Montreal Little Italy under attack – Mayor Valerie Plante has done it again: a decision made with no much consultation, has to be reversed, given the strong rejection among those affected by it. Of course, it helped that people in Little Italy were “up in arms” with a petition going on in the neighbourhood and on the now powerful social networks. It all started with Ms. Plante’s vision of a “blue corridor” that contemplated a one-way bike path on St. Laurent Boulevard and the loss of about 100 parking spaces. St. Laurent would also be closed to traffic between St. Zotique and Jean-Talon, to provide what the city planners have called a “transit mall” (only accessible by bus).
Marcello Di Ilio, the owner of Restaurant Pomodoro, was one of the initiators of the petition that gathered lots of support not only from the merchants and restaurateurs in the area but from people from other neighbourhoods who like to visit this, one of the most vibrant areas in Montreal. In a part of the petition, he wrote: “It is our position, as business owners either working on Boulevard St. Laurent or next to it, that the loss of almost 100 parking spots along with the increase in traffic due to the necessary detours that will naturally result from this, will discourage people outside the area from coming to Little Italy. This, in turn, will affect our ability to generate revenue, especially if you compound this with the measures the government was required to take to address the current COVID pandemic. We find this decision was made too swiftly without taking into consideration how the small businesses in the area would be affected by this, given they are already struggling to remain afloat.”
In the end, the strong opposition to Ms. Plante’s plans resulted in the city changing its plans: no “transit mall,” no bike path (it would be done on St. Dominique), and Little Italy should be back in business, as usual, this summer. People from other sectors of the city will still have the option of taking the bus or driving to enjoy a cup of coffee at some of the already famous cafes in the area or to shop for exclusive Italian specialties at Milano. If finding a parking spot is sometimes still hard, could you imagine what could it has been with the loss of one hundred spaces?
For now, at least, merchants and shoppers in Little Italy may feel relieved that Mme. Plante will let them undisturbed. Our mayor has other concern in mind right now, according to a report on May 22, by Émilie Dubreuil on Radio-Canada: the “masculine predominance” in the French language. Mme. Plante has instructed the city’s executive committee to adopt an “épicène” model of communication (the word also exist in English—epicene: “having characteristics of both sexes or no characteristics of either sex; of indeterminate sex”). In plain language, our mayor wants the city administration to employ neutral terms, she used the example of “enfant” which can be applied to boys and girls. (For the most part, the English language already complies with Ms. Plante’s wishes. Terms such as director, professor, child, apply to both genders. However, in a few cases, male-female distinctions are still present: emperor/empress, prince/princess, actor/actress. Yet, I have seen sometimes the term “actor” applied to female performers. I guess those who engage in this form of linguistic male predominance in the English language may also provoke the ire of our mayor).