From the category archives:

My Montreal

There will almost certainly be a recount in my home riding of Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques, won by QS’s Manon Massé by a margin of only 91 votes over Liberal Anna Klisko.

Obviously, I would have preferred a Liberal victory over a Quebec Solidaire one here. The QS is staunchly pro-sovereignty, militantly anti-English, and has pie-in-sky ideas about economics and policy that only a party at no risk of ever having to govern can afford to hold. Furthermore, Manon Massé, while I’ve no doubt is a nice enough person, is a social justice activist who also happens to be an anti-Israel activist who joined in the Gaza flotilla of 2011 and is a member of a group that calls itself “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid”. (Whether or not any member of this group has any idea that Israel is the only state in the middle east where gay rights are even defended is another question… I’ve learned not to expect any logic when arguing with people like this. But I digress.)

Manon Massé (left) and Françoise David of Québec Solidaire awaiting the results of the close race in Sainte-Marie-Saint-Jacques

The Liberal candidate, Anna Klisko, a housing and real estate lawyer, daycare owner and mom, seems like a much better representative for this riding.

But the truly amazing thing is that she’s come so close to victory at all. The Liberals were expected to come a distant third in this riding, which has been solidly PQ since its creation in 1989. Instead, Daniel Breton of the PQ is sitting in third place, some 600 votes behind Massé. And it’s Klisko who has challenged for the lead. Her strong showing caught everyone by surprise, even her political rivals.

The truth is, Liberal voters in my neighbourhood do exist, though many tend not to broadcast it. And even if some of the votes that the Liberals got this time around were more anti-PQ votes as opposed to genuine support for the Liberals, there’s also the fact that some folks may have voted Quebec Solidaire instead of Liberal because they viewed them as the best PQ foil. Whatever the case, hopefully this means that our riding will be more than an afterthought in the next PLQ campaign, and that we’ll get some actual attention for once.

Whatever the recount shows, I’m glad to no longer be living in a PQ riding. I hope that if Massé is confirmed as the winner, that she will represent the interests of all her constituents with honour. And either way, I’m happy to know that my vote really meant something for once, that it came close to making a real difference in my riding, and that I no longer have to feel like a lone red voter in a sea of blue.

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Last week the Gazette published a rant by a couple of restaurant waiters, in which they angrily chastised customers for committing such cardinal sins as making small talk, asking for allergy-free meals, requesting to be seated in a booth, sending back food when it was not what they ordered, or — gasp! — failing to leave a giant tip. Judging by the tone of the rant, these two waiters probably deserve every lousy tip they get.

Please Don't Interrupt Me While I'm Ignoring YouNow, I’ve spent most of my career working in the customer service sector in some way or another. From my student days working at Fairview shopping centre folding sweaters, to my career in account services and strategic planning for various marketing agencies, I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to make sure that the customer was satisfied. It’s not easy, I’ll grant you. There are days when it’s trying, or when certain people make you want to tear your hair out. There are those clients who make you go home and cry and question your will to live. But on the whole, I love it, and I suspect most other people who deal with other human beings in some way feel the same. I get deep satisfaction from building those relationships, anticipating and exceeding expectations, and making people happy. The one thing that always gets to me is when I’m complimented for simply doing my job. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher: After all, compliments and thank yous are nice, but in today’s highly competitive world, shouldn’t good service be the price of entry?

Bad customer service is one of those universal things that can happen anywhere. People love to complain loudly about airlines, telecom companies, service providers, restaurants, hotels and stores where they had unfortunate experiences or were mistreated. They tell their family and friends. They take to social media en masse. This is hardly unique to Montreal.

What is unique here, however, is this sense that this is perfectly normal. and that nobody really needs to try harder or to do better. There are exceptions, of course. But in general, our service sector is among the surliest, rudest and most indifferent on the continent — and when called out for it, they tend to blame the customer.

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How do you solve a problem like Bixi?

10.09.2013

Montreal’s bike-sharing system is used by thousands of people, myself included, to get around. Montreal is a city where the ubiquitous orange cone is practically a symbol, with road closures and sinkholes and traffic nightmares and transit service outages the norm as opposed to the exception. In this context, Bixi is often the least stressful [...]

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Open letter to Bixi Montreal, one year later

06.07.2012

Dear Bixi Montreal, You and I didn’t exactly get off to the best start. Last year, I wrote you a letter about how badly I wanted to like you, but how, after a few bad dates, I’d decided that the relationship was not meant to be. Flash forward one year, and these days, I’m singing [...]

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University dropout rates: Chicken or egg?

06.05.2012

Interesting food for thought by Henry Aubin in the Gazette, with a perspective of the high dropout rates among university undergraduates in Quebec: According to the organization that represents university heads, CREPUQ, Concordia is the Montreal school with the highest dropout rate. UQÀM is hard on its heels. Université de Montréal is substantially better, though [...]

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Feels a little like ’87…

05.30.2012

Yesterday’s flash flooding in Montreal caused pipes and sewers to back up, led to water damage in homeowners’ basements, and caused and power outages across the city. Public buildings across downtown were evacuated as they filled with water. The metro’s orange line was down for several hours as several stations flooded. And roadways turned into [...]

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5 truths about the tuition protest that nobody has the courage to say (out loud)

05.16.2012

The student tuition protests have dragged on for 14 weeks now and show no sign of ending anytime soon. With the city under siege and anger rising, the media has been flooded with analysis and op-ed pieces of all stripes. But there are some things that nobody’s saying, probably because they’re afraid to rock the [...]

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Winter of discontent

04.08.2012

How has this winter been lousy? Let us count the ways… Hockey discontentment The Habs just wrapped up their worst season in recent history. After finishing dead last in the East and the third worst team in the entire league. This season saw local favourite Mikey Cammalleri shipped off to Calgary in the middle of [...]

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Montreal’s roads are falling down, falling down, falling down

08.02.2011

Our roads, bridges, overpasses, underpasses, interchanges, heck, pretty much all of our infrastructure is coming apart at the seams. This weekend’s collapse of part of the Ville-Marie Expressway was only the latest incident in a long list of signs that our road system is literally falling apart. Cartoonist Yvon Roy has proposed three new designs [...]

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DiMonte’s returning to CHOM

06.23.2011

Wow, this is a sea change: Terry DiMonte’s coming back to CHOM. Again: In the end, Terry DiMonte lasted around 3½ years in Calgary. While there, DiMonte – one of Montreal’s most famous radio morning-men – made it clear he missed his beloved Habs and still bled bleu, blanc et rouge and apparently he wasn’t [...]

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