Category Archives: Montreal

Man on a white horse

Yes, still here motherfuckers. Just because there’s no updates for a time doesn’t mean that anyone’s been sleeping on shit so recognize.

Ah leaders. We are supposed to love leaders in Quebec, because although we have a civic life and associational tendency that is virtually unparalleled on this continent, we are still governed and shaped by a merry little band of rich people who like one-stop shopping when wielding influence and seeking public congratulations for their accomplishments. Lucky for us that they’re a rickety and second-rate ruling class, and always have been; the failed scions of Scotland gave way to the self-congratulatory “self-made” types from the sticks and the successive generations of preening overambitious sons of Outremont that Stanislas and Brébeuf cough up like clockwork.

Today, La Presse is unhappy with the mayor but it can’t figure out why. So it builds a shockingly incoherent article, critical of his lack of take-charge leadership, around last year’s sneering public smackdown offered by Tremblay’s former friend Charles Lapointe the professional tout, who is bitter that his economic sideshow is not universally regarded as the three-ring circus of servility he believes that it should be. Tout aux touristes.

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Boom

Over at Midnight Poutine we are treated to an instructive lesson in the difference between print journalism and online “coverage”. In fact, in a Baudrillard Memorial Moment, we come to embody the lesson our very selves. Chris DeWolf of urbanphoto gets a link to his piece in Saturday’s Gazette about the STM’s proposed smartcard system, Assertions is drawn into the fray due to an MP editor’s brief moment of confusion about whose blog is whose. And feels obligated to take a now-ritual morning swipe at the Gazette. Then steel glints, nostrils flare, and two transit herbs mix it up. Until the storm passes and love reigns once more.

(Not without this side pulling that move where you accidentally click “post” and the page doesn’t load, so you think you’re safe, but then you spend too much time continuing to polish your little words and by the time you post your interlocutor has already responded. Which makes you feel super swift and totally classy. Like Rochelle Lash.)

You see, print media pay people to research and write stories, and pay other people to edit them and remove their intemperate or inaccurate statements, because they exist in a context of responsibility and accountability. It is from this that the print media derive the sodden, flimsy vestiges of their fast-disintegrating authority. Whereas most online “media” don’t pay anyone to do fuck all, much less retain the authority they never had in the first place.

In Montreal, one of North America’s great transit and port cities, the English daily doesn’t pay anyone to regularly cover transportation. (Does it? See, that’s one of those intemperate and potentially-inaccurate statements that nobody’s getting paid to check!) Instead, it relies on freelancers to provide what coverage it can occasionally be stirred to provide. Because freelancers don’t require benefits, or require the paper to maintain a newsroom where human beings might want to work for more than a year or two, or require publishers and editors that know the business and that are more concerned with treating their people right than with pleasing some fuck in a Bentley. Even competent and engaged freelancers, like DeWolf is on this very topic, are no substitute for an actual commitment of resources and people to the day in, day out grind of beat reporting.

Now we here at Assertions are as dedicated to freelancers getting money as we are to the third person. That, in fact, is our next tattoo: a back piece with FREELANCERS GET MONEY in blackletter script. And what better freelancers to hire than aficionados with love for that which they cover? But when those sorts of serious discussions of the infrastructure that makes your life work are increasingly rare, don’t wonder why: it’s because it’s as hard to cover the STM on the cheap out of CanWest’s Winnipeg headquarters as it is easy to score cheap points hiring your right-wing pals to snipe at Quebec from a closer and more comfortable perch.

Monday’s Media Morsels (via Midnight Poutine)

This old house

UQAM has made indications that it is indeed contemplating what most observers anticipated: a reassessment of its space needs and a retreat from its recent real estate purchases. Le Devoir reports that several components of the Voyageur complex are under examination, including the portion of the residence halls that were to be UQAM’s component of the larger Cite universitaire project. Work on the La Patrie building has stalled halfway through and the Saint-Sulpice library building, gorgeous and little-visted when it was the BNQ’s main Montreal facility, has now been left entirely empty as UQAM acquired it for no particular purpose and has no money with which to renovate it.

Right around the corner, the city is having vaguely similar problems with the old central library building facing Parc Lafontaine — the collection and the entire idea of a central library got folded into the Grande bibliotheque project, without a clear vision for the future of the original structure. La Presse tells us that renovation of the library to house a clutch of municipal arts and culture agencies has proceeded slowly. Apparently the city went to the trouble to estimate the overall cost of the work, before defining exactly what work needed to be done. Maybe the best thing to do with news like this is to take it as a koan: meditate on the seeming paradox until you reach a higher understanding, then be sure to share it in the comments.

Incidentally, the childrens’ library (currently in the lower levels of the old central library building) is moving to de la Visitation, where it will be folded into a project to enlarge the Association sportive et communautaire de Centre-Sud. While it’s all well and good that the children of Centre-Sud get a new place to sit in beanbag chairs and look at pictures of dinosaurs, an administration supposedly panicking about the flow of families off-island would do well to consider locating kid-oriented facilities somewhere like Rosemont, instead of in a neighborhood where the new development is characterized by high-end one-bedroom condos. And you never see toddlers at Parking these days.

With big-money downtown cultural announcements being made, and Benoit Labonte’s name liberally applied to most of them, it’s almost as if he’s getting ready to run for something.

Finally the cavalcade of dance facility capital funding continues. Compagnie Marie Chouinard is moving into the Aegidius-Fauteux building, which was built as the Jewish Public Library in 1949 and that most recently housed the periodicals department of the Bibliotheque nationale.

Megapetulance

Suburbs like to act like they’re creations of god, the same lil’ ol’ community that’s been there since farming days, only now with tens of thousands of residents. So folksy, so homey, and offering convenient access to so very much that you don’t have to pay taxes to support.

One would think that the outcome of the megacity flap, the victory of the West Island’s arbitrary crazy quilt of lilliputian municipal anglostans over modern solutions for better regional management, was enough to restore the often-tempestuous love affair between the Quebec Liberal Party and a key component of its base. In those heady days, West Island suburbanites suddenly discovered that their anomic shitscape inhabited by a few hundred thousand bored and anxious mallrats was a community, and one that those sovereigntist bastards were going to take from us.

Now Bourque Newswatch (no, you don’t get a link, because he’s a dick) — Canada’s favorite allegedly pay-to-play “news” aggregator — alerts us to a new twist in their knickers. The Globe and Mail reports that West Island mayors, frustrated with Charest’s disinterest in fully undoing one of his predecessor’s most sensible decisions, are going to add their voice to Mario Dumont’s coalition of right-wingers, soft nationalists who still think it’s 1993, and lumpen idiots from Quebec City. Continue reading

Power

In the early 1980’s, aluminum giant Alcan (that’s apparently their official name, by the way: “aluminum giant Alcan”) located their headquarters in a renovated heritage hotel on Sherbrooke, inserting newly built low-rise wings behind the hotel to wrap around the Greek Revival Salvation Army church to the south. The sensitivity and thoughtfulness of the project was hailed as a kind of charitable intervention on the part of Alcan, a nice gesture to the city — they could have fatally cut themselves off from reality in a suburban office park, or recklessly built some huge speculative skyscraper with their name on top (only to lose money on the deal when paying tenants didn’t take the bait), but instead chose to do something sensible that met their needs. Nobody disputes the quality of the architecture involved, but let’s credit their good sense in pursuing their own interests before we credit their generosity in incidentally respecting ours.

Now comes news that Alcan is expanding their mini-campus, by building a 15-story tower on top of (behind? beside? nobody knows) the same church, purchased from the Salvation Army. A $58 million project altogether, relatively small potatoes, and yet the announcment was attended by the mayor, the premier, the economic development minister, and a crowd of media (the recent announcement of a new $135 million skyscraper on de Maisonneuve entailed neither a pile-on of politicians nor banner headlines). All this when they admit they weren’t even considering moving their headquarters out of town. Maybe it’s the half-billion dollars of subsidies and “loans” (don’t worry, they’ll just get written off — after all, it’s not like there’s banks or a stock market that could provide capital to firms like this) that Quebec has thrown at Alcan in the past few months.

In BC, Alcan is threatening to cancel a smelter project unless the (publicly owned) BC Hydro buys surplus hydro from them at $71 a megawatt-hour. This is power that Alcan generates using (publicly owned) water for $5 per megawatt-hour. In South Africa, Alcan is gearing up to incur 4.7 million tons of carbon emissions per year at its new smelter, using electricity from coal-fired plants. This is after it negotiated hard for a good deal from South Africa’s (publicly owned but partially privatized) national electric utility, Eskom, which specifically entails eliminating Eskom’s ability to redirect the resulting profits to reduce power bills for the impoverished black citizens — an undesirable “cross-subsidy” — to whom it denied service under apartheid.

Alcan giveth, sure. But boy does it taketh the fuck away.

Place des Arts roundup

Since its original conception in the late 50’s, Place des Arts has served as the focal point of a whole range of redevelopment schemes — some demolition-heavy attempts to remake entire blocks at a time, others attempts to retrofit more ambitious programs to a more incremental building process and to improve their interface with the street. Now, along with the new OSM hall slouching towards whatever secret public-private Bethlehem they’re cooking up in Quebec City, plans for the Balmoral block due in February, and a new office tower due on Sainte-Catherine, there’s a flock of projects and prospects large and small that promise to consolidate the eastern flank of downtown.

Big map (slicker this time, don’t you know?) and then the rundown.

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Working the corner

The lot at the corner of St-Laurent and Mont-Royal has never lived up to its apparent potential, much like the past several restaurants in the space immediately to the south (Savannah made some waves with the kind of nouveau-Southern food that would work well in an American city but lacked cultural cachet up north, while 55° has caught love for its wine pricing but doesn’t appear to be any better than Savannah was at filling enough tables to meet what must be a pretty high rent). It looks like it would make an ideal spot for a packed terrasse, but has been curiously empty (permit issues? sheer disinterest?) save for some indifferent landscaping.

As these things will happen, a sign appeared suddenly annoucing that all of that was going to change. Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust, which already owns two heavily-renovated commercial buildings nearby, the Balfour at Prince-Arthur and the catichily-monikered 4436-4450 St-Laurent (home to the aforementioned restaurant space), is looking to develop six stories of commercial and retail there, to be managed by Groupe Immobilier de Montréal (which manages 4416, 4428, and 4436 St-Laurent).

The rendering below doesn’t promise a creative solution to the constraints of the site, and the kind of reliable high-end tenants that big-money building managers and REITs love are exactly the kind of snoozers that are killing that stretch of the Main: giant empty stores full of giant leather couches for some asshole’s giant empty loft. At the very least we already have a sufficient density of Subway and Pharmaprix locations around the intersection that we will likely be spared additional sources of nail polish or oddly-textured cold cuts.

No love, motherfuckers. If you want to make money on the Main you had better step your game up.