Thursday, May 14, 2009

One Size Fits All

Montreal and Quebec are kings of the one-size-fits-all solution. My three favorite examples of highly dysfunctional "solutions" to public problems.

  1. Moving Day: All leases in Montreal end on the same day: July 1st, which is a national holiday (Canada Day) in the rest of the country. Why? Apparently, at some point in time, leases ended during the school year, and moving messed with the kids' education. Ok. So, the powers that be decided to have a single day for leases to end/start. Why they could not have made it a week or a month or a season (summer) is beyond me. As a result, everyone around here who moves does so on a single day, distoring the moving industry not just of Montreal but of northeastern North America and beyond. Moving trucks arrive from Vancouver, from New Jersey and elsewhere. And national goverment offices that might be useful or necessary during this process are closed.
  2. Construction Holiday: Sometime in the past, construction workers got hosed because they were not allowed to take vacations in the summer time, but were often forced to take their vacation days when the construction season was over and while they were already onto their second jobs. So, the wise folks in Quebec decided that all construction workers would have the same two weeks off at the end of July. As a result, in the short span of time where construction can happen (winters are long up here), for two weeks in July, no construction happens. AND all of the these folks and people in associated industries hit the border at the same time. Woe be unto those who try to leave Canada at the beginning of the construction holiday or those who seek to return that same day. Occasionally, our trips have overlapped and we have had to be strategic.
  3. Day Care: Politicians in the past promised $5/day care for kids since there was a day care crisis--people had a hard time paying for it. Serious problem, so the politicians said that people would only have to pay $5 day and the Quebec government would pick up the rest. This distorted the market to such an extreme that it is very, very difficult to get a spot in a day care (one of my colleagues is realizing this now), as many folks who would not have used it are doing so because it is so convenient. AND it has busted the budget, as a huge entitlement program. It is not means tested at all.
I don't know why Montreal and Quebec cannot develop a nuanced policy. But it is what it is.

1 comment:

Francois Caron said...

About the daycare, you could read where the gouvernement is heading on:

Essentialy, the Quebec does not have the same issues as in the US. A combination of weak birth rate, not enough women on the market or simply not enough people at all to work, moms with young ones were spoted as too poor and needed help. After more than a decade, poverty went down for that class, birth rate went up.

Simply, there's a cost on trying to enhance an issue. Here down, they just let them suffer/die and they become war meat and cheap labour. Seeing the so short vacation period after birth, many women gave up their job for many years.

The program is obviously a deal for the residents of Qu├ębec, and when there's a deal, there will always be too much people at the door. Same for the hospital. But please mention that there's at least a private sector too. Here down in US, it cost so much costly 900$ and up per month. Obviously no women can go to work before the typical 2 kids are at school. But it's not an issue since the immigration to the US is so strong anyway.

No system is perfect, but at least Quebec tries and we're not waiting for an Obama to make the change. My feeling is overall that Quebec policies seems sometimes ahead, and sometimes behind. You're welcome to get in the game to make it better. :)

About the Construction vacation, they came in 1970. Still before the PQ. More on

How's your french after all these years?


Francois Caron