Montreal still needs work – Municipal elections are set for November 5, and Mayor Denis Coderre aspires to be re-elected, Valerie Plante the leader of Projet Montréal for her part, hopes to make history and become the first female mayor of this city. Coderre, of course, has been active—especially this year— with the celebration of the town’s 375th anniversary. But it is not necessary to get into much detail to be able to characterize Coderre’s style as one of the promotion of big projects and exciting ventures designed for a media impact. His style has already been compared to that of Jean Drapeau’s—grandiosity is the name of the game! Projet Montréal for its part still has to prove itself as a worthwhile alternative. And the party also needs to recover its credibility after its former leader—Richard Bergeron— decided to apply for his own benefit the saying “if you can’t beat them, join them” and a few months after the past election opted to become Mayor Coderre’s right-hand man in the Ville Marie borough.
But politicians—and I’m not trying to make excuses for them—cannot do much if the bureaucratic apparatus is not up to the task of providing the citizens the kind of urban amenities and infrastructure they need. It is sometimes hard to distinguish where there is just bad work on the part of the political leaders who have promised something that they might—or should—know the city cannot provide; or whether the problem lies with a bureaucracy which in many cases is inefficient or simply incompetent.
Some cases in point: Atwater Ave. up from Sherbrooke St. was twice subjected to road works in 12 months, works on Sherbrooke St. between University and Peel took more time than the previously announced. Pedestrians and motorists were inconvenienced by roadworks that seem to go forever. It remains to be seen how the already scheduled renovation of the water and sewage pipelines under Sainte Catherine is going to impact businesses, residents, and workers in the area. Judging by the way these public works have been handled in the past one just has to be prepared for the worse.
If major roadworks have been a nightmare for everyone living or working in the downtown core, what about relatively minor urban issues such as park maintenance and tree planting? The answer is not very encouraging either. Let’s forget about the disgraceful decision to put artificial turf on Rutherford Park, despite the objections from the people who work at the water reservoir beneath. In this newspaper, I have been writing about the lack of trees in many of the streets in the downtown area. I attended a couple of borough meetings to complain about this problem without having a satisfactory answer for more than two years now! To add insult to injury, one can see how some of the trees planted just this spring, have died. There are many possible reasons for that. Maybe the trees were not appropriate for that type of soil, perhaps they were in poor health when they were planted (indeed some of them looked weak), maybe they were not the appropriate species (why don’t they plant maples, oaks or other species that are more suitable for this weather?), perhaps they were not watered enough. Whatever the answers to these questions are, there is one thing clear: whoever decided to plant the wrong species, or sickly trees was an incompetent bureaucrat or an ignorant gardening technician. Would they be held accountable for their incompetence?
Finally, what happens when some works are left unfinished or half-finished? For more than a year the south-east corner of the Percy Walter Park has been left with some temporary fences while part of its wall has fallen. The park’s main entrance at the corner of Dr. Penfield and McGregor used to have an iron gate which was removed to be fixed. For more than a year some temporary concrete blocks took its place, what was temporary now seems to be definitive. If the iron gate broke beyond repair, then the logical thing to do on the part of the Ville Marie bureaucrats would have been to replace it with something else, something appropriately aesthetic for a park that is. But if it is impossible to expect from the city bureaucrats some efficiency, asking for some sense of aesthetics would be too much I guess.
Feature image: Bishop Street Construction downtown Montreal