Like other Montrealers, I received my 12-page city newsletter this week.
Titled Montréal en tête (“Head in Montreal” or something), the cover features a tuqued man and his vaguely multi-racial grand-daughter. The headline announces: Montréal, ville solidaire.
It features articles on fire safety, theatre, rights and responsibilities, the new city government structure, important public works phone numbers, a list of winter activities and more.
One problem: all the articles are in French. (So much for solidarity.)
I understand that 53 percent of Montrealers speak French as a first language. But 18 percent speak English as a first language. And another 29 percent learned Chinese, Greek, Italian (or other languages) in childhood and (most) probably use English today with their friends.
Bottom line: at least 33 percent of Montrealers self-identify as English-speaking but the city government sends unilingual French newsletters oozing comically ironic messages of solidarity.
Perhaps I’m unfair. The English-language version must be available upon request, no?
Yes. In fact, in small type at the back of the newsletter readers are informed that “[t]he English version of Montréal en tête is available at all Accès offices and other points of service.”
I guess I could use the exercise. But I don't imagine I'll be sprinting to a point of service in the next few months. (It was -19C with the windchill factor today in Montreal.)
Which brings me to Alan Alda. Apart from being a fine actor (especially on live TV), Alda figured out how to provide better service than an entire North American city government.
A few weeks ago, I sent an e-mail to Studio Fan Mail, a sub-contractor that stars use to manage fan photo requests. Today, I received a photo of Alan Alda. In the mail. I didn’t have to visit an Accès Alda office. Nor an Alda point of service. I sent an e-mail message and I got what I needed in my mail box.
I’m not sure what kind of fictional president Alda’s Senator Arnold Vinick would make. But in real life, Alda does a better job at serving his public than does the City of Montreal at serving its own.