Wednesday Night #1370

Written by  //  June 4, 2008  //  Reports, Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

This week we welcome two special guests with very different areas of expertise.
Louise Des Trois Maisons will introduce Jean-Claude Marsan, architect, professor and former Dean of the Faculty of Planning of Université de Montréal, writer, city planner, researcher and candidate for Mayor of Outremont in 2007 …, who has devoted several decades to the defense of Montreal’s urban and architectural heritage. We are looking forward to hearing his opinions on almost any topic he wishes to address, but particularly the redevelopment of Griffintown which he has already criticised eloquently Projet Griffintown: Montréal mérite mieux
See also Albert Sévigny’s recent piece in the Suburban Griffintown: Is it the right plan for the right place?
We would also be interested in knowing what part Professor Marsan played in the development of the newly-unveiled Heritage Montreal Insites/Montreal en quartier ‘virtual walks’ through neighborhoods such as the Golden Square Mile, Parc La Fontaine, and Mount Royal. and Little Italy.
The second guest is a welcome returnee: Professor (of International Business and Management) Stephen Blank, Guy Stanley’s co-author of several studies on NAFTA and an enthusiastic proponent of NASCO, the tri-national, non-profit, trade and transportation coalition working to make international and domestic trade more efficient and secure along the existing network of transportation systems. A propos, some of you may have seen the item Saskatchewan eyes ‘inland port’ design in Mexico . Stephen comes to Wednesday Night directly from the Canadian Transportation Research Forum conference in Fredericton on Shaking up Canada’s Transportation System to meet future needs, where he is moderating the roundtable on “Envisioning a North American freight transportation system in 2030
Other items The guests’ topics both relate to the Economy, our traditional Wednesday Night subject and Stephen will no doubt be able to comment on the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s Tuesday meeting with donors and supporters – naturally, we would hope for some wisdom on NAFTA’s prospects once the Democrats have chosen their nominee.

While George Bush promises to veto the U.S. Climate Change Bill, the Montreal Climate Exchange opened successfully last Friday, Quebec and Ontario are signing a cap-and-trade deal, over which our esteemed federal Environment Minister appears to be going ballistic. If you missed any of these stories, we have them all
Sadly, World Hunger, Burma, the Middle East and Zimbabwe continue to dominate our news, but we also can cheer over what appears to be a diplomatic resolution of the Arctic sovereignty dispute and for sheer entertainment, don’t miss a minute of the Mad Max story (we promise it won’t last much longer).

The Report

In addition to the previously announced guests, Sam Totah (“Mr. Sam”) returned to Wednesday Night, bearing a delightful – and beautifully framed – small painting of the house, with photos of Diana & David carefully inserted in the windows. Sam, one of the early attendees was the first to attempt to chronicle the gatherings.
Catherine Gillbert introduced Dr. Catherine Gamaz from Barcelona, an emergency room physician, whom she had first met on a trek in Nepal.
Diana introduced Felix von Geyer, freelance sustainability and global affairs journalist.

Today, the debate on NAFTA and free trade is being set by Lou Dobbs
Fortunately, that was not the case at Wednesday Night where Stephen Blank’s profound knowledge of the issues guided us through a wide-ranging debate that embraced every aspect including the fundamental differences between the two countries (unfortunately Mexico received short shrift tonight) stemming from the fundamental principles on which each Constitution is based (individual versus collective rights), historical what-ifs, the actions of the respective national governments during the Depression and the influence of sizable cross-border movements of population.
In Canada, there has always been a protected artificiality based on a political concept of East-West exchange with everything looked at through the prism of federal-provincial relations. Ottawa confuses sovereignty issues with economic integration, demonstrating little interest in or understanding of regional North-South trade patterns, unlike business and the people.
Globalization has reduced prosperity in a number of the states that relied heavily on manufacturing activities. U.S. Labor tends to blame the loss of jobs on trade, whereas the real ‘culprit’ is technology. It is time to recognize that the old jobs have disappeared and will never come back, and to stop trying to protect nineteenth century jobs for a twenty-first century economy.
The persistence of nineteenth century thinking delays the full benefits of integration. Transportation planners foresee the same proportion of truck and rail transportation in the future oblivious to the physical impossibility of road infrastructure increasing sufficiently to bear the increased traffic, while the same data could logically demonstrate the opportunities involved in modernizing, integrating and increasing rail capacity.
The European Union and NAFTA have gone a long way towards breaking down trade barriers to the benefit of participating nations, with the major difference that the European Union was based on a clear vision and time was devoted to building its constituencies – not so for NAFTA. For eight years (President) Bush has given Canadians an excuse to be naughty and not think about the future.
Curiously, while the trade benefits of NAFTA are evident, the residents of the three signatory nations look upon the agreement in terms of a trade agreement rather than an integration of human resources, and fail to recognize that despite subtle differences, a deep similarity of aspirations and philosophy exists between the two populations.
Unfortunately, the process has given birth to a strong bureaucracy, incremental decisions behind a curtain of secrecy and lack of citizen buy-in.
Incrementalism without vision is simply wandering around
Cross-border integration between Canada and the United States, although largely unrecognized except by residents of border communities, is significant. Ultimately in order to be of optimal benefit NAFTA must not only be looked upon as an instrument for the freer exchange of goods, but of populations as well. To date it is only environmentalists who are truly North American in their outlook, recognizing that such issues as climate change and carbon emissions do not respect the boundaries of neighboring nations.
Despite the success of the 15-year NAFTA program at HEC, there is not one business school in Canada offering a program on North America, not even on the United States and thus, ignorance reigns, with little appreciation of the deep integration of our economies as best exemplified in the Pacific Northwest (PNWER) .
NAFTA has been good for Canadians, although we have become dependent on trans-border trade and a few industries. But, rather than emphasizing the advantages of cross border trade integration, we dwell on inter-provincial differences and sadly, in Québec provincial protectionism.
(Québec has been a disappointment in this regard. Bernard Landry, a vocal advocate of free trade and strong relationships between the countries of North America could have invited Canada to join Québec in the creation of a new North America. Instead, Québec has been the least proactive of Canadian provinces.
Where the federal system is failing the process, there is room for optimism in the cross-border regional alliances that are forming, notably those on energy and environment issues. Cities and states/provinces are way ahead of Washington and Ottawa – and closer to the public opinion (read ‘reality’). Deeper integration leads to sub-national regionalization.
We decry the purchase of our natural resources by foreigners, oblivious to the fact that Canadian companies have been net buyers of foreign businesses.
The evolution from the belief that Canada and Mexico were cheaper countries in which to manufacture to the true integration of the economic, – not political -, advantages of the whole of North America has been slow. In the debate on sovereignty, the fact that is most often missing is the regional diversity within each of the partners which is, if anything, greater than the differences across national boundaries.

Un bon projet urbain, c’est un projet qui surgit de l’esprit et de la culture des lieux: il nécessite un concept d’aménagement adapté, original, qui s’inspire de la trame urbaine, des bâtiments existants et de la vie communautaire locale pour faire émerger un scénario d’aménagement capable de mettre en valeur une culture et un patrimoine distincts de façon à ensemencer l’avenir. Jean-Claude Marsan

The soul of the city is determined by the successive generations of inhabitants and evolves naturally without imposition of outside human intervention. The Main bears the distinct mark of the progression of immigrants that landed at the Port of Montreal, settled along Saint Lawrence Boulevard and then moved to the suburbs as they integrated into Montreal society. Impoverished Irish immigrants arrived in the city, made an outstanding contribution to Montreal’s infrastructure and culture, settling in Griffintown near the port at which they arrived in the area in which they were employed. Griffintown still bears the indelible mark of its early settlers but has evolved according to the needs and tastes of successive generations.
Evolution is inevitable. Indeed the area has changed dramatically over the years, but successful urban regeneration must happen organically, evolving with the succession of inhabitants of the area, as has been the case of the Plateau and other areas of the city, rather than having been imposed as is currently being proposed.
The city centre, or downtown core, of Montreal is already large. The creation of a second centre with parallel and even additional services on the scale of what is proposed is not only unnecessary, it is unwise, as neither downtown nor the Island of Montreal has the demographics to support this kind of unsustainable development. In fact, it has been estimated that at the current population density of the City of Westmount or of Montreal, the entire population of Canada could theoretically be housed on the island without the need for projects such as that being planned for Griffintown.
Furthermore, in the era of globalization, there is a concurrent movement of reinforcement of local identity that the Griffintown proposal goes against.
The Tremblay Administration has apparently been mesmerized by the promise of $1.3 billion investment, but has not considered the project sufficiently important to merit assessment of the project by an appropriately high-level, highly qualified ‘Blue Ribbon’ committee that would look at what is best for Griffintown, the City and the entire region, rather than the coffers of Montreal. Instead, the consultation process has been limited to a single borough.
Thus, in the opinion of most Wednesday Nighters, the project is doomed to failure, bringing yet another tax burden on the citizens.
The tragedy may be amplified by the anticipation by some Wednesday Nighters of a broad financial downturn, making the plan not only destructive to the soul of the area but unsuccessful as a business venture as well.
Are we as concerned citizens totally impotent? How can we be heard?
One answer rests in submissions to an audience publique (public hearing) – the successful development of the Old Port, the finest in North America was the result of public responses through the mechanism of the audience publique. Thus high rises were not built along the waterfront because the people said they wanted to ‘see the water and be able to walk around’ and the integration of the project with existing Old Montreal was assured. In the case of Grifintown, the public hearing has been limited to the residents of the area.
If land must be expropriated for the Griffintown project, one of the best ways to stall a project, suggests one expert, is to contest expropriation. Legal obstacles freeze money and in today’s real estate market, numerous roadblocks might convince the developer to walk away.

The market
Rapid Federal Reserve action on the Bear Stearns situation over the weekend of March 15 was believed to have plugged the hole in the financial dyke but events of the past days (Lehman Bros. in crisis and bank stocks at a new low) foreshadow, according to some credible Wednesday Nighters, the probability of very difficult time for investors in the near term, previously forecast as a possibility for mid 2009.
Bonds are also looking problematic, so cash is the best place to be.

Wednesday Nighter Projects
Brian Morel and Brigitte Garceau of the Fondation De la rue à la réussite are planning a major event at Place des Arts on September 4, to raise funds for poor children with cancer and the Fondation de la Rue … The Jubilation Choir will be one of many great performers. The Fondation now has 5 candidates who will be introduced to the job market very shortly and by September it is hoped that there will be some 40 former street people ready to join the mainstream. More to follow

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1370"

  1. Diana Thébaud Nicholson June 4, 2008 at 5:27 pm ·

    Quebec Premier Jean Charest says he worries that a wave of protectionism among American politicians will endanger the survival of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, adding that he intends to lobby the next American president in favour of NAFTA. Mr. Charest spoke in Guanajuato, Mexico, at a conference hosted by North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition, a non-profit group devoted to increasing trade within North America. The Democratic Party presidential candidat, Barack Obama, has vowed to renegotiate better labour and environmental guarantees if elected. Mr. Charest says several U.S. governors are stirring up anti-NAFTA sentiment, including those of Pennsylvania and Ohio, where numerous manufacturing jobs have been lost. Manitoba Premier Gary also is attending the event but says NAFTA can be defended without resorting to “negative speeches.”

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