Category Archives: Waddayoutink?

City set to bail-out Bixi (to the tune of $108 million)

Mayor and Supreme Satchmo Tremblay demonstrating helmets are for wimps

So Bixi is in the red, and it looks like the City is prepping to bail out the arms-length public agency, which I believe is actually affiliated with Parking de Montréal.

Yeah I know, weird eh? The rent-a-bike-to-get-cars-off-the-street public transit agency is being run by the people who profit immensely off of people who drive into the city and pay for the privilege to do so. Me no like!

Here’s the link to the Gazette article.

You can probably guess which is my comment…

TL;DR – we need island-wide Bixi service, and it should be transferred over to the STM for future expansion. It should be part of the larger public-transit transfer system and cost per use, cost for a monthly pass and accessibility should be improved so as to allow for the highest possible number of potential clients.

I mean, c’mon!

Dear readers – what should we do with Bixi? Will it become yet another Montreal White Elephant?

Milice patriotique du Québec wants to sell guns in HLM

Photo credit to Andrew Chung/ Toronto Star

So everyone’s favourite local militia wants to sell weapons in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, as the local newspaper reported recently.

The MPQ runs a recruiting station there, which happens to double as the militia’s primary source of income – a military surplus store. Nothing illegal here; the group claims to be sovereignist and available to help ‘the people’ in a time of crisis, such as a natural disaster or in the event of an external attack. They also claim to be apolitical, and say they are present to respond to the will of the people.

Not the duly elected government mind you, the people is who they respond to.

Of course, it doesn’t seem as if the actual authorities, such as the Canadian Forces, the Sureté-du-Québec, the RCMP or the SPVM would be able to handle the kinds of emergencies they envisage. Perhaps they feel those organizations are not the true defenders of the people.

And the last time I checked, natural disaster training is very different from playing soldier out in the woods and firing paintballs at human targets. Just what exactly does this militia aim to prove, and who do they serve?

And why do they want to sell weapons in HLM?

I’m getting uneasy.

Here’s why. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, scores of private militias, gun-clubs, survivalist groups and a host of other really shady pseudo-military, pseudo-law-enforcement organizations began patrolling the streets of New Orleans. They shot ‘looters’ indiscriminately, as they were paid by wealthy locals to guard gated-communities and to protect the wealthy whites from the blacks of New Orleans. As we all know, the lives oft he privileged whites have returned to normal. Better than before some say, as signs popped up around New Orleans proclaiming that ‘we are taking our city back’. The ‘we’ in the case of New Orleans are the wealthy, exploitative white minority.

This would likely not have occured if President Bush had handled Katrina properly, such as by deploying troops, national guard and FEMA immediately. It also didn’t help that the NOPD actually called on various local militias to assist in keeping order in the immediate aftermath. See this article to read more on the horrifying human rights abuses in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Time to ask ourselves whether, as a society, we have enough faith in our own security forces or whether we feel it is appropriate to have parallel powers which could respond to any ‘catastrophe’ (as they define it) based on the demands of the ‘people’ (which could be whomever they choose). It’s kind of like a synagogue in the West Island that happens to employ guards to protect the building and patrol the grounds, even though they’ve never been threatened with vandalism or violence, and the local police would be able to handle any potential problem with considerably more efficiency than unarmed rent-a-cops. Or is it nothing but smoke and mirrors?

As always i want to hear from you? What will the people do about the MPQ?

The strange case of Denis Lortie

Admittedly not an event which occurred in Montréal, but given our history of shoot-ups at various local institutions, something we should nonetheless pay attention to. Mr. Lortie walked into the National Assembly on May 8th 1984 and filled it with led from a 9mm sub-machine gun. He killed three and wounded thirteen. He was a serving corporal in the Canadian Forces, and a paranoid schizophrenic who had been abused by his tyrannical father, and was further involved in an incestuous relationship with his sister that ended with her pregnancy.

Lortie’s weapons were Canadian Forces standard issue, and when he made his way into the National Assembly, there was no one present who had the means to stop him. It took the courageous actions of the Sargent-at-Arms, René Jalbert, to talk Lortie out of his inssane plan. After the fact, it was discovered he had planned to wipe out the governing Parti Québecois, including Premier René Lévesque.

Lortie was apparently paroled in December 1995, and there hasn’t been much info on him since. But the question as to whether armed security forces ought to be stationed at government and institutional buildings as a means to prevent an attack, whether by lone gunmen or terrorists, has never really been addressed on a national and local basis. Granted, there was an increase in general security after 9/11. But calls for armed guards at Concordia University or in the Métro, as an example, have also fallen by the wayside.

What is the better option. Posted armed guards or an enhanced police presence? What’s more effective, a security apparatus designed to fade into the background until required, seamlessly interwoven into general society, or the deliberate statement of force and security? What do you think?

Why we need Major League Baseball

My favourite Expo: Bill 'the Spaceman' Lee - an example of hash & LSD's potential benefit to the game of baseball

I have often wondered why former Montréal Mayor Jean Drapeau put so much effort into supporting an MLB franchise here in our fair city. Drapeau wasn’t just a fan of the Expos, but a driving force in the team’s creation and popular support. The Expos were never a ‘dynasty’ club, though for a while they drew large crowds and some high-end talent. They also drew American attention to our city, something I’m convinced Drapeau must have understood all too well.

The 1981 and 1994 MLB seasons were cut short due to labour negotiations and lock-outs, and it just so happens that these two particular years were those in which the Expos had their best chances at making it to the World Series, a feat which would have doubtless secured the franchise’s existence for a considerable period of time. The 1994 season and the failure of the Labatt Ballpark project, in addition to the generally poor management of Jeffrey Loria caused countless headaches and resulted in significant cuts to the fan base. In the end, neither the City nor the Province would continue to support the Expos, and the rest is history.

We’ve been without an MLB franchise since 2004 and here’s the reality of sports in our city:

1. Both the Canadiens and the Alouettes have been doing very well for themselves over the course of the last decade. Their facilities are modern, their fan-bases are expanding and you’d be hard-pressed not to enjoy yourself watching either team play. Both benefit from well-oiled public relations and marketing machines, and both teams have a solid attachment to the citizens. Clearly the expertise exists locally to successfully develop and market pro sports teams to the local population.

2. The Expos are still very much a part of our collective experience. At least part of this is thanks to expert design, as the Expos logo endures on t-shirts and ball-caps; consider how often you see this potent symbol of a city.

3. New sports ventures may be profitable; consider the success of the Montreal Impact soccer team which will become a new Major League Soccer franchise in 2012 (they also have a brand new stadium, built adjacent to the Olympic Stadium, with a capacity of some 20,000 people!). Consider as well the several recent attempts to develop fan interest in other sports clubs, whether it be our numerous attempts to get a basketball team started, to more recent attempts at developing interest in indoor lacrosse and junior ice-hockey teams. Without a doubt there are more failures here than successes, but it also demonstrates that there’s a wealth of experience and expertise which could be used to develop more successful clubs.

4. Golf, boxing, tennis and Formula-1 racing are all major draws in the world of local professional sports, each with long local histories (implying a potential multi-generational fan-base, something which is crucial to establishing sports dynasties); all of these major sporting events, coupled with our major sports teams, give this city a reason to be known by outsiders too, and in this sense having a major league sports franchise is a useful tool in stimulating outside interest and potential investment. In an indirect fashion, sports teams keep cities on the map, and help stimulate our tourism industry.

5. We happen to have a wealth of major public sports facilities in addition to Olympic-quality installations, though some of these facilities are grossly underused and/or in dire need of renovation. These facilities are worth the investment, and it would be wise for the city to develop a master-plan to renovate and expand public sporting installations along with public minor-league sports organizations. Direct sponsorship arrangements with professional sports franchises may assist in deflecting renovation costs while boosting public interest in the franchise. Either way, the city must fully implicate itself in local pro-sports, heading multiple partner investment and diffusion strategies. In this way, a win-win situation may be possible, in which the city provides a large fan-base and the franchise provides investments to the city. Again, we should look to Drapeau as the inspiration for developing such relationships.

So, with all that in mind, ask yourself whether a resurrected Expos would appeal to you. Ask yourself whether such a team could be successful operating out of a (potentially) renovated Big-O, or whether a new downtown ballpark is a better investment.

What do you think? Do we need the Expos, or did we lose a headache and an embarrassment in 2004?

Nos Amours

Actually got a bit teary-eyed watching this video. Went to go see the Expos with my parents when I was a little tyke, but I strangely don’t remember it. I do remember losing my lucky red Expos cap when I was five though…

What will it take to get the Expos back? Merchandising alone may pay for a new ballpark… Tell me what you think, and feel free to share any odd anecdotes you may have about the Spaceman!

Re: the burqa ban – what do you think?

Which, if any, of these offends you?

So the French government recently decided to ban the burqa and niqab. The blogosphere has been abuzz with commentary of every shade and stripe, and I’ve been commenting relentlessly on reddit. There’s a lot of junk floating around out there, so just to be clear:

1. It’s not an arrestable offense for women wearing the burqa, though they may be detained for other reasons, but not for more than 4 hours and they can only be ‘handled’ by female officers.

2. Fines for women wearing the burqa is about 150 euros, but fines can be steep for those found guilty of forcing a woman to wear one (30,000 euros and a year in prison – this doubles if an adult is forcing a burqa on a minor).

3. Moreover, the so-called burqa ban extends to other kids of inappropriate face-coverings in public, such as wearing a motorcycle helmet with a tinted visor (while not riding a bike) or wearing face masks in public, something which is already considered suspicious.

4. It seems clear to me that the French intent is very straightforward; gender equity is a common societal goal and the current French gov’t feels the burqa is a symbol of male dominance and religious fanaticism. France is a modern secular state (and so are we here in Quebec), and therefore they are taking a necessary step to ensure the sanctity of their social values.

That being said, there’s still plenty of people who feel this is not the right to go about things, and that it is an afront to basic human rights. I can imagine this will likely make it to some level of international justice, but it remains to be seen whether this law will have any lasting, positive effect on inter-cultural relations, or for that matter, whether it will encourage conservative Muslims to adopt the gender-equity position of the majority of French society.

Incidentally, I believe that wearing a burqa and being a free woman are mutually exclusive.

What do you think? I have a feeling this may be heading our way sooner than expected, as Quebec and Canada are ‘secular-ish’ states. Where do we go from here?