Do you find unfair to pay twice for the roads?

Champlain Bridge.

Champlain Bridge.

The toll of the new Champlain Bridge in Montreal creates a debate among Québécois.

Some highways and bridges in Quebec were financed with tolls until 1991. These infrastructures were directly financed by taxes after 1991. Recently, we have seen two new bridges appear with tolls. The one of the Autoroute 25 between Montreal and Laval and the one of the Autoroute 30 at west of Montreal.

Problems that are expensive

Basically, the problem is that citizens already pay taxes for infrastructures and the government asks them more money to pay for the new infrastructures. Here are more precise problems that I see by this kind of approach.

Higher taxes and cost of living

We already pay a certain amount of taxes. People who will use the new Champlain Bridge will have to pay their transit in addition to paying the same amount of taxes they already pay. In the old model, people were already paying taxes in addition to paying for their transit. In 1991, the government decided to abolish tolls and to finance infrastructures directly by taxes collected. People paid more taxes, but no more tolls. Today, people pay an amount of taxes already very high and the government is asking them to pay for crossing certain bridges without reducing the taxes of citizens.

For the bridge Olivier-Charbonneau, the cost is $2.48 per transit at the rush hours for users with the transponder. For about 260 transits (about five working days per week with two transits per day), this is approximately $1,290 per year. This is probably the insurance premium that people pay for their car.

Let’s consider the last example and let’s add the new Champlain Bridge. Imagine a driver crossing the two bridges. The cost would be about $2,600 per year. Several bridges could require a toll in the coming years as they are being replaced. It’s not rare in the Montreal area that adriver crosses two bridges for getting to work. With costs like these, drivers will pay the equivalent of another insurance premium, their car a second time or even both!

In a few years, a driver traveling from Laval could cross the bridge Olivier-Charbonneau (between Laval and Montreal) and the future Champlain Bridge (between Montreal and Brossard) at a similar cost than needed fuel for the ride (even with the transponder).

Additional management costs

Infrastructure tolls generate additional costs to collect money. In addition to paying a bridge or highway, citizens must pay for managing the infrastructures. These management costs could be avoided if the government managed directly the costs through taxes.

For a bridge or two at the provincial scale, it will probably not create very high management costs, but imagine that each bridge and highway of the province askstoll. That’s a lot of unnecessary management and costs to collect money directly from the pockets of drivers.

Complexity for citizens

The fact of adding tolls and transponders to collect money from drivers creates a complexity for them. That requires them extra time that could be avoided if the government collected taxes directly in overall taxes.

Let’s consider a concrete example. The new bridge Olivier-Charbonneau of the Autoroute 25 requires a toll since its construction in 2011. Users can cross it at a higher cost without a transponder. The higher cost includes management fees. For regular users, the acquisition of an electronic transponder allows to register transits at a lower cost.

The transponder is not a bad thing, but think about the trouble for drivers who have to cross several bridges. They’ll need a transponder for each bridge!

Furthermore, that penalizes people form outside who come in the Montreal region by car. Likely that people visiting the area will not get a transponder and they’ll pay the maximum price. That creates considerable additional costs.

Who really benefits from the toll?

There is a principle where people pay taxes to the government to develop the infrastructures. It’s a common good. Usually, we don’t pay individually for each segment of road that we use. People have accepted the idea that we pay taxes in a general way to manage the infrastructures (including several public services) with these taxes.

Our current model includes two modes of payment for the infrastructure: paying individually each infrastructure and paying globally for the entire infrastructure. Our taxes pay for the majority of road sections. Only a minority of sections is private and requires a toll.

We may wonder if it’s really better to have some roads maintained by the private sector. Does the population get the most out of his money with this model? Some people think that the roads are better maintained by the private sector.

Furthermore, let’s ask the question: why paying for bridges and not boulevards? From my point of view, there are two reasons. First, the bridges are among the most expensive infrastructures. The government is in debt and unable to pay for new bridges and that’s why he introduces tolls. Second, the bridges are very limited access. If a driver wants to avoid a bridge, the alternatives are relatively far. Unlike boulevards and secondary roads, bridges represent access with little or no alternative. It becomes easier to get citizen paying.


All this makes me to think that the government is implementing a toll system to be able to pay for the new bridges because it doesn’t have the financial resources to build them. Several bridges are already in a frightful state with very high maintenance costs. One way or another, we will pay for the bridges. The big difference is that we will pay for the management in addition to paying for bridges.

Imagine that all the bridges in the Montreal area ask for a toll. A person could easily crosses three bridges (the North Shore to the South Shore) back and forth and it would cost about $14 of toll in addition to fuel.

Infrastructure funding seems to have worked for several years without toll (since 1991). Today, we’re going back to the old model with additional costs. Based on the figures above, we can see the extent of costs that may be comparable to paying its fuel, insurance premium or vehicle twice. This could represent an enormous cost in the coming years for all drivers.

Do you find unfair to pay for each transit? Generally, do you think tolls will improve your life?

Do we follow enough homeless people?

Do we follow enough homeless people?

Do we follow enough homeless people?

Recently, an itinerant was shot by the police in Montreal. The man was described in the media as having university education and mental-health problems.

Since a few years, I have noticed aberrations between the world of the homeless people and the world of scientific research.

Disproportionate investments

There are significant investments in the scientific world to monitor animal populations. For example, many scientists will band birds to follow their population. They will also put transmitters on animals to learn about their migration. So far, it’s not a problem.

For the itinerants, what do we do? We have people who have been to school, work, and who one day find themselves on the street. Between the time these people were integrated into society and the time they got in the street, what have we done to follow them?

Yet they were citizens who had a value to the society. It is absurd to think that we are deploying huge sums in monitoring endangered species, but do almost nothing to keep track of people in danger.


Are we doing enough to follow the people before they become homeless?

How a change in a service affects your life and productivity

How a change in a service affects your life and productivity

How a change in a service affects your life and productivity

Recently, Canada Post announced that it was going to stop delivering mail at home. The service will be available as PO boxes. So instead of picking up their mail directly into their mailbox, Canadians will have to go to their PO boxes to pick up their mail.

How does this change affect people?

I understand that Canada Post has profitability problems and must restructure. However, by making some simple calculations, we can see that this may represent a significant loss of productivity for many workers. Here’s a realistic and minimal  calculation of what this could mean for Canadians.

If you take 12 minutes a day to get your mail and that five days a week, that makes 60 minutes (or one hour) per week. Let’s say that you spend a two-week vacation outside, that’s 50 hours a year to get your mail.

50 hours per year is the equivalent of a workweek  of 40 hours with 10 hours of transportation. The above calculation is a very realistic figure to pick up his mail. It may be even more.

According to Canada Post, one-third of Canadians will transition to PO boxes. The two third of Canadians already receive their mail in PO boxes and nothing changes for these two third. This doesn’t represent a major change, but still important. We could think about people with reduced mobility and depending on the postman.

Possible solutions

Paying more for stamps could be a solution. However, Canada Post must have done a detailed evaluation of the possibilities. With emails, traditional mail has decreased significantly. The service is more likely to change. I trust Canada Post, but there could still be ways to help people to save time.

A solution that I see might be to tell us by SMS or email when we have mail in the PO box. If you’re at work, you could look at your PO box when returning from work only if you know that you have mail. This could save time and money. This could be the best compromise in terms of cost and efficiency. However, for people who receive mail every day, this is not a benefit because they will have to go check anyway.

What lessons should we learn from this?

We don’t often think about this kind of situation when we are employees. Managers are more likely to think about this kind of situation. Working for my business, this is the kind of thing I calculate more often.

The example of Canada Post is one example among many others. If you are self-employed and you are not able to have a week of vacation per year, this example can demonstrate how a few minutes in less or in extra can affect your holidays or leisure.

Are we more environmental than before?

Are we more environmental than before?

Are we more environmental than before?

Many people believe that we are more environmental today than the previous generation. It may be an illusion. Before thinking that we have improved our relationship with our environment or the nature, read on and you might change your mind.

False perception

We now have hybrid and electric vehicles to replace fossil fuels. We invented the recycling instead of throwing our waste and bury them. The pulp and paper industry no longer dumps their chemicals into rivers. We are coming back to an agriculture more organic and pesticide free. We are currently developing several alternatives with renewable energies. Even if all these problems are important, there are many other problems which we do not talk about and that might be worse than the problems of past generations.

There are positive changes happening. People think that things are getting better. Wrong! We talk very little about the new phenomenons that pollute the environment. Our perception is biased. There are several problems that we are recognizing that are probably worse than the ones we are solving.

Generally, while we think that we are finding solutions to end a cycle of polluting technologies, we are starting another cycle of other polluting technologies. The problem is that we have difficulty recognizing the impact of this new cycle. For example, genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Subtle problems

Here are some issues that are less well known or whose impact is underestimated.

Species conservation: Never, there were so many endangered species. This includes animals and plants. Several species no longer live in the wild and they absolutely need the help of humans to continue to survive. The reason is mainly the destruction of natural habitats such as deforestation. Several migration corridors have already been destroyed by humans. This is mainly due to a problem of overpopulation.

Nanotechnology: The pollution of this new technology sector is called nanotoxicology or nanopollution. This is the impact of nanotechnologies on the health of animals, plants and humans. Nanotechnologies are booming and we are only starting to realize the impact of these new technologies. Paradoxically, this is a promising sector where there are already developing solutions to address environmental problems. Some nanotechnologies would be involved in various diseases.

Climate change: Climate changes are accelerating. Many animal species could not adapt and disappear. Climate changes affect mainly the natural habitats of many species of animals and plants.

Light pollution: The lights of our large cities affect the migration of birds. A large number of bird species are already endangered and the light pollution increases the threat. In addition, it appears that urban lights near beaches where marine turtles reproduce would affect their survival. Turtles would have orientation problems during birth, which reduces their chances of survival.

Genetic Engineering: This is the sector of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This is a very controversial area. This is a way to play God by changing the properties of plants and animals. Several plants genetically modified could be harmful to humans. For example, causing cancer. GMOs could be one of the worst sources of pollution that man has created. Why? Unlike a pollutant such as oil which disappears after several years, GMOs, once introduced into the environment, will continue to reproduce. They can dislodge endemic species and cause major problems. For example, pollen from genetically modified plants has killed butterflies and bees. At the moment, this area is booming.

Other problems: In addition to the problems above, there is a variety of other environmental problems. Here is a list of environmental problems.


All these problems are caused by human activity. It is obvious that we need to change our relationship with the environment and the impact of our technologies.

I doubt that we will solve the problems in the time required. The consequences are inevitable. The society develops too quickly and the recognition of the problems is too slow. We are at the beginning of a solution to the problem of fossil fuels, which appeared at the beginning of the industrial age there is about 200 years.

We can develop better technologies, however, for the problem of overpopulation, we cannot take human beings off from the planet. We occupy a much larger territory that we should.

The private industry and politic rule the world. Political parties are often close to the private industry. In such a context, it is not surprising that governments do not react quickly to the recommendations of environmentalists. It is essential to get new governments with a better attitude. Think about the time it took to governments to recognize global warming. It took decades. How long will it take to recognize tens of environmental problems?

We absolutely need to be visionary and react before the consequences affect us. The first problem is the recognition of these problems and potential problems. We must then find solutions and ensure support from the government.

A key point is to be able to answer the question: “What impact is this new technology going to have on our planet?” We must set standards to limit the implementation of technologies. Slower, but safer.


We have polluted during decades. We finally understood the impact of our technologies. Today, we believe that we will live in a more ecological way because we are implementing solutions to end this cycle. People do not seem to realize that we are starting other cycles of pollution. The reason is that we do not see yet the consequences of these new technologies.

To avoid repeating the same pattern with new technologies, a change of attitude is needed. We can do it with a recognition of the above facts and a great social movement. It takes a revolution.

Give jobs to local workers before hiring workers from foreign countries

Mexicans working in Quebec

Mexicans working in Quebec

During several years in Quebec, Mexicans have come to work in the agricultural sector. These people leave Mexico and live in Quebec for a few months during the time of employment. Some work for picking vegetables while others work for packing Christmas trees in the late fall.

The employment paradox

Many people find paradoxical that we hire Mexicans in Quebec to occupy agricultural jobs when many Quebecers want to work. They can be either on unemployment insurance, welfare or even homeless.

The question many people ask: “Why are foreign workers coming to Quebec when there are plenty of local workers who do not work?”

Why this paradox?

At first glance, it can be hard to understand.

The government is responsible for managing the employment sector. It seems that the hiring of foreign workers and reintegration of unemployed people are separated.

Yet I have seen people of Quebec in rehabilitation working to pick vegetables with a social organism. They were supervised and had a chance to return to other jobs in the future.

Another taboo subject. Many people live on welfare during many years and have the physical and mental ability to work. For these people able to work, we may tend to think they do not find a job. Yet there are jobs available that are occupied by Mexicans each year.

What solution would be appropriate?

As I said above, the government is responsible for managing the employment sector.

I think it would not be appropriate to force workers such as engineers or other highly skilled positions to work in the agriculture. However, many unskilled workers are looking to work. It could be a job opportunity for these people to get support from the government based on available jobs.

In addition, we seek sustainable ways of reintegrating homeless without having them falling back to the street. There is already a problem of funding to help the homeless. Just a few months of working could pay them a tiny room and food. About the equivalent of a basic student housing. This is a huge result for people who spend their days on the street and become a burden for the society sometimes. The hiring of local workers in agriculture could serve as a measure of reinstatement.

The government must establish a formal program to help the poor people who can still work before allowing the hiring of foreign workers, particularly in unskilled sectors.

Food education is still a survival issue even in a society of abundance

Food education is still a survival issue even in a society of abundance

Food education is still a survival issue even in a society of abundance

There is a certain paradox across the planet in terms of food. While some people starve to death, others die from obesity. Obesity has never been a global health problem as it is today.

The issues

The vast majority of civilization had to learn how to hunt, gather and cultivate the land to survive. This education was an ability to develop to survive. Those who knew better how to find their food had a greater chance of survival.

Today, with the rise of obesity, there is a paradox. Many people in the North American society (and around the globe) risk to die from being overweight and not from starvation. These people trying to lose weight face many failures. In general, weight loss is a major challenge for the majority of obese people. Many people even use the help of weight loss programs.

We are in a society that must learn the nutritional value of food more than ever. Most people do not even know what they eat. Ask people to describe the impact on their health of the ingredients listed on a packaging. There are a lot of weird and unknown names. In addition, the packaging indicates the nutritional value on a label. The people I asked did not really know how to read this label. Because of the junk food’s problem, this is one of the most important information. Knowing how to read the label properly can tell you if you eat too much salt, sugar or fat (and even the type of fat). This represents three categories of ingredients among the most problematic in our society. Unfortunately, this information does not seem very useful for many people because of the lack of food education.

Nutrition facts of a chocolate bar

Nutrition facts of a chocolate bar. Do you know what the numbers mean?

The food paradox

The situations above may seem paradoxical. However, the aspect of food education is always related to the fact that a person must learn how to eat to survive.

While a person who lives in a poor area will struggle to find his food, another will struggle to lose weight.

In the first case, the person must develop hunter or farmer’s skills to survive. In the other case, the person must learn the nutritional value of food, how to control his meal portion and stay active to avoid gaining too much weight to survive.

Whatever the situation, those who have a food education tailored to their situation have a better chance of survival and usually a better life quality.

We must also understand that the human being has experienced periods of starvation as animals. The people best suited for weight gain had better chances of survival during starvation. In our societies of abundance and junk food, this characteristic of survival has become a weakness for some people.

Why do we have this situation and what should we do?

There is not an ultimate solution that will solve all the problems of obesity. Some people will tell you that there is an emotional factor related to obesity. The problem of obesity is relatively complex.

Concerning the budget on advertising, health foods do not even represent 1% of the budget invested in junk food from the private industry. Most of the food education is done by the private industry. I do not even remember having had nutrition lessons in school.

One of the biggest expenses of the governments is the health system. Yet governments do little to change the situation. There are, however, a great need for the population to eat better. The government is not visionary and political parties are funded by the private sector. That may explain the inaction of the government in the health sector. It may also explain why health is one of the largest tax burdens of the government.

In this world of industrially processed food, a part of the solution comes from food education and it is at school that we could start to give people the tools. However, another part of the solution is prevention, which must be implemented by the government.

Technological innovation vs social innovations

Technological innovation vs social innovations

Technological innovation vs social innovations

We often say that the society is evolving, but how? The evolution involves changes that are often recognized as innovation. Unfortunately, these innovations are not proportional in all sectors of the society. For example, for about 50 years, the conquest of space has made giant strides. We are now able to explore the planet Mars with robots. However, we are not more able to prevent people from becoming homeless than 50 years ago. Although today there are more organizations that protect human rights, it is in situations like these that I think there are no meaningful social innovations compared to technological innovations.

Why is there so much contrast between the social and technological innovation?

You have probably heard that money drives the world. We live in a world focused on the economy. Many people invest their money directly or indirectly in companies. With these investments, companies do research and development to remain competitive. These technological advances allow to take the lead and make more profits. If you make a good investment in a company, that will get you a lot of money.

In comparison, if you invest your money at the social level, you may lose it. Most people want a return. Nobody will invest in homeless or dying people.

I also believe that much of the social aspect is managed by the government. Unlike the private industry, the government does not think to innovate, but rather think to manage problems.

Is it possible to invest in the social sector as we do in the technology sector?

Frankly, I do not think so. We live in a world focused on the economy. If you do not have a good job or simply no job, you will probably not be part of the society. We exchange our time for money. This is not a bad thing, but that works from the moment when all people have adequate jobs.

In addition, the social aspect is primarily the job of the government when it comes to implementing social services. The democratic government is composed of political parties that are often elected for a few years with four-year terms. It is very hard to have a long-term vision and to make it reality. The non-profit organisms are founded by people who are not part of the government and have a long-term vision. Their mandate is often the life project of the founder. It could become possible if the government invested more in social non-profit organisisms that are independent of political parties.

Finally, what should we do?

I am not going to change the world here, but we have to start somewhere. The key is in your hands. Wherever you are in the society, there is always something you can do for someone regardless of the monetary factor. I also think that in the long term, we must change the government model.

The best solution at this time is your social involvement. Share your vision to the world: why you think the world would be better if we did things differently. Like the vision I have with my blog, I think we need better models to develop the society. In short, I believe that social innovation occurs through volunteerism and involvement of people who believe in a better world.

How to find a balance between men and women in jobs?

Non-traditional job

Non-traditional job

Each sector of the labor market is composed of men and women in different proportions. In Quebec, certain measures and campaigns are designed to get women working in non-traditional occupations.

A problem for women to integrate non-traditional occupations

Some jobs are mainly composed of men. For example, the construction sector is mainly occupied by men. Women are mostly absent from this sector. The fact that very few women work in a sector may discourage other women from working in this sector. Several women were bullied by men. Having a better ratio between men and women can help everyone to choose better a job without fear of feeling an intruder.

The problem is two-way and not just for women

The government tries to encourage more women to work in non-traditional occupations to create a better balance between men and women in each sector. For example, the sector of dental hygienists is often occupied by women. According to the government, many of these women, who work as a dental hygienist could work in a non-traditional sector such as the construction. This situation creates an imbalance that makes it hard to balance the labor market. Here is why.

1. If women quit their jobs from traditional occupations for women, these positions will become vacant. Who will replace them? Certainly not women. So it must be men.

2. If men are still working in their traditional occupations, the places available for women may be more rare.


I feel that the government is trying too much bringing women into non-traditional occupations without thinking to bring men in equal proportion into non-traditional occupations for men. In a very graphic and simplistic way, if a woman leaves a secretary job to drive trucks, a truck driver man should get a secretary job. It is therefore necessary to bring also men to non-traditional occupations proportionately.

Would you eat too much just to eat your dessert?

Would you eat too much just to eat this delicious cake?

Would you eat too much just to eat this delicious cake?

Sometimes, when I was a kid, I wanted to go directly to the dessert without finishing my plate. My mother told me that I needed to finish my plate if I wanted to eat my dessert. The intention was good because I had good things on my plate, like vegetables. However, I see a problem about this approach.

The problem

The big problem is that we eat too much in general in the North American society. Even if we eat good food, overeating eventually makes us gain weight. In addition, we are tempted by desserts and other fatty and sugary foods. If you offer the choice to children between a plate full of vegetables and the dessert, they will choose the dessert. We are conditioned to eat dessert after the main meal.

Children do not usually choose the amount of food they put on their plate. Their parents decide this amount according to their best judgement. Obviously, it’s always a little difficult to determine the amount of food that another person needs. Many people have difficulty determining their caloric intake for themselves. Imagine for someone else who is growing up. This is changing all the time.

Tempt a child with a delicious dessert at the end of the main meal. In his meal, serve him a greater amount of food that he needs. It is likely that at the end of his meal, he is going to decide not to finish it to keep some space for dessert. Often, the temptation to eat the dessert is so great that the child will eat everything, even if he is not hungry. This may happen if you force him to eat everything. Children end up overeating and gaining weight. We also have observed an increase in obesity among young people.

The solutions

We need to change this pattern and also how the children eat.

First solution: Cut off the desserts. I know it is not easy for many, but this is often difficult because we have been accustomed from the childhood. A good habit to develop that I have adopted for me: eating dessert only on weekends and in modest quantity.

Second solution: Teach the child to serve himself and determine his food portions. I believe that children should learn to identify the good portions according to his hunger. Less is better than too much. If at the end of his plate he is still hungry, so he may serve again to complete. This is the way to learn.

Finally, the application of these two solutions at the same time is recommended. With good habits, the child will not be tempted to overeat just to have dessert. Even if the dessert is only once a week, young people will probably appreciate as much because it is not the quantity that counts, but the quality.

End the enslavement of millions of Indian children

The most important changes often occur when people are mobilizing all at the same time. Slavery is a problem that is thousands of years old and today we have more power than ever to put an end to this.

It is easy to believe that the most advanced civilizations do not have slaves. Even within these civilizations, people are slaves even though this practice is prohibited. Slavery is often practiced in developing countries. People in these countries are slaves of businesses having their headquarters in modern countries where slavery is prohibited. I would describe this as an hypocrisy, because these companies show beautiful images to sell their products. It is likely that you have products in your environment that involved slavery in their manufacturing. These products can be the computer where you are reading this blog, the clothes you wear, etc.

With social media and means of communication of today, there is more hope than ever. Walk Free is a movement to end modern slavery. Walk Free circulates petitions in order to inform the public and take position on specific cases of slavery in different countries. These petitions are sent to governments to release all those people who have no other voice than us. Together we can make a major difference. I supported their petition to end child slavery in India. I invite you to join this petition at

About this blog

Who's this blog for? - This blog is for all people interested in social innovation.

Why should I follow it? - Because we need to get people involved about social innovation and we need to define better society models. Our societies are so complex and changing so fast that our social responsibilities are required more than ever. Actually, the world has never been changing so quickly. This blog is a hub and source of inspiration for people interested in solving our social issues.