North­ern Belle

Mon­treal’s blend of his­tory, cul­ture and glam­our adds plenty of to Canada’s

Business Traveler (USA) - - BUSINESS TRAVELER - By Paul Gains

Mon­treal’s blend of his­tory, cul­ture and glam­our adds plenty of joie to Canada’s joie de vivre

Fre­quently de­scribed as Canada’s Cul­tural Cap­i­tal, Mon­treal has earned the ti­tle be­cause of its abun­dance of mu­se­ums, gal­leries, restau­rants and world class fes­ti­vals which draw vis­i­tors year round. It’s a rep­u­ta­tion that the coun­try’s sec­ond largest city fully de­serves.

The phrase“com­bin­ing busi­ness and plea­sure”is taken to an­other level here and bore­dom is cer­tainly not in the lo­cal vo­cab­u­lary.

Founded in 1642 by French set­tlers, metropoli­tan Mon­treal ac­tu­ally sits on an is­land in the midst of the St Lawrence River. It is con­nected to nearby main­land sub­urbs and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties by enor­mous bridges, two of which – the Pont Cham­plain and Pont Jac­ques Cartier – are named af­ter the ex­plor­ers who claimed Canada or‘New France’for their home­land.

The city is served by Pierre El­liott Trudeau In­ter­na­tional Air­port lo­cated in Dor­val about half an hour from down­town Mon­treal by taxi.

Mon­treal is head­quar­ters to a num­ber of in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Air Canada, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Bank of Mon­treal and the world fa­mous Cirque de Soleil en­ter­tain­ment group. Only Toronto has a larger econ­omy among Canadian cities.

Although French is the of­fi­cial lan­guage of the prov­ince of Que­bec, and provincewide only 13 per­cent of the res­i­dents claim English as their mother tongue, this is not an is­sue in Mon­treal. One might be ini­tially greeted in French but most Mon­treal­ers quickly switch to English once they de­duce their vis­i­tor is an an­glo­phone.

How­ever, when it comes to the ques­tion of lan­guage in Que­bec, as the Bard would say, thereby hangs a tale.

Twice in its his­tory Que­bec has voted on es­tab­lish­ing a sep­a­rate coun­try or some­thing called‘sovereignty as­so­ci­a­tion’ – in­de­pen­dent, but with a con­tin­ued eco­nomic as­so­ci­a­tion with Canada. The most re­cent ref­er­en­dum in 1995 nar­rowly re­jected sovereignty as­so­ci­a­tion. The elec­toral for­tunes of Parti Que­be­cois, whose plat­form has tra­di­tion­ally in­cluded the pur­suit of an in­de­pen­dent na­tion, has ebbed and flowed since its found­ing in 1976; it lost in the 2014 elec­tion.

The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment re­cently ap­pointed a‘min­is­ter of an­glo­phone re­la­tions’to boost con­fi­dence amongst an­glo­phones but re­mains com­mit­ted to the con­tro­ver­sial lan­guage law, Bill 101. This law made French the of­fi­cial lan­guage of Que­bec and the nor­mal work­place lan­guage. In ad­di­tion French be­came com­pul­sory for im­mi­grants to the prov­ince. It ex­ists to pro­tect the French lan­guage.

“I think we have a com­fort­able re­la­tion­ship be­tween the English and French groups in Mon­treal,”says Michel LeBlanc, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Metropoli­tan Mon­treal Board of Trade.“The busi­ness com­mu­nity I rep­re­sent wants the pop­u­la­tion to feel they have ac­cess to ser­vices in French. At the same time, we real­is­ti­cally know most of the pop­u­la­tion is bilin­gual on the is­land. There­fore, when­ever for­eign­ers come they can be served in English too.”

Other prob­lems have plagued Mon­treal more re­cently. The city’s mayor, De­nis Coderre, was elected in late 2013, fol­low­ing the res­ig­na­tion of his pre­de­ces­sor Gerald Trem­blay in Novem­ber 2012 un­der a cloud of cor­rup­tion. If this all sounds off-putting, it pales in com­par­i­son to the more re­cent may­oral shenani­gans in Toronto which gar­nered in­ter­na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion.

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