Tag Archives: Montreal

The ticket prices are too damn high!

IIHF president Rene Fasel said Hockey Canada set ticket prices too high for preliminary world junior games, contributing to disappointing attendance figures

The IIHF said Hockey Canada was responsible for the ticket prices that may have led to empty seats at Montreal’s Bell Centre for preliminary games at the world junior hockey championship.

Face-value tickets for games in Montreal started at $71 and ranged to $336 for the New Year’s Eve game between Canada and the United States, which drew 18,295 fans. Just 14,142 fans were in attendance for Canada’s opening game against Slovakia on Boxing Day.

The capacity of Bell Centre is 21,273.

Tickets for Canada’s first three round-robin games (against Slovakia, Germany and Finland) ranged from $66 to $261.

“I was really surprised,” IIHF president René Fasel said at a news conference Sunday. “If you would do this pricing in Europe, you would have nobody in the arena.”

The average NHL ticket price is in the $65 range. Face-value single-game tickets for the Canadiens’ next home game Jan. 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning range from $27 in the family zone to $275 in the platinum level.

The Canadiens play just above capacity and are second in the league in attendance with an average of 21,286 fans a game.

Fasel wondered if marketing and the economy in Montreal played a role in the world junior attendance problems. He conceded not personally knowing what the ticket value should be, but added, “Hockey Canada decides the prices of the tickets, not us.”

$261 to wach Slovakia and Finland play seems a little high for a round robin game.  In fact that was the best part of the tournament in Saskatoon was that you could afford (and get tickets) to a Slovakia and Switzerland game and not have to pay an arm and a leg (and be in a packed SaskTel Centre full of fans cheering for both teams).

 

How Heenan Blaikie’s stunning collapse started with a rogue African arms deal

It’s amazing how quickly Heenan Blaikie fell apart

The stunning collapse of Heenan Blaikie LLP, once one of Canada’s largest and most prestigious law firms, stemmed from a “loss of trust” in management over international business activities including dubious forays into Africa, where former partner Jacques Bouchard and former prime minister Jean Chrétien lobbied governments on behalf of clients, former Heenan partners and associates say.

Founded in Montreal in 1973, Heenan grew from 18 lawyers to more than 500, in offices across Canada and in Paris, where it established a beachhead in 2009. It was considered a rock-solid full-service firm — and a favourite of the Canadian establishment — until a crisis of confidence caused its foundations to crack. Lawyers began leaving, first in a trickle, then in droves, and the whole enterprise came crashing down this month.

Increasing financial pressures and friction between partners in Montreal and Toronto were key factors behind Heenan’s failure, the biggest ever for a law firm in Canada. “Montreal didn’t understand Toronto; Toronto felt the Montreal office was way overpaid and overpraised,” said one former partner.

But many also agree that Heenan’s excursions into Africa caused so much tension and tumult that partners began shaking their heads and taking their leave. “People like me said to themselves, ‘I want to work at a firm that values the practice of law in Canada, not international dictators,’” another former Heenan partner told the National Post. “It’s not what I signed up for.” He quit the firm last year.

There came “a point where confidence and faith started to disappear,” said Jean-Francois Mercadier, managing partner of the firm’s former group in Paris, Heenan Blaikie AARPI. “Partners started to lose any kind of faith in the management of the firm. There was a loss of trust in the partnership, and I think the origin is in the Jacques Bouchard story.”

Related: The End of Big Law: What Happens When the Money Dries Up

via @dlcrawford

Invest in transit now or suffer severe consequences

Same thing could be said about any city that has inferior transit (ahem Saskatoon)

Last week, the Premier of Ontario’s Transit Panel — comprising 13 citizens from across the region and the political spectrum — unanimously recommended a strategy to fund transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The report’s title, Making the Move: Choices and Consequences, highlights the urgency of investing in transit expansion today, failing which there will be severe consequences tomorrow.

Road congestion and transit crowding in the GTHA have already reached a tipping point. With 2.5 million people and one million more cars expected to come into the GTHA in the next 18 years, the existing severe state of congestion will become intolerable.

We have come up with a revenue plan that works. Our recommendations call for a fair and balanced contribution from all stakeholders, without asking too much of any one group. Because new transit infrastructure benefits all of society, costs should be shared — by business, drivers, and transit users. Since riders contribute through fares that rise regularly with inflation, the panel chose not to ask more of them. We have asked the government to redeploy the HST revenue it earns on gas and fuel taxes.

As for the tools, our report outlines two variations on a new funding model. The first combines a phased increase of gasoline and fuel taxes starting with 3 cents per litre in year one, a modest increase of 0.5 per cent to the general corporate income tax, and a redeployment of the GTHA portion of the HST charged on gasoline and fuel taxes. The second option is almost the same, but proposes less from gas and fuel, and more from HST.

Taken together, the combined increases would raise between $1.7 billion and $1.8 billion annually for transit in the GTHA. This revenue stream would then lever the additional borrowing to build three-quarters of the Next Wave sooner than expected. People would see the benefits from this investment, thereby generating support for The Big Move in its entirety. This revenue strategy also provides enough money to pay for local transportation improvements and to retire the debt over time.

We researched the possible options rigorously. We favour the gas and fuel taxes because they match usage, affect travel behaviour, are simple to administer, raise a lot of money, and haven’t been raised in more than 20 years. Even with the increase, the GTHA would be below Montreal or consistent with Vancouver.

The impact on households is very tolerable — about $80 per household in year one, just $260 per household after eight years. Compare that to the cost of the gasoline wasted due to stop-and-start commuting for 32 minutes on a daily round trip if we don’t remedy the situation. This amounts to $16 every week or $700 per year. The choice is obvious.
The most common and forceful message that emerged from all of our public meetings and consultations is that the public has very little trust in how transit decisions are made, how money is managed, and how projects are delivered. When it comes to funding transit, the public told us: “Dedicate it or forget it.”

We address these concerns head-on. Our recommendations, when enacted, will ensure that new revenue will be held in a segregated Fund to be spent solely on transit expansion in the GTHA. And they will guarantee accountability and transparency for how funds are spent and reported on.

We emphasize the importance of comprehensive, publicly available business case analysis prior to project approvals. We cannot afford to waste billions of dollars on projects that result in low ridership and huge operating subsidies.

We also cannot afford more congestion and more gridlock. We cannot afford continued losses in productivity and missed opportunities to create more jobs. We cannot afford more pollution and commuting stress. Above all, we cannot afford to wait.

Montreal is paying for it’s penny pinching ways

I fear the same is going to happen down the road in Saskatoon where the lowest bid always wins out.

They designed and built many of the landmark bridges spanning Canadian waters, but when it came to the Champlain Bridge, the father-and-son engineers P.L. and Hugh Pratley lost a big part of the job to a low, exotic bid.

This weekend, roughly 55 years later, work crews are racing to install a “super beam” and save the Champlain Bridge. Hugh Pratley, now 87, shakes his head at the memory of how the “innovative” concrete girder design imported from Europe won over his plan to use traditional steel girders to build much of a 3.4-kilometre crossing over the St. Lawrence River.

“We were ready to go with a similar design to the one my father used 30 years earlier on the Jacques Cartier Bridge, and then this crazy idea came in from France,” said Mr. Pratley. “It cost less, so they took the cheapest bid. And now they’re paying for it.”

The Champlain Bridge, which is among Canada’s busiest and is located in one of the country’s key trade corridors, was scheduled to be closed completely early Saturday morning so workers could install a 75-tonne steel girder to shore up a failing concrete beam. The federal bridge authority in Montreal plans to reopen the bridge with the brace until more permanent repairs can take place.

However, the only long-term solution is a new bridge that is expected to cost at least $3-billion.

Montreal is riddled with crumbling infrastructure, but the Champlain is emblematic of problems that have haunted the city for decades: Shoddy construction, neglected upkeep and jurisdictional squabble have contributed to create an emergency situation that could have been avoided.

At the root of the problem was the desire of the Progressive Conservative government under John Diefenbaker to save a buck.

Yeah, that does sound a lot Saskatoon.  The only difference is that Montreal actually fixes it’s crumbling bridges while we just let ours fall apart.

Housing homeless tackled

Excellent op-ed in the Winnipeg Free Press by Sam Tsemberis and Vicky Stergiopoulos

In Canada, we conducted the largest randomized controlled trial of its kind in the world on homelessness by comparing housing-first to services as usual (the At Home/Chez Soi study) involving 2,255 participants who were homeless across five Canadian cities (Moncton, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver). The one-year results, recently reported by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, indicate HF is significantly more effective than services as usual in providing stable housing for people who had been homeless for years and who have complex clinical needs.

Also compelling was the finding that for every two government dollars invested in the HF program, $1 was saved. Savings were even greater for those who used services the most, with $3 saved for every $2 spent.

It’s no wonder the federal government supports housing-first: It is highly effective and can save money.

So Canada is on the right track. We have both funds and evidence-based policy for moving forward on homelessness. However, we still face two major hurdles in order to successfully meet a housing-first model.

First, the majority of programs currently funded across the country can be described as providing services for people who are homeless. Shelters, drop-in centres, and especially transitional or short-term housing programs must be helped to shift resources to programs that end homelessness instead. We will need to invest in providing training and consultation services to communities so they will obtain the guidance and support, timelines, and performance indicators necessary to move the system toward this new, much-needed direction.

The second hurdle concerns implementing housing-first programs so they are consistent with the basic principles of the model that achieved the outstanding outcomes in the At Home/Chez Soi study. Housing-first moves people rapidly from shelters or the streets into stable housing and provides evidence-based clinical and social supports to address social, mental-health, health, addiction, educational, employment issues and others. By providing services using a team approach and co-ordinating housing, clinical and social supports, this model reduces problems associated with fragmentation of services and improves inter-sectoral collaboration that usually plagues individuals and families seeking treatment.

In other words, housing-first, if implemented properly will transform public services across the country as we know them, and to do this effectively, teams will need adequate support and guidance to do so.

Rethinking Le Plateau-Mont-Royal (and how to do municipal politics)

A good article on Luc Fernandez, Montreal city councillor and mayor of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal

Luc Ferrandez’s last bicycle was a Kona, a sturdy model with thick tires, ideal for hauling heavy loads. During his 2009 campaign as the Projet Montréal candidate for the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, he would hook it to a trailer piled with a laptop, a projector, a collapsible screen, and (this being Montreal) a couple of bottles of rosé. After setting up his equipment next to a café terrace, he would distribute paper cups and launch a PowerPoint slide show of streets and squares in Copenhagen, Paris, and Madrid, as well as historical photos of local boulevards, all unencumbered by traffic. He figures it was these partys de trottoir, or sidewalk parties—during which he made the case that Montreal could be as clean, green, and safe as any place in Europe—that won him the mayoralty of the city’s most populous district. His mountain bike, alas, didn’t survive the campaign.

“I was having a discussion with a citizen,” recalls Ferrandez. “I left my bike against a wall, unlocked. When I came back an hour later, it was gone.” These days, his main mode of transportation is an Opus, which has the upright handlebars and broad saddle of a bike you would expect to find leaning against a canal-side railing in Amsterdam.

I like his philosophy

“I accept that some people think I’m the devil!” Ferrandez shouted over his shoulder, making a right onto rue de Brébeuf. “For them, the Plateau doesn’t exist. It is just a place to be driven through. I don’t give a shit about these people. They’ve abandoned the idea that humans can live together.”

Ferrandez’s vision of what the borough is, and could be, seems almost exalted. “The Plateau is an Italian cathedral. It’s a forest. It’s something to protect, something sacred. I don’t want it to become a place where people come to live in a condo with triple-glazed windows for a couple of years. This has to be a place where people can be comfortable walking to the bakery, walking to school, walking to the park—where they want to stay to raise a family.”

For street people of all ages, mental health a critical issue

From the Montreal Gazette

Dans la rue’s six counsellors and two staff psychologists do what they can to help young people who are hurting. For some that’s not enough.

“We have some cases that are scary,” said Tchitacov. “The person is going to hang themselves or they are going to kill somebody. They are completely disconnected. So we go to a judge and get (a temporary committal order).”

In most cases, within 48 hours, those kids are back on the streets.

That happens in Saskatchewan but often times the order is ignored by an emergency room doctor and the patient never even sees a psychiatrist.  I have seen people sent to RUH on orders only to have them back in 40 minutes because they “presented well”.

“We’ve had people at crisis centres ask my staff, ‘Well, how serious is the crisis?’ You stop and say, ‘What do you mean? Are you a crisis centre? Your mandate is to help people in crisis. Are there degrees of crisis?’ ”

Still, Tchitacov understands their motivation.

“Everybody is scared. Everybody is so overwhelmed that they are reluctant to open their doors to more difficult cases. They know this is going to be a handful, and they try to find ways not to take it in,” he said.

“Imagine the poor kid. It’s a whole other thing to get somebody to the stage of actually coming to you and saying I need help now. You start working like the devil on the phone and you aren’t getting anywhere.”

There are some encouraging signs attitudes and access to programs are changing. Corbin is Dans la rue’s delegate to the Learning Community, a national coalition seeking ways to raise public awareness and break down the stigmas associated with mental illness. And she said the centre for street youth will soon begin a welcome partnership with the psychiatry department at Notre Dame hospital to assist young people experiencing their first psychosis.

But Corbin said there’s another big challenge: getting young people, especially the males who make up 60 per cent of Dans la rue’s clientele, to admit they may need help.

“There’s the whole machismo thing. ‘I’m the one that’s in charge.’ … The whole invincibility of life comes crashing down and you don’t know what to do anymore. So you end up in panic mode,” Corbin said.

“It is hard to break the taboo of a mental illness and see it as an illness and not as a weakness. Someone has a broken leg, you go and get it treated. Well, if you have depression or anxiety or schizophrenia, you go and get it treated.”

It’s difficult enough for many adults to face up to mental illness.

“Add to that the whole ‘I have to be strong’ and all the rest of it when you are young,” she said.

In Saskatoon you have the race aspect as well.  I have listened to more than one mental health professional tell me that those who are aboriginal and from the west side of Saskatoon get far worse mental health care than those that are white and from the suburbs.  It’s really frustrating because there isn’t anything we can do about it. 

I have listened to members on both sides of the Legislative Assembly admit to the problems in the mental health system in Saskatchewan.  While there has been progress (and mistakes) made by both the NDP and now the Saskatchewan Party, there is a long way to go.  If there was one bit of advice that I could give Premier Brad Wall and the future NDP leader, it would be to form a bi-partisan committee to fix and monitor mental healthcare in Saskatchewan.  Take it out of the realm of partisan politics and just fix it.  They are Saskatchewan’s most vulnerable people, they use up a lot of the health budget, use a disproportionate amount of resources for housing and social services but it is also something that as a province we can fix. 

The flipside of it is that if we don’t do something about it, it becomes a problem that can grow out of hand as other jurisdictions have experienced.

So much for journalism

For most of us you are either for or against CBC but it doesn’t matter what you think of the CBC, you can’t pretend to think this qualifies as journalism by the London Free Press.

CBC Money DrainCBC bureaucrats, production people, and journalists are feeling a little cramped in their 23-storey broadcast palace in Montreal.

Earlier this month, the federal government asked developers and others for information about the redevelopment of the CBC tower that dominates the corner of René-Lévesque Boulevard and Papineau Street in Montreal.

Federal documents indicate the 1970s-era Maison Radio-Canada "doesn’t provide enough flexibility for CBC technical and office space requirements."

So, Crown Corporation executives are pushing for a $1.6 billion public-private redevelopment of the property, which would also provide its French operation with bigger headquarters through "a new construction on the existing site or a major retrofit of the current space."

The feds have also asked for companies with expertise in "engineering, architecture, and interior design² to propose a full technical plan for a redeveloped Maison Radio-Canada."

The City of Montreal says the redevelopment would also include 2,200 new housing units plus new retail space.

Taxpayers subsidize the CBC to the tune of $1.1 billion annually.

Personally I think the CBC does a horrible job of explaining it’s $1.1 billion subsidy and I know that Quebecor is upset about it but I am not sure that using that term palace, inserting the subsidy line into most of their stories or using a graphic depicting a CBC Money Drain contributes anything or makes me want to take Quebecor seriously as a new outlet.

If I was Quebecor I would be more worried about my mediocre website, irrelevant news channel and editing like we see above and be less worried about what CBC’s future plans are.

Choosing to be homeless

A photographer tells the story of why her father chose to live on the streets on Montreal

But the calm didn’t last. They moved to the country north of Montreal after college. Phil’s illness began to creep back. He started hearing voices, and his behaviour grew volatile and aggressive. He couldn’t hold down a job, so they ended up on welfare with a young child. Mum went back to college, taking me with her, to do a teaching degree to support us. That was when Phil’s sanity broke down completely and he tried to commit suicide in the snow. The doctors said he would never walk properly again after he lost his frostbitten toes. But he did figure out how to walk, and even to run again – a mark of the resilience that has helped him to survive all the gruelling years since.

I can’t remember exactly when Phil started living on the streets, but it wasn’t long after he tried to kill himself. He refused psychiatric help or medication because he was too delusional to comprehend that he needed it. I call him Phil now, but he was still Daddy to me then.

Here is how she understands it.

Then something unexpected happened. When I was 19, I started to take photographs of my times spent with Phil. My maternal grandfather had given me my first camera a few years earlier, and I had become hooked on photography. Seeing Phil from behind a lens, in stark black and white, was extraordinary. There it was: the truth about my father, the truth about us. Suddenly, I began to make sense of this vast, murky soup of emotions I’d had for so long. I started to untangle the deep morass of shame I felt. Shame about him, and even deeper shame (and guilt) at myself for feeling ashamed.

Anger bubbled up inside me about why I’d always felt so dirty and tainted, why I’d had to deny his existence. The camera made me face everything. I started making peace with Phil, and with myself. I also told my closest friends about him, and gradually stopped trying to hide the truth from everyone else.

My whole life I’d heard people say that street people were disgusting, that they should get a job, that they stank. I’d seen the callous way Phil was treated by police, the constant discrimination. When I was having a coffee or a stroll with him, strangers would often ask if he was "bothering" me, or if I needed help.

I wanted the photos to show that there’s more to someone like Phil than people realise. Not to deny the hardship and mess of his life, but to reveal the worth and beauty in it, too. I took pictures of him writing his poems, which he’s never given up and still sells on the streets (he hates begging). I photographed him playing his pan pipes, which he also plays to earn money. I photographed him talking to the birds and trees he loves, and also later as he was passed out in an alcoholic haze among them. And, most importantly, I photographed all of us – Phil, my mum and me – because this was our family