Why Laval Sucks
With Laval, Quebec's mayor going down for gangsterism charges we figured we'd look at a few reasons why Laval sucks so much.
It’s a cliché, and not necessarily true, that suburbia sucks. I don’t know what the percentage is, but there’s a good chance that most of you reading this grew up in one. I know I did. It wasn’t all bad. There are good suburbs and shitty suburbs. And then there’s Laval.
Laval is the second biggest city in Quebec, and is an island squashed between another island—Montreal—and the north shore of the St-Lawrence river. It’s big—there are over 400,000 Lavallois—and sprawling and boring. And of course it’s also (allegedly) corrupt as all hell.
Last week saw yet more exciting developments in the province’s long-delayed kick to the balls of the rotten construction industry-Mafia-politics cesspool. That was the headline-grabbing arrest of Gilles Vaillancourt, Laval’s longtime mayor, along with 37 others on unfortunately cool-sounding charges of gangsterism.
So let’s take a closer look at what’s wrong with Laval and why living there might not be a total nightmare.
Why that’s bad: Like any faceless suburb worth the name, Laval is bisected by a few major highways and boulevards, all of which seem to pass by megamalls with tons of parking. The architecture is almost uniformly ugly, especially the commercial spaces. Most of the buildings you’ll see as you drive through it on the way to skiing are built low to the ground, or at least feel that way. Commercial residents are big box stores, usually selling home appliances and ugly décor. Laval also wasn’t immune from the McMansion craze of the 00s, and some residents, including Celine Dion, built gargantuan fucking palaces that reeked of bad taste.
Why that’s not so bad: It might make you want to get out and do something else. And if you need deals on appliances and ugly décor, you’ve got options.
The people are tacky
Why that’s bad: Because they come into Montreal and take over our clubs and bars and generally shitify everything we used to like. The corner up from my place has a bar used to be a classic old man tavern and now specializes in serving watered-down mojitos served in huge glasses. Lineups are typical, even in winter, and the guys are all sporting Beckham faux hawks (remember those?) and tight Habs t-shirts and the girls are wearing cheap off-the-rack LBDs that don’t look right. Like New Yorkers, Montrealers often look down their noses at the bridge-and-tunnel crowd. We sniffily call them 450s, the area code for off-island Montreal north and south.
Why that’s not so bad: Like most suburbanites, Lavallois are a pretty gormless bunch. One thing about growing up in the suburbs, you aren’t overwhelmed by sophistication, so people are pretty honest when they get drunk and punch you in the face.
Up close and personal with Laval's former, gangster-ass mayor. via.
Until last year, it was pretty much a one-party state
Why that’s bad: As mentioned above, former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt is in some pretty hot water these days. Still he had a good run: he was first elected mayor in 1989 and easily won re-elections five times until he officially resigned in November. Like any good despot, Vaillancourt is believed by police to have been colluding awfully closely with a whole slew of shady characters. Testifying at the Charbonneau Commission last October, construction magnate Lino Zambito said Vaillancourt skimmed 2.5 percent off of every municipal contract in the city. Police are said to be looking for a missing $15-million Vaillancourt is thought to have hidden in banks in Switzerland and Panama.
Why that’s not so bad: Quebec’s corruption problem isn’t as blatant as, say, Russia’s, when you have a small-time mayor hit with charges of gangsterism, corruption, fraud, money laundering and more, there’s a lot of room for improvement. Laval’s few opposition parties are, for once, delighted.
A lot of gangsters call it home
Why that’s bad: Laval isn’t what you’d call a sleepy suburb. There is a city centre of sorts, and it has the same kinds of problems facing bigger city centres. For one, violent crime, often associated with street gangs. Last month, Harry Mytil was gunned down in his home there. The 33-year-old was allegedly tied to the Bo-Gars, one of the city’s very violent street gangs, and had a lengthy rap sheet. Laval is also home to a good number of Montreal Mafioso too.
Why that’s not so bad: To be fair, Laval isn’t very violent. So when something bad goes down, it makes the news. Like the trial of Adele Sorella, the mob wife accused of murdering her two daughters, aged 8 and 9, while her now ex-husband was on the run from the law. It’s horrible, but it’s news.
Most of these complaints, you can argue, aren’t unique to Laval—they can be made about Mississauga, Ontario, for instance, or most of New Jersey. And Laval is only one suburb: the more or less equivalent exists to Montreal’s south as well, in Longueuil and Brossard and beyond. Montreal’s West Island is also mile upon dreary mile of subdivisions and strip malls. So take heart Laval: when I’m shitting on you, I’m really shitting on suburbs everywhere.
Don't worry, Ontario's got crappy places too: