When Montrealers elected Valérie Plante as our first female mayor last November there was much excitement. Not just because of her gender, but because she was a new voice. Her predecessor, Denis Coderre, had ruled in a very heavy-handed manner. Making many decisions that would come back to sting him and ultimately lead to his downfall, including the FormulaE race debacle.
Life was good for Ms. Plante in the immediate aftermath of the election. She canceled the remaining FormulaE races that Coderre had agreed to, which was a campaign promise she made. Of course, there will be a cancellation fee that some estimates put it in the millions of dollars, but Mayor Plante is not worried: “What we know is that whatever the cost to cancel the race, I believe it’s worth it, because at this point, it doesn’t pay off.”
This event was intended to bring spectators to the city, something along the lines of the annual Formula1 race that pumps millions of dollars into the city’s economy each June. Unfortunately for Mayor Coderre the race proved to be a flop and the city took a bath. Even with the fee, Plante was lauded for scrapping the project as promised.
She did not fare quite as well however when she increased taxes beyond the cost of living, which she promised not to do. But she is hardly the first and will no doubt not be the last politician to fiddle and fudge when it comes to taxes.
But an odd notion has started to cross the minds of many Montrealers: based on some recent ideas and proposals, Mayor Valérie Plante seems to have something against downtown Montreal. A bit of an axe to grind for some reason. Not a typical position for a mayor.
Aside from acting in a Coderre-like manner by deciding unilaterally, i.e. without any public consultation, to stop through traffic over Mont-Royal, traffic that may well be on the way to downtown restaurants and bars, she now wants to revamp St. Catherine Street, one of the main commercial roads in the city, turning downtown into a mall.
If she gets her way one of four main east-west conduits in the downtown core will be reduced to one (yep one) lane for traffic while the sidewalks will be doubled in width. The mayor has floated this trial balloon in the latest salvo against downtown. St. Catherine Street is already suffering, evident by the many empty storefronts that seem to appear every day. How can making it more difficult to get to these businesses possibly do anything but hurt them?
The mayor claims public transit is the key. Get more folks on the buses and Metros. I agree that Montreal has a pretty good transit system, but I think I speak for many with whom I have brought up the topic when I say that people who are paying for a vehicle are loath to pay again for public transit. If you make public transit free, then you may be talking.
I use public transit because my wife takes the car to work. She could use the bus and subway, but it would take over 90 minutes each way. Not a feasible option. When we travel downtown we use the car; rather than paying for the numerous expenses and then leave it sitting at home only to pay bus fare, we drive.
I would humbly suggest to the mayor that an increased number of parking spots, even if metered, is the realistic way to go. Trying to find a spot on a Saturday evening so we can spend our hard-earned cash in a downtown restaurant has proven difficult, although several streets are for reasons not apparent deemed no parking while other have meters that are covered in red bags denoting no service. Many frustrated potential patrons are forced to take their business out of the downtown area to the parking-friendly suburbs. The pipe dream of public transit will only face the possibility of becoming real once the fare has been eradicated. No one wants to double dip – paying car fees and transit fares.