Upon Reflection…

As you might imagine I was pretty shaken up over what happened on September 4th.

The PQ victory doesn’t bother me, Richard Bain does.

Watching it all unfold live on Radio-Canada with Patrice Roy completely flabbergasted at what he had just witnessed, the near instantaneous transition of a boisterous crowd into total silence and the steady stream of updates over Twitter all packed a wallop I hadn’t expected to experience. I felt ill the next day at work. It was awful. Inasmuch as I love the adrenaline rush of watching news happen live in real time, in retrospect the sensory overload and crush of negative emotions was more than I was ready for. It really, truly hurt to see such things happen, in my city, my province.

I find it odd that I never expected it – this city has a bad history when it comes to mad gunmen. Perhaps it is the tradeoff for having such a generally low homicide rate – crime here isn’t rampant, it’s momentarily terrifying, and maybe that keeps us in check.

You can tell I didn’t grow up to experience the October Crisis. The Oka Crisis may have been on Mars for all I knew as a five year old.

This was new in a very precise way – an Anglophone shot two men in an attempt to assassinate the duly elected premier of Québec and possibly kill many PQ supporters and a good chunk of the organization in one swift blow. His motivation is not know – he may be a paranoid schizophrenic, a psychopath, or just a rage-head fuming over rejected plans to enlarge his hunting resort. But regardless of his mental state, he thought he was striking the first blow in an armed insurrection of Anglophones in Québec. To what end is unclear. What he thought he’d accomplish still a mystery.

I cringe thinking about what might have been. From the looks of things Denis Blanchette and Dave Courage, lighting technicians enjoying a smoke behind Metropolis, were in the wrong place at the right time. It seems as though they confronted Bain before he had a chance to get into the venue. His Chinese knock-off AK-47 jammed after a single round was fired, but it would tear through them both. Despite having other weapons in his nearby van, not to mention a pistol in his bathrobe, Bain retreated some to light the rear of the venue on fire. He would be subdued by Montréal police shortly thereafter. It could have been so much worse. Blanchette and Courage prevented a disaster of mind-boggling proportions.

There’s no question they are heroes in my book, but heroes through victimhood.

If it seems odd to you that I’m publishing this now, perhaps that says something too. I find it incredible how quickly we move on from something like this. Then again, what are we to do but move on. All I can hope is that we will all think before speaking in the future, and ask ourselves whether or not we’re individually stocking the fires of inter-ethnic discord and aggressive rhetoric, and what we can do as individuals to mitigate this problem. Violent language is far from harmless, as we saw with this latest electoral campaign. The campaign was vicious and people were too. And look what happened.

We can’t ever forget that we exist in a society, and we’re a society that swore off violence many years ago. Our differences, our problems – these will all be solved with the law we have.

After-thought: if you see any of that awful ‘Free Bain’ graffiti, write ‘Bath Libre’ directly underneath it. I will.

The Line That Ended Expansion

From 1962 until 1988 a common sight РM̩tro tunnel construction Рphoto found on

News from LaPresse today that Pauline Marois wants to prioritize an eastern extension of the Métro’s Blue Line towards Anjou, with a planned initial development of three stations in the direction of Lacordaire Boulevard from Saint-Michel station.

No word yet on planned delivery of the project, no timeline though a proposed (and certain to increase) budget of just under $1 billion according to Marvin Rotrand, vice-president of the STM and leader of the Union Montréal party.

For comparison, the three station extension into Laval cost $745 million in 2007.

The Métro’s Blue Line is arguably the least effective in the system. Ridership is at its lowest, the trains are shorter and service stops forty-five minutes earlier on this branch. Unlike the other three lines which funnel people from first and second ring suburbs into the urban core, the Blue Line is peripheral and connects two high-density, low-income large residential areas with one of the richest neighbourhoods in the city (in the middle), and not where their jobs might be. Moreover, though it could be useful in funnelling people towards either end of the Orange Line, the number 80, 165, 166 and 535 buses (to name but a few), seem to remain the preferred method to reach the city from the northern inner suburbs. For everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the design, history, architecture, artwork, and technical aspects pertaining to the Blue Line (and every other line, fasset and component of the Montréal Métro), I recommend clicking here for the excellent Métro de Montréal fansite.

The line was originally conceived to extend past the Orange Line in both directions. Marois’ plan is to develop three stations towards the East, and none towards the West (insert mandatory statement about how Anglo needs are being ignored) and eventually build two additional stations terminating at the Galleries d’Anjou. I’m not sure why they’d plan to break the project into two separate developments, but I would assume that the province may want to wait and see if the initial extension drives up usage. This would not be the first time the Blue Line would be built in a separate, disjointed fashion – during the original line’s development, it was proposed that the segment connecting Edouard-Montpetit to Parc be cancelled given that ridership in between would be so low. It seems obvious to me that a five-station extension may actually serve to draw a considerably larger number of people, not to mention potentially allow the STM to re-design bus lines to potentially feed an even greater number of people, so why they’re planning on cutting it short off the bat is beyond me. The current eastern expansion will serve Rosemont, Saint-Leonard and Anjou, though plans dating back to the late-1970s wanted the Blue Line to extend towards the Northeast with a terminus at Amos (likely at Lacordaire Boulevard) which in turn would have also allowed access to the high-density, low-income neighbourhood of Montréal-Nord. This plan was modified when a Métro line under Pie-IX was proposed that would funnel people down to Pie-IX station on the Green Line. Both proposals were still on the table (even appearing on Métro maps) into the late-1980s, at which point the Liberal Government of Robert Bourassa placed a total moratorium on Métro expansion.

Conceptual rendering for a proposed intermodal station under Edouard-Montpetit

The principle reason for this moratorium was, among others, declining revenues and budgets, not to mention the fact that the heavily truncated Blue Line simply wasn’t pulling in new passengers nor did it ease congestion on other parts of the system. Part of the Blue Line’s undoing was that, as mentioned previously, it was still preferential and more convenient to use buses to get to and from the city (the 80 and 165 are two of my favourite bus routes; though they’re generally packed, if you manage to get a window, a pleasant and exciting voyage awaits). This may not have been the case if a planned inter-modal station at Edouard-Montpetit (connecting to the AMT’s Deux-Montagnes line within Mount Royal Tunnel) were completed. The principle technical difficulty was building a train station fifty meters under the existing Métro station, not to mention acquiring high-capacity, high-speed elevators, but the station itself was designed for the higher capacity.

If they had built this crucial component, the Blue Line could have also served to better connect the northern ridge suburbs with the city centre.

Therefore, any move to lengthen the line, east or west, should be done in conjunction with a connection to the Mount Royal Tunnel firmly in mind, so that the Blue Line could finally be used to ease traffic congestion elsewhere in the system.

Also, we’d be wise to voice two other considerations for our elected officials to consider. First, placing a moratorium on moratoriums and segmented construction. If we were to plan Métro development ten or twenty stations at a time instead of in threes or fives, we may be able to save money long-term through bulk purchases of materials, not to mention increasing operational efficiency as the project goes forward. Let’s end this self-retarding piecemeal development and plan continuous lines. The Pie-IX proposal, which would link the Olympic Park with Montréal North through Rosemont, Petit-Patrie and Saint-Leonard, should be given top priority for new line construction. Second, we might be wise to consider inter-lining the system so as to allow trains that start on the Blue Line to transfer onto the Orange, so that one could go from Saint-Michel to Bonaventure, or from Outremont Laval without changing trains. This is a very complicated proposal, but it would allow greater flexibility with the system we already have.

A future expansion map including talked about extensions and proposed lines; of all the different proposal maps I’ve seen, this one still seems very realistic, very useful.

Thoughts on the Biodome and Tour de Montréal

Montreal Olympic Park – photo credit to Jean-Pierre Bonin

I had the opportunity to pass by the Biodome and Tour de Montréal this past weekend, excellent activity for a rainy Saturday afternoon. Admittedly, I really just wanted to see the new baby lynxes, as did hundreds of other people. I was not disappointed, as I got to watch one of the cubs play with its lunch, an oversized rodent, for quite some time. Despite the gruesome undertones, it was a remarkably enjoyable sight to behold. You could say it was gruesomely cute.

Also gruesome are the many sturgeon floating around in the Great Lakes ecosystem fish tank, but I digress.

It had been twenty years since I had been to the Biodome and nothing had changed, it was remarkable – like stepping back in time to the early 1990s. The paint scheme was particularly glaring. The same can be said of the Olympic Tower, though it seemed to have not been aesthetically updated since 1987. Much of the Olympic complex had this vibe. Pie-IX station, for example, seems a bit of a relic to a bygone age. It’s massive size is overpowering given how few people actually use it, and the deep earth tones combined with the shape and size of the passageways and mezzanine make it seem more an ancient cave-temple than simple subway station. I find it to be a hauntingly beautiful station, topped off with a close access corridor used to stockpile old STM equipment. It was not so much like walking into the past, inasmuch as it felt like walking around something formerly significant.

The tower staff were few and far between, the funicular empty, the view incredible yet thoroughly unappreciated by three Japanese tourists in matching neon nylon coveralls. The uniforms of the girls manning the trinket and souvenir stand – seemingly the only thing to actually do once you’re up there – were old and ill-fitting. I was surprised there was no restaurant or café despite two additional off-limits floors intended for use as reception and conference space. I’ve never heard of anyone using the tower for such a purpose.

The interior of the observation deck was hopelessly out-dated and as mentioned prior, offered nothing to do nor really anything to learn, which I also found surprising. The Eiffel Tower has plaques and posters that will tell you much of the city’s history by pointing to various locations. We by contrast have old and yellowing photographs of the city that list out the names of buildings. There was no one to tell you about why the tower was built, what purpose it serves nor any technical information about the world’s tallest inclined tower. Again, I found all this to be very, very odd.

And yet, I’d still recommend it to just about anyone – the Olympic Tower is an exercise in time travel, and you’ll no doubt delight in the late-1980s interior design. Also – Montreal Pro Tip; if the line to get into the Biodome is too long (when we got there we were told we had a 45 minute wait), you can buy a combo ticket to the Tower and Biodome at the tower’s ticket kiosk for an additional seven bucks. There’s typically no line to go up the tower.

What would I do to improve this ‘espace pour vie’ you may be wondering? Well, for starters a new paint job, new signage, new uniforms, new decor and furniture. This can be applied to the Biodome inasmuch as the Tower and the grounds and buildings of the Olympic Park in general. Second, integrate the exhibit on the Montreal Olympics and the Olympic Stadium’s design into the space in a non-exclusive fashion (or at least use more of the available space to educate the public on these subjects). The tower’s observation deck could use a thorough remodelling to make it a more attractive attraction. Some additional services, like a modestly priced restaurant and/or café (or hell, even a night club) would likely generate some additional interest. Third, the cracks in the concrete have got to go. The exterior of the stadium, the walkways, the corridors – everywhere you look there are cracks, overgrown weeds, stains etc. Benches and railings are busted and twisted up, garbage cans deformed if present at all, and water fountains serve as makeshift garbage receptacles given that they haven’t been turned on in so long. Signage is outdated and all too foten the Olympic rings and our Olympic logo are faded and or scratched out. The whole place needs a facelift.

I’ll come back to this again tomorrow, there’s more to discuss.

Destroying the Evidence

Let me be perfectly blunt, I believe that the Conservative Party of Canada is engaged in a project to dismantle our academic national identity.

It started with the 2011 Census, continued with the sudden desire to recast our image as a vibrant extension of the British Empire and then manifested itself in the development of the ‘Warrior Society’ branding initiative that came on the heels of the bicentennial ‘celebrations’ of the War of 1812. If the Tories can manage to do anything right, it’s market their vision of the country as if it were legitimately a consensus understanding of who we are. It is anything but.

We once praised our collective intellect – our great universities and public education system, the immense arm of the federal government dedicated to recording and promoting Canadian culture and social values. Today we call that ‘big government’ and pronounce the efforts of Prime Ministers St-Laurent, Pearson, Trudeau, Chretien and to a lesser extent Martin and even Mulroney to have been in vain. Today’s Conservative-Corporate national identity is composed of Royal Canadian Air Force fly-overs of Grey Cup games while Nickleback churns out over amplified power-pop to reinforce an overly simplistic concept of national pride. This is not what I signed up for. The efforts of our politicians over the better part of nation’s history, to build a Canadian society and shared Canadian liberal social values, has not been in vain. The Tories will tell you a federal plan for national identity is doomed to failure – we’re too diverse, too accidental, and better as a loose federation with no real sense of where we come from nor where we’re going. Inasmuch as we lose our identity we lose any hope of deciding where we go, where we’ll grow.

You can imagine my disgust when I discovered that as part of massive government cuts to just about everything that isn’t the military or their salaries, Library and Archives Canada is facing major budget cuts, despite the fact that it has been chronically underfunded for close to a decade. This is the federal agency tasked with preserving Canada’s social and cultural identity, and it’s being sold off piece by piece to private interests, many of whom aren’t even Canadian. We have billions available for unproven and under-equipped knock-off fighter jets but can’t seem to find ten or twenty million to support the institutional and societal memory of the entire nation. This nation’s government is corrupt to the core.

It’s no secret that the Tories have a particular vision of Canada they wish to promote. It’s militaristic, a loving member of the British Empire, pseudo-Aboriginal (though only to reinforce the notion of warrior traits being somehow absorbed via a non-existant proximity to nature, itself a heavily romanticized vision of our people as being a collection of rugged outdoorsmen), and increasingly Christian supremacist. In my opinion and experience, this reflects but a minority of the people who actually live here.

And yet so it goes, and far more significant and non-violent celebrations – such as the thirtieth anniversary of the Charter and Constitution – go completely unmentioned by ‘Canada’s Conservative Government.’ The single most important document of reference which has inspired the design of constitutions and bills of basic human rights the world over, more important than the American Constitution and Bill of Rights, and our ‘benevolent dictator’ of a Prime Minister decides to stick it to a dead man by denying the moment its due.

But the real damage isn’t created by the lack of celebration, it’s coming from simple budget cuts such as these that are quickly and methodically destroying evidence of Canada’s own culture, our own history and all the evidence of heritage. Folk art and manuscripts and clay pots and correspondence may not be as exciting as battle recreations and military parades, but when they point to the development of a unique society and culture, and establish a history and heritage quite unlike what we see in Europe or the Americas, we’d be wise to preserve and promote it.

Take a look in any illustrated Canadian history textbook and you’ll see what I mean. Chances are the document or object in the photograph will be part of a foreign museum’s collection or else be in private hands.

And all this at a time in which the country desperately needs to be pulled together. All the positive and universally accessible elements of our common culture – those that relate most to the simple matter of living in our country – cast aside as irrelevant. How shamelessly reckless.

The Tories view Canada as an accident, and thus what we’ve created and the study of who we are as a people, is apparently of no significance. If anything, the evidence that suggests Canada is deliberate and purposely complex impedes their efforts to rebrand Canada in their image and according to their minority viewpoint. As far as they’re concerned our culture and history are merely marketing tools to be employed sparingly for manipulative political purposes. And there’s a helluvalot of danger in having your identity dictated to you by a federal government which has been very busy destroying or selling off the evidence that your individual socio-political heritage is anathema to everything the Tories stand for.

I am a sovereign Canadian, and I don’t want this care-taker government to destroy the historical record of my sovereignty.

There’s a petition – check this link to Boing Boing for more details.

And always you, can write the dishonourable Minister Moore.

Remember, any Canadian can send a letter to any Parliamentarian without postage.

Think about what full access to the collective consciousness and history of Canada and all its peoples could teach us. Consider what fully funded government agencies could do with such knowledge and how it could be used to find academic solutions to our contemporary societal problems. One day we will awake and recognize that which truly bonds us together, and try to undo the damage caused by this most cavalier and corrupt federal government.

I Spoke Too Soon… Assassination Attempt Against Pauline Marois

Photo credit to PC/Paul Chiasson

I’m devastated.

Il doit être dit, cet homme est un fou, et il n’est en aucune manière représentative de la communauté anglo-québécoise. Nous sommes de tout coeur un peuple de paix. Nous l’avons vu etla choc et la terreur se fit sentir dans les profondeurs de toutes nos ames. C’était écÅ“urant. C’est horrible, mais c’est l’acte d’un fou, et non un peuple.

Nous sommes tous fiers Québécois, et je lève mon chapeau à Mme Marois pour calmer une foule joviale et montrant un réel leadership dans le visage d’une hostilité fou.

At about Midnight, September 5th 2012, a deranged man in a bathrobe entered the back of Metropolis and opened fire inside the venue, hitting two people, wounding them critically. He then tried to set fire to the building, site of the Parti Québecois victory party. Madame Pauline Marois, premier-elect of the Province of Québec, was in the middle of her victory speech when intercepted and whisked off stage by Sureté-du-Québec bodyguards. She was not injured though it appears as though the insane gunman got perilously close to her. I watched it happen live and it made my heart skip a beat.

The man apparently screamed in French that the Anglophones will rise, or revolt.

Police cannot confirm the type of number of weapons used. So far only one arrest and one suspect. Fire’s been put out, Metropolis safely evacuated, Marois uninjured as of 12:44am September 5th 2012

Photo credit to Olivier Pontbriand, La Press – A photograph of the apprehended gunman

CJAD now saying one dead. Unconfirmed. Video of the gunman has been released. Confirmed at 12:58am September 5th 2012 on CBC as they sign off to the National. They better be back in twenty-two.

Switching back to RDI. I think CTV has a live feed too.

Live feed on RDI

The gun looks a lot like an AK-47. I doubt its an airgun as some had stated earlier. It’s unclear how many victims. Conflicting reports about how many brought to hospital as of 1:06am

RDI just reported (1:20am) that the first victim was a replacement bus-driver for the media caravan. A last minute replacement bus driver.

Word has come out the victim is in fact an audio technician, and the bus driver is in critical condition (1:34am)

RDI video footage confirms the man was yelling “les Anglais se réveillent”, “this is payback” and “you wanna make trouble?” as he was being led to the police cruiser.

At 1:36am unconfirmed report comes in from La Press indicating a van filled with weapons has been found near Metropolis.

1:45am РUrgences Sant̩ confirms, one dead at the scene, one in critical condition and one being treated for shock.


Francoise David & Amir Khadir of Québec Solidaire

So was this Québec’s “everybody wins” election?

Charest is out and free to face the Charbonneau Commission.

Pauline Marois has become premier, a job she arguably deserves if for no other reason than her tenacity at retaining her seat and knowing her support base. Québec’s first female premier, a mere sixty-eight years after women gained suffrage in the province. I have sincere reservations about Ms. Marois, but she is now premier, and what got her to power may be very different from what gets her over the many coming hurdles. Among others, the Spring budget. As it stands, the PQ will not be able to pass a budget by itself. It will have to reach out to the Liberals and/or Caquistes for support. No easy task, but if she is as devoted to the prosperity and progress of this province as she says she is, she will gladly reach out to ideological opponents and govern by consensus. If not, we’ll be reminded of why there were so many defections but a few months ago, and in seven months will be right back where we started, another election.

Francois Legault holds the balance of power and performed admirably for his first effort leading his own party. He was gracious in defeat and a class act all the way. It’s not impossible to make the breakthrough he did, but rare, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the CAQ comes together in the National Assembly.

Pauline Marois, the premier-elect of the Province of Québec

The students have an elected representative in Leo Bureau-Blouin.

Amir Khadir and Francoise David have united two neighbouring ridings and will stand together in the National Assembly.

And lastly, the QLP did not implode, and retains the respect of official opposition. A good number of former cabinet ministers will keep their seats and the rump party has held a good portion of its territory and big name candidates. For Québec’s centrist-federalist middle-class, I can imagine this will be quite a relief.

As of the time of this writing, the typically firebrand Jean-Francois Lisée is dodging direct questions about if and when a referendum question will be called. He explains that the PQ will not impose a referendum. For the province’s federalists, perennially trying to explain the merits of Canada and cultural integration to people convinced they’ve been robbed of Shangri-La, there is comfort in knowing the party is stronger than its leader, and can survive without populism.

Jean Charest of the Québec Liberal Party

Charest will either choose to stay on to fight again, or retire in ignominy. Who knows what his fate is at this point. But after what he’s had to deal with in the last two years, and the last few months in particular, he may very well likely wash his hands of what can only be described as the least describable job in the world. Few Québec premiers get the chance to go out in any other way than ignominiously.

The biggest obstacle to moving forward has been removed without leaving a cataclysm in his wake. The first test will be how Pauline Marois deals with the inevitable – the difficulties of adequately funding our massive public post-secondary education system, not to mention striking a balance with all student groups. The election of Bureau-Blouin can be a major tactical advantage, and a successful resolution could be an easy quick win for the PQ. I’m not so optimistic however, as I believe she may in fact have to retract on several promises. We’ll have to see.

The early word is a participation rate in excess of 70%, not great, but not dreadful as in the case of most recent federal elections.

In broad terms we had a managed shake-up. All the necessary changes occurred, the autocracy of populism & majority government momentarily undone while retaining stability and all the necessary checks and balances. There’s no reason for any kind economic panic, as we all know this may be very short lived.

Prime Minister Harper acted quickly and congratulated Ms. Marois’ victory while reminding the Québecois now’s not the time to get into a constitutional mess. Sometimes I wonder how he opens a chess match…

Francois Legault, leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec

Independence was polling at the bottom of the charts despite the apparent PQ victory but a few days ago and from the talk of the party’s big mouths, restraint seems to be the order of the day.

The next seven months will doubtless be very interesting.

And tomorrow we can all go back to enjoying life and ignoring politics…