Dual cultures, creativity, drive rebound–after four dark decades

By Robert Frank


Alain Dubuc doesn’t mince words about Montreal’s stagnation.“Montreal was Canada’s largest city,” the economist and La Presse columnist reminded, soon after Toronto eclipsed Chicago as North America’s third-largest city last month.

“Montreal lost its leadership, became impoverished, saw its citizens flee and its economy shrink to become the poorest North American metropolis.”

“There’s a tension with the rest of Quebec,” Dubuc explained.

Despite generating 42 per cent of the Quebec’s tax revenue, Montreal doesn’t get the support that other provinces and states afford their wealth-spinning megacities, he said.

“On paper, we have all the ingredients of a successful metropolis, but there remains a problem turning that potential into as much wealth-creation as it ought to, leaving Montreal well behind its potential, with higher unemployment than the rest of Quebec.”

Ironically, he said, the city’s setbacks have paved the way for its current rebound.

“Oddly, our poverty is an advantage, attracting artists just like Soho in New York City. That creativity primes the pump.”

“An even more definitive success factor is that Montreal is bilingual at heart,” he emphasized. “All great cities are multicultural, but Montreal is made up of two big communities that get along rather well. The two bodies of thought–North American and European–creates a tension that gives Montreal its dynamism. We’ve reached the point at which that dualism is more of a plus than a minus.”

“Ontario now faces the restructuring shock Montreal lived through thirty years ago,” Dubuc adroitly observed. “Whatever our problems, we can’t be worse than Ontario is right now.”

Note: This report appeared on page 29 of the Spring 2013 issue of Canadian Real Estate Magazine.

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