Updates from April, 2024 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 21:03 on 2024-04-14 Permalink | Reply  

    Here’s something to live for: Paul St-Pierre Plamondon is promising a third independence referendum when he’s elected premier.

    • Ephraim 22:25 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      But will they ask a clear question? And will they finally be honest enough to tell the people of Quebec that a YES vote means that they lose their Canadian citizenship. Because people still have magical thinking that they get to keep their Canadian citizenship after repudiating the country.

    • carswell 07:57 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      The next provincial election is about two and a half years away, an eternity in politics. That said, Plamondon may just have ensured that, if the PQ ends up winning, it will only be as a minority government.

      If so, that wouldn’t necessary derail plans for a referendum. QS, another separatist party, would likely be the king maker. In that case, will the movement go ahead with a referendum that nearly two-thirds of the populace currently doesn’t favour (Plamondon’s framing it as Quebec’s last chance indicates they might be willing to risk everything) and that would surely entail a conscious worsening of the Canada-Quebec relationship in an effort to drum up support?

      A complicating factor: who will be the prime minister in a year and a half? If, as seems likely, it’s Poilievre, who seems more than happy to diminish the federal presence — largely because he’s a tool of the fossil fuel industry but also because allowing a provincial power grab is a probable vote-getter in Quebec — does that pull the rug out from under the separatists? And what happens if the Cons form a minority government in Ottawa with the Bloc holding the balance of power?

      We live in interesting times. And more’s the pity.

    • DeWolf 09:08 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      @Ephraim That seems like magical thinking on your part. You’d need to make a few significant changes for that to happen. First of all, you’d need to change the constitution so that any Canadian could have their citizenship stripped for whatever reason (currently it’s only if you’re a naturalized citizen and you committed fraud to obtain that citizenship). Second, you’d need to require all Canadians to hold only one citizenship. Given that 26% of Canadians are immigrants and another 18% have immigrant parents, you’re asking nearly half the population to relinquish whatever other nationality they have.

      I’m not sure most Canadians would be spiteful enough to relinquish their own fundamental rights just to punish Quebec.

    • Kate 09:53 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      I’m reminded of the results of a survey years ago, it might even have been for the first referendum, when they found out the majority of Quebec residents expected that, even after separation, there would still be transfer payments from Ottawa, protection and security provided by the Canadian military and so on. And listening to St‑Pierre Plamondon now, going on about how Ottawa is trespassing in Quebec, I feel like it’s still Quebec wanting the status of a sovereign nation but still able to count on the backing of Canada, like someone in late adolescence wanting the freedom of adulthood yet with parents still paying the rent – but don’t enter my bedroom!

      DeWolf: but if Quebec separated, anyone immigrating here would not get Canadian citizenship, presumably, although there would be a generation born that inherited the right to it – unless Canada were to cut that option off.

      If Quebec separates it won’t be long before other parts of Canada join the United States. Alberta might be proud to become the 52nd state.

    • Blork 10:00 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      Surveys also showed that many people (probably not a majority, but apparently many) believed they’d no longer have to pay Canadian income tax (correct) but there would be no corresponding change in the Quebec income taxes they’d pay (so, so wrong!). As could be expected, pro-separatists did nothing to dispel this illusion.

    • Kate 10:31 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      Maybe a separate Quebec wouldn’t feel the need for any armed forces or postal services?

    • Ian 10:49 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      I look forward to the balkanization of the nation of Québec, we can’t even agree that all the boroughs of Montreal are equally important… although Montreal as an island city-state like Singapore would be pretty cool, too.

    • carswell 10:59 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      If Quebec separates it won’t be long before other parts of Canada join the United States.

      Am half-expecting that to happen anyway as climate change worsens and the US decides it needs Canadian water to keep the southwest and midwest afloat…

      But if it happens, for whatever reason, francophone Quebecers will soon find themselves wishing for the return of the linguistically enlightened Canadian government. Americanos, especially the rightwing variety, don’t like funny-sounding furriners not speaking English and definitely do not view the States as anything other than a unilingual nation.

    • jeather 11:01 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      The example of Brexit should be sobering, but since it’s England god knows no one will look at it.

    • Ephraim 12:27 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      @DeWolf – Not my magical thinking. There were several discussion in the past about it and that Canada would likely make it a condition of separation, because it’s essentially seen as repudiating your citizenship.

      Quebec taxes would likely increase, as they would have to pay for services that they currently don’t and of course, wouldn’t get transfer payments which are higher because Quebec is a have-not province. For example, Quebec doesn’t have border guards and it’s questionable how many of them might be willing to move to working for Quebec (seniority, pension, union, pay, etc etc etc.) So many services are federal that we don’t think about it, like air traffic control.

    • Uatu 19:47 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      Can I just get a GP first before all this nation building starts?

    • steph 20:50 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      I like how the Quebec separatist dialogue props up the separatist Montreal city-state crowds. I really like it.

    • Ian 22:46 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      Well the ethnonationalists spend so much time telling us we aren’t “real” Quebec it’s kind of an obvious next step. I’m sure lots of them would be happy to see us leave.

  • Kate 10:11 on 2024-04-14 Permalink | Reply  

    CBC has a brief video on city efforts to revive Prince Arthur’s pedestrian section after millions were spent not long ago to add seating and trees. One merchant notes that the revival isn’t going to happen immediately and that change can take years. He’s probably right.

    • Ephraim 10:58 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      There are empty spaces and that’s sort of like broken window syndrome. It’s part of the problem around parts of St-Denis as well. Vacancies create vacancies and landlords that over price their space don’t help.

    • Kate 11:04 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      I agree. But how could the city improve that side of things? Subsidize rents for new businesses for a set period? Fine landlords for keeping storefronts boarded up for more than a couple of months? We’ve talked about things like this before – penalizing owners for keeping real estate fallow might add up on paper, but then you need inspectors, and you’re bound to be facing landlords with barracuda lawyers in many cases.

    • Ian 11:21 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      Well, exactly.
      An empty storefront tax was proposed for the Plateau over a decade ago but at the time insiders explained the hesitancy to implement one is that anything perceived as anti-business opens the city up to lasuits and property developers have deep pockets in this regard. Even when buildings start to fall down the city has no power to expropriate, only fine – and even then only if it presents a hazard to the public.

      The flip side could be a carrot instead of a stick – instead of fining non-compliant speculators who would rather let their building rot than rent it out to a less-desirable (read: less wealthy) tenant, give them a tax credit if the space is used for community purposes.

      Even Shiller Lavy took advantage of this when the old Glatt butcher building they owned on Laurier “mysteriously” caved in after its internal supports were “accidetnally” removed… the lot was destined to be an empty eyesore, but instead the city made a deal that if the land was allowed to be used as a community space taxes would be waived. Then of course SL started building that boutique hotel that looks like it is is going to stand unfinished for the rest of time and realized they were so hated they changed their public name and are selling off most of their properties in Mile End (at griossly inflated prices), but that’s another story.

      As far as Prince Arthur is concerned they never really recovered from the slow collapse of the area as a “dining out on foreign food” destination. If the business was more diversified it might have more ability to weather the vagaries of fortune over time.

    • DeWolf 11:28 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      Prince Arthur is going in the right direction. There’s been a slow but steady improvement ever since the renovations were finished. A bunch of new businesses have opened in the past few years, and just in the past year, two long-abandoned storefronts on Prince Arthur have finally been occupied, and renovation work is finally continuing on one building whose shops have been vacant for years. That basically leaves the Casa Grecque as the only abandoned building that doesn’t seem to have anything going on.

      Have a beer at Le Dispensaire on a warm afternoon or summer evening and you’ll see how busy the street is. It’s a big change from five years ago.

    • Kate 15:11 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      I walked through there late last summer, mid-afternoon, and it was fairly pleasant. Some of the street furniture verges on clutter but at least there are places to sit for free. Didn’t want a beer, but the coffee at Nous Sommes Café was excellent.

      It felt, though, like few entrepreneurs would choose that stretch for their first foray into storefront business. Despite the apparent ongoing popularity of the Plateau as a place to live, I suspect there’s an entrenched sense that Prince Arthur is for tourists and suburbanites, not for locals to enjoy. It was always like that when I lived nearby till 2005. Nobody ever met a friend for lunch on Prince Arthur.

    • Ephraim 16:41 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      Increase the property taxes on vacant businesses. Your rent is too high… to get someone, well cope with more property tax to pay while you want with it empty, so that the city can put the money into revival. And in the case of properties zoned business but in areas where they can be used residential, remind them that if it isn’t in daily use as a building the city will rezone the property as residential and they will lose their rights as a business.

    • DeWolf 17:03 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      @Kate – I feel like it’s the opposite now. Yes, there are still lots of tourists, mostly because of the central location. But the two coffee shops (White Heron and Nous Sommes Café) draw a mostly local/student crowd, and Le Dispensaire is basically a neighbourhood pub with a ton of regulars. It feels more neighbourhoodly than back in the days of the big brochette restos.

    • Blork 18:36 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      The first time I saw Prince Arthur was in 1986 I think, and I was amazed. I had never seen anything like it, which isn’t saying much when you consider how little I had seen up to that point. A few years later I was living in Montreal, not far from Prince-Arthur, but that was the beginning of several years of severe poverty in which I couldn’t afford to eat out, not even at the ubiquitous Prince-Arthur brochetteries. But I enjoyed walking over there on warm nights and listening to the buskers and whatnot.

      By the time I had a few extra bucks for the occasional restaurant meal, Prince-Arthur was already in decline, not just in general, but to my own eyes too. Nearby Duluth had a much better vibe, and did seem to be more for locals than for tourists and suburbanites. I think the presence of the buskers and people selling trinkets and “art” on Prince-Arthur played a large part in giving the opposite impression. I doubt, for example, any local people were buying those little B&W photos from that moustachioed guy who was always standing there with his rack of photos for sale.

      In the end I think I’ve only had maybe four meals on Prince-Arthur in my whole life. Once or twice at a Greek place, once at the Polish (was it?) place that was well known and loved by locals, once at a pizza place, and most recently a few years ago when a visiting relative wanted to eat out and I knew one of the Greek places on Prince-Arthur would satisfy his need for GREAT DEAL as top priority. (And to be fair, the old brochette, rice, potatoes, and salad for a song was always a pretty good deal.)

      Speaking of good deals, I think the change in the restaurant scene also played a role in the decline of Prince-Arthur, and to a lesser extent Duluth. In the 70s and 80s it was normal for friends to gather at a restaurant on a weekend and have a big festive feast that was more about having fun and eating decent enough food than it was about the bloggable or Instagramable moment. You didn’t have to cough up a full day’s pay just for your Friday night social dinner. But we got fancier in the 90s and beyond, and that sort of normal-budget dining was eclipsed by the big ticket places. Many affordable places still hung on, but that label — affordable — was like a scarlet letter.

      I think we’re coming around a bit. The fancy places are still there, but restaurant dining has become so expensive that the shine has come back to some of the more affordable options. (Although even then, “affordable” has shifted somewhat.) I doubt Prince-Arthur will ever regain its touristy appeal. (And why would it, when St-Paul and de la Commune rank so highly in that regard?) I think DeWolf is right that it is coming back a bit, slowly. The fact that pedestrian streets are popping up all over probably helps indirectly, as it de-stigmatizes places like Prince-Arthur as being just for tourists.

    • Kate 19:20 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      The Polish place was the Mazurka and it remained cheaper than everything around it for years. I think I must have eaten there at some point, because I can remember the interior, but not in detail.

      The only pizza place on that part of the street was Pizza Mella. My sister liked it and I definitely ate on its terrasse with her a few times.

      Casa Grecque still exists – I think it’s the last of the brochette places – toward the Carré St‑Louis end, and I only know that because one of my clients is a fan and tends to make people eat there from time to time. I don’t think it’s even Greek now, if it ever was. It was the first place I ate indoors after the pandemic lockdown, actually – politesse oblige.

    • PO 19:56 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      I think I made it into the mtlcityweblog calendar one year (maybe?) with a comment that landlords with empty storefronts ought to be made to remit payments directly to the businesses directly around them. I still stand by that, I guess. A tax collected by the city is too likely to disappear into city coffers and not go where it needs to go. I don’t need the city to collect money, I need them to solve the issue of empty storefronts. There is no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit in Montreal, the issue is that it’s too easy for property owners to sit on a vacant property.

      You don’t get to complain about prohibitive property tax but simultaneously take a loss month after month after month.

    • Ian 20:51 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      Mazurka was great, I was sad when it shut down. Polish places come and go here but that was a really nice one.

    • Blork 21:27 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      Yes, Mazurka. Once eating out became do-able for me I can’t say that Polish food was top-of-mind. But I finally went there once, with some people from work including a Polish person. I don’t remember details but I know we had fun and enjoyed the food.

      And yes, Pizza Mella. Always a pizza fan, I had walked by it many times over several years, always lamenting my lack of ability to actually be a patron. Finally went once. It was good I think, but I don’t remember details. I know that some time later there were rumours that if you looked in there late at night you’d see rats running all over the place, but that was probably trash talk.

      The problem with making landlords pay for vacant spaces is that there are times and places where the vacancies are not the landlords’ fault. So any such tax or neighbourhood remittance would need to be subject to some kind of process that ensures landlords who are actually willing and trying to rent the places aren’t penalized. It’s do-able, but it certainly complicates things and opens the door to endless court battles.

    • Ephraim 22:33 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      @Blork – Many landlords intentionally leave spaces empty and with high rents, sometimes for YEARS on end. And it creates a break, a blight, an eyesore. The building on the corner of Atateken and St-Catherine that was a bank, was empty for almost a decade. The buildings around 3550 St-Lawrence, 3 storefronts, except for very short periods… empty for more than 10 years. 3553 across the way… empty. The rent is obviously too high, no one can survive. You need to lower the rent, get all the spots fill and let the businesses build up. Because without other businesses around, they won’t survive. People walk to walk the street, not go to one shop.

    • PO 23:03 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      @Blork. Agreed. I would want the policy to apply to designated commercial corridors where foot traffic is desired.

      Owners would get 3 months of vacancy without penalty. Then, they have a choice – lower the advertised rent by X% every 3 months until a lease is signed, or pay the neighboring businesses.

    • Kate 09:16 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      PO: Your quote was from December 2019 and it was cited on the calendar page for July 2021.

    • Blork 10:04 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      @Ephraim, yes, I am aware of those landlord abuses. I’m just saying that not all vacancies are like that, so penalizing landlords for vacancies needs to be done in a way that targets the system abusers but doesn’t punish landlords who are simply stuck in a declining neighbourhood or otherwise out of luck. (Sometimes a street simply declines and no one wants to set up a business there.)

    • Ephraim 12:47 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      @Blork – There is also a time before such things kick in. But on many streets it’s abusive.

      There was a commercial spot on St-Christophe with a barber. I think it was 1818 St-Christophe. No one wanted it as a commercial space, and the landlord converted it back to residential.

      Roy corner of St-Hubert. It’s a restaurant space. It’s had some very short tenants, but it sits mostly empty. So either the space doesn’t have enough traffic or the rent is too high or a combination of the two. At one point, when the vacancy hits a year, the landlord should be offered a choice, convert to residential, with it’s lower tax rate. Or start paying a higher tax rate for having the space vacant because it lowers the value of the neighbourhood. It was entirely covered in tagging at one time. And while if a store was there, the tagging would have been likely not happened (and removed if it did).

      The point is, there are also financial costs for the city. The city still needs to plow the snow in front for example, they are still hooked up the city water and sewer, etc. And there is a cost for the people in the neighbourhood. Having to walk by a tagged building, more tagging on other parts of the building, etc. My point here is, there has to be a point at which we say, this shouldn’t lie fallow, it’s a scar on the neighbourhood and we need housing, small business space, etc. And let’s find a way, in spite of the landlord to do this.

    • Tee Owe 12:56 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      Agree with Ian – the Mazurka was great, and good value. went there for Czech beer too

    • Kate 13:17 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      DeWolf, I will keep your observations in mind. I don’t often go out drinking, but I will think of Prince Arthur for coffee more often.

    • MarcG 13:29 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      Probably already known by the keeners here but Stash Café in Old Montreal has good Polish eats, nice decor and a live piano player.

    • Ian 07:41 on 2024-04-16 Permalink

      I was there just 2 weeks ago!
      Another gem is Goplana across form the Charlevoix metro, it’s not a fancy sit-down place but the food is fantastic!

    • MarcG 10:23 on 2024-04-16 Permalink

      I mentioned this discussion to my wife who has mysterious eastern European roots and she recalled a childhood memory of her grandfather having a spiritual experience at Croacovie in CDN – seems to be long closed now. There’s a Russian+ grocer near me that might be interesting for some to know of.

    • Kate 11:12 on 2024-04-16 Permalink

      Ian, I discovered the Goplana a few years ago when I was working for an agency on that godforsaken south side of the canal in St‑Henri. They had good cold cuts and it’s where I discovered that dill pickle soup exists.

    • carswell 11:20 on 2024-04-16 Permalink

      Cracovie, on the SE corner of Gatineau and Maréchal, was great while it lasted. The resto sat empty for a few years before being reopened as a husband and wife-run nouvelle Korean place that, while decent, never quite got its act together (not convinced Korean tacos are a good fit for this ‘hood or any for that matter). After another couple of vacant years, it’s just reopened as a self-styled “Asian fusion” joint, DonDonYa (maybe the reincarnation of the closed resto of the same name on Bishop).

      Mazurka was a haunt of mine as a student living on DeBullion from ’74 to ’76. A plate of very good cheese blintzes with sour cream, a beer and tip came to under $4. It was almost more expensive to eat in.

      One evening I was sitting in the window, when I noticed a commotion at the grocery store than across the street and out popped Robert Bourassa and a media crew. And, as I looked at the scene, it was accompanied by a sudden revelation.

      A former exchange student, I occasionally spoke Swedish with Swedes at McGill and one of them, who lived in the area, would regularly use a word I’d never heard before and wasn’t in my dictionaries: igan. Confusing. But watching Boubou and company, I noticed the store sign above them: IGA. In Swedish, articles are indefinite when they precede the now but definite when they follow (e.g. ett hus = a house, huset = the house; en flicka = a girl, flickan = the girl), so Sven’s igan was “the IGA.” Duh.

      The other place I’d regularly see Boubou was in the sauna at CEPSUM (he lived a couple of blocks away). He’d come for a five-minute swim and then, always wearing his swimsuit (everybody else was naked), would sit for hours in the not-very-hot sauna talking politics and current events with athletic young men. I never spoke to him but it was interesting hearing him off the cuff but also kind of creepy.

    • CE 15:44 on 2024-04-16 Permalink

      Unless it closed in the last couple weeks, DonDonYa on Bishop is still open and is very good (one of my favourite restaurants in the city).

    • carswell 16:31 on 2024-04-16 Permalink

      Thanks for the correction, CE. When I did a search on the CDN resto, to make sure I’d got the name right, I read that the Bishop St. location had closed but perhaps I misunderstood and the reference was to its business hours. Good to know it’s worthwhile. If so, it’ll be a welcome addition to the neighbourhood, formerly (like 20-30 years ago) an ethnic-food hotspot but these days increasingly dominated by international, national and local chains.

  • Kate 10:00 on 2024-04-14 Permalink | Reply  

    A drug inhalation site, Maison Benoît Labre, will open Monday in St‑Henri, despite some resistance from nearby residents. The new facility has been named after a Catholic saint.

    • Ian 11:22 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      As good a choice of a patron saint as any. Good luck to them.

    • Joey 13:53 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      The Benedict Labra House had been a men’s shelter for decades, no?

    • Kate 15:39 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

    • PatrickC 16:19 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      I did community service at Benedict Labre House when I was in (Catholic) High School many years ago. It was an eye-opening experience.

    • MarcG 09:14 on 2024-04-15 Permalink

      Instead of interviewing random people on the street and showing footage of banners that don’t say anything except “I don’t like this” they could have attended one of the community meetings and reported on the actual debate… but i guess that’s asking a lot of journalism these days.

  • Kate 09:57 on 2024-04-14 Permalink | Reply  

    An examination why Montreal is such a stolen car bazaar finds that it’s mostly cars from Toronto that are loaded into containers there, provided with falsified export documents, then shipped out from the port of Montreal.

    • Ian 12:05 on 2024-04-14 Permalink

      The old Toronto-New York-Montreal triangle of moving around criminal assets was disrupted by the tightening of the border after 9/11 but the Toronto-Montreal corridor is still very active. Human trafficking, drugs, stolen goods, you name it. That we have a seaport makes us a logical point in this operation. That it is not more strictly inspected is no more mysterious than Montreal bars getting firebombed once a month.

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