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  1. Opinion: The pros and cons of life in Montreal A newcomer finds that compared with Toronto, this city has lower rents, but higher taxes; better cycling lanes, but worse roads By Chris Riddell, Special to The Gazette September 2, 2014 4:42 PM MONTREAL — To an outsider, Montreal might seem like the perfect place to live. It has the lowest rents of all the major cities in Canada, it’s the nation’s epicentre of art and culture, and there are more restaurants and cafés than you can visit in a year. When I moved here from Toronto last year, it was mostly for the lower cost of living, but also for the enriching experience of a new culture so different from my own. In Montreal, I could theoretically have a better quality of life than I did in Hogtown, where the rents are some of the highest in the country. But is living in Montreal really all it’s cracked up to be? I hit the streets, speaking to everyday citizens about why they moved to Montreal, and tried to nail down some of the advantages and disadvantages of living here. What I found was interesting. Jesse Legallais, a 31-year-old musician, moved to Montreal from Toronto 10 years ago and hasn’t looked back. Sitting on a bench outside Café Social on a sunny Friday afternoon, he says: “It’s a bit of a slower pace than some of the other major cities and there is a diverse community here. There are a lot of talented people, so you’re kind of kept on your toes, but you don’t have to constantly scrape for work as hard as, say, New York or Toronto or L.A.” Montreal turned out to be the perfect place to nurture his craft as a musician. The cheaper cost of living was one of the main factors drawing him here, along with the bilingual nature of the city. Some people come to Montreal and find it’s a great place to open a business. Take Andre Levert, for example. Originally from St. Catharines, Ont., he moved to Montreal in 2000. Today, he and his wife own a head shop on Prince Arthur St. E. called Psychonaut. “I found that because commercial space and the cost of living is cheaper in Montreal, for starting a business it was less risk in the beginning,” he says. “I went and checked the rent for stores like mine in Ottawa, and it was way more expensive.” Levert stresses that it really is the people that make the city such a great place to live. Many other aspects of Montreal are lacking: language laws and infrastructure are problems that need to be addressed, and the city has its work cut out for it in those areas. It certainly isn’t all sunshine and roses in Montreal. While there are some great advantages to living here, there are also a number of drawbacks. Here is what I’ve noticed. Pro: Cheap rent. I can definitely say that I am not the only person who moved to Montreal from Toronto at least partly for the cheaper rents. According to Numbeo.com, the average rent in Montreal for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is $877. In Toronto, a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre goes for an average of $1,463. If you came to Montreal more than 10 years ago, you would have paid even less. “After the referendum they were just giving them away here,” says Legallais. “Especially up in this neighbourhood (Mile End) before it became so trendy. You’d get 6½s, first month free, for $400 or $500.” Con: Taxes are higher. Although the cost of living might be lower here, you are also paying some of the highest taxes in the country. In Quebec we pay 16 per cent provincial income tax on amounts up to $41,095. Add that into the federal rate for the same bracket (15 per cent), and you’re losing almost a third of your paycheque in taxes. Sales tax is also high. Here you pay five per cent goods and services tax and also 9.975 per cent provincial sales tax. This, along with the high income tax rate, could be enough to offset any savings you might enjoy from the cheap rents. Pro: Dépanneurs. Since I’m from a province where the sale and distribution of alcohol is extremely regulated, I think the ability to buy beer at my local corner store is amazing. No matter where you are in Montreal, you’re never too far from an ice cold case of Boréale. Some dépanneurs take it a notch higher by adding extras like sushi bars, craft beer rooms and sandwich shops. Con: The SAQ. I have often said that Montreal is a kind of purgatory for scotch or bourbon drinkers. Finding a bottle of Wild Turkey involved looking up online which SAQ store to go to, and then travelling across town to buy it before the store closed at 6 p.m. Ally Baker, an arts student at Concordia, agrees. She hails from Edmonton and has been living in Montreal for 2½ years. “Coming from a province where it’s not government regulated, I find the selection is a lot less, you’re paying a lot more for whatever you’re getting, and you have to travel a lot more to get to different stores. The hours aren’t that great as well,” she says. Pro: Great parks and cycling lanes. In 2013, Copenhagenize rated Montreal the best city in North America for cycling, and it’s no wonder why. The bike-lane network is excellent, and I have been taking a great deal of time this summer to make effective use of it. The separated lanes especially are fun and make you feel safe. Coming from Toronto, a city with a terrible bike network, this is a very attractive feature for an avid cyclist. The parks in this city are second to none. There are tons of green space to spend time in when the weather is nice, and many of the large parks have facilities for just about every sport you can think of. You are also allowed to drink in public (as long as you have some food), so picnicking is always a popular summer activity. There is certainly no shortage of things to keep you busy in Montreal once the weather warms up. But of course that means ... Con: Cold and snowy winters. Montreal is notorious for long, cold, snowy winters. This past winter was especially brutal, and many Montrealers would agree with me. During these cold months, the city is comparatively dead. This doesn’t mean there is nothing to do, however. There are still events like Igloofest, for example, if you know where to look. But if you expect to survive the season, you will need to adapt. “I’m coming from Michigan, so it wasn’t so much of a shock for me,” says Rochie Cohen, a mother of four in the Côte-des-Neiges area. She has been living in Montreal for 12 years. “We just have to leave the house a half an hour earlier. There is a lot of bundling up: coats, scarves, gloves and boots. It takes a lot longer.” Pro: A world-class cultural scene and laid-back attitude. Montreal is a magnet for young artists looking for a place to develop their craft and connect with like-minded people. Numerous artists, writers and musicians of renown were born here. Not only that, the citizenry is much more laid-back than elsewhere in Canada. “My brother asked me, ‘What can you do in Montreal that you can’t do in Ottawa?’ and I told him basically nothing, but everything you do in Montreal is more entertaining,” says Levert. He adds: “You go to a grocery store and shoot a few jokes with the people in line. It’s a joie de vivre that you don’t get anywhere else.” Con: Language barriers. Language issues have been in the spotlight for a long time in Montreal. It’s virtually impossible to get a decent job if you aren’t bilingual, and it can also be isolating for some people. This is true for anglophones who don’t speak French, but it also goes the other way. Aurore Trusewicz is a freelance translator from Belgium. She came to Montreal to attend McGill University in 2007, and French is her first language. “Even though I was attending an English university, I was just listening to English all the time and not really speaking it,” she says. “I was concerned about that because I knew that in Montreal a lot of people speak English, and I was intimidated about how I would speak with (the customers at work).” Although it was intimidating at first, she stuck with it and polished her English skills with diligent practice. The same can be said for learning French. It can be scary to practise speaking it when you aren’t good at it yet. But if you show a genuine effort, you’ll find there are many people out there willing to help. Pro: Affordable public transit. When I moved here, I looked forward to using Montreal’s affordable and extensive transit system. The cost of a monthly pass is much lower than in Toronto, and the métro covers more of the city, so it’s easy to get around. The stations are also designed with better esthetics than the system of my hometown. “The public transportation system is quite nice compared to other places,” says Trusewicz. “Last year I had the chance to go to Miami, and really, you can’t do anything without a car over there. It’s nice to have a métro and buses, even in the middle of the night, to go wherever you want to go.” Con: Traffic and infrastructure problems. This city is disintegrating around us. After riding my bike around these streets, it’s plain to see that some of the roads are in a pitiful condition. After driving here, it’s also plain to see that the design of some of the highways and intersections is very confusing to someone who hasn’t been living here all his life. Combine this with the heavy amounts of roadwork and construction going on, and you’ve got some very bad traffic problems. The roads and sewers have been neglected for years, and now the city has a tremendous amount of work to do with upgrading its ailing infrastructure. City hall is also hard pressed to find the financing to pay for it. It seems this is one problem that Montrealers are going to have to suffer through for years to come. - - - For and against relocating to Montreal The good: Universities have the lowest tuition rates in the country, making Montreal a popular city for students. Residents enjoy the cheapest electricity in Canada, thanks to Hydro-Québec. Daycare is affordable, due to the reduced-contribution spaces for children 5 or younger; parents pay $7 per day. Operational costs for running a business are the lowest in North America, according to a 2013 KPMG survey. Approximately 2,000 hectares of public parks are spread across 17 large parks and 1,160 small neighbourhood parks. The bad: Many people leave Quebec each year for better job prospects in the rest of Canada (28,439 people left from January to September in 2013). Political corruption and allegations of ties to the Mob have besmirched the city’s image. Montreal has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. It seems essential to be bilingual in order to build a life here; that can be hard for newcomers. Part of the city’s water system is well over 100 years old and prone to leaks. Boil-water advisories have been issued in the past. Chris Riddell is a freelance journalist and copywriter who lives in Côte-des-Neiges.
  2. http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/montreal-now-a-member-of-the-world-tourism-cities-federation-575257221.html MONTRÉAL, April 11, 2016 /CNW Telbec/ - Montréal is now officially a member of the World Tourism Cities Federation (WTCF). This non-profit organization is a select club made up of the world's leading tourism cities, such as Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona. Initiated in 2012 by Beijing, its primary objective is to promote exchanges between top international destinations and share tourism development experience. With its headquarters in China, the organization is committed to improving the attractiveness of tourism cities and promoting harmonious economic and social development in these centres. "We are delighted to see that Montréal has a seat at the table with the world's biggest tourism superpowers. This is an excellent opportunity to position our city among the very best urban destinations on the planet," said Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montréal. "Montréal will have the chance to draw inspiration from these reputed destinations to enhance its tourism potential. In addition to participating in discussions, we will seize the opportunity to forge closer ties with various Chinese institutions. China is an important market for Montréal, with very promising tourism and economic opportunities," added Yves Lalumière, President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal. With new direct flights to China and increased economic missions to the country, Montréal is now in an excellent position to attract more tourists from this rapidly developing country. Moreover, tourist traffic from China is expected to increase 15% annually for the next three years. About Tourisme Montréal Tourisme Montréal is responsible for providing leadership in the concerted efforts of hospitality and promotion in order to position the "Montréal" destination on leisure and business travel markets. It is also responsible for developing Montréal's tourism product in accordance with the ever-changing conditions of the market.
  3. jesseps

    Canada - 100 Million Citizens

    For a while now I have been thinking about how Canada would be like, if we actually had a decent size population. I found an article from the Globe and Mail from a few years ago, saying we should really consider increasing the number of immigrants coming to this country. How do we get 1.9 million new people to move to Canada and live here, each and every year? Yes, the current major cities like Toronto and Montreal will continue to grow, but we should find ways to get other cities to grow also. If we did manage to get to 100,000,000 people living in Canada by 2050, we would have a density of 10 people per sq.km. That would be almost similar to present day Russia (excl. the annexation of Crimea). The US has 35 people per sq.km. With that we would see Canada explode to well over 300 million people. Yes it would be a lot of more mouths to feed. Plus we would need a rapid expansion in new urban centers across the provinces and especially the territories. We would also need to develop/revitalize current industries and create new industries. I know the energy (petrol) and mining sectors are in the toilet, but if we managed to increase the population, we would probably bring those industries back to life. We may be able to finally fly Montreal to Vancouver or within this country for cheaper or drive through the Prairies and be bored out of our minds or even driving all the way to Iqaluit and not worry about the gas tank, seeing there may be a station close by and not 1000's of km away. Also we can finally see many of the national parks and provincial/territorial parks, that are inaccessible and costs 10s of thousands of to visit. The reason I bring up the territories, they are grossly under populated. If there are more people there and more towns/cities connecting them to the south, the cost of living there will decrease. Plus by 2050-2100, more people will be moving north because of climate change. I found one agency formulate by 2050, we would see Canada's population grow to well under 50 million, we would be one of the wealthiest per capita, but our GDP would be lower. If we could increase the population to 100 million and also find a way to still have a similar GDP per capita as the one forecast for 2050 with 50 million, we would be the 4th wealthiest instead of the 17th. It is a long shot and I know Canada has a lot to do before that time, but we should really think about the future of this country.
  4. How $40 oil would impact Canada’s provinces What does Canada’s economy look like with oil prices at $40 a barrel? Certainly it won’t be the energy superpower envisioned by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. If $40 a barrel still seems a ways off, consider that the benchmark price for oil sands crude is already trading in that price range. What’s more, if production from high-cost sources isn’t withdrawn from an oversupplied market, oil prices may soon be trading even lower. The first thing Canadians should recognize about the new world order for oil prices is that – contrary to what we’re being told by our federal government – the economy is no longer in dire need of any new pipelines. For that matter, it can live without the new rail terminals being built to move oil as well. Yesterday’s transportation bottlenecks aren’t relevant in today’s marketplace. At current prices there won’t be any massive expansion of oil sands production because those projects, which would produce some of the world’s most expensive crude, no longer make economic sense. The recent spate of project cancellations by global oil giants – Total’s Joslyn mine, Shell’s at Pierre River, and Statoil’s Corner oil sands venture – is only the beginning. As oil prices grind lower, we can expect to hear about tens of billions of dollars of proposed spending that will be cancelled or indefinitely postponed. Not long ago, the grand vision for the oil sands saw production doubling over the next 20 years. Now that dream is in the rear-view mirror. Rather than expanding production, the industry’s new economic imperative will be attempting to cut costs in a bid to maintain current output. With the exception of oil sands players themselves, no one will feel those project cancellations more acutely than new Alberta Premier Jim Prentice. His province’s budget is beholden to the gusher of bitumen royalties that will no longer be accruing as planned. He could choose to stay the course on spending, as former Premier Don Getty did when oil prices plunged in the 1980s, in hopes that a price recovery will materialize. That option, as Getty discovered, would soon see Alberta’s budget surplus morph into spiralling deficits. The province’s balance sheet wasn’t cleaned up until the axe-wielding Ralph Klein took over. In his first term, Klein slashed spending on social services by 30 per cent, cut the education budget by 16 per cent and lowered health care expenditures by nearly 20 per cent. Of course, falling oil prices are a concern for much more than just Alberta’s budget position. Real estate values also face more risk, particularly downtown Calgary office space. For oil sands operators, staying alive in a low price environment won’t just mean cancelling expansion plans and cutting jobs in the field. Head office positions are also destined for the chopping block, which is bad news for the shiny new towers going up in Calgary’s commercial core. If plunging oil prices are writing a boom-to-bust story in provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, the narrative will be much different in other parts of the country. Ontario’s long-depressed economy is already beginning to find a second wind, recently leading the country in economic growth. And the engine is just beginning to rev up. As the largest oil-consuming province in the country, lower oil prices put more money back into the pockets of Ontarians, while also juicing the buying power of its most important trading partner. Ontario’s trade leverage with the U.S. is set to become even more meaningful as the Canadian dollar continues to slide along with the country’s rapidly fading oil prospects. Just as the oil sands boom turned Canada’s currency into a petrodollar, pushing it above parity with the greenback, the loonie is already tumbling in the wake of lower oil prices. And it shouldn’t expect any help from the Bank of Canada, which continues to signal that it’s willing to live with a much lower exchange rate in the face of a strengthening U.S. dollar. A loonie at 75 cents means GM and Ford may once again consider Ontario an attractive place to make cars and trucks. Even if they don’t, you can bet others will. With the loonie’s value falling to three quarters of where it was only a few years ago, we’ll start seeing Ontario, as well as other regions of the country, start to regain some of the hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs that were lost in the last decade amid a severely overvalued currency. For the Canadian economy as a whole, much is about to change, while much will also remain the same. Once again, oil will largely define the fault lines that separate the haves from the have-nots (or at least the growing from the stagnating). But at $40 oil, it’s the consuming provinces that will drive economic growth. Rather than oil flowing east through new pipelines, jobs and investment will be heading in that direction instead. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/how-40-oil-would-impact-canadas-provinces/article22288570/
  5. http://business.financialpost.com/2014/12/16/cmhc-finally-releases-foreign-ownership-data-on-housing-too-bad-few-believe-it/
  6. Imaginez le monde entier couverts de de milliard de tuiles, combien pouvez-vous en découvrir? Description en anglais: Imagine the entire world is covered in billions of tiles. How many can you open up? Strut is a game of exploration where you compete with other players around the world to uncover the map of the earth. –––––– TRACK YOUR TRAVELS Whether you walk, run, bike, drive, sail, ride a goat or take a hot air balloon, use Strut to keep track of exactly where you've been in the world. Share your map with friends, or keep your wanderings private... we won't tell. EXPLORE YOUR SURROUNDINGS Take a new route to work. Go down that street you never walked through. Visit every nook and cranny of your city. See more of your neighborhood – who knows what you might find? OPEN UP YOUR WORLD Strut around, level up and climb to the top of the leaderboards – there's a top 10 for every city, state, country, and the entire world. There are also a ton of medals to earn, so keep exploring and see what pops up in your adventures around the globe. Mon compte que j'ai ouvert il y a quelques jours! Qui d'autres est là dessus? Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  7. Excellent texte de François Cardinal (de La Presse) sur pourquoi Montréal devrait avoir un statut spécial : Manifesto for a city-state Montreal has paid the price for being treated like just another region. Quebec’s economic hub deserves better. François Cardinal Policy Options, November 2013 Far from being a land of forests, plains and prairies, Canada is an urban country. Nearly 70 percent of the population lives in urban centres and more than 90 percent of demographic growth is concentrated in those metropolitan areas. These proportions put Canada at the top of the world’s most urbanized nations. And yet all of Canada’s cities, from Montreal to Toronto, Calgary and even Ottawa, are neglected by federal and provincial political parties. They are short-changed by electoral maps. All are forced by the provinces to labour under a tax system that dates from the horse-and-buggy age. All are relegated to the status of lowly “creatures” subject to the whims and dictates of higher levels of government. It’s as if the country has not yet come to terms with the changes it has undergone since its founding. “Cities do not exist under the Constitution, since it was drawn up in 1867 when we were a rural, agricultural country,” Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi pointed out when I interviewed him at City Hall. “But today the country is highly urbanized, a fact that, unfortunately, is not reflected in the relations higher levels of government maintain with the cities.” The 2011 federal election offered a good example of this oversight. Every party targeted the “regions,” those wide-open spaces of rural and small-town Canada. The Conservatives’ slogan in French was “Notre région au pouvoir” [Our region in power]. The Liberals cited “rural Canada” as a priority but barely mentioned urban Canada. The Bloc used the slogan “Parlons régions” [Let’s talk about regions] but had no urban equivalent for the metropolis. More critically, the parties felt compelled to appeal to voters in the regions by positioning themselves in opposition to the cities. The most glaring instance came during the French leaders’ debate, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper castigated Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff over his promise to build a new Champlain Bridge. “I would not take Mr. Ignatieff’s approach and divert money from the regions to finance infrastructure for Montreal,” Harper said. The Liberals were not much better. They pledged to develop a plan for public transportation but never specified what it would look like. They promised support for social housing but said they would take the money out of funds for urban infrastructure. The reason for this is not rocket science. With the big-city vote so thoroughly predictable, the parties focus on rural areas or the suburbs where they believe their policies might swing votes. They rarely target the city centres. At the provincial level, the situation is pretty much the same. In fact, the Quebec government was able to relieve Montreal of its “metropolis” title and its dedicated ministry nearly 10 years ago without raising eyebrows. Thus Montreal became just one “region” among all the rest: Administrative Region 06. In the 2012 election in Quebec, Montreal did move up a notch. There was more discussion about the city. But since then, unfortunately, good intentions have been replaced by a charter of Quebec values, which has been broadly criticized in Montreal. Imposing it confirms the implicit trusteeship under which the government rules the metropolis. But even more than urban centres elsewhere in the country, Quebec’s parties have limited reason to take an interest in the city. Montreal is either politically safe (for the provincial Liberals) or a lost cause (for the Parti Québécois). In short, Quebec is no different from other Canadian provinces in treating its major city like a big village that must be attended to, certainly, but not more than any other municipality. The cost of showing the city favour is to risk losing precious votes in rural areas. But major cities are no longer the same municipalities they were in the past. Today, Montreal and Toronto are expected to compete with Paris and New York. They are expected to attract and hold onto businesses, court foreign creative talent, draw more private investment and deliver more and more services to residents, from social housing to public transportation. Providing support services for recent immigrants, developing the knowledge-based economy, building social housing, dealing with antigovernment demonstrations and adapting to climate change are all responsibilities that now fall to cities. They are nothing like the urban “creatures” of the 19th century. Lucien Bouchard could not have been more clear when he said in his 1996 inauguration speech after being elected premier: “There can be no economic recovery in Quebec without a recovery in Quebec’s metropolis.” For once, it appeared the government of Quebec was going to recognize Montreal’s special character and grant it preferential treatment. “The complexity of the city’s problems calls for special treatment and even, I would say, for the creation of a specific metropolitan authority,” Bouchard continued. It seemed as if he was about to usher in an exciting new era. There was now a minister responsible for “the metropolis.” A development commission was set up for the Montreal metropolitan area and it was to be invested with significant powers. A true decentralization of power was in the offing. An economic development agency, Montréal International, was created at this time, as was the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT). But just when it appeared Montreal was going to receive special attention and treatment, the government’s old habits returned with a vengeance. Like a parent who has given too much to one child, the Quebec government decided to restore the balance by giving to the regions with its left hand what it had given Montreal with its right. A local and regional development support policy was introduced in 1997. Then the Ministry of Regions was created and local development centres set up. A few months later, they added government measures for the province’s three metropolitan areas and then, finally, measures for all urban areas. “The reforms demonstrate, once again, the government’s efforts to address Montreal’s specificity without neglecting the needs of the rest of Quebec,” political scientist Mariona Tomàs explained in her fine book Penser métropolitain? But the result was a government policy similar to the previous ones, an across-the-board approach based on a view of Quebec as a collection of communities, rather than a province organized around its main economic hub. “The government’s desire to maintain a territorial balance can be seen in the powers of metropolitan structures,” Tomàs observed. “The law provided the same types of powers for all the urban communities created in 1969, and then for all the metropolitan communities in 2000.” Giving the rural Outaouais region the same powers as Greater Montreal reduces the latter to just one region among many. To this way of political thinking, the metropolis must not be allowed to overshadow any other town, must not be given too much. It cannot receive more attention than others, and cannot be elevated above any other. Canada’s “hub cities,” those few major urban centres like Montreal, are the drivers of economic activity in the country. That was the conclusion of a recent Conference Board study, which pointed to the collateral benefits of a thriving metropolis. It found that strong growth in metropolitan areas spurs growth in neighbouring communities and then in the whole province. But how can Montreal play its role as an economic driver if it is not treated as such? We need only look outside the country to be convinced that we need to roll out the red carpet for the metropolis: to the United States, where big cities have the attention of the country’s leaders; to Asia, where the treatment of major centres sometimes borders on obsessiveness; or even to France, a country that, like Quebec, is marked by a deep divide between “the metropolis” and “the provinces.” France provided a telling illustration of this awareness in early 2013, a few months after François Hollande’s Socialist government took office. Although France was in dire straits, burdened by crushing public debt and being forced to reconsider the fate of its precious social programs, Hollande did not think twice about launching a project of heroic proportions to relieve congestion in Paris. The price tag: the equivalent of $35 billion for a brand new “super metro,” plus $10 billion to extend and upgrade the existing system. Was this completely crazy? On the contrary. Hollande was being logical and visionary. France understands the importance of investing in its metropolis. This is a country that is ready to look after its towns and villages, while not being afraid to give Paris preferential treatment. “A strong Paris is in the interest of the provinces,” commented L’Express magazine in March 2013. Quite so. The article notes, for example, that much of the income generated in Paris is actually spent in the rest of the country. All financial roads — tourism, commuting for work, national redistribution, whatever — all lead to Paris, with benefits to the provinces. L’Express cites the case of Eurodisney to illustrate. Disney had hesitated before settling on building its amusement park in Paris — not between contending French cities, but between Paris and Barcelona. Herein lie the value and importance for the entire country of having a strong metropolis. “Weakening Paris would slow France’s locomotive,” argued L’Express. “And in a train, the cars seldom move faster than the locomotive.” Clearly, what Montreal needs is special treatment, more autonomy and more diverse sources of revenue. In short, it needs a premier who will stand on the balcony of City Hall and proclaim: “Vive Montréal! Vive Montréal libre!” Worryingly, the current state of affairs in Montreal — the revelations and insinuations of political corruption and collusion — is prompting many observers to call for the Quebec government to take the opposite tack and tighten the city’s reins. According to this view, more provincial government involvement is needed to check the city’s propensity for vice. But in fact the only way to make the city more responsible and more accountable is to give it greater power, wider latitude and more money. Montreal’s problem is that it has all the attributes of a metropolis but is treated as an ordinary municipality, subservient to the big boss, the provincial government. Its masters are the minister of municipal affairs, the minister’s colleagues at other departments involved in the city’s affairs and, of course, the premier. Montreal is under implicit trusteeship. This encourages, even promotes a lack of accountability on the part of the municipal administration, which is only half in charge. “It’s not complicated: Montreal is currently a no man’s land of accountability,” says Denis Saint-Martin, political science professor at the Université de Montréal. “There is a political and organizational immaturity problem, which explains the political irresponsibility we have seen in recent years. Montreal needs more power, not less. Montreal needs to be more accountable, more answerable.” Essentially, the metropolis needs to be treated like one, with the powers and revenues that go along with city status. Montreal is a beggar riding in a limousine. Invariably, after a municipal election, the incoming mayor announces a wish list and then gets the chauffeur to drive him up provincial Highway 20 to Quebec City to knock on the provincial government’s door with outstretched hands, hoping for a little largesse. Montreal’s mayor has to beg because the past offloading of responsibilities for delivering services to citizens onto the municipality has not been accompanied by new money. “In Quebec, the province is responsible for much of the regulatory apparatus under which cities operate, which the cities feel restricts their autonomy,” said political scientist Laurence Bherer in 2004, speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Université Laval political science department. “And far from decreasing in recent years, provincial intervention has spread to a variety of areas such as the environment and public security, further relegating the cities to the role of operative rather than architect.” It is unacceptable for the provincial government to be the “operator” of a metropolis. That is why municipalities are rightfully seeking greater autonomy and greater freedom of action from their provincial masters. This is what is starting to happen in other provinces: in Alberta, with its Municipal Government Act, with British Columbia’s Community Charter and especially in Ontario, with the City of Toronto Act, which reads in part: “The [Ontario Legislative] Assembly recognizes that the City of Toronto, as Ontario’s capital city, is an economic engine of Ontario and of Canada.” The Ontario government appears to understand the special role Toronto plays in the wider economy. The City of Toronto Act goes on to say, “The Assembly recognizes that the City plays an important role in creating and supporting economic prosperity and a high quality of life for the people of Ontario [and] that the City is a government that is capable of exercising its powers in a responsible and accountable fashion.” Quebec’s largest city deserves similar treatment: strict accountability in exchange for recognition of its status as an autonomous government and the ability to tap more diverse sources of revenue. Indeed the main reason Montreal is regularly forced to pass the hat in Quebec City is its heavy dependence on property taxes for its income. As a creature of the province, it still operates under the good-old British tax model that sees it derive the bulk of its revenues — 67 percent — from property taxes. This was not a problem a hundred years ago, when Montreal provided only property services to its residents. But its responsibilities have expanded. The standards imposed by Quebec City have proliferated, and the portion of the budget allocated for services to individuals has grown considerably. Yet its tax base remains just as dependent on a single sector: real estate. This situation has a huge drawback. The City does not share the economic benefits that it generates. It might well pour money into the Formula One Grand Prix and summer festivals, invest in attracting conventions and tourists, renovate public spaces to make the urban environment more attractive and friendly. But it will get not a penny back. On the contrary: these investments only increase the city’s expenses in maintenance, security and infrastructure, while the federal and provincial governments reap the sales taxes. Take the city’s jazz festival. Montreal has to pay for security, site maintenance, public transportation to bring visitors to the site, and must deal with the event’s impact on traffic. In return, it gets happy festival-goers and tourists who spend money, stay at hotels, eat at restaurants — and fill provincial and federal coffers with sales tax revenues. They enrich the governments in Quebec City and in Ottawa, but not Montreal, which picks up the tab for the costs. The result is that the hole into which large cities are quietly sinking gets deeper. Big-city economies are dematerializing. The knowledge-based economy, in which Montreal shines, is based on innovation, research and brains, not factories. But for now, grey matter is not subject to property tax. Add to the mix an aging population with more modest housing needs, the increase in teleworking, self-employment and e-commerce, and you have a Montreal that is not only under implicit administrative trusteeship but also in an increasingly precarious financial position. And then people wonder why our metropolis is not playing the role it should be playing. another region. Quebec’s economic hub deserves better.
  8. jesseps

    Whole Foods à Montreal?

    Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Whole+Foods+grocery+chain+seeks+locations+Montreal/8423890/story.html#ixzz2UBTI7njo I would so love to see them here. One could only hope, if they do open Loblaws (now being rebranded as Provigo) and Metro will finally serve a better assortment of warm meals.
  9. In search of a dream To persuade voters of the need for reform, India’s leaders need to articulate a new vision of its future Sep 29th 2012 | from the print edition WHEN India won independence 65 years ago, its leaders had a vision for the country’s future. In part, their dream was admirable and rare for Asia: liberal democracy. Thanks to them, Indians mostly enjoy the freedom to protest, speak up, vote, travel and pray however and wherever they want to; and those liberties have ensured that elected civilians, not generals, spies, religious leaders or self-selecting partymen, are in charge. If only their counterparts in China, Russia, Pakistan and beyond could say the same. But the economic part of the vision was a failure. Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the independence movement, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, and his daughter, Indira Gandhi, left the country with a reverence for poverty, a belief in self-reliance and an overweening state that together condemned the country to a dismal 3-4% increase in annual GDP—known as the “Hindu rate of growth”—for the best part of half a century. That led to a balance-of-payments crisis 21 years ago which forced India to change. Guided by Manmohan Singh, then finance minister, the government liberalised the economy, scrapping licensing and opening up to traders and investors. The results, in time, were spectacular. A flourishing services industry spawned world-class companies. The economy boomed. Wealth and social gains followed, literacy soared, life-expectancy and incomes rose, and gradually Indians started decamping from villages to towns. But reforms have not gone far enough (see our special report). Indian policy still discourages foreign investment and discriminates in favour of small, inefficient firms and against large, efficient ones. The state controls too much of the economy and subsidies distort prices. The damage is felt in both the private and the public sectors. Although India’s service industries employ millions of skilled people, the country has failed to create the vast manufacturing base that in China has drawn unskilled workers into the productive economy. Corruption in the public sector acts as a drag on business, while the state fails to fulfil basic functions in health and education. Many more people are therefore condemned to poverty in India than in China, and their prospects are deteriorating with India’s economic outlook. Growth is falling and inflation and the government’s deficit are rising. Modest changes, big fuss To ease the immediate problems and to raise the country’s growth rate, more reforms are needed. Labour laws that help make Indian workers as costly to employers as much better-paid Chinese ones need to be scrapped. Foreign-investment rules need to be loosened to raise standards in finance, higher education and infrastructure. The state’s role in power, coal, railways and air travel needs to shrink. Archaic, British-era rules on buying land need to be changed. Among economists, there is a widespread consensus about the necessary policy measures. Among politicians, there is great resistance to them. Look at the storm that erupted over welcome but modest reformist tinkering earlier this month. Mr Singh’s government lost its biggest coalition ally for daring to lift the price of subsidised diesel and to let in foreign supermarkets, under tight conditions. Democracy, some say, is the problem, because governments that risk being tipped out of power are especially unwilling to impose pain on their people. That’s not so. Plenty of democracies—from Brazil through Sweden to Poland—have pushed through difficult reforms. The fault lies, rather, with India’s political elite. If the country’s voters are not sold on the idea of reform, it is because its politicians have presented it to them as unpleasant medicine necessary to fend off economic illness rather than as a means of fulfilling a dream. Another time, another place In many ways, India looks strikingly like America in the late 19th century. It is huge, diverse, secular (though its people are religious), materialistic, largely tolerant and proudly democratic. Its constitution balances the central government’s authority with considerable state-level powers. Rapid social change is coming with urban growth, more education and the rise of big companies. Robber barons with immense riches and poor taste may be shamed into becoming legitimate political donors, philanthropists and promoters of education. As the country’s wealth grows, so does its influence abroad. For India to fulfil its promise, it needs its own version of America’s dream. It must commit itself not just to political and civic freedoms, but also to the economic liberalism that will allow it to build a productive, competitive and open economy, and give every Indian a greater chance of prosperity. That does not mean shrinking government everywhere, but it does mean that the state should pull out of sectors it has no business to be in. And where it is needed—to organise investment in infrastructure, for instance, and to regulate markets—it needs to become more open in its dealings. Compare contrasting GDP and population levels across India’s states with our interactive map and guide India’s politicians need to espouse this vision and articulate it to the voters. Mr Singh has done his best; but he turned 80 on September 26th, and is anyway a bureaucrat at heart, not a leader. The remnants of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, to whom many Indians still naturally turn, are providing no leadership either— maybe because they do not have it in them, maybe because they have too much at stake to abandon the old, failed vision. Sonia Gandhi, Nehru’s grand-daughter-in-law and Congress’s shadowy president, shows enthusiasm for welfare schemes, usually named after a relative, but not for job-creating reforms. If her son Rahul, the heir apparent to lead Congress, understands the need for a dynamic economy, there’s no way of knowing it, for he never says anything much. These people are hindering India’s progress, not helping it. It is time to shake off the past and dump them. The country needs politicians who see the direction it should take, understand the difficult steps required, and can persuade their countrymen that the journey is worthwhile. If it finds such leaders, there is no limit to how far India might go. http://www.economist.com/node/21563720
  10. How Switzerland camouflaged its ready-to-explode architecture during the Cold War I finally had a chance to read John McPhee's book La Place de la Concorde Suisse, his somewhat off-puttingly titled 1984 look at the Swiss military and its elaborately engineered landscape defenses. To make a long story short, McPhee describes two things: how Switzerland requires military service from every able-bodied male Swiss citizen — a model later emulated and expanded by Israel — and how the Swiss military has, in effect, wired the entire country to blow in the event of foreign invasion. To keep enemy armies out, bridges will be dynamited and, whenever possible, deliberately collapsed onto other roads and bridges below; hills have been weaponized to be activated as valley-sweeping artificial landslides; mountain tunnels will be sealed from within to act as nuclear-proof air raid shelters; and much more. First, a quick look at the system of self-demolition that is literally built into the Swiss national infrastructure: To interrupt the utility of bridges, tunnels, highways, railroads, Switzerland has established three thousand points of demolition. That is the number officially printed. It has been suggested to me that to approximate a true figure a reader ought to multiply by two. Where a highway bridge crosses a railroad, a segment of the bridge is programmed to drop on the railroad. Primacord fuses are built into the bridge. Hidden artillery is in place on either side, set to prevent the enemy from clearing or repairing the damage. Further: Near the German border of Switzerland, every railroad and highway tunnel has been prepared to pinch shut explosively. Nearby mountains have been made so porous that whole divisions can fit inside them. There are weapons and soldiers under barns. There are cannons inside pretty houses. Where Swiss highways happen to run on narrow ground between the edges of lakes and to the bottoms of cliffs, man-made rockslides are ready to slide. The impending self-demolition of the country is "routinely practiced," McPhee writes. "Often, in such assignments, the civilian engineer who created the bridge will, in his capacity as a military officer, be given the task of planning its destruction." But this is where a weirdly fascinating, George Dante-esque artifice begins. After all, McPhee writes, why would Switzerland want anyone to know where the dynamite is wired, where the cannons are hidden, which bridges will blow, or where to find the Army's top secret mountain hideaways and resupply shelters? But if you look closely, you start to see things. Through locked gates you see corridors in the sides of mountains-going on and on into the rock, with alight in the ceiling every five meters and far too many to count... Riding around Switzerland with these matters in mind-seeing little driveways that blank out in mountain walls, cavern entrances like dark spots under mountainside railroads and winding corniches, portals in various forms of lithic disguise-you can find it difficult not to imagine that almost anything is a military deception, masking a hidden installation. Full size Indeed, at one point McPhee jokes that his local guide in Switzerland "tends to treat the army itself as if it were a military secret." McPhee points to small moments of "fake stonework, concealing the artillery behind it," that dot Switzerland's Alpine geology, little doors that will pop open to reveal internal cannons and blast the country's roads to smithereens. Later, passing under a mountain bridge, McPhee notices "small steel doors in one pier" hinting that the bridge "was ready to blow. It had been superceded, however, by an even higher bridge, which leaped through the sky above-a part of the new road to Simplon. In an extreme emergency, the midspan of the new bridge would no doubt drop on the old one." It's a strange kind of national infrastructure, one that is at its most rigorously functional — one that truly fulfills its promises-when in a state of cascading self-imposed collapse. I could easily over-quote my way to the end of my internet service here, but it's a story worth reading. There are, for instance, hidden bomb shelters everywhere in an extraordinary application of dual-use construction. "All over Switzerland," according to McPhee, "in relatively spacious and quiet towns, are sophisticated underground parking garages with automatic machines that offer tickets like tongues and imply a level of commerce that is somewhere else. In a nuclear emergency, huge doors would slide closed with the town's population inside." Full size Describing titanic underground fortresses — "networks of tunnels, caverns, bunkers, and surface installations, each spread through many tens of square miles" — McPhee briefly relates the story of a military reconnaissance mission on which he was able to tag along, involving a hydroelectric power station built inside a mountain, accessible by ladders and stairs; the battalion tasked with climbing down into it thus learns "that if a company of soldiers had to do it they could climb the mountain on the inside." In any case, the book's vision of the Alps as a massively constructed — or, at least, geotechnically augmented and militarily amplified — terrain is quite heady, including the very idea that, in seeking to protect itself from outside invaders, Switzerland is prepared to dynamite, shell, bulldoze, and seal itself into a kind of self-protective oblivion, hiding out in artificially expanded rocky passes and concrete super-basements as all roads and bridges into and out of the country are instantly transformed into landslides and dust. http://gizmodo.com/5919581/how-switzerland-camouflaged-its-ready+to+explode-architecture-during-the-cold-war?tag=design
  11. Malek

    France's future: A country in denial

    VISIT the euro zone and you will be invigorated by gusts of reform. The “Save Italy” plan has done enough for Mario Monti, the prime minister, to declare, however prematurely, that the euro crisis is nearly over. In Spain Mariano Rajoy’s government has tackled the job market and is about to unveil a tight budget (see article). For all their troubles, Greeks know that the free-spending and tax-dodging are over. But one country has yet to face up to its changed circumstances. France is entering the final three weeks of its presidential campaign. The ranking of the first round, on April 22nd, remains highly uncertain, but the polls back François Hollande, the Socialist challenger, to win a second-round victory. Indeed, in elections since the euro crisis broke, almost all governments in the euro zone have been tossed out by voters. But Nicolas Sarkozy, the Gaullist president, has been clawing back ground. The recent terrorist atrocity in Toulouse has put new emphasis on security and Islamism, issues that tend to favour the right—or, in the shape of Marine Le Pen, the far right. Yet what is most striking about the French election is how little anybody is saying about the country’s dire economic straits (see article). The candidates dish out at least as many promises to spend more as to spend less. Nobody has a serious agenda for reducing France’s eye-watering taxes. Mr Sarkozy, who in 2007 promised reform with talk of a rupture, now offers voters protectionism, attacks on French tax exiles, threats to quit Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone and (at least before Toulouse) talk of the evils of immigration and halal meat. Mr Hollande promises to expand the state, creating 60,000 teaching posts, partially roll back Mr Sarkozy’s rise in the pension age from 60 to 62, and squeeze the rich (whom he once cheerfully said he did not like), with a 75% top income-tax rate. A plethora of problems France’s defenders point out that the country is hardly one of the euro zone’s Mediterranean basket cases. Unlike those economies, it should avoid recession this year. Although one ratings agency has stripped France of its AAA status, its borrowing costs remain far below Italy’s and Spain’s (though the spread above Germany’s has risen). France has enviable economic strengths: an educated and productive workforce, more big firms in the global Fortune 500 than any other European country, and strength in services and high-end manufacturing. However, the fundamentals are much grimmer. France has not balanced its books since 1974. Public debt stands at 90% of GDP and rising. Public spending, at 56% of GDP, gobbles up a bigger chunk of output than in any other euro-zone country—more even than in Sweden. The banks are undercapitalised. Unemployment is higher than at any time since the late 1990s and has not fallen below 7% in nearly 30 years, creating chronic joblessness in the crime-ridden banlieues that ring France’s big cities. Exports are stagnating while they roar ahead in Germany. France now has the euro zone’s largest current-account deficit in nominal terms. Perhaps France could live on credit before the financial crisis, when borrowing was easy. Not any more. Indeed, a sluggish and unreformed France might even find itself at the centre of the next euro crisis. Browse our slideshow guide to the leading candidates for the French presidency It is not unusual for politicians to avoid some ugly truths during elections; but it is unusual, in recent times in Europe, to ignore them as completely as French politicians are doing. In Britain, Ireland, Portugal and Spain voters have plumped for parties that promised painful realism. Part of the problem is that French voters are notorious for their belief in the state’s benevolence and the market’s heartless cruelty. Almost uniquely among developed countries, French voters tend to see globalisation as a blind threat rather than a source of prosperity. With the far left and the far right preaching protectionism, any candidate will feel he must shore up his base. Many business leaders cling to the hope that a certain worldly realism will emerge. The debate will tack back to the centre when Mr Sarkozy and Mr Hollande square off in the second round; and once elected, the new president will ditch his extravagant promises and pursue a sensible agenda of reform, like other European governments. But is that really possible? It would be hard for Mr Sarkozy suddenly to propose deep public-spending cuts, given all the things he has said. It would be harder still for Mr Hollande to drop his 75% tax rate. 1981 and all that Besides, there is a more worrying possibility than insincerity. The candidates may actually mean what they say. And with Mr Hollande, who after all is still the most likely victor, that could have dramatic consequences. The last time an untried Socialist candidate became president was in 1981. As a protégé of François Mitterrand, Mr Hollande will remember how things turned out for his mentor. Having nationalised swathes of industry and subjected the country to two devaluations and months of punishment by the markets, Mitterrand was forced into reverse. Mr Hollande’s defenders say he is a pragmatist with a more moderate programme than Mitterrand’s. His pension-age rollback applies only to a small set of workers; his 75% tax rate affects a tiny minority. Yet such policies indicate hostility to entrepreneurship and wealth creation and reflect the French Socialist Party’s failure to recognise that the world has changed since 1981, when capital controls were in place, the European single market was incomplete, young workers were less mobile and there was no single currency. Nor were France’s European rivals pursuing big reforms with today’s vigour. If Mr Hollande wins in May (and his party wins again at legislative elections in June), he may find he has weeks, not years, before investors start to flee France’s bond market. The numbers of well-off and young French people who hop across to Britain (and its 45% top income tax) could quickly increase. Even if Mr Sarkozy is re-elected, the risks will not disappear. He may not propose anything as daft as a 75% tax, but neither is he offering the radical reforms or the structural downsizing of spending that France needs. France’s picnickers are about to be swamped by harsh reality, no matter who is president. http://www.economist.com/node/21551478
  12. Growth in mining sector reshaping Quebec economy BARRIE MCKENNA OTTAWA— Globe and Mail Blog Posted on Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:48PM EDT http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/daily-mix/growth-in-mining-sector-reshaping-quebec-economy/article2370299/ Think of the Quebec economy, and the traditional drivers are energy, forestry and manufacturing. But there’s a new engine in Quebec – mining – and it’s reshaping the economy of both the province, and the country. Investment in the province’s mining industry is expected to reach $4.4-billion this year, up 62 per cent from 2011. That’s nearly equal to the capital that will be poured into manufacturing ($5-billion), a remarkable 27 per cent of all business investment in the province and represents half of all mining investment in the country, according to a National Bank of Canada analysis of recent Statistics Canada figures. “That’s never happened before,” National Bank of Canada chief economist Stéfane Marion said in an interview. “It’s a huge growth driver for the province this year, and in the future.” It’s not the only first. Quebec will lead the country in mining investment this year, outpacing Ontario, Mr. Marion said. Mining investment is expected to hit $3.7-billion in Ontario, $2.8-billion in B.C. and $500-million in Alberta. For Quebec, the money pouring into dozens of iron ore, gold, copper and other mining projects could add a full percentage to GDP this year and cause an unexpected boost in royalty revenue for the cash-strapped government. It will also have spinoff benefits for Montreal-area manufacturers, who will help supply mining-related equipment. But Mr. Marion said there are broader implications. The Quebec economy is starting to look a lot more like the booming resource-rich provinces of the West. “This is a material change in the industrial structure of Quebec,” Ms. Marion said. “It brings the interests of Western Canada and Quebec into line. It’s not just a pure Western Canada story now. It’s spreading to Eastern Canada.” Quebec is also positioning itself to capitalize on the growing resource appetite in China and other fast-growing emerging economies, he said. And the good news: The mining boom is just getting started as Quebec plots its 25-year “Plan Nord” strategy.
  13. bxlmontreal

    Huffington Québec.

    Arianna Huffington casts her Net ever wider. Arianna Huffington's life reads like a salacious Vanity Fair profile, the contradictions of her power splayed out on every glossy page, inviting controversy. She's a millionaire who built her Huffington Post online media empire - sold to AOL a year ago for $315 million - on the unpaid work of more than 9,000 bloggers, one of whom is now suing on their behalf for one-third of the value: $105 million. She was a conservative commentator in the 1990s who recycled herself as a freethinking independent (with strong liberal views) for the 21st century. She was married for a decade to a Republican congressman, Michael Huffington, who turned out to be bisexual and started campaigning for gay rights. Author of a dozen non-fiction books, she has been accused of plagiarizing passages for three of them (including biographies of Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso). Since last November, she's being sued by two consultants who say she stole the Huffington Post idea from them back in 2004 (it launched in 2005). What else? She's a woman who has come from far, has hobnobbed with the greats and is known by the company she keeps. A brief sketch of her career arc gives an idea of the distance travelled. Born in Greece (née Stasinopoúlou); educated in England (Cambridge University); longtime lover of the late British journalist Bernard Levin (who was twice her age and, for a spell, a fellow follower of the Indian mystic Rajneesh); a New Yorker since the early 1980s and U.S. citizen since 1990; political TV comedy writer in the 1990s who worked with Al Franken and Bill Maher; unsuccessful indie candidate for California governor in 2003; parent (with her ex, Michael) of two daughters, both now in their early 20s. These days, Huffington is in expansion mode, spreading her media brand - a blend of original reporting and aggregated news and opinion from websites all around the world - to Canada, Europe and beyond. With a staff of 200 employees and its thousands of bloggers, HuffingtonPost.com gets 35 million unique visitors a month, more than the New York Times. Huffington Post Canada, the service's first foreign edition, launched online last May and, with its staff of 20 and bloggers ranging from David Suzuki to Conrad Black, has a monthly audience of more than 1.8 million. A British edition launched last July, Le Huffington Post launched in France last week, Le Huffington Post Québec launches Wednesday, a Spanish edition will begin the third week of March and an Italian one in April. There are also negotiations to start three other foreign editions this year, in Germany, Brazil and Turkey. Huffington, 61, will be in Montreal Wednesday for the launch of the French-language service here. And, true to form, she'll arrive amid a bit of controversy. As The Gazette reported this week, about a dozen Quebec luminaries - politicians like Louise Harel and Pierre Curzi, intellectuals like Normand Baillargeon, environmental activists like Steven Guilbeault - had been lined up to blog for Huffington Québec but have now withdrawn their offers to write for free. Some said they were too busy, but the reason most gave was that they preferred to be paid for their work. When I caught up with her a week ago after the launch in France, Huffington was in a typically upbeat mood, deflecting criticism in her distinctive Greek accent and nasally voice that boomed down her BlackBerry line from Davos, Switzerland. She was attending a supper of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship on the eve of the annual meeting of global leaders at the World Economic Forum. I began by asking Huffington what she plans for the new Quebec site. How will Huffington Post Québec be different from Huffington Post Canada or Huffington Post in France? Every different province or country will be rooted in the culture of the province or country, edited by local journalists. Of course, we are going to be able to leverage the French site and translate stories that are of local interest, like the U.S. election, and lifestyle stories that are more universal. We now have 50 sections in the U.S. and whether it is in style or women or books or parenting, the whole point of the site is very much to embrace the country or the province - in this case, embracing Quebec and the Québécois and what they love. And what do the Québécois love? Do you know? There's isn't just one thing - it's a very varied community. Am I right about that? Yes, but we have certain preoccupations here that are different from the rest of Canada's. Yes, of course, and the Québécois want to read about their own politicians, which is why among the many bloggers we've recruited there's Pierre Curzi (note: who in fact has since bowed out), Yves-François Blanchet, Jamie Nichols, actors like Charlotte Laurier, Évelyne de la Chenelière (note: who has also bowed out), Micheline Lanctôt, musicians. So you know, part of it is hearing from their own people and part of it is addressing their own preoccupations. You're travelling a lot these days? I am, but I think it's worth it. This is the year for us to grow internationally and it's really exciting to be in each country as we launch. We've launched Canada, which is doing incredibly well; we're launching in the U.K., then there's Spain in maybe the third week of March, then Italy in April. We're still talking with Germany, Turkey and Brazil - we don't have finalized partnerships there, but we are in conversations. Tell me about the HuffPost business model - as an aggregator and also producer of original content, including nonpaid bloggers - and what that means for journalism in the 21st century. Well, first of all, the Huffington Post is now both a journalistic enterprise and a platform. You know, we started by doing a lot more aggregating, but now we have almost 400 professional full-time journalists - reporting, breaking stories. We are here, for example (in Davos), with our executive business editor (Peter S. Goodman), who has done some of the best coverage in the States around poverty and how this is impacting the Republican primaries; when we had our political reporter covering the primaries in South Carolina, (Goodman) was covering what was happening with the issue of downward mobility there, which has been one of the issues that hasn't been adequately covered, the fate of the middle class. So what I'm saying is that we don't just do the conventional reporting that we have to do, the bread and butter, covering what everybody's covering, like the State of the Union, or in the case of Quebec, I'm sure covering the Plan Nord, the plan to exploit natural resources in northern Quebec. Whatever the Arianna Huffington issues of the moment are, we'll have to cover them obsessively, because they're of tremendous interest. But we'll need to go to the big issues, and stay on them, and basically generate interest in them. That's what we've done with series like Beyond the Battlefield, which covers the state of the returning vets from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. So my point is that to describe the Huffington Post as just an aggregator now is just behind the times. You plan to have seven employees in Quebec. Will that grow over time? Of course. You know, when we launched the Huffington Post (U.S.) in May 2005, we had five staff. So the whole goal is to start small and grow, become profitable and attract advertising. In our case, that doesn't just mean advertising based on CPMs (cost per mile, or 1,000 visitors), but sponsorships, like an entire section we have now with Johnson & Johnson on global motherhood, and sponsorship of a good-news section, and sponsorship of a video series on social responsibility and, since the launch in France, sponsorships by L'Oréal and Orange. It's a different model. Our content is free, we don't have any plans to charge for anything, but the advertising that we bring in now moves way beyond the usual CPM model. How do you avoid the two coming too close together: sponsorship and what you're actually covering? Well, obviously that is very important and the key here is transparency. If we have a section that is sponsored, it transparently says so; there is no mixing up of the content, so no one is left in any doubt as to whether the section is sponsored or not. Tell me about yourself. Did you ever imagine you'd be flying around the world as a journalism executive? You mean when I was growing up in Athens, did I ever think one day I would become a blogger and that one day the Huffington Post would grow and make more babies around the world? No, I don't think so. Don't forget, I was pretty old when we launched the Huffington Post; I had already written a dozen books; I was 55 and now I'm 61. It shows that it's never too late to get involved with the Internet - or any start-up. What electronic devices do you use? I'm a BlackBerry addict. At the moment I have four BlackBerrys in front of me, because I have one for every provider for where I travel. I'm calling you on one. And of course, I have an iPad. But the one I really depend on is my BlackBerry. I have to send you a piece I wrote on the time I lost my BlackBerry in the Mediterranean. It fell into the sea. You just launched in France. How did the appointment of editorial director Anne Sinclair (ex-TF1 TV news host and wife of disgraced ex-International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn) go over with the media there? Oh, actually, amazing. We were all surprised by how positive the reception was at the press conference, where there were 260 journalists and two dozen cameras and television cameras. She's a professional journalist with tremendous cachet in France, and she herself had developed the business strategy of TF1 when she was there in the 1990s, and then had her own blog during the 2008 presidential race. Beyond that, I think there was something else that we were surprised by: If you go to her Facebook page in France, there are all these dozens of women who, even before we launched, came on her page and went (apropos of the DSK scandal): "Go, Anne, it makes it easier for us to get up after an ordeal and get back into the arena." Very often, especially for women, after a setback or a defeat or whatever it is, we want to hide ourselves under the covers. She instead has entered the arena again and been passionate and incredibly dedicated to learning everything and being involved in every aspect of the launch. You seem to have a knack for finding high-profile people to work for you. Is that part of the secret of your success? Well, we have high-profile people and we have thousands of people nobody had heard of before. And that's another thing that I love: being able to provide a platform to people who may already have their own blogs but who can cross paths with us and amplify their voices. A lot of the blogs we have in France now are people like Catherine Cerisey, who's tracking her own struggle with breast cancer, and suddenly this is getting all this traffic that is attracting attention to her own story. Arianna Huffington will launch Le Huffington Post Québec with a news conference Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Gault Hotel in Old Montreal; she'll be joined by her Quebec editor, Patrick White, and two top executives of parent company AOL Canada. From noon to 2 p.m., she'll attend a luncheon at the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth Hotel and speak on How Social Media Are Transforming the World; the event is organized by CORIM (Montreal Council on Foreign Relations); tickets start at $75 and advance registration is required; for more details, visit http://www.corim.qc.ca. A WINDOW ON LE HUFFINGTON POST QUÉBEC Owned by: AOL Huffington Post Media Group Language: French Headquarters (until April): 24th floor of 1000 de la Gauchetière St., Montreal Editor: Patrick White Staff: 7 Freelancers: 15 Bloggers: 120 Some who will blog for free: Charlotte Laurier, Claude Carignan, Louis Bernard. Some who decided not to blog: Louise Harel, Jean Barbe, Évelyne de la Chenelière Launch date: Wednesday Expected audience: 200,000 unique visitors per month Percentage of Quebecers who have never heard of Huffington Post: 82 (November 2011 poll) Sources: Huffington Post, The Gazette Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Arianna+Huffington+casts+ever+wider/6101339/story.html#ixzz1lQYt06nG
  14. Guys - look at this http://www.tableaudebordmontreal.com/comparons/activiteeconomique/default1.en.html?mode=print Our economy frankly is shitting the bed. Every year our GDP growth falls behind every Canadian city. When do we hold ourselves and our politicians accountable for this mess? We all hate the Torontonization of the country, but at which point do Montrealers develop an economy that can compete?
  15. For next rating downgrade, S&P may look at France Commentary: France has lots of debt, and dysfunctional politics LONDON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. is broke? Been there. Italy is bankrupt. Done that. Spain is teetering on the edge? Got the T-shirt. There is, however, one major industrial country that has so far managed to sail through the market turmoil without anyone seriously questioning its credit-worthiness: France. And yet, if you‘re looking for the next downgrade, and the source of the next shock to the global markets, it’s France you should be looking toward. The country’s debt is exploding. It is steadily losing competitiveness against Germany, and running up huge trade deficits. Its political system is every bit as dysfunctional as America’s. And, of course, it is about to be presented with a massive bill for bailing out Italy and Spain. A French downgrade may only be a matter of time. If it happens, it’s going to be a huge blow to already-fragile markets. The country has the fourth largest debt in the world, and its paper is heavily traded by global investors. There would be some nasty losses on a French downgrade. True, there is not much sign of it yet. Almost at the same time as it was downgrading the United States, Standard & Poor’s was reaffirming France’s status as the most rock-solid of borrowers. According to the French newspaper Liberation, an S&P spokesman stated that there were no plans to downgrade France. There were no question marks over the solvency of the nation. Really? Take a closer look and you might start to wonder. First, French debt is escalating rapidly. It might not be as big as that of some other countries yet, but it’s getting there fast. Last year it ran a deficit of 7% of GDP. French debt will total 90% of GDP this year and 95% in 2012, according to estimates by Capital Economics. That isn’t exactly running out of control — but it is getting very close. Indeed, it’s around the same levels of debt-to-GDP that earned the U.S. a downgrade. And France is racking up fresh debt at a faster rate than countries such as Italy or Spain. It is hard to see how you can feel comfortable about that. Next, France is steadily losing competitiveness against Germany — in exactly the same way that countries such as Italy and Spain have, except not quite so quickly. France, a major manufacturing center, used to run healthy trade surpluses; now it runs big deficits. The balance of trade for the six months to June showed a deficit of 37.5 billion euros compared with a deficit of 27.6 billion euros in the last six months of 2010, figures released last week showed. The deficit with Germany, its major trading partner, is running at a billion euros a month. Back in 2004, it was regularly running surpluses of a billion euros a month. Countries with big, persistent trade deficits — as any American can testify — have to borrow to fund themselves. The bigger the debts they run up, the greater the risk of a downgrade. Third, if the U.S. has a dysfunctional political system, then France is not much better. Like the U.S., it has separate elections for the president and the legislature, creating a system that is often close to paralysis. And no other country in the developed world is quite so resistant to economic reform: Any modifications to working hours or pensions or welfare plans brings out rioters and is usually swiftly abandoned. And like the U.S., it has a president who came to power on a wave of optimism, and has since turned out to be fairly ineffectual. France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy is deeply unpopular. He is scoring in the mid-20s in the polls — a slight recovery from the nadir early this year, but hardly a secure position. Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front leader, is scoring around 20%, and she advocates pulling out of the euro and restoring the franc. Indeed, of all the main euro-area countries, France is the only one where a major (if not exactly mainstream) political movement argues for breaking up the single currency. Far-reaching ramifications Finally, if Italy and Spain have to be rescued, then it will be France that foots a lot of the bill. Germany can afford it; France can’t. Once you add Spanish and Italian debts, the French balance sheet looks in terrible shape. “With the turmoil in Europe there have been many politicians suggesting that the size of the [European Financial Stability Fund, or EFSF] has to be increased,” noted Gary Jenkins of Evolution Securities in an analysis on Monday. “But any suggestion that the EU is turning into a fiscal union (even if by default) could well have an impact on individual sovereigns’ ratings as well as the EFSF structure.” Indeed so. Every time a euro-area country has to be bailed out, it puts more pressure on the finances of the few that remain completely solvent. Add it all up, and if the U.S. is getting downgraded there is no reason for the ratings agencies not to turn their fire on France next. That matters hugely for the financial system. While countries such as Greece and Portugal are largely irrelevant to the global system, France is very important. The country has a lot of paper out there — the government has total outstanding debts of $1.7 trillion, making it the fourth largest debtor in the world after the U.S., Japan and Italy. And that debt is far more widely held — 38% of French debt is held internationally, which is a lot more than Italy (24%), the U.S. (21%) or Japan (2%), according to calculations made by the research house TheCityUK. The cost of insuring against a French default is starting to rise. The markets have started to notice the country’s dire position. It can’t be that long before the rating agencies catch up. If France does get downgraded, then it is going to be a very serious blow to the markets. Just about every bank and every bond portfolio in the world is going to take a hit. Matthew Lynn is a financial journalist based in London. He is the author of "Bust: Greece, the Euro and the Sovereign Debt Crisis," and he writes adventure thrillers under the name Matt Lynn. Il y a déjà des milliers de français qui viennent vivre au Québec chaque année, je crois que cela laisse présager que le mouvement va encore plus s'accentuer...
  16. The dream I am speaking about is, Canada becoming a country with about 100 million people. There is an article from the Globe and Mail, saying how we could reach 100 million people by 2100. I honestly don't know how I would feel about having 100 million people. Economically it would probably help us, but who really knows. More and more foreigners moving here, but will not change their customs. Anyway, that is my two-cents on the matter.
  17. http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/06/02/north-korea-one-of-the-happiest-places-in-the-world-according-to-north-korea/ http://hken.ibtimes.com/articles/153551/20110528/north-korea-happiness-index-rank-china-top-us-bottom-photos.htm
  18. Newbie

    Canada 2011 Census

    I'm creating this thread mainly to comment on the long-form census controversy from a non-political point of view. As a mathematician who probably cares and knows less about Canadian politics than anyone else in this forum, this is my opinion: A voluntary survey is completely USELESS, and even more so after it became the subject of a nationwide political debate. An anti-conservative friend of mine wrote last week on facebook that he returned the short form and demanded a long form be sent to him. He thought he was making some kind of statement, but he is actually helping to make the survey even more useless. I don't really blame him, since there is no way to make the long-form data meaningful anymore. It's better if we just forget about it, but I still have a question: how does this happen in a country full of smart people like Canada? I find it a bit scary actually. I would love to know your opinions on the subject.
  19. (Courtesy of The Financial Post) Plus they forgot, soon to be one of the largest producers of lithium. Thing is the US could get all their "black gold" from the Bakken Formation (part of it is in Canada but the rest is in the US). Here some info on the Bakken: Research
  20. GDS

    Stanley Ma - The Food Court King

    The food court king He's conquered the malls — now Stanley Ma is ready to take on the Street. By Joanna Pachner It's 12:45 p.m. on a weekday in May at the Place Vertu food court, and the only counter with a lineup is Thai Express. The 1970s–era shopping centre in Montreal's Saint–Laurent suburb has seen better days but, in at least one way, it's cutting–edge: unbeknownst to the diners, this food court serves as a laboratory for MTY Food Group, where it develops and perfects its new fast–food concepts. The company, whose office is located kitty–corner to the mall, currently has eight banners here, and the landlord allows it to test new formats when a location opens up. MTY's most recent introductions—Tandori, Kim Chi Korean Delight and Vie&Nam—were all fine–tuned at Place Vertu. With 21 different dining options, the food court, like those in most other large malls, resembles an international food bazaar, a huge change from what peckish shoppers would have found a few decades ago. "When I started 30 years ago, you'd have Chinese, Italian, a burger place and maybe one more, and that'd be it," says Stanley Ma, MTY's founder and chief executive. "Now you walk in and say, 'Wow! I have $20. What am I going to have today?'" No one has been more responsible for this transformation than Ma. The Hong Kong immigrant has developed, licensed or acquired 26 brands of quick–service fare—from Mexican to Japanese, from doughnut to health nut—and he's busy expanding his smorgasbord. Already the most diversified food franchisor in the country, MTY has quickened its pace of growth in the past three years, during which it almost doubled its number of outlets. Last year's surprising acquisition of Country Style Food Services Holdings, Ontario's second–largest coffee chain, boosted MTY's store count by nearly 50%, and the most recent addition—Quebec hot–dogs–and–fries specialist Groupe Valentine, a deal that closed earlier this month—has brought the total to more than 1,700 restaurants that ring in about US$400 million in annual sales. The company bought three chains in 2009 alone, and launched four internally developed banners within the past two years. It's not just the growth that's impressing industry observers but the company's consistently strong performance. MTY's most recent quarterly results widely beat market expectations. "It's an extremely well–run business," says Leon Aghazarian, a consumer products analyst with Industrial Alliance Securities in Montreal. "Stanley is very experienced. The strength lies there." Yet while Ma has made no secret of his acquisitive hunger, he's a growth–focused entrepreneur with a deeply conservative streak. He eschews debt. He only buys profitable players with clear synergies for MTY. And he's wary of easy money. When restaurant franchisors converted en masse to income trusts a decade ago, he resisted calls to follow suit. Now, with trusts set to lose their preferential tax treatment next year, the sector is scrambling for alternatives and "I look like a genius," says Ma with a chortle. More important, his rivals' predicament positions MTY, long an industry consolidator, to take advantage of those who'd rather sell than face the cost of another conversion. A middle–aged man with a formal manner occasionally lightened by corny jokes, Ma isn't rushing into any hasty unions. Known as a very private individual who says no to suitors much more than he says yes, he seems to prefer to fly under the market's radar. Few people outside the industry have heard of him or his company, and investor interest remains muted despite the rapid proliferation of MTY banners. A teenage immigrant from Hong Kong (his English remains heavily accented and he doesn't speak French), Ma opened his first venue, a Chinese and Polynesian restaurant, in 1979, at the age of 29. Within a few years, however, he switched to fast–food franchising—then a novel business model in Canada—seeing an opportunity in supplying immigrants like himself with a chance to run their own operations. Food courts presented ideal locations for new brands with little name recognition, since consumers tend to choose where they take their trays based on gustatory whim rather than brand loyalty. As such, there is little need for marketing beyond mouth–watering menu boards and frequently changing specials. And, as Ma added new banners to his original Chinese chain Tiki Ming, he was able to leverage his landlord relationships. "He would typically own the lease, so if one brand didn't work out, he could put in another," says Brian Pow, vice–president of research at Acumen Capital Finance Partners in Calgary and a longtime MTY watcher. Ma's dominance of shopping malls and cinemas bestowed on him the moniker "king of food courts." Ma's early ambition was to be able to drive from Montreal to Quebec City and stop every hour at one of his outlets. While most Canadian restaurant companies have either a single brand (like A&W or Pizza Pizza) or a handful they oversee as a master franchisee (Priszm Income Fund, for example, is the Canadian parent to KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut), MTY's multiplying offerings allowed it to match the cuisine to each location and demographic. Ma has tended to look for master franchisees with strong financial know–how and expansionist ambitions. MTY simply collects royalties, with little need for capital investment, says Aghazarian. "The business is a cash cow. There is almost no risk associated with it." This low–risk philosophy is how MTY ended up in the Middle East, of all places. In the mid–2000s, the company was approached by a restaurant operator serving the Arab Emirates who was looking to franchise three of its banners. The relationship has since grown to encompass seven brands and several nearby countries, but MTY is protected: it doesn't sign the leases and has no liability exposure. "Even if it flops, it won't damage MTY's image here," says Aghazarian. Nevertheless, the region is on track to account for 5% of MTY's stores by year–end. So when, in April of 2009, MTY bought Country Style, observers found the deal uncharacteristically rife with pitfalls—an also–ran brand in a highly competitive market. It was also an unusually large acquisition for MTY. Still, the chain had been sprucing up its stores since it emerged from bankruptcy protection seven years earlier, adopting a format similar to market leader Tim Hortons. For MTY, which ran Yogen Früz and Cultures banners in Ontario but was largely clustered in Quebec, Country Style represented a quick surge within Canada's biggest province. Ma also saw co–branding opportunities, and within months of purchase, he started teaming more than a dozen Country Styles with his TCBY yogurt chain. Other pairings will follow. He points out that in a 3,000–square–foot store, Country Style can do $600,000 per year in revenue and, say, Thai Express another $750,000, thus raking in $1.3 million from a single venue. The approach fits MTY's operating philosophy: "The returns are good, the investment small," says Ma. Ma's long been interested in the coffee sector. "Coffee is a good business," he says, tenting his fingers thoughtfully. "The profit margins are very good, and it will help MTY's other brands because of the buying power of the coffee bean." MTY had looked at Country Style several years earlier but walked away. Ma won't specify the reasons—"I don't want to hurt the feelings of other people we dealt with," he says in his typically courtly manner—but it came down to sticker shock. By 2009, Country Style's revamp was further along and MTY had greater financial means, says Ma. "I also felt comfortable with the Country Style management." (Rick Martens, who has run the chain since it emerged from bankruptcy protection, remains at the helm.) Since the takeover, MTY's operating expertise has proven useful. Observers say that Ma has trimmed slack in distribution and at the head office. Ma simply observes: "If you're a hockey player and become a coach, you know it makes sense to do it this way because you know what it's like." Acumen's Pow, however, questions whether the Country Style game plan has played out as smoothly as Ma claims. "It's been a big challenge for Country Style to cater to a different audience with a different product mix," he says. "And Stanley's idea that he could bring in other brands, I don't think it's been as successful as he'd hoped. [The transition] has been longer and slower than expected." Ma has grown accustomed by now to strategic second–guessing. The pressure was at its height back in the early 2000s, when numerous financiers were banging the drum for him to convert to a royalty trust, in which cash distributions are set as a percentage of top–line revenue. "When we trade over $2, they say, 'You're ready [to convert],'" recalls Ma. "When we trade over $5, they say, 'I guarantee, Stanley, if you convert, you'll go to $8.' Then they say, 'Stanley, if you don't go to income trust, don't come to see me anymore.'" Ma clearly relishes having been proven right, though he had no inkling about Ottawa's tax treatment flip–flop. His motivation was simply to use his cash to grow the company without taking on debt. When he was first urged to make MTY a trust, he had fewer than 200 stores. "I thought they were pushing MTY to run too fast," he says. One of MTY's strengths is its willingness and ability to respond to consumers' changing tastes. Of the 26 brands MTY controls today, 10 were developed in–house to exploit new trends. The past few years have been all about Asian food, says Ma—Korean, Indian, Vietnamese. Thai Express became MTY's most successful brand after Ma bought the small chain in 2004 and merged it with his nascent Pad Thai. Meanwhile, pizza and Italian food more broadly are in decline. But for all that ethnic variety, the single best–selling fast–food item remains french fries. And that happens to be the strong suit of Groupe Valentine, a 95–store, family–run chain based in small–town Saint–Hyacinthe east of Montreal. Valentine mainly serves rural and suburban markets—areas where MTY has little presence and wants more. And though MTY has a competing banner in the 20–store Franx Supreme, Franx has been a performance laggard. According to MTY spokesman Jean–Francois Dubé, Franx will likely be merged with Valentine, and then under the Valentine name will venture into Ontario, where Franx has one location and Valentine has none. Ma is eager to keep growing his Ontario business where, thanks to the Country Style purchase, MTY now has 41% of its stores—more than in Quebec. He gained a foothold out west, meanwhile, with the 2008 purchase of Canadian rights to American banner Taco Time. However, he has no plan to head across the border, despite another chorus of investment bankers pushing him on. "I believe the States is a dangerous place for retailers," says Ma. "It's a different animal, has different rules, mentality." Canada still has lots of room for MTY, he argues. Instead, he wants to reach 2,000 locations before he considers an American expansion. Besides, Ma may get tasty opportunities amid the income trust shakeout. Ottawa's move to phase out trusts depressed many restaurant operators' shares, as investors assumed no other structure would be as lucrative and the roughly half–a–million cost of conversion to a corporation would cut into profits. Most food franchisors, like MTY, rely on royalty fees paid by franchisees and so lack assets they can depreciate to offset taxes. "These structures are not viable post–tax," wrote Turan Quettawala, a Scotia Capital analyst, in a 2009 report. Nevertheless, some—including Pizza Pizza, Boston Pizza and A&W—have opted to remain trusts for now. Prime Restaurant Royalty Income Fund (owner of East Side Mario's and Casey's, among others) and Imvescor Restaurant Group Inc. (Pizza Delight, Baton Rouge), meanwhile, have chosen to convert to corporations. So far, there haven't been many deals. Private equity, which prefers operating control, has shown little interest. Will MTY make a move? "There's definite potential for them to move in on one of the pizza guys," says Aghazarian, and Priszm is rumoured to be looking for a buyer. Ma says he's holding numerous talks—mainly with those pesky investment bankers looking to arrange a marriage from which they can profit. But he adds, "We're not going to do a deal just to be in the newspaper for 24 hours." Meanwhile, MTY has some challenges of its own to address. Most notably, its same–store sales have been dwindling by 1% to 2% for several quarters, though the rate of decline has slowed and the fast–food market is improving. "If they're only acquisition–driven, that's dangerous," says Aghazarian. Acumen's Pow is more concerned with Ma's poor job of exploiting public markets. In May, MTY moved from the TSX Venture Exchange to the main board, but "[stanley] doesn't really market his stock," says Pow. "There are days I ask why he hasn't gone private. Since he went public, he did only one [equity] raise." It merits noting that Acumen was one of the investment firms that nudged MTY toward income trusts a few years ago. Today, Pow credits Ma with managing to finance his business while resisting the pressures of the market's expectations. But, he says, "Stanley has to ask himself, What's the succession plan? The more control is in the marketplace, the better you'll do in a takeout." Ma shows little interest in being taken out. His three kids all work in the business, and his ambitions keep growing—at his own conservative pace. He long ago achieved his initial goal of an MTY restaurant every hour along the Monteal–Quebec route. His next target—2,000 stores—isn't far away; by this summer, the company opened more new locations than it had projected for all of 2010. Ma's current focus lies in an area he worried little about when he started: building brand equity. While 80% of MTY's stores were once in food courts, today only about 30% are, due largely to the acquisition of Country Style, Taco Time and a few other banners that all had a heavy street presence. There, promotion matters for building destination traffic, so MTY is shifting marketing dollars from menu upgrades to billboard and bus advertising. The king of food courts, accustomed to the low–investment and low–risk climate of indoor counters, realizes that to grow to 3,000 restaurants and beyond, he needs to expand outside. "We're gaining confidence that, yes, we can handle the street, that brand power is there now," says Ma. "Customers know what to expect from Thai Express, like they know what to expect from McDonald's." The reclusive immigrant is ready for some spotlight. "I want [my brands] to be like the big boys, recognition–wise," says Ma. "Hopefully, one day someone travels to Dubai and says, 'Oh, Thai Express! I know it.'" http://www.canadianbusiness.com/managing/strategy/article.jsp?content=20101011_10022_10022&page=1