Montreal in 2017
Montreal in 2017 – It was the year of Montreal’s 375th anniversary and subsequently, a time for celebrations in large scale. And indeed, big events were presented although—like what you feel the day after you throw a big party—more rational thoughts come now to your mind: how much money we spent in all of this.
There is no question that some of the events, such as the giant marionettes in the summer, and many of the community-oriented festivities in the different boroughs, were generally recognized as worthwhile. Different was the story regarding the e-Formula race, which in recent days Valerie Plante, the new City Mayor, has decided to cancel for the following year. A pet project for Mayor Denis Coderre the electric car race was set in the wrong place—some of the busiest streets in the east-end of downtown—which resulted in inconveniences for residents and businesses in that area. Moreover, the race failed to catch the interest of the people. It has now been revealed that around 20-thousand tickets were given away since the event didn’t attract much attention. Certainly not the kind of enthusiasm that the Formula One race gets. Perhaps in the future, as we as a society move away from fossil fuel vehicles and into electric ones, the e-Formula would become a popular event too, but for now, this is not the case. Besides, the logical place to hold such event is the Gilles Villeneuve track and not the city streets, as the new mayor also stated, leaving the door open for holding such race again but at its right location.
Since I mentioned the new mayor, the fact that she was elected has undoubtedly been the most significant political event in the city this year. Mayor Plante came to replace a man who had been too fond of big and sensational projects, to the detriment of less glamourous but more important issues affecting citizens in their daily lives. The election result reflected well the sentiment of ordinary Montrealers regarding that lack of correspondence between the priorities of the former mayor and their own needs in each of the neighbourhoods. One early criticism of her administration was heard though: the lack of diversity in the executive committee that she named, no Anglophones and no members of ethnic communities sit in this instance equivalent to the cabinet in federal or provincial politics (her party didn’t elect any member of allophone communities).
In terms of the metropolis, the decision—now final, it seems, after passing the last court challenge—to go ahead with the Réseau electrique métropolitain (REM) designed to connect the South Shore, downtown Montreal, the Pierre E. Trudeau Airport, and Laval will impact the Montreal region as a whole. The project that would cost over 6 billion should be finished by 2020, and it was criticized on many fronts: the most important its rather peculiar design, especially to reach the airport. The fact that the system would use driverless trains has also been objected. The protests by many groups, however, in the end, didn’t make a difference, and like Toronto and Vancouver, Montreal by 2020 should have a rapid-transit connection to the airport. Of course, nobody objects to such link nor questions the need for it; the criticisms aimed at the design of the line. The new mayor gave it her blessing too, as long as REM is fully integrated with the current transit network, she said.
Downtown has seen its landscape change by the construction of new condo towers especially in the western part of René Levesque Boulevard, other being planned in the former Franciscan site and works have started to tear down the old Children’s Hospital to build new condos. Neighbours in the Peter McGill District were very active to prevent that the development in that site were just big towers with no benefits for the residents, at least a community centre, a reserved number of affordable units, and probably a school would be located there as well. Some good results arise from the people’s mobilization.
Coming to an end then, 2017 was a year of celebrations, lots of money being spent, some wisely other not much, the election of our first female mayor, and controversies over real estate developments and infrastructure projects. Don’t miss the next chapter in 2018.
Feature image: Imagine yourself strolling around Old Montréal and suddenly people from the city’s past start coming to life on trees and buildings around you. That’s exactly what happens on the Cité Mémoire circuit produced by Montréal en histoire
By: Sergio Martinez – firstname.lastname@example.org