Why does Montreal rank so poorly?

Despite its abundance of culture, attendance is low



It’s hard to imagine that cosmopolitan Montreal, with its feted music scene, mountains of arts funding, work-to-live inclination and literary sensibility, would place anywhere but at the very top of a list of Canada’s Most Cultured Cities. An even bigger surprise is to find it near the bottom.Smart Cities 2010: Why does Montreal rank so poorly?

True, cultural opportunities abound in Montreal. There’s the world-class Montreal Symphony Orchestra, L’Orchestre Métropolitain, L’Opéra de Montréal, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, a half-dozen music festivals, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival and Pop Montreal, and no fewer than a dozen museums.

“But the index isn’t about whether something exists,” says Paul Cappon, president and chief executive of the Canadian Council on Learning. “It’s about whether people actually use it.”

And when you crunch the numbers, looking at how many Montrealers actually went to the ballet, for instance, or visited the McCord Museum of Canadian History last year, the locals look a lot more like rubes than the cultural leaders many in the rest of Canada imagine them to be. Only one in four Montrealers visited a museum last year, compared with nearly half of all Victoria residents. More Winnipeggers, in fact, visited a museum—despite the dearth of options.

Smart Cities 2010: Get Your Score


Why does Montreal rank so poorly?

  1. Maybe attendance is SPREAD out. Montreal is a diverse populace, with a variety of interests. This might explain low attendance in each sector. Ballets, orchestras, jazz festivals, fringe fesivals, culinary festivals, festivals represeting different countries – none of these exist without a demand for them. There is no debating that Montreal is a city of cultural abundance.

    • I doubt that. Read the rankings. They lumped everything into a category called "performing arts"

  2. everyone who attends Montreal festivals are out of towners, so I agree with this

    • Nonsense. You think everyone who attends Les Francofolies, our francophone music festival, is an American or Torontonian? That's just the most obvious example. Do you even live in Montreal?

    • As a native Montrealer, that's easily the stupidest thing I've EVER heard. Montrealers LOVE the jazz, fringe, comedy fests.

  3. Let's not forget that Victoria has an extremely large number of retirees. Is it any surprise that their museums are well-attended?

  4. This is exactly why our economy is in the stinkin' toilet.

  5. "More Winnipeggers, in fact, visited a museum—despite the dearth of options." Maybe it was BECAUSE of the dearth of options. There might be TOO MANY options in Mtl, and one can only do so much… (and LOVE the riot shot to depict Montreal culture, as we "uncultured rubes" prefer to skip the ballet and head directly to the loot, pillage and burn events)

    • And maybe we don't spend our time in stuffy museums because our culture is vibrantly alive and in the music clubs, small galleries and theatres supporting emerging artists, and in the streets!

      Seriously, I cracked up when I read "museum attendance" as the go-to indicator of culture! Do any of the toffy-nosed twits at Maclean's have the remotest idea what real, living culture is?

    • Culture is not a statistic. It's felt. Quebec culture is vibrant and far reaching. In the southern city of JAX, FL, a city of 1 million people, the waterfront is empty on the weekend. Have your checked the waterfront of Montreal? Thank you for the superficial data, I'd rather watch a replay of "dumb and dumber", looks like it's arriving in Canada and Macleans.

  6. I've helped organize music and performing arts shows in Montreal and McLeans magazine has certainly never asked for our attendance statistics, nor has anybody else. Are you accounting for Montreal's vibrant, diverse and definitely not-profitable independent arts scene? I've probably seen 50+ shows in the past year, but I'm betting only the one at Centaur and Stevie Wonder made a blip on your scale, and maybe, just maybe the Fringe Fest and Nuit blanche.

  7. Montreal is the most amazing city in Canada! I always have the same feeling when I come to visit Montreal! The Rank – a joke!

    • I've got to agree Hans. I was at the Centaur Theature last night – people were out walking, drinking in outside bistros, lining up restaurants in Old Montreal……I visited St. John's 2 years ago…walked along the Port – no-one around…..go to the Old Port in Montreal during the summer season and it is crowded..

      Who makes up these figures. Montreal rocks.


      • It's meaningless to compare these two ports. St. John's is a working port, so no surprise there aren't many people strolling about. Still, it's a great place to walk and enjoy views of Signal Hill and the Narrows. The Old Port of Montreal, no longer a working port, has been developed into a tourist and recreational destination, with generous support from the feds, I might add. Go stroll around the actual Port of Montreal and you'll see even fewer tourists than in St. John's.

  8. benefits of imf

  9. who cares about Montreal. Toronto is the only city that matters north of the 49.

    • Charlie, check a map. Montreal is south of 49 by more than 300km and Toronto is another 150km or so further south than Montreal.

    • Who cares about Montreal??!! If it weren't for Montreal your "Toronto" wouldn't be what "it is" today… Go look it up
      Montreal is one of the oldest and not to mention, one of the most historic cities in all of Canada… as well as Quebec city. To all of those who dislike Quebec… you should thank Quebec.. First conquered land of Canada by the way

  10. I always get a good laugh out of this Toronto-centric view of "culture." It seems that in T.O. culture is defined by big-ticket performances and high-end establishment museums. In Montreal culture means something else. It means everything from hole-in-the-wall bars with live performances to small theatre productions, reading events, neighbourhood cultural centers, and lots of other smaller-scale stuff. Sure, you have that in Toronto as well, but for some reason you don't count it as "culture." In Montreal that IS culture!

    If one of these surveys were to assess the amount of cultural involvement at this level, including things like how many people can play musical instruments (and actually get together with friends to do it), how many non-professional writers are involved with writing projects, how many people listen to and participate in discussions about local culture, etc., I think you might find that Montreal ranks very, very highly.

    But all this talk of black-tie and tux culture doesn't amount to much. It's what people are really involved with, on a daily basis, that makes a place highly cultured or not.

    • You nailed it. This ranking is absurd. I live in the heart of Montreal, and not only does almost everyone I know attend a cultural event virtually ever week, a huge chunk of the people i know are artists themselves!

    • One of the biggest issues with people as a whole is that we aren't very self aware. It takes courage to recognize an issue or fault and more importantly, issues can't be addressed until they are recognized.

      I am not sure where the "Toronto-centric" comment comes from? Seems to me the survey is objective and (unless the author – Paul – was originally from TO … "…says Paul Cappon, president and chief executive of the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL), an Ottawa-based non-profit that ranks more than 4,500 Canadian cities and communities annually."

      • Tony, I'm referring to the "Toronto centric" view of culture in general; that idea that culture is something you need to put on a tux and pay a big ticket price for. Check the blog post I linked to for more on that (here it is again: http://www.blork.org/blorkblog/2010/05/21/what-is

  11. While I agree with many of the commenters above, you are all dismissing the study too briskly. Having grown up in Montreal, I know that life in a metropolis of 4 million people has a lot more different realities than the people being cool and intellectual in the Plateau, Outremont and Westmount. A lot of the city's vibe is seriously white-trash (or trash of other colours as seen by the awesome riot photo above). It's no accident that Montreal riots after playoff games, that it has a disproportionate share of people involved in organized crime, that Ultimate Fighting Championship has some of its biggest draws in town, that Allo Police was born here when Quebec crime was seriously out of control a generation ago. I don't think we can dismiss the per capita statistics out of hand. Montreal has a serious level of old-school urban poor and desperation

    • This comment, I do agree with. I know no shortage of suburban Montrealers, who think watching the Habs game and drinking an Ex signifies "culture". People in the Plateau and surrounding hoods are naturally drawn to those areas, BECAUSE of the arts scene. Outside the core, there is definitely a lack of cultured folk. But I also don't believe that we are "uncultured" because we choose not to go to our own museums, etc.

      • What are you talking about: watching the Habs games is culture! :)

  12. Montreal is not good city any more drugs and to much french descrimination, to much speaking on french not english. This is what make this city down, sorry.
    I think the most respected and beautiful cities are Atlantic cities. Once was Victoria, still beautiful, but the gangs that exsisted make this city not popular any more.

    • Its sad that just because there is french, there has to be discrimination…Hey why doesn't the rest of Canada go learn some french and maybe we'll all get along… by the way, Quebec does speaks english

    • Hey buddy I strongly doubt you’re canadian or even an anglophone because of your poor – to say the least – writing capacities. I’m from Montreal, 100% Quebecker, and learned english just like many people I know. Keep your BS prejudices for your narrow minded person, it’s because of assholes like you that conflicts between french and english speaking canadians exist…

  13. Toronto, same, was once not any more, sorry. To crowded mix of everything and everywhere. So many immigrants keep coming seems like they will never stop. Toronto doors are open for ever. Dirt on the streets, pollution everywhere, smell of the dirt, so much homeless people on the corners not being take care of, so many people makes you not to have job, smell of eastern indian food on every street. What else..

    • You racist sob, if you don't like immigrants, everyone who are not First Nations were or are immigrants and is what makes Canada a great country, you have the option to leave. :P I am a First Nations woman and I luv the smell and taste of East Indian food, yummy.

  14. this is ridiculous..first they have to put an image that will make montreal look even worst…do we learn about culture only in museums? Living in Montreal and meeting people is already part of CULTURE!!! And to DISCOVERY…i think you are just racist…immigrants seems like they keep on coming non stop?well maybe because this country lacks people who actually WORKS hard for their money instead of sitting and waiting for their welfare checks..Im not caucasian and I proudly speak FRENCH and its a beautiful language ..dont be insulting french culture just because you cant speak it

  15. I attend lots and lots of festivals and shows in summer and in winter. I went to Museums, and yeah , I visited McCord Museum of Canadian History too this year if that's counted to be cultured by Mcleans oldies. I live in Montreal. Nobody asked me for this survey! Montreal without any doubt is greatest city with REAL arts and culture. Where people really enjoy to be part of music and arts scene. Streets are the Venue. Not just to show off they attended some top notch show. It's in blood. For the information of Mcleans oldies , this city has such abundance of festivals and events that i have to flip coins many times as i can't decide which festivals to go and which to miss!! So much happening at the same time and day.Who have time to go to the museums? I lived earlier in USA and another countries , other Canadian cities, never felt this vibe. And yeah , I am not White and still trying to learn French.

    • IF you want to learn French, go elsewhere… Quebec is the place to be to speak Frenglish, that's all.

  16. "We all know Montreal is the most culturally diverse and exciting city in Canada – but we measure culture by consumption not creation! In fact we measure it by money spent on culture! Can't see any methodological issues with that! As an aside, it turns out Renaissance Italy was slightly less cultural than Saskatoon! Who knew?"

  17. What's the idead behind putting a Canadien riot picture to illtustrate Montreal's culture? Who took that decision? It's absurd.

  18. Every city has it's reasons to be on top or on the bottom of this list. I'm thinking that Montreal is getting a bad rap here. Don't compare it to Victoria, jeeze, that's like comparing Walmart to Giant Tiger. Victoria has the oldest population and warm tempertaures all year round. Take a bus to the few museums they have, easy peasy lemon squeasy.. You can't swing a cat in Montreal without hitting something cool thats going on. MacLeans may not call these cultural event, but the people that live and visit there certainly do.. I'm am not from Montreal, I grew up in PEI and now live in Ottawa…

    • Which is why you only see Montreal through the eyes of a tourist who comes here during the festivals…
      So, yeah, in that case, MTL seems to be happening.
      But it's not because people gather up on the street to listen to some noise that it equals "attending a cultural even"…

  19. Egads Macleans! This is what happens when you use bean counters in an attempt to measure culture. My girlfriend and I are photographers/videographers who are attempting to cover as many events as possible in Montreal this year. Even with two of us going at it full time it's an impossible job as there are sometimes 3 or 4 major events occuring simultaneously.

    When you state that there are "a half-dozen music festivals", you're off by about 20 or so. We're already shooting our 5th since January and are gearing up for 2 more before the end of the month. We have 23 on our schedule. And "12 museums"? Once again, you're off by a fair margin. Our Montreal Museum Card gives us access to 34 participating museums (200$ for 2 visits each museum) and on Museum Day, May 30, all city museums are free- and there are free shuttle buses. Attendance last year was estimated at 140,000.

    Where are you getting your numbers? Take the attendance figures from just a very few festivals: Jazz, 2.5 million; Just For Laughs, 2 million; Francofolies 1 million.. Museums: Musée des Beaux Arts, 572,000; Pointe à Callière, 400,000; The 4 Nature Museums, 1.65 million.. they aren't all tourists!

    If you're only counting ticket sales then you're missing 3/4 of what's going on in this city (and if you're only counting ticket sales from 1/3 of events to begin with..). I've lived from coast to coast in Canada and a few other places as well. I've never seen a city that provides more free, open and accessible art and culture anywhere in North America: you can't avoid it if you try. The best thing is that so much of it is created here- not imported from the U.S., and so much of it is exported around the world.

    And don't get me started on the thriving local cinema and television scene vs the almost non-existant scene in the rst of Canada. People actually watch their own shows and movies here and not 99% U.S. fare.

    Dodgy study and an even dodgier article. Macleans = FAIL!

    • This all so true. Especially the bit about art and culture being created here instead of being imported from the US. It's particulary spectacular in the domain of film. Quebec movies take a yearly average of between 10 and 17% of the local obx-office, compare to English canadians movies who can't even reach the 1% of box-office in their own turff. Did that study inclued new form of arts very much alive and unique in this city, like contemporary performing circus/theatre? Montreal is fast becoming the world capital for that and is launching this year an international circus festival. What about the numerous Maison de la culture. Were they part ofthe survey? What La Grande Bibiliothèque? La cinémathèque quebecoise? THe numerous contemporay smaller art galleries? The techno and avant-garde music scene?

      Macleans hates Montreal. Or they are jealous. Keep geriatric Victoria. I'll stay here and spend the rest of my life enjoying the true culture capital of this country (ok, with Toronto).

  20. I live in Victoria and haven't for very long and it's easy to see how it got to the top of the pile. For a city of its size, (Metro area less that a tenth the size of Metro Montreal) it has an amazing aray of Museums, Universities, Public Parks and thriving Arts and Culinary scenes. Vancouver Island is a paradise and it's easy to see why both young and old want a piece of it. (There's also a lot of amazing wines from the island).

  21. It's high time all foreigners and Canadians outside Toronto be made aware that for years, there has been a systematic and unrelenting campaign in Toronto to put Montreal down in every possible way, including spin, biases and actual lies.

    Which explains the totally irrelevant “riot” photo to “illustrate” Montreal culture. A couple of crazy kids set fire to some junk – big deal – in Toronto the street gangs shoot people on Yonge street – but that gets hushed.

    Which explains the “12 museums” when there are actually closer to 40 as someone noted above.

    Which explains a recent release claiming that their city is a better place to conduct business, even though their own figures show Montreal to be economically better.

    Unfortunately, the English-speaking press is controlled in Toronto and they have joined very actively the city's slander campaign, dropping every pretense of honesty and objectivity. Just check out their newspapers: anything good that happens in Montreal is buried on page 38; anything bad makes the front page.

    The only thing to do is: whatever Torontonians write about Montreal, it's safe to assume the opposite.

  22. Cultured people are often open minded people that not only visit there own museums but also visit other parts of the country museums (yes even the one in the many cities north of the 49) and oversea's museums. I wonder if this magasine considered that?

  23. Why does Macleans hate Montreal so much?

    A while ago they called it a "corrupt, crumbling, mob-ridden disgrace of a disaster".

    Now they rank Montreal, which is indisputably the cultural centre of Canada, 2nd to last?

    The hatred is strong over at Macleans.

    • Just 'cause we speak French… Hey we speak english too!!!

  24. Macleans fails to mention the fact that Montreal's public library has the highest attendence in North America (over 10 thousand a day) and the highest attendence in the Francophone world!!! Or did they mention the fact that Montreal has one of the biggest if not the biggest Jazz Festival in the world and also the biggest Francophone festival in the World!!! And what about the Tam Tams every Sunday in the Summer, no mention of that.
    Macleans just does not like this city.

    • I agree… Macleans DOES NOT like Quebec/Montreal at all (and then we're corrupt)

      • Macleans is way overdue in terms of objective journalism. In the past ten years the magazine has been plagued with sensational articles that aim to undermine the reputation of Montreal and Quebec altogether. I regret this immensely as a fellow Canadian. We’d be better off if they owned up to the quality of their journalism and renamed themselves “Bigot’leans”. – A disappointed Torontonian who loves Montreal.

  25. EEEEK. Somebody got hit where it hurts. If protestation were a cultural activity, I'd put Montreal at #1. Lighten up guys. Just enjoy your city and realize….It's just McLeans, no biggee.

    • Cause we don't just shrug and let people lie about us. As stated above… WTF does this rioter's picture have to do with culture in Montreal? This article is just ripe with the traditional francophobic bias… but hey… leave it to a Toronto magazine to quantify art appreciation on a spreadsheet.

    • Good answer!

  26. This is worthless. I've lived in Victoria, Toronto and Montreal and Victoria doesn't even come close to Toronto. Montreal isn't as big as Toronto, but it still is pretty good. Ranking Victoria ahead of Toronto is just plain ludicrous.

  27. Just to look at the picture that opens your comment shows your "parti-pris".
    Nothing to add to the stupidity.

  28. can some1 please answer mi question  how dose Montreal look like 

  29. This doesnt help AT ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Like common

  30. This doesnt explain crrrap! soory but it doesnt

  31. the reason why many of montrealer’s leave and go live in other provinces is the way the francophones treat the Anglophones. It’s a fact !
    Has nothing to do with arts and culture.
    When I went to Dawson, one of my french instructors told me if I didn’t learn the language well, that I would never amount to anything of importance in this life !
    Now who the eff does he think he is ?
    You read about it all the time in the gazette, french fighting english either because their business english sign lettering is much larger than the french. Or that you dont speak the language very well..

    All my friends are leaving Quebec. I’m ashamed I grew up there !

Sign in to comment.