Petite Bourgogne

Petite Bourgogne

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Adventures in Bureaucracy

There is a whole new layer of fun that comes with moving to a new province which can be like moving to a new country. Since this is my 4th major move, I thought I would share my perspectives on navigating a new province's bureaucratic system.

Today I got my new driver's license, which was a pleasant surprise. It wasn't because Quebec has a new form of driver's license photography that makes my picture look less like a mug shot. The surprise was that it took less than a week to get my plastic license. This was even over the Easter long weekend! This coming from an office who asks you to make an appointment, sends you across town, but you still have to stand in line, take a number and wait your turn. Fortunately for me I had been told, by a friend, that my driver's licenses has to be in my maiden name so I came with the appropriate documentation that the SAAQ didn't specifically tell me to bring. Am I the only one who finds in mildly amusing that the abbreviation for the department of motor vehicles (SAAQ) is one letter off than that of the liquor store (SAQ)? Importing a car into Quebec, even from within Canada, requires a mechanical inspection from a specific inspection shop. I got to see new areas of the city with this adventure, including the antiques district where the inspection shop is.

I applied for my health card at the end of February. Still waiting for that card, though going through the application process was a very pleasant experience. Because I was forewarned about the maiden name thing, I had all the appropriate papers and was in and out of the RAMQ office in 30 minutes. Considering if I want to see a doctor I have to go to a private clinic, I'm wondering what is the point of having a Quebec health card. I've decided to postpone any adventures with the health care system, beyond getting the card.

Banking and property laws in Quebec are completely different. Montreal is on RBC's eastern banking system, so now I've lived in all three of RBC's banking districts, causing no end of confusion. Notaries have a lot more power than anywhere else I have lived. Everything connected to purchasing my condo had to go through the notary, including signing the mortgage, which I did at the bank in BC. Beneficiary designation on existing investments is nullified. Only a Will, recommended to be written by a notary, can designate beneficiaries. Family laws are also different. I guess I will be navigating that later this year.

Provincial income taxes are definitely higher than anywhere else I have lived. One other recent BC transplant at work is setting up a support group for all of us who have recently moved to Quebec and have to file our first tax return here. Apparently, how that's done is different, too.

I have done a few moves that were within the same province or city. By comparison, they are much easier since you only have to pack, move, unpack and do a change of address on everything.

Monday, March 10, 2008


The move to Montreal took a lot out of me, so I was definitely ready for some rest and relaxation. I took a few well earned vacation days and hopped on a train to Toronto on a Wednesday afternoon. From there, friends and I drove up to Port Severn to the Inn at Christie's Mill. Even in the middle of winter, the Inn can only be described with one word: wow. It was a beautiful drive up to the Georgian Bay with the fresh snow and bright sunshine highlighting the bare trees and rolling hills. The Inn is on an inlet where ducks and swans swam even in the middle of a snowstorm. With three of us we booked a suite, which had a gas fireplace, luxurious, majestic beds and a bathroom that would appeal to anyone's inner diva. Going to the spa in the middle of the week not only saved us a bit of expense, but it was also a lot more peaceful. I think there were a total of five people at the spa, including us, and maybe ten people at the Inn. The weekends are nuts, according to the staff at the spa.

Thursday afternoon we all indulged in a reflexology and pedicure treatment, making our happy feet quite photo-worthy. I also indulged in a Swedish massage to work out the kinks in my shoulders. Heaven! Our spa day was bookended with a swim in the salt water pool and soak in the salt water hot tub.

Dinner was included with the spa package. We all went for the beef tenderloin with exotic mushrooms, which was so tender it didn't need a steak knife. Judging from the face of the one who ordered it, the chocolate mousse dessert was... well... better than sex ;) For those of you in the Toronto area, it's worth driving up to Port Severn for dinner alone.

No one goes to country inns for the night life. We spent the night in, playing Scrabble and enjoying chocolate martinis, which was a little less good for the body but oh so good for the spirit.

The inn was still quiet on Friday, so the staff encouraged us to stay and enjoy the facilities for awhile. We checked out, went for a swim, had lunch at the restaurant (best burgers ever!) before heading back to Toronto for a weekend of hanging out and watching classic movies. Ahh... a lazy, girlie weekend... how luxurious!