A paean for once-great Montreal.

Political writer Chantal Hèbert recently wrote a requiem for Montreal in the Toronto Star. She described the city as a political orphan. It is no surprise. Montreal has become insular. It is a city that has forgotten its wondrous past and searches for a future. It is a city that has forgotten that for people to give a damn about you, you first need to care about others.

It was not always like this. There were happier times. There was a glorious Expo and the world came to Montreal. And then there was the crack of the bat by les Expos when the Habs missed the Stanley playoffs. Montreal has produced great business ventures, major medical research centres, prestigious institutes of learning and leaders in the arts. Montreal has much to build on.

We have always loved Montreal for its civility, fine cuisine, chic women, business savvy, worldliness, savoir faire, mix of cultures and, of course, the smoked meat at Ben’s. Montreal was so much more than it is today and it can be great again.

But first the people of Montreal have to learn that language can be a beacon, not a barrier. They have to seize the opportunity to supply the leadership that Quebec so desperately needs to be part of a new prosperity in the 21st Century.

Chantal Hèbert makes special note of Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s wooing of Toronto’s new Mayor John Tory. She sees their working together on the needs of their cities as a very positive step for Montreal. It can work for both and John Tory is probably well aware of the benefits of a united front.

The surprise for Coderre will be learning that John Tory is more left-wing politically. Coderre is a Quebec Liberal and that party now embraces most right wing causes in that province. Toronto’s mayor might be in the same party as Stephen Harper but he is far more progressive.

But if the two mayors can identify the common causes of their respective cities, much can be accomplished. They can each bring their respective premiers on side but it needs both to convince whoever is prime minister for the next few years.

One of their objectives should be the creation of the high-speed electrified rail corridor from Windsor to Quebec City. That is a project of extreme national importance that is needed to restore the industrial, commercial and tourism economies of both provinces and Montreal and Toronto will be major beneficiaries.

Hèbert is quite right. They have to work as a team. Apart they are only pallbearers.

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Copyright 2015 © Peter Lowry

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