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Why Covid-19 targeting Montreal? 7th deadliest center

Why are so many people getting sick and dying in Montreal from Covid-19?

The city is at the center of the crisis in Canada and Quebec is now the seventh deadliest place in the world for daily deaths

Rue Ste Catherine in Montreal is usually crowded with shoppers and traffic until late at night.
Rue Ste Catherine in Montreal is usually crowded with shoppers and traffic until late at night. Photograph: Peter McCabe
in Montreal Published on Wed 13 May 2020 16.15 BST

Not this year.

Montreal, a city touted by tourist guides as “North America’s Europe” for its rich culture and joie de vivre, is Canada’s centre for Covid-19.

Of the entire country’s 70,000 cases and 5,000 deaths, the city of 2 million people has 20,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths, or about 64% of the entire province’s death toll.

Those numbers have catapulted Quebec into an unfavourable position: it is now the seventh deadliest place in the world for daily coronavirus deaths, according to Quebec newspaper La Presse.

The empty streets of downtown Montreal.

The empty streets of downtown Montreal. Photograph: Christian Ouellet/Alamy Stock Photo

“We are all concerned about Montreal,” said Quebec’s premier, François Legault, on Monday, saying that the situation there was “not under control”. The gradual reopening of schools and businesses may be further delayed if Montreal can’t get its act together.

If Peter McCabe’s Empty Montreal photo project is any evidence, the city has largely obeyed stay-home orders. His streetscapes devoid of human activity show a side of Montreal almost no one sees. “The air is crystal clear. That’s not normal,” he said.

But if people are genuinely staying home, the elevated infection rate isn’t normal either.

Why are so many people getting sick and dying here?

A commuter wearing protective mask boards a subway train in Montreal.

A commuter wearing protective mask boards a subway train in Montreal. Photograph: Canadian Press/REX/Shutterstock

The trends overwhelmingly point to the reality that many infected with Covid-19 are people who already experience systemic inequality, poverty and discrimination – issues that existed long before the virus, and which are now being cracked open for all to see.

First, there are the old.

A horrific exposé in the Montreal Gazette revealed that a local nursing home – known by its French initials as a CHSLD – had concealed the deaths of 31 seniors. Many of them seemed to have died after most staff abandoned the facility. Some of the seniors found alive hadn’t had water, food or a diaper change in days.

Provincial data shows about 82% of the dead lived in seniors’ residences – most of them public.

Of the total 2,003 dead in Montreal, 74% of them were over 80.  97% of them were over 60.

The CHSLD crisis continues.

According to La Presse, at least 141 CHSLDs in Montreal presently have at least one case of Covid-19, but that the government won’t say which ones. Meanwhile, the Quebec government has announced it will allow caregivers back into some CHSLDs.

The other part of Montreal’s Covid-19 story can be summed up by the case of Marcelin François, a 40-year-old Haitian asylum seeker who died in his wife’s arms inside their Montreal apartment in mid-April.

During the week, François worked in a textile factory. On Saturdays and Sundays, he worked as an orderly inside whichever CHSLD his temp agency dispatched him to that week.

He lived with his family in Montreal North, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in all of Canada.

It is a popular destination for asylum seekers – many of whom crossed the US–Canada border on foot shortly after American president Donald Trump took office. Half of the neighbourhood’s residents are members of a visible minority, and 42% are immigrants.

Like François, many asylum seekers are now working, without citizenship status, inside of Quebec’s seniors residences.

And then they’re coming home at the end of their shift, to crowded apartments they share with friends and family, inside of shoddily maintained apartment buildings.

Earlier this month, the province admitted that its effort to manage staffing shortages by moving workers around the long-term care network could be spreading the virus.

Montreal North feels the consequences of that. One in five Montrealers infected with Covid-19 are healthcare workers – none of whom are receiving danger pay.

In Montreal North, 23% are infected, said community organizer Will Prosper.

“It’s these people who are still taking care of us, when not too long ago they were the people who we wanted to kick out,” said Prosper.

Other areas of Montreal badly hit by Covid-19 share similar traits with Montreal North: low-income, large immigrant communities, many people of colour, poor quality housing.

Montreal’s Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations is demanding the federal and provincial governments collect data on the race and income level of Covid victims.

Nargess Mustapha, also a community organizer in Montreal North and the president of youth empowerment organization Hoodstock, doesn’t need data to see how Covid-19 has further entrenched existing inequalities. She’s on the ground, along with an army of young volunteers, distributing mask-and-sanitizer kits and food hampers to members of her community.

She recites a long list of reasons why Covid-19 has struck her neighbourhood so deeply: a lack of health services, inadequate transit access, people living in crowded apartments, poor relations with police – especially now that officers can hand out $1,500 fines to those not respecting self-isolation measures.

Meanwhile, 42% of homes are single-parent households, which makes things like child care for essential workers very complicated.

And, a lack of internet access makes it tough to get government aid and information being distributed almost exclusively online.

“Being able to socially distance is a sign of privilege,” Mustapha said in French, pointing out that the population density of one neighbourhood sector rivals that of New York City’s densest borough. “It’s hard to apply those rules in Montreal North

Cutting Red Tape in Canada: A Regulatory Reform Model

Eliminate at least one regulation for every new one

Canada recently became the first country in the world to legislate a cap on regulation.

The Red Tape Reduction Act, which became law on April 23, 2015, requires the federal government to eliminate at least one regulation for every new one introduced.

Remarkably, the legislation received near-unanimous support across the political spectrum: 245 votes in favor of the bill and 1 opposed. This policy development has not gone unnoticed outside Canada’s borders

Canada’s federal government has captured headlines, but its approach was borrowed from the province of British Columbia (BC) where controlling red tape has been a priority for more than a decade.

BC’s regulatory reform dates back to 2001 when a newly elected government put in place policies to make good on its ambitious election promise to reduce the regulatory burden by one-third in three years. The results have been impressive.

The government has reduced regulatory requirements by 43% relative to when the initiative started.

During this time period, the province went from being one of the poorest-performing economies in the country to being among the best.

While there were other factors at play in the BC’s economic turnaround, members of the business community widely credit red tape reduction with playing a critical role.

The British Columbia model, while certainly not perfect, is among the most promising examples of regulatory reform in North America.

It offers valuable lessons for US governments interested in tackling the important challenge of keeping regulations reasonable. The basics of the BC model are not complicated: political leadership, measurement, and a hard cap on regulatory activity.

John Peter  shared this link Mercatus Center at George Mason University

“Canada recently became the first country in the world to legislate a cap on regulation.”

The Red Tape Reduction Act, which became law on April 23, 2015, …
mercatus.org

This paper describes British Columbia’s reforms, evaluates their effectiveness, and offers practical “lessons learned” to governments interested in the elusive goal of regulatory reform capable of making a lasting difference.

It also offers some important lessons for business groups and think tanks outside government that are pushing to reduce red tape. These groups can make all the difference in framing the issue in such a way that it can gain wide support from policymakers.

A brief discussion of the challenges of accurately defining and quantifying regulation and red tape add context to understanding the BC model, and more broadly, some of the challenges associated with effective exercises in cutting red tape.

Defining Red Tape

Red tape refers to rules, policies, and poor government services that do little or nothing to serve the public interest while creating financial cost or frustration to producers and consumers alike.

Red tape may include:

1.  poorly designed laws, regulations, and policies;

2. outdated rules that may have been justified at one time but are no longer; and

3. rules intentionally designed to burden some businesses while favoring others.

Red tape, as the term is used in this paper, stands in contrast to government laws, regulations, rules, and policies that support an efficient and effective marketplace and provide citizens and businesses with the protections they need.

For the sake of keeping a clear distinction between the two, the latter will be referred to as “justified regulation” in this paper. The “broad regulatory burden” is composed of both justified regulation and red tape.

Some rules fall into the justified regulation category because they deliver a lot of benefits relative to their costs.

Others, such as an eliminated BC regulation prescribing what size televisions BC restaurateurs could have in their establishments, have little or no value and entail significant compliance costs, so they fall into the category of red tape.

However, the difference between justified regulation and red tape is not always straightforward in the messy real world where costs and benefits are not always easily quantified and one person’s red tape is another person’s justified regulation.

Despite measurement challenges, available evidence suggests that the broad regulatory burden is growing in both Canada and the United States.

Given that red tape delivers very little benefit relative to its costs, it is reasonable to want to keep this piece of the broad regulatory burden to a minimum. This is easy to say but hard to do for a number of reasons.

Part of the challenge can be attributed to the loose language that is often used about regulatory reform, especially the imprecise use of the terms regulation and red tape. People sometimes confuse cutting red tape, which most support at least in theory, with eliminating justified regulation, which most do not support in theory or practice.

In Canada, the language about government reform has evolved to put a heavy emphasis on the distinction between red tape and necessary or justified regulation, as exemplified in the title of the recently passed Red Tape Reduction Act.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a not-for-profit small business advocacy group with 109,000 small business members, strongly promotes this distinction in its work with governments.

For example, in 2010 it created an annual Red Tape Awareness Week to highlight the costs of red tape and to tell the stories of business owners affected by it.

Politicians at both the provincial and federal levels of government make announcements about cutting red tape (as opposed to announcements about regulatory reform) during the week. For example, during the 2011 Red Tape Awareness Week, former prime minister Stephen Harper announced the creation of a Red Tape Reduction Commission (which ultimately led to a number of reforms, including the one-in, one-out legislation explained above).

The BC government used the 2015 Red Tape Awareness Week to announce that it was extending its policy of eliminating one regulatory requirement for every new one introduced to 2019 (it had been set to expire in 2015).

Quantifying Regulation and Red Tape

Governments have three main ways of influencing behavior: taxing, spending, and regulating.

All have benefits and costs. With taxation and government spending, however, the costs and benefits are more obvious. It is clear how much money the government collects in revenues and there is a high degree of transparency with respect to how the money is spent, although it can be tougher to evaluate outcomes of spending and the externality costs and benefits to third parties.

The costs of the broad regulatory burden and its two components, justified regulation and red tape, are considerably less clear. Much of the costs fall on those who must comply with the rules, and these costs are never quantified by governments, making them essentially a hidden tax. Regulatory benefits too can be challenging to quantify.

The challenges of measuring regulatory costs and benefits are not trivial because they make it difficult to assess how much the broad regulatory burden is costing, whether the costs are increasing, and how much of the broad regulatory burden is red tape.

In spite of ongoing concern from business communities in both the United States and Canada that regulatory costs are too high and growing, governments tend to be reluctant to take the first necessary step to assess the burden: that is, to measure it.

Reducing regulatory excess without measurement is like trying to lose weight without ever stepping on a scale—possible but not probable.

A distinguishing feature of the BC model, discussed in the next section, is the government’s willingness to create and track its own measure of the broad regulatory burden.

While governments have been generally reluctant to quantify the regulatory burden, others have stepped up to the challenge, including researchers working for the Canadian CFIB, as well as the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy in the United States. Existing measures, albeit limited and imperfect, bring some valuable transparency to our understanding of the broad regulatory burden.

Clyde Wayne Crews, author of numerous studies on the broad burden of regulation, explains,

Precise regulatory costs can never be fully known because, unlike taxes, they are unbudgeted and often indirect. But scattered government and private data exist about scores of regulations and about the agencies that issue them, as well as data about estimates of regulatory costs and benefits. Compiling some of that information can make the regulatory state somewhat more comprehensible.

Using survey results from both Canada and the United States, CFIB estimates that broad regulatory costs for US businesses are around C$205 billion while Canadian businesses, far fewer in number, pay C$37 billion a year.

What fraction of these broad costs might constitute red tape? When US small businesses were asked how much of the burden of regulation could be reduced without sacrificing the public interest for these regulations, the average response was a 31 percent reduction (or C$64 billion a year) with Canadian respondents sharing a similar view on the fraction of the broad regulatory burden that is red tape (see figure 1).

The survey results are consistent with the findings of other studies, showing that the smallest businesses in both countries pay considerably higher per-employee regulatory costs than larger businesses do (see figure 2).

The same CFIB survey found that more than half of US small businesses (57 percent) agree that excessive regulations (or red tape) significantly reduce business productivity while 65 percent of Canadian businesses agree with the same statement.

A significant portion of respondents in both countries indicate excessive regulations discourage businesses growth.

Beyond the economic costs, small business owners find regulatory compliance very stressful, with 78 percent of Canadian respondents agreeing that excessive regulations add significant stress to their lives and 65 percent of US respondents agreeing (see figure 3).

(Click and read this lengthy article on the BC model)

Lessons from the BC Model for US Governments Interested in Red Tape Reduction

The United States and Canada share more similarities than differences in overall economic conditions and general cultural attitudes, which makes Canada’s experience with red tape reduction and control relevant to the United States.

US governments at the state and federal level will find much to borrow from and some things to improve upon in the lessons from British Columbia.

Lesson #1: Language Matters

BC’s reforms were born in the context of “hitting the wall” with uncompetitive taxes and excessive regulation. This situation created a climate where the general public supported making cutting regulation a clear priority.

A poorly performing economy initially allowed for the more aggressive “deregulation.” Once the economy improved, the context changed and “regulatory reform” was more acceptable to the public.

More recently, a senior minister commented how helpful it was to make a distinction between red tape and necessary regulation.

Indeed, it is much harder to argue against cutting red tape, a problem most can relate to in some way, than it is to argue against regulatory reform, which can be confused with cutting justified regulations.

The language used in BC today is better at maintaining public support for cutting red tape, and it would likely have been as effective, if not more effective, than the “deregulation” language used at the beginning of the reforms. Indeed much of the “regulation” that was cut (such as restaurants being told what size televisions they could have in their establishments) was clearly red tape.

Lesson #2: Political Leadership Matters

Regulatory reform in BC has been successful because it has had strong political champions. Leadership from the top was critical to the success of the reforms.

However, it was also important in the early years to have other strong political leaders who could lead the execution of the reforms. In BC’s case this initially came from the minister of deregulation, whose sole responsibility was to focus on effectively implementing the reforms.

For regulatory reform to be successful, it must have broad buy-in from politicians and from civil servants.

The buy-in in BC was the result of strong political leadership from the top, a decentralized approach to reform where ministries could chose the regulatory requirements to cut, and a three-year timeline, which created urgency while still allowing time to adapt to the change.

Lesson #3: A Clear, Credible, Simple Measure Matters

One thing that distinguishes BC’s regulation reforms is the clear metric that was used to establish whether the reforms were successful. BC’s measure has several virtues: it is clear, fairly comprehensive, and easy to update. There is no perfect way to measure the broad burden of regulation, and there are certainly alternative approaches to the regulatory requirement metric used in BC that would be just as good, if not better.

However, too often, regulatory measures become so complex that they are too expensive for governments to consider adapting, and it is not at all clear that the additional complexity delivers more accuracy or better results. A simple measure has the added advantage of being easy to communicate to the public.

Lesson #4: A Hard-Cap Constraint on Regulators Matters

At the federal and state levels in both Canada and the United States, regulatory impact analysis has been used as a “check” on regulators. RIAs may slow down the growth of regulatory activity, but available evidence suggests that they do not stop it. BC’s target of reducing regulation requirements by one-third in three years and then maintaining the reduction has set a hard cap on the total amount of regulatory requirements. This has forced a discipline that did not previously exist, a discipline that has helped change the culture within government to one where regulators see their job as focusing on the most important rules.

One of the challenges for governments interested in reducing, rather than just controlling, red tape is picking a reduction target. BC’s choice of a one-third reduction target was not scientific. However, the political “gut feeling” was that a one-third target would be achievable without compromising justified regulation. The choice seems to have been reasonable, as there is little evidence that the regulatory reduction in the province compromised health, safety, or environmental outcomes. Interestingly, on the CFIB survey, small business owners in both Canada and the United States also suggest that about a one-third reduction in rules is possible without compromising the legitimate objectives of regulation (see figure 1).

As was mentioned at the beginning of this paper, the Canadian government recently adapted BC’s one-in, one-out policy, becoming the first country in the world to legislate a hard cap on regulations. The legislation is new, but it has been the policy of the government for the past several years. As of December 2013, the rule had achieved a net reduction of 19 regulations, saving business 98,000 hours and $20 million. While this reduction is small in the grand scheme of the costs of the overall regulatory burden, it is nonetheless a quantifiable reduction and another indication that hard caps matter.

Lesson #5: Institutionalizing Red Tape Control Matters

Perhaps one of the most remarkable things about the BC model is its longevity. An important transition happened once the initial one-third reduction target was met: a new target for zero net increase in regulatory requirements was set. The government has extended this commitment several times and ensured that measuring red tape requirements has continued. While it is impossible to say with certainty that there would have been more red tape without the controls, it is clear that there would have been less transparency and less ability to evaluate the broad regulatory burden without the ongoing measure, which provides a benchmark.

In contrast, Nova Scotia’s government implemented its own red tape initiative, which had some initial success, but it was not followed by institutional commitment. Several years after BC launched its reforms, the Nova Scotia government was convinced of the merits of setting and measuring targets. In 2005, Nova Scotia set a target for a 20 percent reduction by 2010 in the time business owners spend on regulation.

The starting benchmark was 613,000 hours, and the government successfully achieved its goal. It then stopped measuring and there is currently no way to know whether the time spent by businesses complying with rules has increased, decreased, or stayed the same. A recent report commissioned by the Nova Scotia government strongly recommends that the government find effective ways to eliminate red tape, including reestablishing measurement and “creating mechanisms, including legislation, to sustain the regulatory modernization agenda over the long term.”

Final Lesson: Outside Advocacy Can Make All the Difference

Regulation is largely a hidden tax that most directly affects business owners, in particular small business owners. Having the support of organizations that represent small businesses has been very important in keeping the BC government committed to its reforms and in encouraging other governments in Canada, including the federal government, to follow the example set by BC.

In fact, without the advocacy coming from small business, it is doubtful that BC’s reforms would still be in place today. Several effective steps that the CFIB took in pushing to continue reforms include the following:

  • Regularly meeting with politicians from the governing party and opposition parties to present survey results from small businesses that showed why it was important to continue the reforms. These meetings helped make red tape reduction a nonpartisan issue that all parties could support. This strategy worked at the federal level too.
  • Issuing an annual report card on governments across Canada. BC was the only jurisdiction to get an A and wanted to keep it.
  • Holding an annual “Red Tape Awareness Week,” which keeps a spotlight on the issue and gives politicians credit and publicity for making announcements about cutting red tape.
  • Publishing research reports estimating the costs of the broad regulatory burden and red tape.
  • Connecting business owners with media during Red Tape Awareness Week so that the public could get a better understanding of the costs and frustration of red tape.
  • Issuing an annual “Golden Scissors” award for cutting red tape. Kevin Falcon, the BC minister responsible for the initial reforms, was the first to receive the award.

Canada election: Liberal back in power.

Justin Trudeau PM promised half cabinet formed of women

Late father Pierre Trudeau ruled Canada for 13 years.

He has promised half will be women — Toronto’s Carolyn Bennett and Chrystia Freeland and B.C. Liberal stalwart Joyce Murray are contenders.

Ralph Goodale leads the pack for finance minister, on the lengthy list of old hands and rising stars of both sexes who were elected.

Najat Rizk shared this link via Joelle Abou Farhat Rizkallah
thestar.com

In selecting Canada’s next finance minister, Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau can pick between an old hand, a Toronto business executive and the head of his economic advisory group whose stimulus advice helped carry the Liberal Party to power in Monday’s election.

The election produced 88 female MPs, a record number of women elected, which includes 50 Liberal MPs. Trudeau has said half of his cabinet ministers will be women.

Trudeau has signaled confidence in former journalist Chrystia Freeland’s ability to manage an economic file, naming her co-chair of his economic panel along with Scott Brison, and as party spokeswoman on trade in the last parliament. Freeland was re-elected, now in the new Toronto riding of University-Rosedale.

Other prominent female Liberal lawmakers include Judy Foote, a former Newfoundland cabinet minister; Joyce Murray, British Columbia’s former environment minister; Carolyn Bennett, a Toronto doctor and veteran Liberal lawmaker and Ottawa lawyer Catherine McKenna.

Another cabinent contender is newly-elected Toronto businessman Bill Morneau, who won in Toronto Centre. He formerly chaired the C.D. Howe research institute.

Another cabinent contender is newly-elected Toronto businessman Bill Morneau, who won in Toronto Centre.

He formerly chaired the C.D. Howe research institute.

Trudeau, 43, may choose to emphasize stability by naming Ralph Goodale, who was finance minister the last time the Liberals were in power a decade ago.

Goodale, 66, was first elected in his 20s when Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, was prime minister. Goodale has also served as minister of natural resources and public works.

Newly-elected in Toronto-Centre, Bill Morneau would have closer contacts with the financial hub of Toronto, having run for office after leaving a job as executive chairman of human-resources consulting firm Morneau Shepell Inc. and chairman of the C.D. Howe research institute.

Brison, a veteran lawmaker from Nova Scotia who started out as a Progressive Conservative, enjoys perhaps the closest direct relationship with Trudeau, serving as co-chair of the leader’s economic advisory panel.

All those candidates won their districts according to preliminary results from Canada’s election agency.

The new finance minister will help Trudeau craft a budget to fulfill a pledge for a middle-class tax cut funded by boosting taxes on the highest earners, a key plank of the plan that unseated Conservative Leader Stephen Harper’s government in Monday’s election.

The Liberals also plan to run deficits to revive an economy crippled by low oil prices, to set a price on carbon emissions and to boost infrastructure spending.

Investors will breathe easier after voters gave the Liberals a majority of seats in the House of Commons, according to Hamish Telford, head of the political science department at the University of the Fraser Valley.

“Companies hate uncertainty,” Telford said by phone. “At least they’ll be relieved that it’s a majority which means more stability.”

Liberal cabinets have often been a mix of “big spend” progressives and more right-leaning candidates, said Jonathan Rose, who teaches political studies at Queen’s University.

“People in the business community may have some questions about his bona fides,” he said of Trudeau’s ability to deliver on his campaign promises.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau (left) along with Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett (right) escort recently elected Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland, of the Toronto centre riding, into the House of Commons in Ottawa, Monday January 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

FRED CHARTRAND

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau (left) along with Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett (right) escort recently elected Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland, of the Toronto centre riding, into the House of Commons in Ottawa, Monday January 27, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Other cabinet posts focused on managing Canada’s $1.8 trillion economy include the ministers of industry, trade and natural resources.

The new defence and public works ministers also must decide what type of fighter jets to buy after Trudeau said he would reject Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35.

The new cabinet will need to decide whether to ratify a trade pact that Harper’s government negotiated this month, gaining access to the dozen nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while giving up some protection for Canada’s dairy and automotive industries. Trudeau has said he favours trade agreements, but needs to see the full details of the TPP deal.

Based on considerations including region of representation, gender, diversity balance and language, here are some other possible cabinet contenders:

Joyce Murray at a rally in Vancouver Sunday. The former B.C. environment minister, who ran for the Liberal leadership in 2013, easily won her Vancouver-Quadra riding on Monday night.

KARL RAAB PHOTO

Joyce Murray at a rally in Vancouver Sunday. The former B.C. environment minister, who ran for the Liberal leadership in 2013, easily won her Vancouver-Quadra riding on Monday night.

• Marc Garneau is a former astronaut from Montreal, where the Liberals draw much of their support in Quebec. He served as the party’s spokesman on foreign affairs in the last parliament and in the past as Liberal spokesman on the industry and natural resource portfolios.

• Dominic LeBlanc is a former head of the Liberal caucus in the Atlantic provinces and a former house leader who controlled the party’s day-to-day legislative moves.

• The other members of Trudeau’s economic advisory panel include Goodale, former Royal Bank of Canada economist and minister John McCallum and Judy Sgro, spokeswoman on the industry file and a former immigration minister.

• Navdeep Bains has been a key organizer for the Liberals in the immigrant community around Toronto, and has been the party’s critic for trade and natural resources.

• The Liberals have several people with experience that would be relevant for the portfolios of public safety, justice and defense. Bill Blair is a former Toronto police chief, Andrew Leslie is a former army Lieutenant General who led international forces in Afghanistan, and Lawrence MacAulay of Prince Edward Island is a former two-term Solicitor General under former Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

• Those with a strong regional profile include Jody-Wilson Raybould, a prominent leader from Canada’s aboriginal community based in Vancouver. Hunter Tootoo is a former lawmaker from Nunavut, one of Canada’s three northern territories, and Jim Carr is a prominent Manitoba business leader.

Former journalist Seamus O’Regan from Newfoundland and former Montreal mayoral contender Melanie Joly are also star candidates brought in after Trudeau became party leader.

Tales of life in Montreal, Canada (Part 1, January 19, 2009)

Note:  The following abridged chronicles are extracts of very short stories of life in Montreal.  They were selected from a tiny French booklet written by Gisele Kayata-Eid, a Lebanese who immigrated to Canada.

Saint-Justine hospital, a semi-circle century old building   Babies and kids are bolding and pale.  Mothers are livid, anxious and wheeling chairs; they are pondering “why him? Why so young?”  Behind me in the return bus a dad and son are thrilled.  The kid is calling: “Hi mom, I am well.” The dad takes the cellular and confirms: “Yes honey, the tests are normal; nothing to worry about.  We are on our way”.  Today, Saint-Justine changed name: it is saint-Justice.

Caesar is an old homeless; he frequently visit a “friend” benefactor.  This friend smiles to Caesar and sometimes listens to his miseries; occasionally he offers him leftovers of his dog’s canned food.  It is 30 degrees below zero and the wind speed is over 150 km/h today.  Caesar asks permission to sleep on the porch; his benefactor denies him this favor on account that insurance would not cover the risk of Caesar dying on his property.  Dirty and smelly Caesar is not to sleep inside: the friend would have to repaint and change the carpet.

A typical voter on Election Day.  The person parks his car and calmly walks to a public building, a church, a basement, or a school where flags flap. He files in the queue by reflex; a badged attendant shows him the way to a vacant bare booth; a man and a woman agents wearing badges sit behind a sober desk.  The voter delivers his ID and is recited the well oiled instructions. The voter votes and then departs, as mute as he entered.

The church was well heated.  A whole team of attendants welcomes me, smiles at me, hand me the mass sheet, shows me the way and allocate me a seat, as if I were at an Oscar ceremony. The people hang stony faces and follow the game of standing up, sitting, kneeling, reading the document, and occasionally participating in the hymns of the chorus.  Mass lasts exactly an hour before the worshipers exit as silently and solitary as they entered.

Saturday morning at a hospital emergency.  I had an ugly deep cut on my forearm and blood was ejecting profusely.  I ran to the emergency of the nearest hospital. The shift attendant directed me to an empty room.  Immediately, a nurse showed up and kept asking me the same questions for over 15 minutes.  I am ordered to take a blue seat instead of the red one since I was served filling a questionnaire.  I had to wait another half an hour before I am ushered to a closed room.  Another 15 minutes wait before a white robed person enters. No, the person is not the physician; she is a nurse with a clipboard that needs to be satisfied with more of the same queries.  I don’t know what happened next: I had fainted this Saturday morning.

The public transportation in Montreal had a 3-day strike; unperturbed, the citizens of this City walked to work, confident that their authority will settle this problem very soon; they have to go to work because the workplaces are the main locations to talk.  At the exact time for the resumption of transport, the citizens are already lined up calmly and by reflex; they know that the doors of the trains will not be shut before everyone is in and seated.  The only time that moods flare up is when the media ask the citizens to offer comments on the strike

Kindergarten in Montreal.  There is this golden rule in kindergarten “It is absolutely forbidden for this father to recuperate his son”.  The personnel scrupulously notes down “His father came in, held up his son, put him down, whispered to him and then left him crying”. During the day, the workers in kindergarten take notes of every details for every baby’s behavior such as what he ate, how much, how was the consistency of his bowel, when he falls down, if he wakes up with the other kids, if he refuses to draw, color, or participate. Kids arrive before the sun is up.  Today, a kid never stopped crying because his dad picked up his brother to hockey training; the kid managed to skip outside the perimeter and was found sleeping in the snow


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