Joel Kwan is a corporate lawyer based in Los Angeles, California. Currently acting as financial/legal associate for Westwood Group, a specialty finance company, Joel focuses on general regulatory compliance, creditor rights and structured finance. Visit his website to learn more.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

$32,210 for a fake sense of liberty

Well, I should have started this process a LONG time ago. Before June 2010, anyone over age 25 could pass drivers tests directly without taking classes and get the full permit. Now, no matter how old you are, you must take 1 year class, have a learner's license for at least 1 year and a probationary license for 2 years. In short, it now takes mimimum 3 years before you can get your full license.

But now that I am legally allowed to drive, I am still not planning to buy a car anytime soon. In Montreal the transit system is quite good and I never really need a car to commute to work or school.

According to, the average new car price in Canada is $32,210. To many, cars mean liberty. Car manufacturers advertise cars sloping down winding roads with green meadows with absolutely no other cars in view, with the electronic music accentuating the sense of exhileration. Buy a car and you will be free like a bird!

But in reality, cars are becoming synonymous with constraints, high registration fees, soaring oil prices, exponential parking rates. And what about all the fines, the repairs and the injuries and deaths from driving? Not to mention the environmental costs. Above all, the intial purpose of the car, to be transported conveniently and swiftly from point A to point B is not even fulfilled in most urban centers. Monster traffic jams make it more practical to take alternative methods of transportation.

The car industry is filled with irrationalities: cars that can be driven at speeds far in excess of legal limits; handling properties far beyond the competence of most drivers; increasing dependence on image rather than objective usefulness to end user etc(1).

Hopefully I will not succumb to the "poudre aux yeux" tactics of car manufacturers and continue using alternative methods of transportations as much as possible.

And the nice thing about living in Montreal - there are no shortage of alternatives:

Merci au Bixi, à la STM, aux trains de banlieu, à commune auto, aux pistes cyclables...

(1) Graeme P. Maxton & John Wormald, Driving Over a Cliff? (Cambridge: Addison-Wesley, 1995) at 127.

Lots of new academic year resolutions

Every September I start off the Academic Year ready for any challenge and project. Realistically, some of those projects are dropped off my list over the year mostly due to time constraints. In an effort to try to stick to my goals this Academic year, I am posting them here.

1. Post at least once a week on my blog

2. Run the half marathon on September 25

3. Organize a fundraiser for GRIS Montréal

4. Play with a band at Law School of Rock

5. Write and film some skits for Skit Nite

6. Bring a McGill delegation to Out on Bay Street

7. Take swimming lessons

8. Take Capoeira lessons

9. Take salsa lessons