Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tremblay lost my vote...

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...


Al B Here said...

Bourassa had a pretty good run, through a couple of decades. If memory serves me, he was Premier of the province in the early to mid-70s and again in the mid-80s. People often forget that it was actually Bourassa that requested that Trudeau enact the War Measures Act during the October Crisis of 1970 (though Trudeauphiles and haters tend to ignore this inconvenient fact).

He was also at the negotiating Table during different stages of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown accord. He wasn't the most impressive Premier, but I'd never say he was a historic non-factor. Does that mean he deserved a road to be named in his honour? Maybe. Though their choice could have been considerably better.

Anonymous said...

Tremblay served as a cabinet minister under Boubou and Boubou sponsered his entry into politics. Thus, Tremblay is very loyal to his old patron Robert Bourassa. The equivalent would be to have Charest rename something after Brian Mulroney.

There's something banana republic about allowing someone with a personal connection with the deceased as Tremblay has, to decide on renaming a major street after him. Such a decision would best be made by someone without such close ties to the deceased.

Boubou's family perferred that Saint-Joseph Boulevard be renamed, as this is where he grew up. However, as some major French Quebec author mentioned Saint-Joseph Boulevard in his works, renaming it was deemed off-limits.

Anonymous said...

They should name it rue Boubou. All very stupid.

Anonymous said...

I've been thru 3 street changes that I can remember. It seems to be quite the thing in this politically correct area of the US. Thus, Grove street is now MLKing Jr Way, known as MIlky Way; Army Street is now Cesar Chavez (not a bad switch but it took a couple of years to change the freeway signs) and finally, 14th Street in Oakland, a notoriously rough and down and dirty street, is now International Blvd; still down and dirty, but kindof interesting. It is actaully pretty international (of course, it's called routinely, I Blvd). It's always hard to get used to a new street name. Frankly, it probably is not usually a good thing. Tho I did like C Chavez a lot.

Unknown said...

Hey, Bourassa was the 70's, don't make me feel any older than I already am!!!!
He was the premier when I was growing up.
Although I do agree, change any street's name, BUT NOT THAT ONE!!! It already has too much meaning, and is the area my family is from.