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.
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.