I stepped into 2018 hopeful. But, no matter how grand it seemed that first morning - each new year inevitably promises better things to come for each of its three-hundred-and sixty-five days - when it’s all said and done, years disappear like the eternal winter nights dissolving into the eternal summer days.
2018 made its mark, regardless. Here. Everywhere. Like the rest of the world, Montreal (all of Quebec, too) was swept up in a conflicting, paradoxical ball of conservatism and liberalism wrapped up so tightly that if you split it in two, you might find that it reacts like a divided nucleus, exploding with the force of an atomic bomb.
With that said, here's my list of the Montreal moments from 2018 to go down in history:
Legalization of Cannabis: No longer an illegal substance as per the Canadian criminal code. True, this was a larger national initiative than just Quebec. Still, that's something to write home about. That’s something to write to all those people still occupying space in their cold concrete cells (in the U.S.) about. Like most change that’s precipitated by a new law, you can hardly tell on the street that anything has changed at all. (Aside from the long cues that ran for miles on opening day along Ste. Catherine, as seen in this video).
People sometimes think that if you legalize an activity, it necessarily becomes ubiquitous, as if the law has the power to fully dictate people’s actions. If only it were so easy, right?
Now, there's no doubt that real change happens slowly. Despite what our gimme/show me NOW culture is warping us to believe, we will not truly know the impact of the legalization for some time to come. At the very least not until the end of 2019. So stay tuned to see how that turns out.
But my bet for 2019: Montreal will show itself to be mature to the substance, like Amsterdam.
From Liberal to CAQ: I don't mean to start a political debate, but the elephant in the room must be acknowledged. The political scene has been a hot mess in this town since I moved back in 2009. First there was the liberal government scandal with corruption in the construction industry (and has that little issue been fixed yet? I think not). Then, what really lit the fire under our cold buttocks back in 2012 were the student protests, which turned out to be part of a larger political context - the 'Printemps érable'; this, of course, led to a crisis in government and thus a left-wing separatist Parti Québécois (PQ) took control.
What is strange about the chain of events from 2012 to now, the end of 2018, is the fact that it was the PQ's introduction of a bill (Charte des valeurs québécoises) that deterred their left leaning constituents and drove the party to a quick defeat in the next election. Whereas in 2018, the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) essentially ran on the same platform and won. What does that tell you?
My bet for 2019: I don't pretend to be a sophisticated oracle able to predict political moves, so the best I can say is that the CAQ will continue to use language and immigration as a scapegoat and will do little to improve wage and living inequalities.
Heat: It was so hot this summer. So hot, we couldn't write. So hot, I almost melted in the heat of my non air conditioned apartment. I never imagined myself, living in Canada, needing an air conditioner. I always believed that in the long run, air conditioners are bad for everyone because they overburden electrical grids and increase planet-warming emissions Call it climate change or old age (probably the former), but it's clear things need to change.
My bet for 2019: I'll have to invest in an air conditioner now if I want to survive the summer of 2019.
Cold: The winter of 2018 was cold. So bloody cold. Already on this side of the year, we've set a new record for November. But I won't bore you with weather talk anymore (even if it is Canadians' favourite past-time). I mean, it's just the weather right?
My bet for 2019: As Canadians, there will be no end to our surprise of what our weather is capable of.
Bus Schedules and Screens: I don't think this happened in 2018 but I only became aware this year of just how convenient the STM's changeover is. From forcing bus drivers to yell out the next stop to overcrowded buses, to screen displays for most buses and bus stops that show and announce the upcoming stop. No more guessing which street you are on through dirt encrusted windows. Hurray. Not to mention the fact that they now post schedules at each bus stop! This is the kind of change in the world that makes me think that there is hope for humanity's future.
My bet for 2019: We will not get the pink metro line Mayor Plante promised during her campaign.
Of course this isn't all that happened in 2018, but it's something, for Montreal anyway.
Here's hoping 2019 brings more understanding, reasonable politics and even better bus rides than 2018.
What's your best bet for the new year?