Life in Montreal - Telegraph Mentor
Patricia Smith says Canadians are genuinely nice people; friendly and welcoming, fond of the British and very proud of their homeland.
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 28/11/2007
Patricia Smith is willing to answer your questions about Montreal.
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My family moved to Montreal in early 2000 when my husband was offered a job with a Biotech company here. I also worked in the Biotech sector in Montreal for two years but left to start my own relocation company, Home Thoughts.
My company is a Destination Services company that specialises in helping Brits who are moving to Montreal to find housing and schools, showing them where to shop, helping them to get drivers licenses, finding them cleaners, doctors, dentists, child-minders etc. Basically, all the things I wish someone had helped me with when I moved here!
In addition to my experience of international relocation, having worked here as well, I understand the work ethos, which is very different from that in the UK and in the US. If anyone has any questions about visiting or moving to Montreal I am more than happy to answer them.
Ask questions and read the answers on the Mentor Noticeboard.
Geography: Montreal is located on an island gently nestled within the St. Lawrence Seaway in Eastern Canada in the Province of Quebec. The city is dominated by a large hill in the centre, grandly called 'The Mountain' by the locals, and only slightly less grandly officially 'Mont Royal'.
This beautiful parkland, with the Mansions of Westmount and Outrement cut part way up it, has a chateau at the top and a lookout from which you can see right across to the States. Looking down you can see the business center of Montreal, the McGill University campus buildings and the bridges that cross the St. Lawrence. To the north of Montreal only 45 minutes away are the Laurentian mountains with their superb ski resorts, golf courses, lakes and cottages for summer and winter. To the East an hour away, are the Eastern Townships, again with superb skiing, golf, lakes and holiday cottages.
The US is 40 minutes away to the south with Boston and New York six hours drive away and one hour by air. There are several daily flights to London only 7 hours away, and to the rest of Europe.
Cuisine: The French influence means that the food is great; the croissants and pastries are second only to France. It appears that everyone who has ever emigrated here also loves food because there are restaurants of every nationality serving good food to suit every budget. Eating out here is so cheap compared to the UK, the portions are large, the service is great and children are welcome everywhere.
There is a lot more smoking here than in the UK so ask for a non-smoking table if that is your preference. Wine and spirits are very expensive as they are sold by a Quebec government agency, the SAQ.
The wine sold in the supermarkets is more like Ribena. Beer is more reasonably priced and can be bought in supermarkets or corner shops called depanneurs.
People: Canadians are genuinely nice people; friendly and welcoming, fond of the British and very proud of their homeland. It has been said that Canada is a bit boring, but this is really not the case in Quebec. The European influence, particularly that of the French, really livens things up.
After Paris, Montreal is the second largest French-speaking city in the world. 69% of its three million people speak French as their mother tongue, 12% speak English and 19% don't speak either. The reality of the situation, however, is that in this tolerant, vibrant, and youthful city most of its inhabitants are functionally bilingual, often trilingual, and so coming here only speaking English is not a problem. Even if you speak perfect French you will be spotted as a visitor as the Quebecois accent is very different. I have lived here for four years and people still start speaking in English to me the minute I say 'Bonjour'.
Montrealers love Brits and the shop assistants always want to chat, telling you who in their family is British, and how much they love your accent. There are also large numbers of immigrants from non-English or French cultures and there is no obvious racial tension. I suspect this is because they are not perceived scroungers or benefit seekers but just as new additions to a long line of immigrants, who are here to work hard, learn French and get on with life.
Weather: Montreal has four distinct seasons. Winter is long lasting from November until the end of March. It has usually snowed by the middle of December and carries on intermittently until March. January and February are the coldest months with temperatures averaging -10ºC but on the odd day it does fall to -40ºC with the wind chill factor. -10ºC sounds cold but it isn't really provided you have the right clothes. It is a dry cold and so it doesn't penetrate through to your bones as it does in the UK. The children love the snow, which is dry and brushes off easily, and you can always appreciate the beautifully clear blue skies.
Spring is very short lasting from April to the end of May, but everything grows extremely quickly and it is delightful to see the grass and flowers pushing through past the residual snow. Summer runs luxuriously through June to September and is hot and often humid. The temperature can reach the mid 30's in July and August and it is truly fantastic. Fall (Autumn) runs from October until mid-November and is beautiful with red, brown and gold colours abounding. It is a great time to travel to Vermont and the Laurentians or anywhere woody and rural.
Standard of Living: Everything in Montreal is roughly half the price of that in the UK, from food and clothes to restaurants and housing, and people are not embarrassed to question prices or complain about bad service. Salaries are lower than in the UK but despite this you will still have a much better standard of living in Montreal.
Healthcare: The medical system, Medicare, is very similar to the NHS with the same sorts of advantages and disadvantages. Treatment is free on demand and the doctors and nurses are generally very good but the waiting lists are often long. GP's are in short supply and you have to wait for hours in the Emergency Room (casualty).
Once you arrive on a work permit or land as an immigrant you need to obtain a Medicare card to get treatment. The private health system in Quebec is very limited. You cannot pay to see a consultant or have tests performed in a public hospital more quickly but you can go to a private clinic for certain tests, particularly if you are an adult. Many health insurance schemes will pay for this.
The cost of prescription medicines is borne by the patient or by the private insurance that you will have through your employer.
Dental care is high quality but very expensive and not covered at all by Medicare for adults and even for children the provision is limited. Employee insurance schemes cover dental treatment but cover varies from scheme to scheme.
As in the UK, adults in Quebec pay for eye check ups and children and those on welfare benefits do not. Medicare does not cover the cost of glasses or contact lenses, however, most insurance schemes cover the costs in part or completely. Glasses and contact lenses are considerably cheaper in Quebec than in the UK.
Driving: If you hold a valid British Driving License you can obtain a Quebec license without taking a test. You can drive for a few months on your international license but it is best to get a Quebec license as soon as possible. You can obtain this from the SAAQ (Société de l'Assurance Automobile du Quebec).
You are legally required to carry your license with you when driving as well as the insurance and registration documents for the car. The rules regarding drink-driving, the wearing of seat belts, and use of child car seats are similar to those in the UK, i.e do not drink and drive, wear seats belts at all times and make sure your child has the correct car seat for their size and age.
It is relatively easy to adjust to driving on the right hand side of the road in Quebec, because the speed limits are lower than in the UK and they are, by and large, obeyed.
The general consensus among expats is that drivers in Quebec are not very good. It is not that they are deliberately obstructive or aggressive; they just seem unaware of other cars, not letting you into a lane or out of a side street, pulling out suddenly and rarely indicating. There is 'no fault' insurance in Quebec. That is, if you have an accident your insurance company pays for your damage and the other parties company pays for their damage regardless of who was responsible. Any injury to your person is insured by the SAAQ.
Banking: If you are just visiting banking is fine, you can use your UK cashpoint cards in the ATM's which are everywhere, not just in the banks but in cinemas, depanneurs and supermarkets. Of course, UK credit cards are accepted everywhere. The banks are open 10am until 4pm on weekdays only and have very long queues so use the ATM whenever possible.
If you are planning to move here for a few years banking is more difficult. Your credit reference in the UK is no good here at all and you basically start from scratch proving your financial worthiness to be given a credit card and overdraft facility. Getting as many store cards as possible is one way to improve your credit rating.
The New York Times
June 28, 2008
By BEN SISARIO
MONTREAL — On Wednesday night, in the last of his three concerts presented as preludes to the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Leonard Cohen, the 73-year-old hometown poet-hero on tour for the first time in 15 years, said that on his last time through town he was “60 years old, just a kid with a crazy dream.” Between waves of applause and hollers in French and English, he added, “I am so grateful to be here and to be from here.”
Mr. Cohen’s math notwithstanding, hometown pride and musical reverence are at the center of the festival, which opened its 29th season on Thursday and runs through July 6. Billing itself as the largest jazz festival in the world, it attracts one million visitors a year to more than 500 concerts in a three-block music zone downtown and brings about $100 million in revenue to the city, according to Canadian government estimates.
With CD sales in a chronic slump, the music industry has been turning increasingly to live events for income, and in recent years big smorgasbord festivals have sprouted up all over North America, aiming to present all kinds of music for all kinds of people. But with a setting ideal for tourists as well as for local residents, and a solid history of eclectic programming — among the attractions this year are Woody Allen, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Public Enemy and the local debut of Steely Dan — Montreal has held on to a rare prestige.
“There is no parallel in North America and perhaps no parallel around the world,” said Scott Southard, a jazz and world-music booking agent who has 15 artists at the festival. “In Europe or Bonnaroo, for instance, they have to erect an entire village in a remote location. Here you have an urban environment without having to reconstruct the venue infrastructure every year.”
Begun in 1980 by two concert promoters, Alain Simard and André Ménard, as a way to fill up what was then a dry summer concert calendar, the festival takes over four concert halls of the Place des Arts performing arts complex as well as numerous theaters and clubs around the perimeter. Several blocks of downtown streets are closed for outdoor stages, retail and food booths and children’s activities. Despite the size, Mr. Simard, the president of the festival’s parent company, L’Équipe Spectra, said that “the goal is not to be the biggest jazz festival in the world, it’s to be the best.”
But as the festival approaches its 30th season, it is preparing to grow even bigger, with help from a four-year, $120 million government plan to develop the area around Place des Arts. The first phase, to be completed by next summer, includes a 75,000-square-foot park and performance ground, the Place du Quartier des Spectacles. The festival has also been given a 30-year lease and a $10 million grant from the Province of Quebec to renovate a nearby vacant building; when completed it will add one club for use year-round.
As a tourist draw second only to Grand Prix du Canada, the Formula One race held in Montreal in early June, the jazz festival has become an important symbol of Montreal’s cosmopolitan lifestyle, said Charles Lapointe, the chief executive of Tourism Montreal, a nonprofit agency financed through a hotel tax.
“The jazz festival exemplifies perfectly what we are presenting on the foreign market,” Mr. Lapointe said. “You can celebrate on the streets without any problems with security and express all the pleasure you want.”
Civic pride and creative abundance was clear on Thursday, the official opening. (Mr. Cohen’s touring schedule prevented him from being part of the festival proper; he appears at the enormous Glastonbury pop festival in Britain on Sunday.)
During the afternoon crowds gradually filled up the Place des Arts campus, slurping on ice cream cones beside the fountain and listening to the sound check for a tribute to Mr. Cohen featuring Chris Botti, Madeleine Peyroux, Buffy Sainte-Marie and others. Darting between indoor evening concerts by the veteran jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater, the young British songwriter Katie Melua and the African performers Vieux Farka Touré and Salif Keita, a visitor could quickly take in half a dozen outdoor concerts, parades and magicians. Two-thirds of the concerts are free.
The Cohen tribute drew an estimated audience of 100,000, filling the plaza and nearby streets. But the concerts by Mr. Cohen himself were the clear early highlight. Dressed like a spy in a crisp black suit and fedora, Mr. Cohen, who has said that after years in a Zen Buddhist retreat in California, his lifelong depression has finally begun to lift, sang a sleek and emotional set of nearly three hours. In “Bird on the Wire,” “Hallelujah” and “Tower of Song” he sang of being weighted down by cynicism and starving for affection, but between songs he doffed his hat and smiled broadly for sustained ovations.
The festival, a nonprofit enterprise run by the for-profit company L’Équipe Spectra, has an operating budget of $25 million. And though about 18 percent of that comes from national, provincial and city sources, the biggest form of government support is the closing of several blocks of busy city streets. The bulk of the budget comes from corporate sponsorships (40 percent) and sales of tickets and memorabilia (39 percent).
The prominence of sponsorships gives the festival a sense of hyperbranding. Looking over Place des Arts, it is almost impossible not to see a giant symbol of General Motors, the lead sponsor: besides GM logos on banners and fliers throughout the grounds, the company also has five displays of new cars for contests, and at least one of the many marching bands wended its way around, wearing black GM T-shirts.
Festival organizers say that they have made efforts to ensure that the sponsorship is tasteful and not intrusive. Signs are only seen outdoors, where concerts are free, they say. There is no advertising for the paid concerts indoors, and the organizers say they will not rename the event to suit any sponsor. To create an egalitarian atmosphere, the festival also shuns velvet ropes.
“You will never see a V.I.P. area on the site,” Mr. Ménard said. “There’s never a place where people walk and are told, ‘No, that’s not for you.’ The unemployed can stand next to the president of the sponsor company.”
For the Cohen tribute on Thursday night, however, there was a small area of bleachers near the stage reserved for the news media and others. But a reporter who lacked the necessary badges was still able to enter with a few kind words. And unlike many large festivals, this one had a network of fenced-off pathways that made quick travel through even a crowd of 100,000 tightly packed fans on Thursday evening easy for anyone needing or wanting to get through.
“The vibe is very peaceful,” Mr. Ménard said of the festival. “The fabric of this city is all about the quality of life. The fact is, we have long, deadly winters, so come summertime, everybody is in for a party — but a civilized party.”
Michael Phelps, the billion dollar man?
"In the heat and intensity of this event it may seem that his earning power is limitless, but you have to pull back and look at someone like Tiger Woods who has performed at a top level for years and years in front of the world," he said.
"The Olympics is only held once every four years. After a year to so Americans forget about the Olympics and move to stars they see more. Kids want someone else on their Weetabix box."
THE PHELPS PHENOMENON
Phelps is already the epitome of the modern American corporate Olympian with the Phelps Machine in full swing before he topped the record nine gold tally held by Spitz and Carl Lewis, Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi and Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina.
Portnoy said Phelps's youth and composure under pressure made him a marketer's dream. The only blotch on his record was an arrest for drinking and driving in 2004 for which he apologized.
"In the short term, he is a gold mine because he represents everything that is pure, young, strong and visionary about America. We haven't had anyone of this significance since Mark Spitz," said Portnoy.
"Guaranteed there will be marketers wanting a piece of him that make no sense and it will interesting to see how his handlers cope with this and if they get greedy because the Olympics has a narrow avenue of marketability."
Phelps, who became a professional swimmer at 16 and a millionaire by 18, has sponsors, agents, lawyers, accountants, charities, his own website in English and Chinese, and even his own logo with a wave-like blue M and red P over his name.
An Octagon spokesman said his sponsors were credit card company Visa Inc., Speedo, watch maker Omega, AT&T Wireless, energy food company PowerBar. Kellogg's, Rosetta Stone, and PureSport. He declined to say what they paid Phelps.
Within seconds of Phelps's snapping up his 10th gold medal, Visa released a special edition television commercial commemorating his title as the most decorated Olympian.
"You need to be out there early and establish your affiliation with the property, Michael Phelps," said Michael Lynch, head of global sponsorship management at Visa whose relationship with Phelps dates back to 2002.
"His performance here will benefit us as it will add to the visibility we will get through this affiliation ... and his earning ability will increase, there's no question of that."
As the Economy Worsens, Is There Money for Play?
The economy was a factor in a recent merger involving Dale Earnhardt’s team, left. General Motors often runs Super Bowl commercials, center, and sponsors events like the baseball All-Star Game.
By KATIE THOMAS
Published: November 15, 2008
From the “Buick” emblazoned on Tiger Woods’s golf bag to the Chevrolet Camaro that Cole Hamels drove home last month for being named the most valuable player of the World Series, it is hard to be a sports fan without stumbling across some type of advertisement for General Motors. The company consistently ranks first among advertisers of televised sporting events, outspending other automakers by more than two to one.
Billy Casper, left, received a car for winning the inaugural Buick Open in 1958. The tournament has been a PGA Tour staple.
But as G.M. faces a financial crisis that has executives pleading with Congress for a federal bailout, many are wondering how far the company’s troubles will extend into the sports industry, which is already struggling to attract advertisers and sponsors in a weakened economy.
“It’s one of those trickle-down effects that people don’t look at,” said David E. Cole, the chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit research organization. “It has already hit hard.”
G.M. has been scaling back its sports presence for at least a year. Cadillac, a G.M. brand, withdrew its sponsorship of the Masters golf tournament in January, and this summer, G.M. ended its relationships with two Nascar racetracks: Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The company is not renewing its longstanding partnership with the United States Olympic Committee when their contract expires at the end of this year. In one of the most dramatic examples of the company’s diminishing sports profile, G.M. said recently that it would not buy television commercials in this season’s Super Bowl broadcast.
As G.M. argues its case before Congress, some firms whose contracts with the company are up for renewal are anxiously monitoring developments.
“We’re actually in negotiations as we speak,” said Mitch Huberman, the senior vice president of Fox Sports Enterprises, which owns Pac-10 Properties and handles marketing for the Pacific-10 conference. Its contract with Pontiac, also produced by G.M., ends this year. “There are a lot of question marks in terms of where budgets are going,” Huberman said. “It’s kind of wait and see.”
G.M., hit hard by plummeting consumer spending and tight credit markets, has reported that it is running out of cash and faces bankruptcy if it does not receive emergency federal assistance. In its third-quarter report, released earlier this month, the company said it planned to trim advertising by 20 percent and promotional spending by 25 percent.
“We’re looking at literally everything,” said Peter Ternes, G.M.’s director of communications for sales, service and marketing. He said the cuts would be applied evenly but did not provide details about proposed changes to the company’s sports budget. Still, he said G.M. would not withdraw from sports entirely.
“I think we’ll still be there,” he said. “It may not be at the volume that people have seen before, but we’ll still be a presence.”
G.M.’s troubles come at a time when sports organizations are struggling to attract sponsors in a weak economy. The Nascar teams Chip Ganassi Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc., citing a difficult economic climate, announced a merger last week. On Friday, the Tour de Georgia, one of the nation’s premier cycling events, said it was canceling its 2009 race because it could not find a sponsor. Also on Friday, Nascar said it was suspending all testing at its tracks next season as a cost-cutting measure.
Like beer and razors, automobiles have long been a staple of commercials during major sporting events, and for good reason, marketing experts said. At a time when digital video recorders and an array of cable channels have splintered television audiences, sporting events attract a large and passionate audience who often watch events as they happen.
G.M. has historically taken advantage of this audience by investing heavily in television advertising. The company has been the top TV sports advertiser for at least the last five years, vastly outspending its nearest competitors. For example, in 2007, G.M. spent close to $578 million on TV sports advertising. The No. 2 advertiser, Toyota, spent less than half that, or nearly $287 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Earlier this year, General Motors aired 11 advertisements during the Super Bowl, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a research firm. The decision not to buy a Super Bowl ad in 2009 may have more to do with public perception than with the company’s cash-strapped predicament. This year’s spots are each selling for $3 million, a fraction of G.M.’s total sports spending. However, if the company were to receive a federal bailout, airing a Super Bowl commercial could anger taxpayers who see the purchase as extravagant, said Kenneth L. Shropshire, the director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. “Then people are saying, was that the right use of money for a one-day sporting event?” he said.
Although executives for several television outlets would not speak publicly, several said their sales representatives had detected a shift in G.M.’s ad purchases — what some called a “flight to quality” — toward programs that have proved successful in the past. And although G.M. recently scaled back its presence on networks in prime time, one network television executive said sports remained a “stable destination.”
There are signs that G.M. is continuing to invest in some sports. About a year ago, Chevrolet extended its sponsorship of Major League Baseball through the 2010 season. Ternes, the G.M. spokesman, pointed to plans by the company to invest heavily in next year’s N.C.A.A. men’s Final Four in Detroit, the nation’s automobile capital.
On the surface, organizations with existing agreements with G.M. may consider a bailout a preferable outcome, because under a bankruptcy, the company could ask a court to void contracts. But because a federal bailout would also very likely lead to significant restructuring, some said G.M. could be compelled to try to renegotiate active contracts anyway.
“With the bailout probably comes strings attached, and what those strings are, who knows?” said Greg Brown, the president of Learfield Sports, which handles marketing for 50 university athletic programs. Rather than seek to cancel existing contracts, several sports executives said G.M. and other companies were more likely to scale back promotions and focus on initiatives that led directly to a sale.
“If you’re on the verge of bankruptcy, then you want to find out how to get the money now, rather than how do I get the 15-year-old to start thinking about the car they want to buy in the future?” Shropshire said.
Sponsors may focus on promotions that draw fans to dealerships, like T-shirt giveaways or ticket sweepstakes, said Jim Andrews, the editorial director of IEG Sponsorship Report, a trade publication. Sponsorships, he added, can also create a “warm, fuzzy” perception that a company is supporting a customer’s favorite team.
“That’s why you’re not seeing any of the automakers, even though they are in dire straits, saying we’ve got to pull out wholesale,” Andrews said. “Because I think they know there is a return on investment.”
In some cases, foreign automakers have stepped in when American companies have pulled out. Chevrolet, for example, decided not to renew its sponsorship of the United States Ski Team last year, but Audi took its place. Honda recently replaced Dodge as the official automobile of the N.H.L. Although the troubles in Detroit played a role in that outcome, Honda fit better within the N.H.L.’s goal of becoming a more international brand, according to Keith Wachtel, the league’s senior vice president for corporate sales and marketing.
But for now, marketers at a variety of sports organizations say they are in for some tough times.
“In this environment, autos are going to be off across the board,” said Tim Finchem, the commissioner of the PGA Tour. Two of its tournaments are sponsored by Buick through 2010, and others are sponsored by Chrysler, BMW, Honda and Mercedes. “They’re doing, in varying degrees, terrible,” he said. “The U.S. automakers are really struggling. Now, who knows?”
Finchem, however, said he was confident the companies would remain in business, which meant “they’re still going to be selling cars and, again, we have a good platform from which they can promote.”
STM plans to build solar-powered bus shelters
Panels could be used to power lighting * and illuminate revenue-producing ads
By Monique Beaudin, The GazetteFebruary 2, 2009
Montreal’s public-transit agency is planning to spend $14.4 million to buy 400 new bus shelters – some of which would use solar panels to provide electricity.
The new shelters need an energy source to allow the Société de transport de Montréal to use new tools to provide customer service and advertising.
In some cases the shelters would be powered by solar energy, in others the shelters would be linked into a local source of electricity.
Several other cities – including London, Vancouver and Toronto – already have bus shelters that use solar panels to charge batteries that power their lighting systems. Blainville, north of Mont-real, put up four such shelters in October and plans to replace all its bus shelters with solar-powered ones by 2010, said spokesperson Yves Meunier.
Blainville’s plan was to make their bus shelters self-financing, by using revenue generated from selling advertising in the shelters. For that they needed an energy source to illuminate the ads.
“People selling advertising want the ads to be visible for a certain number of hours every day, especially during the winter,” Meunier said.
Blainville’s bus shelters – which cost about $30,000 each – were designed and built by a local firm, Meunier said. The city will recycle the old shelters by selling them to other municipalities, he added.
The STM also expects that by selling ad space in its new shelters they’ll pay for themselves over a 10-year period.
While the STM has already tested several different kinds of solar-powered bus shelters, spokesperson Isabelle Tremblay said the agency hasn’t chosen a specific bus shelter model to buy yet.
The transit agency is still waiting for the results of a bus-shelter design contest announced by Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay last September.
Tremblay called on the city’s designers to come up with new ideas for five things – the Champs de Mars métro station, the eastern wall of the courthouse, bus shelters, taxis and temporary festival furniture.
Design Montreal has not yet launched the contest, spokesperson Stéphanie Jecrois said yesterday.
The agency is still meeting with its partners to determine how the contest will work, but she said the contest details should be announced with a few weeks. The contest will be held in 2009, she said.
Meanwhile, at the STM, Tremblay said the agency will only go to tender for new bus shelters after the Design Montreal contest wraps up.
The STM now has 2,977 bus shelters, serving about one-third of its bus stops. It would like to install 100 new bus shelters over the next two years, and 100 more each year from 2011 to 2013.
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