Jane Jacobs: Montreal and Toronto

WARNING: Jane Jacob's book on sovereignty is quite convincing. If you do not want to become a sovereignist sympathiser or worse, and actual separatist, do not proceed. You have been warned.

Please see the Contents and chapter one.

From The Question of Separatism: Quebec and the Struggle over Sovereignty (Jane Jacobs, Random House, New York, 1980)

For discussion purposes as allowed under the fair dealing exception of the Copyright Act.

Chapter Two: Montreal and Toronto
To understand why sovereignty has emerged as a serious issue in Quebec at this time, we must look at two cities, Montreal and Toronto. They are responsible for what has been happening in Quebec. Between them, they have converted Quebec into something resembling a new nation, provincial political status notwithstanding. Nobody planned this outcome. Nobody even recognized what was happening at the time it happened. The events that worked this transformation do not go back very far. We can date them statistically as having begun in 1941, but that is because 1941 was a census year. I suspect they began in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II and the beginnings of the Canadian war economy.
Let us begin with Montreal. Between 1941 and 1971, Montreal grew enormously. In those thirty years the city more than doubled its population, increasing to more than two million. Immigrants from other countries contributed to Montreal's growth; as did people from other parts of Canada. Of course, some of the growth was natural increase, accounted for by births in the population Montreal already had. But the major influx was from rural and small-town Quebec.
Before, rural Quebecois had migrated to Montreal, just as they migrated to Quebec City and to New England, but this new migration dwarfed previous rural-to-city movements within the provinces. The rapidity with which the movement happened and the absolute numbers of people involved were unprecedented.
The French-speaking migrants to Montreal spent the 1940s and 1950s finding one another. The "quiet revolution" arose from their networks of new interests and relationships: from new communities of interest and interaction in the city; in the arts, in politics, working life and education. French culture in Montreal was in a quiet ferment as people built these relationships and put together ambitions and ideas they could not have developed even in a smaller city like the capital, Quebec City.
In the 1960s the evidence of this ferment burst forth in French theater, music, films and television. Talent and audiences had found one another. There was a new and rapidly growing readership for Quebecois books and periodicals; writers and readers had also found on e another. At about the same time, for a combinations of reasons, new kinds of opportunities finally began opening up to Quebecois in city professions and commerce. The most important of those reasons was the sheer economic growth of Montreal, stimulated first by war manufacturing and services, then by an influx of branch plants attracted by the pent-up demands after the war, and by growing trade with other parts of a generally prospering Canada and United States. Montreal maintained a rapid rate of economic growth well into the 1960s, and then kept the exuberant expansion -or a reasonable facsimile of it- going a little longer with special stimulants such as Expo, the Olympics and a variety of ambitious public construction programs.
Until the late 1960s, Montreal still seemed to be what it had been for almost two centuries; and English city containing many French-speaking workers and inhabitants. But, in fact, by 1960 Montreal had become a French city with many English-speaking inhabitants. By the time people in Montreal, let alone the rest of Canada, recognized what was happening, it had already happened.

Out in rural Quebec, the old stronghold of French culture and customs, another kind of quiet revolution had been taking place. From farming villages, market towns and mill towns, hundreds of thousands of people, especially young people, were trickling and then pouring into Montreal. As the stream swelled it had its effects on French educations and aspirations. If one's destinations was to be Montreal, there was much to be said for seeking an education and for nourishing ambitions that would have been pointless for one's parents and grand-parents.

Life also changed for people who stayed put in rural parishes and villages. The Montreal market for rural goods expanded rapidly. A million extra city people est a lot and feeding all these former country folk meant increased rural-city trade; much more city money was being infused into the rural economy than before. Not all the food, building materials, country holiday accommodations and other rural goods and services that swelled to supply the expanding Montreal market were produced in Quebec, but a lot were. What with the growing market for rural goods, and so many young people leaving the villages too, it made sense for rural people to spend some to their increased cash on labor-saving devices. Equipment to improve rural productivity -tractors, trucks, piped water, electrical appliances- they began showing up in parishes where, in the past, there would have been neither income to buy them nor need them. Some of the new cash also went for city-made consumer goods that in the past had been out of the question. Some went into bank deposits.

These changes has a profound effect on religious life in Quebec. Contrary to what most people believe, the Quebec religious revolution -the loss of authority of the Catholic Church- was not a cause of the city and rural changes I have mentioned, but as a result of them. The local priest's word about the world and its ways was no longer the last word in settlements where almost everyone was now at least distantly acquainted with somebody who had been off to a Montreal university for a secular education; or in settlements where migrants came back from Montreal to attend weddings, funerals and family reunions; or in settlements where people now went to movies when they got into town and at home listened to the radio, even began watching television; or in settlements where changes in the everyday economy and everyday working methods had burst the bonds of traditional ways of doing things.

One and the same force -the great growth surge of Montreal- was simultaneously undermining an old culture in the countryside and developing it into something new in the metropolis, and sending this new city-shaped culture back into the countryside.

Now we need to bring Toronto into the story. Montreal used to be the chief metropolis, the national economic center of all of Canada. It is and older city than Toronto, and until only a few years ago, it was larger. At the beginning of this century Toronto was only two-thirds the size of Montreal, and Montreal was much the more important center of finance, publishing, wholesaling, retailing, manufacturing, entertainment -everything that goes into making a city economy.

The first small and tentative shifts of finance from Montreal to Toronto began in the 1920s when Montreal banks, enamored of the blue-chop investments of the time, overlooked the financing of new mining opportunities which were then opening up in Ontario. That neglect created an opportunity for Toronto banks. The stock exchange which was set up in Toronto for trading mining shares merged with the old generalized Toronto stock exchange in 1934, and by the 1940s the volume of stocks traded in Toronto had come to exceed the volume traded in Montreal.

During the great growth surge of Montreal, from 1941 to 1971, Toronto grew at a rate that was even faster. In the first of those decades, when Montreal was growing by about 20 per cent, Toronto was growing by a rate closer to 25 percent. In the next decade, when Montreal was adding a bit over 35 percent to its population, Toronto was adding about 45 percent . And from 1961 to 1971, while Montreal was growing by less than 20 percent, Toronto was growing by 30 percent. The result was that Toronto finally overtook Montreal in the late 1970s.

But even these measurements do not fully suggest what was happening economically. As an economic unit or economic force, Toronto has really been larger than Montreal for many years. This is because Toronto forms the center of a collection of satellite cities and towns, in addition to its suburbs. Those satellites contain a great range of economic activities, from steel mills to art galleries. Like many of the world's large metropolises, Toronto had been spilling out enterprises into its nearby region, causing many old and formerly small towns and little cities to grow because of the increase in jobs. In addition to that, many branch plants and other enterprises that needed a metropolitan market and a reservoir of metropolitan skills and other producers to draw upon have established themselves in Toronto's orbit, but in places where costs are lower or space more easily available.

The English call a constellation of cities and towns with this kind of integration a "conurbation," a term now widely adopted. Toronto's conurbation, curving around the western end of Lake Ontario, has been nicknamed the Golden Horseshoe. Hamilton, which is the horseshoe, is larger than Calgary, a major metropolis of western Canada. Georgetown, north of Toronto, qualifies as only a small southern Ontario town, one of many in the conurbation. In New Brunswick it would be a major economic settlement.

Montreal's economic growth, on the other hand, was not enough to create a conurbation. It was contained withing the city and its suburbs. That is why it is deceptive to compare population sizes of the two cities and jump to the conclusion that not until the 1970s had they become more or less equal in economic terms. Toronto supplanted Montreal as Canada's chief economic center considerably before that, probably before 1960. Whenever it happened, it was another of those things that most of us never realized had happened until much later.

Because Toronto was growing more rapidly than Montreal in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and because so many of its institutions and enterprises now served the entire country, Toronto drew people not only from many other countries but from across Canada as well. The first two weeks I lived in Toronto back in the late 1960s, it seemed to me that almost everyone I encountered was a migrant from Winnipeg or New Brunswick. Had Montreal remained Canada's pre-eminent metropolis and national center, many of these Canadians would have been migrating to Montreal instead. In that case, not only would Montreal be even larger than it is today, but -and this is important- it would have remained an English Canadian metropolis. Instead it had become more and more distinctively Quebecois.

In sum, then, these two things were occurring at once: on the one hand, Montreal was growing rapidly enough and enormously enough in the decades 1941-1971 to shake up much of rural Quebec and to transform Quebec's culture too. On the other hand, Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe were growing even more rapidly. Montreal, in spite of its growth, was losing its character as the economic center of an English speaking Canada and was simultaneously taking on its character as a regional, French-speaking metropolis.

These events, I think, are at the core of Quebec's charged and and changing relationship with the rest of Canada. Things can never go back to way they were when an English-speaking Montreal was the chief economic center of all of Canadian and when life elsewhere in the province of Quebec was isolated and traditional. These changes are not merely in people's heads. They cannot be reasoned away or even voted away.

You are encouraged to post your comments.

Part II (pages 16 to 25) of chapter 2.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

jane Jacobs was an "American" who came to Canada. She was not the heart of Canada. She had her viewpoints BUT was not part of the "heart" of Canada.

Just because she said something, just doesn't make it so. She had an opinion for you to take or leave, but she was not the heart of Canada.


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