to hold tax increases to an average 2%.

    Update: Rising prices are accompanied by rising rates of homelessness, shelters noting a rise in the numbers needing assistance. Even for working people, salaries are not keeping pace with this surge in housing costs.

    • denpanosekai 18:02 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Yeah I have a house in Verdun and the valeur imposable jumped by 200,000$ in 2 years. Bro these agents are calling me every other day. I guess that’s what I get for being on the registre foncier.

    • Faiz Imam 14:59 on 2019-09-12 Permalink

      I hope we get updated data on real housing occupancy rates. There is the idea going around of wealthy investors buying units and keeping them unoccupied, but as prices rise, that makes less and less sense. Is that really something that is going on when you can rent out these units for such a high amount?

      Plante has already spoken about a number of initiatives to counter rising prices, both around new development, more tennant rights as well as rules against inoccupancy. I hope we move forward on that as fast as possible.

      Also, the role of Airbnb in this crisis can’t be understated, the rules Quebec came out with are a good start, but they are not enough.

    • Ephraim 20:55 on 2019-09-12 Permalink

      There are now services that you can pay about USD$6 per address of the AirBnB. Seems to me that the city could use the service, send someone to check and then send a letter telling the owner that since it’s not being used residentially, that they will switch over to commercial taxes and what the commercial rate is. To avoid the commercial rate they need to show several bills to show that someone does live there and it isn’t being rented commercially. That might be enough of a shock, being an increase over about 400% on the property tax alone.

  • Kate 09:06 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

    Mr Trudeau met my eye first thing Wednesday on a street corner in Papineau. Note the trendy row of icons – they’re everywhere now in graphic design, as if the eye needs to be soothed by web‑like layout even in print. Admittedly, this kind of nonverbal communication also transcends linguistic barriers. Trudeau also looks meatier and more athletic than he’s usually shown. No suit and tie here.

    • Meezly 10:47 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      I don’t dispute that our PM is a good looking guy, but I’m sure there was quite a bit of Photoshopping done. I can imagine the marketing team agonizing over what to airbrush. “Hmm, let’s keep the laugh creases to make him more down to earth, but we gotta smooth out those forehead lines, cuz y’know, we don’t want him to look like he’s worried about losing the election.”

    • Kate 10:55 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Meezly, I can totally hear that. Also some head-clutching over the icons.

    • Alex 11:22 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      The 2nd one down I get ‘guy in backpack holding a head on a tray’

    • lagatta à montréal 11:46 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Or compulsory parenthood?

    • Kate 12:52 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Well, he is always going on about middle class families, families, families. I don’t think it crosses his mind that a sizable portion of his own riding’s residents live alone and a lot are not middle class.

    • Blork 13:32 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      I see that second icon as “Give people wedgies.”


    • Ant6n 14:12 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Somebody should hold a contest to come up with honest versions of the icons.

    • mare 14:55 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      We’ll appropriate the maple leaf, just like the PQ appropriated the fleur de lis, because we are Canada.
      We promise to add so much carbon to the environment that you can barely keep your child’s head above the rising water because of climate change.
      We promise to cut all the trees to make mulch and toilet paper.
      We promise to mine more in dictatorships using slave labour, dig up all of the tarsands and make the profits of Canadian multinationals soar without them paying Canadian taxes.
      We promise to take your house from you when you can’t afford it anymore because the collapse of the economy, and lease it back to you.

      Vote Liberal!

      (The Conservatives and the NDP will do most of the above things too, because economy and jobs are more important than anything.)

    • CE 20:12 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      That looks like an ash leaf. Maybe he’s saying he’s going to defeat the Emerald Ash Boarer

    • Kate 21:22 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      I think the bottom icon is suggesting that Trudeau is the Doctor (Who).

  • Kate 08:09 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

    I didn’t realize that the REM was charging royalties to developers putting up buildings near its route, but it is, and it’s cashing in, too.

    • Mr.Chinaski 08:26 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      It’s pretty much the biggest part of how the REM will become a good investment for our CDPQ “bas de laine”. It’s why you will slowly start to see more dense construction around stations, creating hubs / TODs. Those bungalows will dissapear with time and be replaced by 4/6plex condos.

    • Ant6n 09:03 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Let’s not repeat falsehoods about the cdpq. Less than a quarter of the winnings will go towards retraite Quebec, most of it goes to private employee pensions of public sector and para-public sector employees. But at the same time, cdpq doesn’t pay taxes (so a fully private entity paying a quarter their winnings in taxes would have a similar win for the public than the REM – but the would maybe be more scrutiny instead of this naive blind trust).

      Also, the biggest actual win for the cdpq, what already gives them the 8-10% ongoing(!) return-on-investment is the 72c per km charged for every passenger-km to the ARTM (that’s like 45$ pet day for st Anne commuters!). All these other schemes (like those developer taxes) to make money are tacked on and increasing the returns higher and higher. On an infrastructure project that could be done by the public at interest rates of around 2%.

      That an infrastructure project generates value is great, value-capture taxes make sense, but it should go towards the ability towards more infrastructure projects. The REM is doing the opposite: they’re sucking money out of the transit finding pots and actually completely away from public control altogether.

      It’s a neoliberal construct, that is already owning more cash than it knows what to do with, going to buy up everything, including all public assets, putting them outside of public control, then renting it back to the public sector at insane rates, while the public sector will become more and more indebted, unable to operate, and at most hope to rent access to resources (like infra) that it used to own.

    • Mr.Chinaski 09:09 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Like I said, it’s the tipping point that makes it valuable. Everything else makes it an “ok” and logical investment, this puts it over the top and assures an acceptable ROI for our bas-de-laine. Not only that, but allowing densier residential units near a metro station can only be benefitial to many aspects of society, especially environmental.

      It’s only logical that if developpers will get rich from that, then we as citizens are allowed to get a part of the cake too.

    • tim 10:02 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      @ant6n: thank you for your unbelievably concise post that explains in clear terms a fundamental problem with how the REM is structured.

    • SMD 10:08 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Amen, thank you @Ant6n!

    • Francesco Fato 13:58 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      I don’t disagree with anything Anton has said – here or elsewhere in the past – about this flawed project. But that said, I’d like to add the same note I’ve written elsewhere: without these major concessions to the CDPQ, the West Island would likely *never* get rapid transit or vastly more frequent and efficient service on the DM line. If it remained an MTQ-funded, STM-defined ideal, there would be another few decades of studies, hand-wringing, cancellations, more reports, changes of government, and on and on… exactly what we’ve seen with the Métro, a system that hasn’t kept pace. Look how long it’s taking for the functionaries to weigh in on possible *short* extensions to REM in Dorval and the Orange line in St-Laurent, with the usual opacity in the process. The rest of the world just *does* stuff, here we need years of studies and reports. So while again, I agree that REM is one huge real estate speculation project, and not the best deal for taxpayers, it is – at a rate never before seen in this province with too many in-ground pools – getting *done*.

      PS: Anton I hope the program in Berlin is going well, and look forward to more essays on your blog when you once again have time for it!

    • ant6n 15:11 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Many infrastructure projects have been built around returns of 5% rather than 8-10%. The CDPQ keeps bragging about the returns (as if it was due to automation, which has very little influence), but it’s really an expression of the high subsidies the system will require: only about a quarter of the revenue will come from fares, the rest from subsidies and taxes — that’s double than the STM (which operates expensive buses besides the metro). At a 5% expected return, the system would require much less subsidies, and would be much less of a drain on the transit (and municipal budgets) as a whole.

      Even if you believe the neoliberal talking point that only a PPP project could get something built in the West Island — a perception constructed by politicians continuing to commission studies to make it appear like they did something, rather than actually investing in infrastructure — then the question is why it has to be partnership between government and cdpq. Usually, a financing partner is found in a bidding process, and with the competition for the big government contract, the idea is to find the actual fair market value for the deal.

      But this isn’t what happend with the CDPQ. It’s a direct negotiated partnership, with all the wrong incentives. The CDPQ’s incentive is to make as much money as possible, the government’s incentive is to get it build as quickly as possible, keep the investment out the government books (the neoliberal dictate), and back-load the costs as far back as possible (the ongoing costs, the rent, will only hit us 2 elections after the deal was made). Since actual transit planners where shut out, there’s no incentive for reasonable, long-term planning.

      To me, this should’ve been organized either as a real PPP, or as a proper public project (an in reality, there are actually kind of similar):

      1) In a real PPP, there would be a bidding process for the private financing partner. The competitive nature of the partnership would be celebrated, with lots of scrutiny by the public partner, and the requirement for more transit expertise to ensure a good deal and a good project. The competition among the private partners would result in a fair market valuation of the project, which would make all these extra ways the CDPQ is getting money (charging taxes, not paying taxes) unnecessary — a 5% or so return on investment should be enough.

      2) as a more public project, the public would create a fund and an entity like CDPQInfra. Note that CDPQInfra only planned the project, organized a bidding process for the actual companies that will build and run the REM, engaged in PR to to fool people and set up this crazy contract with the Quebec government that will result in them sucking all sorts of money from the public. If CDPQInfra was a public entity like the ARTM with the goal to advance transit, then all these money-making schemes would go towards more construction of transit — there would never be any profits, only more investments. And the planning horizon would increase, meaning that we would stop making short-sighted planning decisions that will affect the region of Montreal (like privatizing the Mount-Royal tunnel and Gare Centrale, and preventing access from the North for other rail lines and VIA).

      Either way, it would either be a cheaper project, or a similarly expensive project where profits would go to fund ongoing transit expansions, and in both cases there would be a requirement for more public oversight of the planning, which is really where the REM’s biggest faults are.

    • Francesco 15:42 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Thanks again for the thoughtful and succinct reply. Again, not disagreeing with a single notion presented, simply basing my caveat on having lived (and experienced the corruption and bureaucracy) in this province since Expo ‘67. A simple truth is that frequent, rapid rail transit was *never* going to happen in the West Island by a Quebec government entity as long as they held the actual purse strings for transit. Even a rapid rail link to the airport was hemmed and hawed over for two decades, and in that time got no closer to fruition until the secret, direct-negotiated contract with CDPQ.

    • Faiz Imam 18:53 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      The answer to this question goes back to 2014.

      The government did not go out and ask for a public transit project. They were more than content to send dribs and drabs of money towards transit, ideally in politically useful areas. Many cheap studies, few major commitments.

      It was the CDPQ that went to the government with a huge bag of money. They were happy with the financial returns of Vancouver’s Canada line, and they had Billions in capital they need to park in safe investments.

      And so they straight up said we are willing to spend billions of dollars on major transit projects if you give us a guaranteed return and total, quazi-dictatorial control, without consultations or court challenges to worry about.

      Its a devils bargain, to be sure. But one the government is happy with. They spend half the money and get all the positive media attention for “biggest/longest//best/green/sustainable/etc” and still have the room in the budget for all the highways and road projects they’d much rather spend money on.

      Easy choice for any neo-liberal party to make (which, to remind everyone, the CAQ, Liberals, and in many ways the PQ are)

    • Tim 18:55 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      There are some real urban planning hawks on this site, so hopefully somebody can explain something to me. Why haven’t the three levels of govt gotten together to commit to building one km of underground metro a year? Why can’t building this infrastructure be done as a regularly occurring operational expense as opposed to a capital expenditure?

      After 20 years, we’d have 20 more km of metro network.

    • Faiz Imam 19:28 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      Construction is expensive. Building a km of tunnel is a few months max, but setting everything up costs much more money than the per/km cost.

      Its like renovating a house. if you are tearing down the kitchen, its usually better to tear down adjacent rooms at the same time. Making a mess once, cleaning it all up only to make another mess down the line is not as efficient.

      Also you need to have a strong plan and a willingness to follow to the T. That’s rare. there are many more proposals than dollars, and its politically easier to commit all the money at once than to break it up and risk the next government coming along and cancelling it.

      Also its not like there is one “best / right” plan out there. different groups have different ideas about what to spend money on. And it changes over the years and over political cycles.

      But what you propose absolutely does happen. For example the US army crops of engineers has avery well planned out list of priority projects, from bridges, damn, levees, roads. And as they get money, they tick off boxes.

      They are a special case though, being both political insulated as well as taking care of essential infrastructure

    • Tim 20:37 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      To me it seems like it would be more difficult for the next govt to just up and cancel a recurring, yearly expenditure that would widely be seen to the general population has doing “something”. People complain that govt does ” nothing” because they don’t see any tangible action. Putting tangible holes in the ground, would seem to minimize the ability for somebody to just dream up some new, ridiculous plan that has no hope of ever getting started, let alone completed.

    • Faiz Imam 22:05 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

      I mean, what you suggest is mostly the case. That’s why we have “construction season” every summer. Those are hundreds of small projects that are very badly needed.

      But major transit investment is “major” for good reason. Its massively complicated to organize and execute, and if you leave things hanging, its very easy to end up with billion dollar boondoggles.

      That that’s something noone wants. So everything is overplanned and managed very precisely.

      Which reminds me of another point. Most major projects don’t have clean breaks where you can just stop and pick up a year later. Once you start, it really only makes sense to do it all.

    • Ant6n 00:07 on 2019-09-12 Permalink

      I could imagine some of the major planning flaws of the REM could still be fixed at this point, if Terrasse es Tee political will. Projet had it on their platform, but when in power, Planted pulled a coderre and just said “I can’t go against a transit project”

    • Raymond Lutz 09:24 on 2019-09-12 Permalink

      Too bad nowadays big projects have to be financed by private money (PPP, CDPQ Infra or Canada Infrastructure Bank = private investors).

      Remarkably, older projects like the St-Lawrence seaway, the Transcanadian highway were financed _directly_ by Bank Of Canada (near?) interest-free loans.


    • ant6n 13:32 on 2019-09-12 Permalink

      Given how ridiculously low bond interest rates are, it’s possible for the government to borrow and invest directly. Germany’s long term bonds just turned to negative interest rates! They just need to figure out a way to not make investments appear like debt in the budget — a way which doesn’t involve getting a private partner that increases the cost of borrowing from 1-2% to 5-10%.

  • Kate 08:06 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

    A ticket holder for Osheaga 2018 wanted to launch a class action suit because a performer she liked showed up late and performed for less than an hour. I’m glad to say the judge turned her request down. The phrase “better things to do with their time” comes to mind, in several senses.

    • Kate 08:04 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

      Ensemble has a list, I’m sure of it. They have a list of issues which they will bring up, one per week, to stay in the public eye, and if they can make Projet look bad, it’s all good. Never mind that the idea of protecting seniors from tax increases is not something any sitting government would engage to do – they’re not interested in practical management or helping find real solutions to city problems. Valérie Plante is trying to run the city, and Ensemble is playing cat and mouse games with her.

      • SMD 10:08 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

        This policy makes sense to me, in broad terms. As the article notes, several other provinces and municipalities have implemented similar deferments of increases to property taxes, at least for those seniors on a low, fixed income. It can help seniors stay in their long-term neighbourhoods, and when they do sell their home (and profit from its increased property value) the City recoups its deferred taxes.

        Interesting to note that the opposition didn’t come up with it themselves, though, but borrowed it from the non-partisan group Montréal pour tous.

    • Kate 08:00 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

      Support staff at UQÀM have been on strike for ten days; students, who initially voted to stay away from class to support them, are gradually trickling back.

      • Kate 07:57 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

        The city has approved the construction of a 13-storey residential building on St-Paul Street, its 43 meters (13 storeys) being twice as high as normally accepted in that sector. Two heritage groups are worried about the effect such a project will have in what’s officially a protected area, and that it will create a precedent for more development there.

        • DeWolf 11:46 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

          It’s worth noting that this proposed building is roughly the same height as the two adjacent buildings, which are each 10 storeys, but with double-height ground floors. I get that heritage groups are worried this could serve as a precedent for developers to build larger buildings in Old Montreal, but I don’t like the attitude that treats the neighbourhood as some kind of jewel box. After all, we’re talking about replacing the many small parking lots that pockmark the area, not tearing down the existing built fabric.

        • Kate 12:55 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

          Yes, in the second photo in the article you can see the older, tall buildings next to the lot. It’s just east of McGill Street so it’s not deep in the heart of the Vieux, either. I think it probably is mostly the precedent that worries the heritage folks, because I don’t think the city has made a mistake here either.

        • thomas 15:04 on 2019-09-11 Permalink

          I would worry less about the height and more that the design will be some anodyne glass/prefab building.

      • Kate 07:51 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

        Merchants along the Plaza St-Hubert are, not surprisingly, feeling the pinch of the long construction site on that street.

        • Kate 07:36 on 2019-09-11 Permalink | Reply  

          A fire overnight in St-Henri sent a woman to hospital in critical condition and damaged several buildings. Beaudoin Street, which leads down to the canal footbridge, is not one of the more gentrified parts of that neighbourhood, some of the buildings looking right out of Bonheur d’occasion.

          Update: The woman has died.

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