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Montreal car show pulls in the dreamers


At the Montreal International Auto Show, it’s estimated two-thirds of the 200,000 visitors are “habitués” — aficionados who come out of a love for cars, but aren’t looking to buy. At Toronto’s car show, by contrast, two-thirds are there because they’re in the market.

Montreal’s show, featuring more than 500 cars from 38 carmakers and now in its 77th year, is in some ways geared more toward dreams than practicality, which is perhaps an apt way to describe the difference between the two cities.

Herewith, some of the multi-hued dreams on display.


People look over the Mint Concept Genesis car, an all-electric luxury vehicle, at the Montreal International Auto Show on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.

Christinne Muschi /

MONTREAL GAZETTE

Electric ambitions

Attendees were lined up to get in Saturday morning, and most rushed to the seventh floor to see the electric cars. One took out folded pieces of cardboard, assembled them, and placed them in the trunks.

“He has kids,” spokesperson Denis Talbot explained. “He wanted to see if their hockey bags would fit in the car.”

Four years ago, there were only about five electric models on display. This year, there were more than 20.

Maxime Gauthier eyed the Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid going for $35,000, less several thousand dollars in government rebates, while his one-year-old sat in the driver’s seat. It might be his next car.

“With the cost of gas, and the environment, it’s starting to make sense,” he said. One booth featured electric bicycles, another growing trend.

Global ambitions

Two dozen protesters from Extinction Rebellion gathered outside the show, chanting “they stink, they pollute, they kill.”

A study released this week by HEC Montréal on the state of energy usage found Quebecers bought a record-breaking number of light trucks and SUVs and are using more gas than ever before. Electric cars represented three per cent of new car sales in 2018. Light trucks and SUVs made up 64 per cent. “It’s time for car culture to come to an end,” protesters said.


People look over a 1912 Model T car at the Montreal International Auto Show on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.

Christinne Muschi /

MONTREAL GAZETTE

The mighty Model T

Guy Dufresne’s car is 108 years old. Last year, he drove his 1912 Ford Model T, with its original engine, more than 1,000 kilometres on Quebec roads, at a top speed of 80 kilometres per hour. He found it in Pennsylvania, bought it for $4,000, and spent 10 years rebuilding it, restoring its brass kerosene lamps and doors made of oak. It sold originally for $690 — today, it’s worth about $50,000, but it’s not for sale. Dufresne’s father was an auto mechanic, and Dufresne was a machinist technician. Now he rides with the Model T club of Quebec. The only changes needed to make it roadworthy were to install disc brakes and turn signals.


Daniel Jean, owner of a 1929 Phaeton, shows the engine on his vehicle at the Montreal International Auto Show on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.

Christinne Muschi /

MONTREAL GAZETTE

Barn treasure

Next car over, in the Classics section, Daniel Jean’s 1929 Ford Model A, built in Ontario and assembled in Montreal, sold for $495 in its day, cheaper than the 1912 Model T. During the Depression, Henry Ford dropped the price of his cars and increased salaries of his workers so they could buy them. Unlike many car makers of the time, Ford didn’t go bankrupt.

After a search of many years, Jean found the car, sitting in a barn for decades in St-Paul-de-Joliette. He paid $4,000, and spent close to $50,000, and 3,000 hours restoring it. In its earlier life, it logged 55,000 kilometres in Sherbrooke.

Is it for sale? “Never,” said Jean, showing pictures of his grandmother sitting on a Model T back in the 1940s “I restored this with my son, my daughter. They drive it. This was a work of love.”


People look over vehicles by Ferrari at the Montreal International Auto Show on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.

Christinne Muschi /

MONTREAL GAZETTE

Prancing horses in the field of dreams

Over at the Ferrari corral, the 488 Pista, hot red and 720 horses, retails for $458,000. The 812 Superfast, top speed of 340 km/h, is cheaper at $422,000, but its gas mileage is not as good. The price tags elicit sarcastic comments of “That’s in the budget,” and “Oh, not too bad.” Ferrari rep Roberto Soccio notes those are base prices, however, and extras will bring up the price.

“You don’t need a Ferrari,” he said. “You want one.” There’s a one to two year waiting list for the Portofino Ferrari at his Jean-Talon dealership, a relative steal at $246,000 — without the extras.


People look over a 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart at the Montreal International Auto Show on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.

Christinne Muschi /

MONTREAL GAZETTE

Car as self

Jose Mendes estimates he’s spent $50,000 upgrading his tricked up 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart on display at the “My Car” section of the show. The passion for cars was passed on by his father. He races it against other car nuts, who express themselves through their cars, he said. What does his say about him?

“It’s loud,” Gomes said. “But it’s also charming.”

Over at the Porsche section, the tagline for the 718 Porsche Spyder two-seater convertible, $110,000 and 414 horsepower, is: “Perfectly irrational.”

Which sums things up nicely.

The Montreal International Auto Show runs until Jan. 26 at the Palais des congress. General admission tickets are $17 for adults.

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People visit the Montreal International Auto Show in Montreal on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020.

Christinne Muschi /

MONTREAL GAZETTE



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Quebec names female civilian to lead Sûreté du Québec



Quebec Public Security Minister ⁦Geneviève Guilbault, left, introduces Johanne Beausoleil, the new interim head of ⁦
Sûreté du Québec, to the media in Quebec City on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019.


Twitter / Montreal Gazette

QUEBEC — For the first time in Quebec’s history, a woman will lead the Sûreté du Québec, which is getting its third chief in less than a year.

On Wednesday, the Quebec cabinet named a rare civilian, Johanne Beausoleil, to the post of associate director-general of the force starting Dec. 2 for a three-year period. That also allows the government to name her director-general on an interim basis.

Currently working for the Montreal police force but a former internal auditor of the SQ, Beausoleil starts her new job Dec. 16.

The announcement was made by Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault.

“We have a choice candidate,” Guilbault said at a news conference, where she was joined by Beausoleil. “Mme Beausoleil has all the qualifications to occupy this post. She is well aware of the challenges that the provincial police is facing.”

Added Beausoleil: “The biggest challenge is to mobilize resources and continue to work in this direction. It is also to encourage more female officers to apply, to be more present (in the force); it will be my pleasure to encourage this.”

Beausoleil becomes the second interim director named by the government this year in the wake of the sudden departure of Martin Prud’homme under a cloud of mystery nine months ago.

He was relieved of duty by Guilbault, who said she had a duty to act following allegations of a criminal nature against Prud’homme.

Prud’homme has not been arrested or charged with anything and is home earning a full salary pending the results of the investigation, which has been turned over to the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI).

There have been reports the suspension is connected to the leak of information at the province’s anti-corruption unit (UPAC).

Following Prud’homme’s departure, the government put Mario Bouchard in charge of the force, but Bouchard has announced plans to move up his planned retirement to mid-December, so Quebec had to act.

Bouchard recommended Beausoleil for the job.

It is not known how long Beausoleil will be in the position — she has an open mandate as interim director-general — or whether she may be asked or will apply to be the permanent leader of the force should Prud’homme not be cleared or not return.

“This is not what is being asked of me,” Beausoleil said when asked by reporters if she’s interested in the job. “And this is a hypothetical question. We are not at this stage yet.”

Her arrival was welcomed starting at the top by Premier François Legault, who was asked if appointing a civilian to the strategic post is an advantage.

“There are pros, there are cons,” Legault told reporters earlier. “What’s important is that the person shows leadership, that she be accepted by the employees of the SQ, that she be someone who has a proven track record in managing personnel.”

Beausoleil said she does not see an obstacle by the fact she is not a police officer and is taking over a force that has traditionally been run like a military operation.

“I don’t see this (no police status) as a challenge,” Beausoleil said. “It think it’s a question of competency, much more than a question of sex or civil status.”

The opposition parties had no objections to the nomination, but interim Liberal Leader Pierre Arcand returned to the Prud’homme departure question.

“It’s not normal that after all this time, after a person is removed from their functions, that this person not know exactly where he stands,” Arcand said.

Born in Montreal, Beausoleil, 56, has degrees from the Université du Québec à Montréal and a masters in public administration from the École nationale d’administration publique (ENAP).

Although she will be seen as an outside bureaucrat in the SQ, Beausoleil worked there for four years as an internal auditor where she was responsible for ethics and evaluation of programs for the top brass.

She also has 27 years experience working for Quebec’s correctional services, including five years as a deputy public security minister for correctional services.

There have been two civilian bureaucratic heads of the SQ in the past: Guy Coulombe, a top “go-to” mandarin on tough issues in 1996, and Florent Gagné, another bureaucrat, in 2003.

Under a new law, the full-time head of the force has to be voted on by two-thirds of MNAs in the legislature.

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Josh Freed: We live in a world where everything breaks and no one can fix it


There’s a tiny stove light we leave on at night that does something truly remarkable. It’s lasted 23 years, ever since we bought the stove just after our son was born.

Every night that lightbulb keeps shining and never needs replacement, so one of these must be true:

A) The bulb is a miracle and we should donate it to the Church Of Infinite Light

B) The bulb is the world’s first perpetual motion machine

C) The bulb is a design flaw.

In the same 23 years we’ve been through four microwaves, five vacuums, three fridges, two dishwashers, three cars and 600 toasters, yet this little bulb keeps glowing.

I don’t even know what brand it is because I’m scared to unscrew it and kill the magic.

Besides, the company that made it probably went under long ago for making something that never needs replacement. I can hear the meeting back in 2007 when the factory owner huddled with his manager:

Manager: Congrats boss! We’re hearing from people who’ve used our bulb for over a decade. What a product!

Owner: That’s what worries me: We’ll never sell another one! I need you to meet with our engineers about fixing the problem.

Manager: But how can we fix it? It’s the best bulb in the world!

Owner: Fix it so it breaks!

Our tiny bulb is a reminder of today’s replacement culture where everything always gets replaced, remodelled, updated or upgraded.

Our phones slow to a crawl as the batteries die, usually just when our two-year plan ends. So we’re tempted to update with bigger memories that run more apps that need more power and kill our batteries faster.

There’s often no alternative anyway. In today’s all-electronic age toasters, espresso-makers, phones and even fridges are cheaper to replace than repair — if anyone repairs them at all.

When our TV recorder had a small glitch two years ago, I brought it in to fix, but the Videotron clerk eyed me like I’d wandered in from the 20th century.

“Repair?” he sputtered. “If our technicians even touch that, it will cost you minimum $100. Instead, I’ll sell you a new updated recorder for $14.99 a month — and deduct that amount each month as a permanent promotion.”

So every month for over two years they’ve charged me $14.99, then deducted $14.99, in the weird bookkeeping of the modern world.

The only principle is: out with the out-dated and in with the latest. Repairs today are mostly reserved for big items like cars and houses, and how long will that last?

In a decade your carpenter will tell you: “Your roof needs replacing and your pipes and wiring are shot. It’s cheaper to just put in a new house — we can have one delivered tomorrow.”

Eventually, the word “repair” will become an archaic, forgotten term. You’ll look it up in the dictionary and find: “Repair (v): Old English verb, out of usage, replaced by the word ‘replace’.”

By then, fixing things will be an illegal profession seen as tampering with the buy-and-replace cycle that makes the world go round.

“ALERT: Illegal Maytag repairman seen on Isabella and Victoria. Terminate and destroy, before he destroys the economy.”

Besides, no one knows how to repair today’s gadgets anyway. The companies that make them are too busy churning out endless new models and can’t be bothered to produce parts for each one, let alone figure out how to fix them.

They just want to sell you new gadgets, as do the distant factory workers who produce them: armies of Vietnamese, Bangladeshi and other low-paid workers producing millions of gadgets a day, and praying we buy them.

Otherwise, their factories will close, they’ll lose their jobs and it will all be our fault for not replacing our three-year-old phones. If everything lasted as long as my lightbulb, it would be lights out for the global economy.

Part of this is just capitalism out to make a buck, but much of it is also us getting bored with the same car, clothes, toaster oven or giant TV.

In fact, today’s TVs last longer than ever but who wants them when tomorrow’s are always bigger and better with “8K, HDR, 88-inch OLED” screens and astounding colour we absolutely must have to watch the weather.

My 10-year-old 40-incher is a black and white TV in comparison, and I crave a new one — though my old one once seemed miraculous to me.

On a planet quickly using up its resources, can this go on indefinitely? Someday, we will all have to learn to live with our “boring” stuff, while companies live with fewer sales.

By then they’ll be hitting us with special “charging surcharges” of $200 a month for phone batteries that never die.

But for now my little stove light is an accidental beacon for the future. And I’m rooting for it.

I suspect it will still be burning when we have to replace the stove.

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