Mannkal Economic Education Foundation

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Nick Vernon | Week 6: Happy Birthday Milton Friedman!/C’est l’fun!

Nick Vernon

3 August 2016


At the heart of the Old Port of Montreal.

This past Sunday (July 31) was Milton Friedman’s 104th birthday. It’s worth noting that the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice changed its name to EdChoice to coincide with their tenth and final ever Friedman Legacy Day. It may feel like an odd decision, but I see this as a progressive step on their behalf. Milton and Rose Friedman’s legacy lives on, but focusing more than ever on the future of educational choice. This issue has seen great progress in the United States over the past 20 years, as EdChoice notes in this video. In 1996 there were 6 school choice programs in the USA. As of today, there are over 60. For Friedman Legacy Day, the ILS gave 50 Canadian university students a copy of either Capitalism and Freedom or Free to Choose. This initiative was supported by the generosity of EdChoice, and will lead to a better understanding of the Friedmans’ ideas. They were intellectual giants, and will not be forgotten anytime soon.

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to participate in a webinar with Scott Hennig from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. I have not been reporting enough on these webinars. To give background, the Institute for Liberal Studies runs a Summer Intern program through which they send students on paid internships at Canadian think tanks across the country. Each week bar one, we’ve taken part in a webinar with a distinguished figure in a certain field. Scott spoke to us about the importance of communicating the ideas that think tanks produce. Without communication, do ideas really exist? Last week, we heard from the impeccable Don Bourdreaux from George Mason University. (Yes, he is the editor of the fantastic Café Hayek blog!)

I encountered a military band on my walk to work on Friday morning. For a good part of my walk, they were marching alongside me on their way to Parliament. On the way home, the streets were celebrating a warm start to the weekend: a group of forty or so bagpipers were tuning by the canal, and Ribfest was serving ribs with a side of country rock outside City Hall. (On a side note, this is the second Ottawa Ribfest since I arrived 6 weeks ago.)

The view of Downtown Montreal from atop Mount Royal.

I took the train to Montreal, where I remained until Monday night! It’s an amazing city. I’ve been trying to describe it to myself in terms of other cities. Maybe the closest I have managed is that it has the size of Sydney, with a mix between the cultures of New York and Paris, but I cannot do the city justice this way. Montreal is a unique place, and I have really enjoyed it. On Saturday afternoon I aimlessly climbed to the top of Mont-Royal, from which the view of the city is truly special. On Saturday night, I walked across town to the community-run festival “le Village au Pied-du-Courant” to see the fireworks from across the river. Standing in the warm sand, surrounded by dancing Francophones, I felt immersed in the local’s Montreal.

Fireworks from across the St. Lawrence River.

The young people of Montreal almost have their own language. To explain, they speak in a dialect that is a bit of “a mix entre le français and l’anglais”. Waiting in line for a popular distillery I heard a group of young women say things along the lines of: “I like the atmosphere there! It’s comme this restaurant auquel on est allées l’autre day.” Along the same strain, “c’est l’fun” is Quebecker French for “it’s fun!”, which I find endearing. I spoke a lot of French over the course of these short-lived two-and-a-half days. It had been a really long time since I had been able to speak so much French with so many different people. I appreciated this opportunity ever more for the fact that there was such a diversity of French in the city. In the district of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal I practiced my most Parisian French, while in other parts of town I attempted to emulate the Quebecker French used by locals. Even though the accents have been sometimes a little quaint, sometimes incomprehensible, it has been a rare pleasure.

A street garden in the district of Vieux Montréal.

On Sunday, I walked through Vieux Montréal to get to Ming Tao Xuan, a Chinese teahouse hiding under the shadow of the Notre-Dame Basilica. This was but one of many authentic experiences I had in Montreal, a city where cultures melt into one another.

Montreal is now one of my favourite cities in the world. It would probably do better if it were less burdened by provincial regulation and this insistence on ‘preserving the French language and culture’ (I am inclined to believe that this stance actually diminishes the influence of the French language), but I love it. Once again, being a Mannkal Scholar has presented me with an experience that has broadened my view of the world, and I could not be more pleased or grateful.

I have one more week of interning left and then I’ll be flying home to get right back into study, work and life in Perth!

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