When I was a kid, Toronto was a weak number two city in Canada. Montreal was the most important city with Vancouver a distant number three.
Head offices were in Montreal. Everyone who was moving to Canada, picked Montreal. By 1967, Montreal area’s population was around 2.5 million.
The Montreal Canadiens were the most success hockey team in the NHL. Montreal was where the 1967 World’s Fair was held; followed by the Olympics in 1976. Montreal even got the first Major league baseball team outside of the United States.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, meh.
In 1967, Toronto’s metro area had a population of 2.2 million. It was also the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.
Enter René Lévesque to become the Premier of Quebec in 1976 with a goal to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada. Enter policies to “protect” the Quebec culture by creating language police and laws to minimize English. Enter referenda for Quebeckers to vote to leave Canada.
Exit most of the business headquarters that were in Montreal. Exit more than half a million people, many of them just drove down the highway for five hours to Toronto.
Here is a comparison. Today the Toronto metro area has surpassed 6 million. Montreal is at 3.8 million.
New immigrants to Canada, and there have been many since the country declared itself to embrace multiculturalism, have made Toronto their choice destination. Toronto has gone from a processed cheese and white bread city to one where virtually any nationality of immigrants is well represented. And they all seem to get along reasonably well.
Toronto is now a vibrant city that has been the engine to drive the Canadian economy, recently the nation with most successful economy in the world. Growth is everywhere. Toronto has become the most important city in Canada, without question.
Toronto now has Major league baseball and even won the World Series a couple times. And even a part time NFL team.
So Toronto should build a statue to the man who made it all possible, who turned the city from being a second fiddle to being a star. That man, René Lévesque.
Okay, but the Maple Leafs still haven’t won the Stanley Cup