If you're an Anglo living in Quebec, you've probably been asked by other Canadians or Americans why you continue to live in Quebec given the language 'situation.'
It's never easy to answer, suffice to say that we stay because we want to. Those who aren't comfortable have already left, but those who remain, like it just fine.
Just for a hoot, I'd like to compare the livability index between Montreal and Toronto according to my own strictly subjective opinion.
I've graded each category out of ten and then applied a multiplier which weighs the category's overall importance.
Housing ---- Montreal 9/10 Toronto 4/10 x 10
A no-brainer. Montreal offers as varied a choice as Toronto and at about 35% cheaper than Toronto, it's a significant bargain. It's also possible to get homes with real lawns and back yards throughout the city with the exception of downtown. I once visited my cousin's home in Toronto and was shocked to find that there wasn't more than 3 feet that separated her home from her neighbour's. Freaky!
Health Care ---- Montreal 4/10 Toronto 6/10 x 10
While Quebec's health care system is clearly inferior to Ontario's, the gap is not as wide for Anglos in Montreal, who do a lot better then their Francophone counterparts, especially outside the major cities. The biggest problem remains the lack of family doctors and waiting lists.
Shopping ---- Montreal 5/10 Toronto 7/10 x 3
Montreal's biggest weakness is the lack of variety. Toronto boasts many American chain stores that haven't made the transition over to Quebec because of the French factor. (example-Williams-Sonoma). At the very high end, Toronto has a slew of expensive international stores that aren't represented in Montreal. Visit Bloor street in Yorkville to see what I mean.
Professional Sports ---- Montreal 5/10 Toronto 9/10 x 4
Toronto counts a pro baseball team and a pro basketball team, something missing in Montreal. The Toronto FC play in the premier professional soccer league, the MSL as compared to the minor league USL Impact. If Toronto had a NFL franchise, they'd be a perfect 10. The Buffalo Bills do however play some home games in Toronto, so it's a 9/10 for the city in terms of professional sports. While the Canadiens and the Allouettes are better organizations then the Leafs and the Argos, they can't make up the difference.
Restaurants and Nightlife---- Montreal 8/10 Toronto 6/10 x 3
At the top end of the scale both cities have a wonderful selection of first class restaurants, but Toronto has more. That being said, the real difference between the cities is in the restaurants serving patrons who can't shell out $400 on a restaurant bill and here Montreal wins easily. While Torontonians are more prone to eat at American style chain restaurants (like TGI Friday's), Montrealers eat in neighbourhood bistros that are second to none in North America. Eating phenomenally well, at a reasonable price is what sets the cities apart. Montreal nightlife is more dynamic and bustling, mainly because a higher percentage of Montrealers hit the clubs to party. Toronto's last call at 2:00AM is a bit of a party-pooper. Montreal bar owners are lobbying to extend the 3:00AM closing time to 6:00AM so people can continue dancing and sober up. (no alcohol would be served after 3:00AM..hmm!)
Live Entertainment---- Montreal 4/10 Toronto 7/10 x 3
No doubt that Toronto wins this category. Live theatre is virtually non-existent in Montreal. Although all the major musics acts include Montreal on the national tours, there are some smaller acts that just don't make it into La Belle Province. At least Montreal's situation is better than Vancouver's, a city that is consistently skipped on national tours.
Traffic---- Montreal 5/10 Toronto 3/10 x 6
Traffic is a problem for both cities, with both road networks straining under the load. Both have too many cars during rush hour and gridlock is an unfortunate fact of life. But Toronto's traffic is worse and commuting distances are significantly longer than in Montreal, making for a much longer drive. Toronto's Don Valley Parkway and Montreal's Metropolitan Boulevard remain the most annoying roads in Canada.
Cottage Country---- Montreal 10/10 Toronto 6/10 x 7
Toronto cottage country consist of the three major destinations, the Muskoka, Kawartha and Haliburton areas. While all three offer magnificent natural settings of woods and lakes, they require two to three hours to get to.
Montreal has two distinct areas that serve as cottage country, "The Laurentians," north of the city and the "Eastern Townships" to the southwest. Both offer magnificent lakes and woods, but have an added feature that is sorely lacking in Toronto cottage country- real mountains.
Better still, the Laurentians are located just 45 minutes away from Montreal, while the Townships are a little farther at about an hour and ten minutes. Montreal's cottage country is also better than Toronto's because of it's accessibility. Both regions are served by a first class divided highway that cuts through the heart of the regions, making for quick access.
As for boating, both Toronto and Montreal cottage country offer everything a boater could want, but for sailing the 'Townships' Lake Memphremagog straddling the US/Canadian border is tops.
Both city's cottage districts offer an outstanding selection of cross-country skiing, but when it comes to downhill skiing, Montreal far outshines Toronto, which offers few choices, the best being Intrawest's Blue Mountain resort in Collingwood with it's paltry 750 ft vertical drop. It doesn't compare to it's sister property in Mont Tremblant which is three times as tall and a world class resort, complete with a casino and airport (In fact Porter Airlines flies directly to the resort from Toronto during the ski season!) The Laurentians, The Townships and Northern Vermont (with the fabulous Jay Peak, Stowe Mountain Resort and Killington Ski Resort) combine to offer dozens of first quality ski resorts.
Also worth mentioning is the 120 kilometre bike trail that runs between St. Jerome and Mont Laurier and offers restaurants, B+B's, inns and campgrounds along the way, a biker's paradise!
What makes Montreal's cottage country a perfect 10/10 is that it is a complete summer and winter paradise, available not only to cottagers, but to all Montrealers as a day trip. Fabulous!
Higher Education---- Montreal 10/10 Toronto 8/10 x 8
Montreal and Toronto both offer splendid opportunities for higher education. What's amazing is that Montreal Anglos (numbering less than 15% of Toronto's Anglos) have so many options to choose from. Montreal's 10/10 comes from having the finest English language University in Canada, (18th best in the world) an amazing achievement. Toronto has more great schools, but none with an international reputation.
Weather---- Montreal 3/10 Toronto 5/10 x 8
Toronto has a warmer climate than Montreal. Not exceptionally better, but enough to make a big difference, lifestyle-wise. Truth be told, Montreal is not a fun place to be in February.
Festivals---- Montreal 10/10 Toronto 6/10 x 4
With the return of the Grand Prix, Montreal runs three major International events including the Jazz Festival and the Just for Laughs Festivals. What's significant is the extent that the citizens embrace these events. Toronto has only one real international event, the Toronto International Film Festival, which pales by comparison to the happenings in Montreal.
Public Transportation-- Montreal 8/10 Toronto 7/10 x 7
Both cities offer both excellent subway and surface transportation. The only reason Montreal's score is higher is that trips are generally shorter.
Suburbs-- Montreal 10/10 Toronto 6/10 x 7
Both cities offer beautiful bedroom communities, but the the real mark of a suburb is how far it is from the city centre and Montreal's west island suburbs are a lot closer. Some of the morning and evening commutes in Toronto are brutal hour and a half plus affairs. Going downtown for an evening out is an option that many suburban Torontonians don't have, given the long drive in. Suburbanites in Montreal remain vitally connected to the city.
Parks Montreal 9/10 Toronto 7/10 x 4
Montreal's Mount Royal Park has been voted the 8th most important urban park in the world. 545 acres smack dad in the middle of the city makes it second only to Vancouver's Stanley Park as Canada's best. Toronto has the Toronto Islands Park, but you need a paid ferry ride and a up to 40 minutes to get there, and that's from downtown. Accessibility is the key.
Bicycle Friendly-- Montreal 10/10 Toronto 5/10 x 3
Montreal leads all cities in North America in integrating bicycles into the urban landscape. The completion of a bike path on Maisonneuve Boulevard running through the heart of the downtown core signals the city's commitment. The BIXI bike rental program has been wildly successful and is expanding this spring into more neighbourhoods. The program is the envy of North America with cities lining up to import the concept. Don't worry Toronto, I'm sure you'll copy BIXI soon.
Innovation-- Montreal 8/10 Toronto 6/10 x 3
Montreal has always been the innovator, while Toronto remains the executor. Like the Japanese, Toronto copies and improves just about every urban concept developed in Montreal. Montreal is first, Toronto is better.
Professional Life - Montreal 6/10 Toronto 9/10 x 8
There's more opportunity in Toronto for Anglos than in Montreal. That, more than language was the cause of the Anglo exodus from Quebec.
Cost of Living - Montreal 8/10 Toronto 6/10 x 8
Housing, restaurants, entertainment all cost significantly more in Toronto.
Joie de Vivre -Montreal 8/10 Toronto 5/10 x 8
Torontonians are stay-at-homers. Montrealers live in the streets. There's an edginess in Montreal that exists nowhere else in Canada. Anglo Montrealers live in two cultures and enjoy it.
And so here is the final tally.
Final points--- Montreal 832- Toronto 692.
What do you think?