Tag Archives: Montréal Politics

Perspective on the City { No.8 }

McGill College Avenue during a snowstorm - work of the author

McGill College, once upon a time, was a narrow one-lane street, crumbling on both sides with the remnants of the residential buildings and small-scale businesses once typical of St. Andrew and St. George’s ward. By the 1970s, a good portion of this stretch featured surface parking lots.

The redevelopment of McGill College Avenue was a long and drawn-out process, thanks in part to Jean Drapeau’s insistence in developing a new concert hall for the OSM on the site.

Almost thirty years later, McGill College Avenue is a wide-open success story, acting as a central north-south commercial and retail artery with plenty of tall buildings making the best of this prestige address. Along the avenue, you’ll notice that the two tallest buildings north of PVM are positioned diagonally across from one another, and a variety of building heights permits generous amounts of sunlight to flood the space (enjoy a nice outdoor lunch here in the Summer). Oddly, it’s not the most traveled street, and can be transformed into an open plaza on occasion. It’s long redevelopment saga involved many prominent figures in the local architecture and urbanism scene, including Phyllis Lambert, who opposed the development plan of a company she partly owned. Even more bizarre, the two architects Ms. Lambert engaged to build the CCA, Peter Rose and Errol Argun, both played significant roles in the redevelopment of McGill College. Rose worked on the renovation master plan while Ergun designed the Place Montréal Trust tower (currently, the Astral Media Building, which used to be co-located at the LaSalle College building in the Shaughnessy Village on Ste-Catherine’s, which was also designed by Ergun).

As you can see, the back-and-forth between the city, the developers and the public continued for some time, featuring a wide variety of different proposals, which included some plans to block off the view of Mount Royal entirely, while others proposed odd looking bridges to connect retail shopping centers and department stores overhead, and then underground.

In essence, what we have today is the result of many, many compromises. And despite some bruised egos and a lot of frustration twenty some odd years ago, today we’ve got something that works, and is unmistakably Montréal.

The STM is planning on selling you out…

Hector Guimard's Métro entrance at Square Victoria - credit to Wally Gobetz for the great shot

The STM recently announced its intention to solicit corporate sponsorship for the Métro, something which has never been done before. This is not the same as posting advertisements; the new plan seeks sponsorship of the individual lines, with branding occurring pretty much everywhere, from the ubiquitous, landmark Métro signs to the ticket kiosks to the maps, branding, branding, branding everywhere.

Andy Riga has excellent coverage of this issue, which can be found here: Metropolitan News

I think Michael Fish really nailed it when he asks if the corporatist elements of our society have any shame left. No, clearly they don’t – the STM won’t make more than $155 million over ten years. When you compare that to the billions of dollars per year in the operations budget, you begin to get that queasy feeling the corporate branding will be going to line the pockets of city administrators and STM corporate governance. It certainly won’t speed up the deployment of our new trains, that much is certain.

As you can imagine, both Projet Montréal and Transport2000 have come out against this plan. I for one am also against it – our Métro was conceived as being sponsorship-free, or if you’d prefer, people-power is the sponsorship. Frankly it’s bad enough we have to contend with television, advertisements, scrolling-advertisements and the variety of people actually handing things over to you, do we really need to ‘ride the Bell line to switch at Monsanto Station?’ Moreover, do we really want the pride of Montréal’s public-transit network sponsored by, say, General Motors Corporation?

Enough is enough Рif the STM really wants to increase overall revenue, they should stick with the original plan, that is Рto gradually extend the M̩tro to cover the entire metropolitan region. Doing so would allow the STM to collect revenue from more than 3 million people, as opposed to half that number currently.

The system was designed to put art and architecture to the forefront, but gradually, we’ve let the STM remove artwork and alter the design of the stations without adequately consulting the artistic community which designed the stations in the first place. Initially the system was designed to act as a new kind of public art gallery, in which each station could be experienced for its own artistic merit. What happened to that?

Think about the lost artwork the next time you’re in McGill Métro station, where the stained glass mural has big gaping holes which never get fixed, yet the rest of the station can be covered in advertisements overnight.

I strongly encourage my fellow Montréalers to resist this invasion and manipulation of public space. I for one will deface any corporate sponsorship I see. Let’s see how much of that $15.5 million per annum they can save when they have to contend with rider dis-satisfaction and a population hell-bent on vandalizing corporate sponsorship.

The Ghettoization of Franco-Québecois Culture

Pauline doing her best Mussolini impression - clearly not the work of the author

If Pauline Marois truly believes she is protecting and promoting Franco-Québecois culture by proposing an initiative to force Francophone and Allophone students into French-language CEGEPs, than it necessarily implies that she also believes the future of Québec does not go further than our geographic borders, and that our youth need not be trained for the Global Village already in the works. In sum, through this proposed extension of Bill 101, Ms. Marois is setting us up to take a fall, one which will undoubtedly sever our people from fully participating in global initiatives, and will further result in a servile and dependent people. If this is her idea of increasing the individual sovereignty of the people of Québec, than we should prepare ourselves for the bondage-by-fear characteristic of the Duplessis Era. When it comes time for an election in this province, it will be a choice between an embattled neo-Liberal party and one who would have you believe that limiting the education choices of adults is a step towards national independence. That kind of thinking is reminiscent of Sarah Palin’s illogical gaffes and the Tea Party’s fear-based rhetoric than it is of cold, sober Canadian political philosophy. Let’s not go down that road of no return that has called like a Siren to so many befuddled Americans. Make no mistake – Pauline Marois is the bottom of the barrel, and no self-respecting, sovereign Québecois should ever want her to lead this province. It would be disastrous; here’s why.

Nationalism is dead. Pan-Nationalism is the future.

Nationalism has shown its dark side time and time again, a leading cause of world conflict for most of the twentieth century. Think of the Balkans in the 1990s; think of Italy’s mad dash for colonies in the 1930s; I hate to use this point as it’s cliché, but we can’t escape the reality that Nationalism drove the Nazi movement – indeed every fascist movement – and Nationalism can be found as a root cause of every genocide. So why do we, the sovereign people of Québec, pay any attention to a political party which uses Nationalism as its ideological foundation?

The people of Québec are part of a larger Franco-Canadian nation, but we are Pan-National by nature. Neither Québec nor Canada has ever been a homogeneous society – even as far back as our colonial period, French settlers, Canadiens and many Aboriginal nations shared our land, inter-married, learned each others ways, customs and languages. If the Voyageurs had not been accepted into Aboriginal nations and families, we never would have prospered, never would have survived. The ‘purest’ Pur-Laine Québecois has plenty of Aboriginal and Irish in them – our cultural reality is manifestly plural. The foundation of our current inter-cultural society can find its ideological base in the necessities of our people’s colonial experience. We became a new kind of people, one ideally suited for the centuries to come – a people in which adaptation, cosmopolitanism and multi-lingualism were necessary keys to survival.

The world is getting smaller every day. In order to survive and prosper in the decades to come, we, the people of Québec, will have to decide whether we have the collective will to participate in a global economy, a global network of governments, and all the global initiatives required to end war, hunger, disease and the destruction of our global environment. As communications and transportation networks develop, we find ourselves sharing the planet in a manner akin to a large village – and in the process, we are becoming more and more aware that we must collaborate and cooperate in order to achieve trans-national and trans-cultural goals. In essence, we are moving towards an increasingly inter-cultural world, and the future will belong to the people most capable of living a global existence

So when the leader of the Province’s once-respected sovereignist party proposes to limit the education opportunities of the people, of the youth in particular, this same leader is cutting us off from the world, and this will harm us gravely. Pauline Marois is proposing the ghettoization of Franco-Québecois culture, and by doing so seeks to reverse the trend set during the Quiet Revolution. Ms. Marois thinks the Quiet Revolution is over, passé. It isn’t, it is the heart and soul of Québec’s progressive movement. By attempting to extend Bill 101 into the CEGEPs, she is attempting to limit education opportunities for all communities, while further limiting the natural trend towards multi-lingualism in post-secondary education. What’s worse is the fact that Anglophone CEGEPs would have their funding cut in addition to restricted enrollment, while Francophone and Allophone students would go to unilingual CEGEPs and universities instead of the already multi-lingual ‘Anglophone’ institutions.

A better idea would be to ensure all the students of Québec are taught both English and French equally at the primary, secondary and CEGEP levels, so as to guarantee a fully bilingual workforce. This is not something from the pages of futurist science fiction; it could be accomplished easily within a couple generations, yet we lack the will to be daring, creative. This is manifest in the policies of Ms. Marois, who would rather own a little North American fiefdom, with the people of Québec as her dependent subjects, than realize our nation’s full potential. In her rhetoric, she prepares her followers not to lead, but to be held captive by fear – of the other, the Anglophone, of Canada, of the immigrant who learns both English and French. For all intents and purposes, she may as well sell you fear of the British Empire, of Loyalists or the Orange Order. She wants to induce a siege mentality in this province, despite the fact that there is no threat to the French language, culture or society. Each year there are more of us, and each year more immigrants learn French and adapt to our ways – more often of their own volition than through force and coercion.

If our dearly bewildered opposition leader is given carte-blanche, she will undeniably erase the progress made during the Quiet Revolution. She will provoke Québecois of all language and cultural groups to leave the province for better opportunities elsewhere, force a referendum no one wants, and jeopardize our economic stability. But what is worse is that she will turn this province into a ghetto, and our people will suffer the indignity of a ghetto mentality. Such an indignity will leave an indelible mark, and we will perish as a community, as a society, because of it.

It’s shit like this Concordia…

Happy New Years etc – in case you haven’t heard, birds are dropping from the sky in the Bible Belt. I’m calling it now, God’s pissed and Moses is coming back. I guess this means Assange will lead North America’s progressives into Zion to escape the bondage of the evil GOP/Fox News consortia?

Ha! Boy it’s impossible not to sound like a complete lunatic these days isn’t it?

Found this gem at Con-U a while back:

New sign with braille – check!

Bilingualism – check (kinda).

Dropping the letter ‘g’ to make your institution of higher learning seem more ‘urban’ while simultaneously doing the complete opposite of what our language laws stipulate vis-a-vis the size and visibility of the French language – priceless, mind-blowingly priceless.

Oh, and our President either just got fired or quit. Can’t remember which it is, and what does it matter, either way she’s still going to make $700,000.

Over the break this was a topic I wanted to discuss with my elder relations, hoping to score some inkling as to whether they saw this as emblematic of a larger problem. They said no, and kept repeating how her severance would’ve been determined years ago, before she got the job.

‘I could give a shit’, was my uncouth response. The problem is that people are getting paid ostentatious sums whether they complete their job or not.  Whether Woodsworth was fired or not doesn’t actually matter. Con-U has dumped two presidents in the last three years, with many other VPs leaving for various unspecified reasons. All of them were offered corporate-style severance packages. None of these people deserved the money they received. In the real world, poor people must complete the job in order to be paid for it. If they’re fired, they get to sign-up for Employment Insurance. Woodsworth gets to go to Tremblant.

If the Boomers ever wonder why the youth of today has zero faith in them or the establishment they represent, here’s why.

At night, I curse the Fire God I pray to for gifting my generation with such an insurmountable mess to clean up.

Judith Woodsworth pulls a Sarah Palin @ CON-U

For the second time in three years, Concordia University is sans president. Another one bites the dust, and much like other presidents and VPs from the past few years, she will receive a major severance package to quit. The Gazette’s Peggy Curran indicates that it seems as though Ms. Woodsworth was under rather intense scrutiny from within, and was in essence pushed out.

Hmmm, $700,000 to quit your job? Is there any wonder why the youth of today have so little in common with The Man, and so little respect for those who run our institutions? The Man thinks it deserves to be rewarded for not completing their job. Just like how Palin quit being Governor of Alaska to eventually have her own reality TV show. Think about what stories like this actually say: don’t worry if you can’t do your job properly, you can always quit and make double what you would have normally earned. Talk about abusing the trust and faith of the people; this kind of thing only happens at the top. Down at the bottom, whether in a factory or in class, failure costs you. Why do we constantly reward the failures of our elites with big-time payouts?

Of course, being from the corporate side of modern academia, who could blame her for graciously accepting the pay-off and jumping ship? I mean, she needs to be free to move up the corporate ladder no?

Just in case anyone was wondering, her $700,000 Christmas gift could have paid the equivalent of 20 scholarships for full time study. I guess we can be thankful that, unlike in the USA, Ms. Woodsworth will be heavily taxed for her ‘earnings’.

Lambasting Larry Smith

Apologies for the delay, glad to say I just finished exam season and have a lot more free time. And wouldn’t you know it, the Irony Gods threw me a solid. Larry Smith became a senator, announced his intention to run as an MP, and put his foot solidly in his own mouth, all in the span of the last week. Quite an achievement indeed.

You see, our dear Mr. Smith, ever the everyman, announced publicly he views the $132,000 he’ll make as a Senator, a dramatic, catastrophic pay cut. I can only imagine the kind of money he made as coach of the Alouettes.

If you’d like to make a charitable donation to help Larry make it through this tough holiday season, visit Save Larry Smith.

If you’d like to publicly humiliate Mr. Smith for his egregious statement, possibly via tar-and-feather method, the intrepid appointed Senator has stated he won’t just waltz into cabinet, as some suspect. He believes he must earn a spot in Cabinet and so will run as a Tory candidate in the Lac-St-Louis riding.

Hmmm, so he’s got a problem with being appointed to Cabinet, yet no problem with being appointed to Senate. is it me or is this guy completely unaware of the world he lives in?

Montréal needs more Conservative representation like a hole in the head. Moreover, it’s been solid Liberal turf for more than twenty years. While this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a win next election, I would hope that most West Island residents see this for the ploy it is. Its clear right out of the gate that Mr. Smith is not an appropriate representative of the people of Montreal’s suburbs. The Tories are remarkably absent from representing Canada’s major urban centers, and with mouthpieces like Larry Smith, they only further spoil their image and demonstrate the vast differences between them and the overwhelming majority of Canadians. That they have the balls to call Liberals or NDPers elitist is simply beyond the pale. Yet, I’m not pessimistic as many Canadians are, and I’m hoping this holiday season for a Tory defeat comparable to the disaster of the 1993 federal election.

As the video points out quite clearly, nepotism is ripe in the Conservative Party of Canada, and the Senate is more and more of a joke with every appointment. They’re driving themselves into the ground. I couldn’t be happier.