Montreal September 2023-

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Québec Bill 96/Education

Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

Editorial: Montreal must not lose its essence (and its views) to developers
Projects must be done on a scale and in a style that comports with the city as it has evolved over the centuries.
Montreal is a city like no other in Canada — and not just because it is the only French-speaking metropolis in North America.
Montreal has a vibe and a style all its own, derived in large part from its unique built environment. The city has embraced contemporary architecture and preserved its heritage from every era while remaining livable. And it’s been no accident.
If Old Montreal is an historic quarter that charms visitors and residents alike, it’s thanks to the visionary leadership of Blanche Lemco van Ginkel and her husband Daniel van Ginkel, who saved the district from demolition for an expressway in the 1960s.
If Mount Royal, the city’s geographical and symbolic heart, welcomes people arriving from all directions, it’s because of the wise move to limit building heights in the 1990s.
That policy likely also helped preserve the iconic triplexes and duplexes that line so many residential streets. With these cold-water flats that housed multi-generational families stacked two or three storeys high, Montreal has been doing urban density right since the 19th century. (16 June 2023)
4 January
Peter F. Trent: Today’s architectural fashions must not demolish Montreal’s heritage
The dereliction of heritage buildings comes in many forms.
The preservation of Montreal’s built heritage is a hit-and-miss affair. The exception remains Old Montreal: former mayor Jean Drapeau regarded it as older and “more French” in character than, say, Victorian Montreal. Yet it was a few anglophones who worked tirelessly to get Old Montreal awarded its 1964 provincial designation as a historic district.
The Square Mile to the west of Old Montreal, built by wealthy anglos between 1860 and 1914, was never given heritage protection.
Dereliction of our built heritage comes in other forms. Aside from the self-explanatory demolition by neglect and façadism, there’s what I call “loftism”: the stripping bare of heritage interiors to create open-concept, interior-wall-free “lofts.” This covert yet cavalier disregard for historical interiors is the result of an architectural blandemic, the fashion known as “mid-century modern.” …
As long as we cleave to the supposition that today’s architectural fashions are the only true ones, as long as we believe they will last forever, and as long as we demean or demolish all buildings constructed in past fashions to supplant with our own, we shall continue to destroy what came before us. But we do not have the right to do so; this is the value of teaching history, respect and remembrance.
Dida Berku looks back on her activism saving buildings in downtown Montreal (video with transcript)

5-10 February
Robert Libman: Show, don’t tell — a lesson for the CAQ
The government needs to better explain its mega-investments — from the Big O roof to the Northvolt project — if it wants Quebecers to buy in.
Have all the options been properly explored, wonders Robert Libman
This week, the government announced its plan to renovate the Olympic Stadium roof at a cost of $870 million (before cost-overruns). Most people’s visceral reaction when you mention the “Big Owe” is to say: “Blow the damn thing up.” One needn’t repeat the numerous reasons for this understandable cynicism. Seemingly, the government has no choice, as The Gazette’s Allison Hanes aptly called it the “least worst option.” But here again, the government must do a better job of explaining the rationale to stem criticism and maybe even generate a reluctant buy-in.
Quebec to spend $870M on a new roof for the Olympic Stadium
Stadium to be closed 4 years starting this summer
The Olympic Stadium’s new $870-million roof will be fixed, rigid and feature a transparent glass hoop.
The move is part of an action plan signed in 2018 to revitalize Montreal’s east end. The government also wants to further commercialize the Olympic Park by doubling its capacity for tourists, increasing the number of events held at the stadium and making room for large-scale concerts, conventions and trade shows.
The government predicts that, with its new roof, the stadium will attract larger events, possibly generating as much as $1.5 billion from tourism and other sources over 10 years.
It also expects to make $61 million in gross revenue per year from the Olympic Park, while the stadium itself could generate tax revenues of more than $20 million per year.

24 January
Montréal International lays off 19 per cent of employees
The agency says it lost funding from the Quebec and federal governments and high inflation is affecting its budget.
Investment promotion agency Montréal International is laying off nearly 19 per cent of its workforce, while the organization is losing funding from Quebec and the federal government and its budget has not kept pace with inflation.

2 January
Brownstein: Linguistic storm clouds threaten Montreal in 2024
Lost in the shuffle of all the corrosive politics is the city — Quebec’s economic engine.
On matters unrelated to politics, inflation, infrastructure, climate and taxes, 2023 was otherwise a bumper year for Montreal. Particularly between June and September, when Montreal was able to retain its Party City status and tourists — clearly colour-blind when it came to orange cones — descended en masse to immerse themselves in our F1, festival madness and restos
Tourists may be colour-blind, but many across Canada, the U.S. and even the world are now hearing and reading stories about new anglo university tuition hikes and francization clauses and they just may have concerns about feeling welcome here. … the reality is that Montreal — like Paris, London, New York — is also one of the world’s great metropolises, comprised of myriad cultural communities, which also go a long way toward enhancing the city’s soul.
What is lost in the shuffle here is that Montreal is the economic engine on which this entire province spins. But because the CAQ power base is outside Montreal, Legault doesn’t need the city to win an election. That kind of thinking could result in the city becoming a backwater.

2023

26 December
Brownstein: Montreal’s Word of the Year, for all the wrong reasons
From Mount Royal’s roadblock to downtown’s parking hikes, City Hall made us swallow some bitter pills in 2023.
… I submit “consultation” for Word of the Year in Montreal.
Consultation from either side of the coin here, but both bogus.
Consultation in the first instance is actually not a reflection of the much-ballyhooed spending excesses of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal. No, this is more a reflection of just how ineffective the OCPM process turned out to be.
In one of the greatest-ever responses to any public consultation, involving over 12,000 people, the OCPM determined in 2018 that citizens were very much against the closure of the mountain road and recommended that the mayor abide by their wishes.
Plante went along initially. But she had a change of heart in September, when she announced the city would spend $91 million to transform Camillien-Houde into a green space and close down that part of the mountain road to regular traffic — apart from fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and maintenance vehicles.

15 December
City of Montreal to Quebec government: Support our world-class universities, regardless of their language
(Cult Mtl) City of Montreal Executive Committee member Robert Beaudry has released a statement regarding the Legault government’s decision to increase tuition for out-of-province students attending English universities in and around Montreal.
Beaudry requested that the CAQ government support “the influence” of Montreal’s universities in order to encourage students to help reverse Quebec’s chronic labour shortage.

7 December
Peter F. Trent: Dinner tab small potatoes next to city salaries
You should run for public office to give back to your community, not to earn an above-average income.
(Gazette) The City of Montreal is populated with 38 borough councillors, 65 city councillors, 18 borough mayors, and one main mayor — Valérie Plante, above. “With pay and benefits, these elected officials earned anywhere from roughly $80,000 up to $260,000 in 2022,” writes Peter F. Trent. “Compensation averaged out at $164,913 per politician.”
1 February 2023
Peter F. Trent: City employees’ cushy pay packets cost taxpayers
As the cost of remuneration can take up nearly one-half of the city’s budget, Montreal elected officials must grasp this nettle.

28 November
Mount Royal Cemetery threatens legal action over car ban
“By deciding to permanently close the Camillien-Houde route, the city is acting illegally and contravening the rights of (the cemetery) as well as its contractual obligations.”
In the letter, the cemetery’s lawyers gave the city 10 days to confirm “it will respect (the cemetery’s) rights of access and passage, that it will revise the project accordingly and, ultimately, that it will not close the Camillien-Houde route.”
Montreal has not done that, Maxime Jacques, the cemetery’s executive director, said in an interview Monday.
Before deciding whether to proceed with legal action, the cemetery is waiting to see what comes of a December meeting where officials from the two sides are to discuss the Camillien-Houde plan, he said.

24 November
Mount Royal: Montreal was warned car ban would reduce accessibility
Six months before Mayor Valérie Plante announced Camillien-Houde Way’s revamp, her administration was also cautioned about a 95-year-old legal document that could throw a wrench into the plan
Before announcing it will permanently ban car access to Mount Royal from the east, the Plante administration was warned such a scheme would decrease accessibility and cause thousands of people to drive up to an extra 12 minutes every day.
In 2019, Montreal’s consultation office was sharply critical of a 2018 city pilot project that banned through traffic. The rebuke came after the most popular consultation ever held by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal, with 12,000 people taking part.
The OCPM recommended car traffic be maintained on Camillien-Houde and Remembrance, with the roads transformed into a slow-moving, tree-lined scenic drive “to enhance the Mount Royal experience and the discovery of its landscape, natural and cultural heritage while reducing and discouraging through traffic.”
$91-million overhaul
Four years later, in September 2023, Plante ignored the OCPM’s recommendations. …
Cemetery activities ‘disrupted’
CIMA+ also warned that eliminating through traffic could “disrupt activities, particularly funeral processions” at the two cemeteries on the mountain — Notre-Dame-des-Neiges and Mount Royal Cemetery.
In the case of Mount Royal Cemetery, an agreement dating from 1928 with the city of Montreal “guarantees access from the road for vehicles coming from the east or west,” CIMA+ noted.
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“Users of the cemetery (visitors and processions) must be able to travel on the axis at all times and arrive from the east and west.”

21 November
OCPM president Isabelle Beaulieu fired after expense scandal
“The acts that we learned about have made it impossible for us to continue to have confidence in the current president,” Projet Montréal’s Robert Beaudry said before the unanimous city council vote.
Isabelle Beaulieu was fired after questionable expenses came to light through news reports. Among the contentious expenses claimed by employees were international trips, lavish dinners and large-screen televisions. Beaulieu herself claimed a pair of Apple wireless headphones for roughly $900.
Beaulieu was named the head of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal in 2021, taking over from Dominique Ollivier, who was elected as a city councillor in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie and named the president of the city’s executive committee by Mayor Valérie Plante. Ollivier resigned from her post as head of the executive committee last week, but remains a councillor as part of Plante’s Projet Montréal caucus.
Both Beaulieu and Ollivier appeared before a permanent commission of city council last Friday to defend their records

13-14 November
City of Montreal cancels Christmas parties, Mayor Plante reimburses wine expenses as city is criticized for alleged controversial spending
The city of Montreal has cancelled its Christmas parties and Mayor Valérie Plante and members of her cabinet have reimbursed wine expenses made on a trip to Austria, after allegations of controversial spending of public money at the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) – uncovered by Le Journal de Montréal and TVA Nouvelles’ investigative team.
The former number two at City Hall, Dominique Ollivier, stepped down as president of the city’s executive committee Monday, two days before the city of Montreal’s new budget Wednesday. She was criticized for allegedly spending $350 on an oyster dinner when she was president of the OCPM.
Dominique Ollivier resigns as president of Montreal’s Executive Committee, Luc Rabouin named successor

8-10 November
Montreal lecturer suspended in fallout of Concordia altercation over Israel-Hamas war
A Université de Montréal (UdeM) lecturer has been suspended after he was involved in Wednesday’s chaotic clash at Concordia University related to the Israel-Hamas war.
Multiple injuries in Montreal after group altercation at Concordia University over Israel-Hamas war
University president says altercation was one of 3 potentially violent incidents on campus Wednesday

25 September
Pourquoi bannir les autos de Camillien-Houde ?
Stéphanie Grammond, éditorialiste en chef de La Presse
N’est-ce pas ironique ? Valérie Plante, qui promettait d’être la « mairesse de la mobilité », veut maintenant bloquer la voie Camillien-Houde aux automobilistes qui désirent accéder au mont Royal.
Comme l’opposition n’a pas manqué de le rappeler, cette idée va à l’encontre de la recommandation soumise par l’Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) qui était présidé, en 2019, par Dominique Ollivier… aujourd’hui numéro 2 de l’administration Plante.
Pour un virage en U, c’en est tout un.
… Oui, il faut réduire le nombre de véhicules pour lutter contre les changements climatiques qui mènent l’humanité aux « portes de l’enfer », comme l’a dit le secrétaire général de l’ONU il y a quelques jours.
À l’heure actuelle, 10 000 véhicules roulent sur le mont Royal quotidiennement, dont 85 % sont en transit. Mais si on coupe la circulation, les véhicules ne vont pas disparaître par magie. À la place, ils contourneront la montagne, ce qui accentuera la congestion dans les quartiers périphériques, comme on l’a vu lors d’un projet pilote. Au bout du compte, on augmentera donc les émissions de CO2.

23 September
Editorial: Mount Royal revamp, Take 2, faces a steep climb
Mayor Valérie Plante didn’t get her way on her first try at transforming Montreal’s landmark, and might find she won’t this time again.
Montreal Gazette Editorial Board
Out of the blue last week, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante turned up on the eastern flank of Mount Royal and unveiled a plan to close Camillien-Houde Way to vehicle traffic.
It’s more or less the same announcement she made back in her first mandate. And it generated much the same backlash among Montrealers that caused her to retreat on the first go.
Only this time, it doesn’t look like she’ll be reversing course voluntarily — even though it means steamrollering the results of the major public consultation she ordered to quell the initial furor. It concluded Montrealers want Camillien-Houde and Remembrance Rd. to remain accessible to cars, but be made into a safer, shared road for all types of users.
Dominique Ollivier, formerly the head of the city’s public-consultation office. …now chairs the executive committee. But, sadly, consultation seems to have become a hollow exercise at city hall — giving the pretence Plante’s team is listening before doing exactly what they want anyhow.
… The urgency of unveiling the plan for the sake of Montrealers was curious. Plante said Camillien-Houde won’t be closed and redesigned until … 2027.
That’s after Montreal is set to host the world cycling championships in 2026. It’s also after the next municipal election in 2025, when Plante may or may not even be in office to oversee a project that may define her legacy. Whether or not she runs for a third term, the question of the mountain road is sure to be a campaign issue.

15 September
Montreal is closing its famous road over Mount Royal. What does that mean for you?
(CBC) … Has the city studied the environmental harm of causing traffic jams by diverting motorists to nearby neighbourhoods versus the benefit of adding more green space?
This was studied by the city’s public consultation office in 2018 during a pilot project that closed the mountain road to through-traffic for five months.
The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) concluded that the closure did cause congestion on surrounding roadways. The closure also created a perception that getting to the mountain was harder.
Based on the data provided and the opinions expressed, the pilot project didn’t seem to “solve the problem of security and sharing of the road,” Dominique Ollivier, the head of the OCPM said at the time.

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