Jump to content


Recommended Posts

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.


Partiellement faux (ou incomplet), il ne tiens pas compte de l'abattement spécial du Québec au Fédéral.


Pour le même 41095$


Il te reste: $32,588.14 en Ontario et $30,759.38 au Québec.


Plus proche du quart que du tiers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Moi aussi, je deviens moins patient avec l'hiver. Mais je vois les tornades et autres ouragans là où il fait plus chaud, et je me dis que pour 10 hivers plates et tranquilles, un seul ouragan qui te détruit ta maison au complet, et risque même la vie de tes enfants, c'est ben pire. On est finalement pas si mal que ça. Pensons-y.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Donc de ce que je peux lire sur cet article des ''pros'' and ''cons'' de choisir Montréal, si nous réussissons à baisser les taxes et impôts à des niveaux similaires à ceux des autres provinces alors nous ''éliminerons'' cet obstacle.


Il faut l'admettre, nous n'éliminerons jamais l'hiver, au mieux, nous pouvons faire en sorte qu'il soit plus supportable soit avec des maisons bien chauffés, un bon réseau souterrain et peut-être de plus en plus de trottoirs chauffés. Mais pour les taxes et impôts....nous pouvons faire quelque chose. Nous pouvons aussi améliorer la situation de la SAQ, le ''language barriers'' et le ''traffic and infrastructure problems''.


Par contre il ne mentionne rien sur le prix des taxes municipales et scolaires entre Toronto et Montréal, par exemple. J'aimerais bien voir la différence surtout que de plus en plus de gens deviennent propriétaire de leur habitation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Donc de ce que je peux lire sur cet article des ''pros'' and ''cons'' de choisir Montréal, si nous réussissons à baisser les taxes et impôts à des niveaux similaires à ceux des autres provinces alors nous ''éliminerons'' cet obstacle.


C'est, à mon avis, notre principal problème à Montréal. Et la meilleur façon de baisser les impôts est d'améliorer l'efficacité des gouvernements. En faisant de même, on libère des fonds pour s'attaquer aux problèmes d'infrastructures et pour baisser les taxes, et on libère des employés qualifiés pour aider à combattre la pénurie de main-d'œuvre qui plane à l'horizon.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

J'observe que la plupart des "pour" et des "contre" attribués à Montréal valent pour l'ensemble du Québec. Corollaire: la plupart des actions "correctives", s'il y a lieu, doivent être menées au niveau "provincial", non pas municipal.


Je n'entre pas dans les détails ici, car il parait que le diable y rode. Mais si vous vous y aventurez, je vous suivrai, juste pour voir...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Toxik: "Et la meilleur façon de baisser les impôts est d'améliorer l'efficacité des gouvernements."


En fait, c'est la complexité et la redondance de programmes qu'il faut éliminer/consolider. Ensuite seulement, on pourra réduire la taille de l’état. (C’est mon travail quotidien, mais à une plus petite échelle)


Par exemple, beaucoup de programmes sociaux complexes pourraient être transformés en bonifications/accroissement ciblées de l’aide sociale, ou du crédit d’impôt pour solidarité. Ça allégerait/éliminerait l’administration de ces programmes et simplifierait la vie des bénéficiaires.

Edited by YUL
added last para
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Je trouve qu'on parle beaucoup trop du bilinguisme comme étant négatif, mais pour moi c'est ce qui fait la spécificité de la ville. C'est qui nous distingue des autres en Amérique du nord : c'est un plus point de vue marketing!! Apprendre le français ou l'anglais c'est un enrichissement et il faut seulement mettre un peu d'effort et on est clairement gagnant au bout du compte!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...