It is very hard to try and stay calm and mature in the face of Tremblay and the current municipal administration ramming the name change of Avenue du Parc to Avenue Robert-Bourassa. For those of you not in Montreal, Avenue du Parc runs along side Parc Mont-Royal (thus the name). The south side of the park on Parc is sort of oriented around McGill and has lots of cheap restaurants and cafés for students as well as the irreplaceable Cinema du Parc (the last rep theatre, recently ressurected). North of the park, avenue du Parc is a historically rich, diverse neighbourhood, a rough border between Outremont and Mile End. At the very top, it touches the bottom of Parc Extension, one of the poorer neighbourhoods in Montreal and home to large West Indian and South Asian populations. Parc Avenue, historically, has been the center of the waves of immigration that came to Montreal. Currently, there is a strong Hassidic influx. They are the most visible people on a Saturday with their traditional outfits and crazy hats.
For whatever combination of pride, graft and politics, Mayor Tremblay suddenly announced a couple months ago that he was going to change the name to Avenue de Robert Bourassa. He was a long-running and popular Premier here, in the 50s I think (I am woefully ignorant of the details of Quebec provincial history). Though some people really disliked him, from what I can gather, he does sound like a decent man who did a good job. Probably should be honored.
But the name change, preceded by no studies, no public consultation, created an outcry. Business owners on Parc, residents, immigrants connected to the history of the street and young hipsters started protesting the change. Borough Mayor Helen Fotopoulos received enough pressure that she decided not to support the name change. (In a typically cynical and adroit political maneuver, she managed to walk a thin line between not going against her constituency and not really defying her boss.) A petition was put up that eventually generated 40,000 names against the change.
As a result of all this pressure, Tremblay decided to put the name change to a vote of City councillors. That went down today and it passed. Only 22 of the 40 councillors needed voted against the name change.
Tremblay said yesterday that this was a democratic process since all the councillors were voted for by the citizens.
I have several questions:
1) How much will the actual implementation (street signs, subway maps, communication) cost the city?
2) Who gets the contracts to implement these changes? How much will they be getting paid? Will this information be made public?
3) How much will it cost business owners? Will there be any sort of subsidies to offset the costs?
4) Why Parc? What was the process behind which street got the name change?
5) Why does a City Councillor from Laval's vote weigh as much as one who represents the district where the street in question actually exists?
And now for my opinion:
This is a total outrage. It is a waste of taxpayers' money. It is a complete flaunting of the democratic process. It is a slap in the face to all the immigrants who made Avenue du Parc what it is today. I am infuriated. I am against all name changes in general, but Montreal (and probably Quebec) is just disgusting with its city full of self-conscious and righteous hommages to n'importe qui. If you are such a humble and self-effacing servant of the people, why the hell does your goddamn name have to be all over the place? It is so bad that half the streets actually change their names at many points in the city, so giving directions is a nightmare (Parc actually becomes Bleury south of Sherbrooke). Why does some man whom I have never seen once (despite being heavily involved in many community projects) has the power to just change the name of a street my great-grandparents went shopping on long before he and his family ever came to Montreal?
Fair warning: when the leaders abandon the democratic process, the citizens will do the same. Do not expect the new signs to last long...