Is Montréal a creative city?

This morning, I went out and decided to do some research on the city where I live from a creative class point of view. I found two reports. One by Richard Florida himself on Canadian cities. The report was paid for by Ontario, but it looks objective. Second of all, I found a report by the department of Canadian Heritage on attracting talent in Canada.

What comes out of these reports is that Montréal is not a very creative city. It more creative than the Canadian average, but well below Vancouver and Toronto. However, it is definitively a tech. center, it actually surpass both Toronto and Vancouver in terms of being a technopolis. Florida’s report point out though that these figures might be misleading: a lot of tech. workers in Montréal work in the aerospace industry and their job might be in a tech. industry, but it is unclear how much technology is involved in their work. There are creative and talented people in Montréal, but according to the Heritage Canada report, they are poor if not starving.

I must say that these reports match my intuition. I’ve been back from the maritimes for a few months now, and while Montréal is well ahead of the maritimes in terms of food for example (and yes, it does contribute to the creativity index), I’m a bit disappointed. A lot of people in Montréal don’t get it. It is all about big corporations, big unions, big salaries for them. Hey! I want a big salary too! Don’t get me wrong… But the open culture isn’t there.

I would describe the culture here as a “république des satisfaits” (well-off republic): that is, you have a large segment of the population, the baby-boomers, who are squarely in control of the society. They occupy all strategic jobs and resist changes. They have good paying jobs and don’t really care for creativity or openess. I should point out that Montréal is one of the most unionized city in North America. And they make sure younger folks stay out. I suspect they also keep foreigners out. This is somewhat an easier thing to achieve here than in the rest of North America where people are slightly more mobile. I suppose that it is also culturally influenced by France which has a strong sense of hierarchy. Whatever, it sucks and Montréal pays for it: my intuition is that more great jobs are created in Vancouver and Toronto than here.

However, I don’t think this applies as well to the anglophone community in Montréal. I suspect, I hope, they stand closer to Toronto and Vancouver in terms of their creativity index. That’d be an interesting study to make. Are Montréal anglos more open? Wow. You could start quite a debate there.

3 thoughts on “Is Montréal a creative city?”

  1. Well, one data point is that Montreal has two English alternative weeklies, and I think they kick Voir and Ici’s ass.

  2. I would be interested to hear your take on Floridas book in general I am in the middle of it right now, and I am both interested in, and frustrated by, what he has to say..

    I would also disagree with his rating of toronto hiigher than montreal. I moved here from toronto specifically for the artist – run culture of montreal. there are many many more artist run centres in montreal than in toronto – more cultural funding in general in quebec than in the rest of canada put together, this has to do with the provincial funding structure rather than a bias on the part of the feds.

    But, and this brings me to my problem with Floridas research, I think broadly catgorising creative work, as being something about ingenuity and about changing or creating something – rather bastardizes the term. I work both as an artist and a web developer and while I view both occupations as creative, I wouldn’t use the same analytical tools to describe them.. any thoughts?

    ps really; hour and mirror better than ici and voir??

  3. I don’t think Florida claims to measure everything accurately. Obviously, his measures will be bias. But if you require him to take all biases out first, he would not be able to measure anything at all. In science, we have to accept that a bias, unaccurate measure might be better than no measure at all.

    I lived in Toronto for 5 years. It was clearly more business minded than Montréal.

    I have no idea if maybe the English community in Montréal is more interesting, that’s a theory I throw in. I don’t read Hour or Mirror, nor the French ones. I only read the Devoir.

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