Déjà Vu Montreal October 2017

For the most part my blog posts have leaned towards the more factual side of topics related to your money and finances. I thought I would make this blog post more personal where maybe you could get a glimpse of my personality and values, so you would know I am more than a data analysing, geeky professional.

I just returned from our annual conference this year held in Montreal, Quebec, a city I like to call my second home. I lived there briefly in the late 70s and that was where I met my future husband.

The conference was information intensive, with little free time, but fun. It is good to get exposure to new ideas even if I may not use them in our client meetings. An advisor who strives for excellence must always be aware of the latest events in the financial world, especially in terms of compliance and regulation. My favorite part of the conference, however, is making new connections with other professionals and getting their opinions.

Montreal is a beautiful city and I learned more about Canada’s early history. Knowing our country’s history is humbling and keeps me grounded. Montreal is 375 years old. For one of its birthdays Germany gifted a piece of the Berlin Wall, which is located in the Centre de Commerce Mondiale in downtown Montreal.

One thing I found very disturbing about Montreal is that the number of homeless people seems to have increased since we were last there in 2014 for the Grand Prix. The disparity between those who have a comfortable life and those who are struggling is very evident. I am bothered by that because I still remember being a poor student.

This is similar to San Francisco which we witnessed in 2015. Every street and metro station had several people begging for money, food, or even a smile. Some had their pets with them, and one sign referenced a child. I found it heartbreaking. The early morning we left it was raining and we passed several people huddled in doorways, trying to shelter from getting wet. Businesses have adapted to this homeless population in various ways. At our AirBnB there was the usual front entrance code, but after 6 and on the weekend there was also a code to use the elevator.

Montrealers have accepted this as a fact of life. There seems to be little evidence of social services to enable these people to break the cycle of poor decision making, and to work towards a more hopeful life. It is easier to fall on hard times in Quebec, as they are heavily taxed and I am guessing wages are not high for many people. In addition to the GST they also have a 10% provincial sales tax. We are very fortunate here in Alberta that we have no provincial sales tax.

I came home grateful for what we have in Calgary. We are a very community minded city. Where else in the world would one be able to get free food for 10 days during the Stampede? Think of the way neighbors and strangers helped people during the 2013 flood. Or the winter transit strike a few years back where drivers would pick up people at bus stops. Or during the few crazy winters we have had where strangers would help drivers jump start their cars or get them out of the ditch.

With the civic election behind us, now is a good time to reflect on all Calgary has to offer, one of the most important being that there is a commitment here to give as many people as possible the opportunity to work towards a more hopeful life. There is an acknowledgement that each life has value and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. Of course any city can improve but I am proud of what Calgary has done to help every one of its citizens if they so desire.

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