Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Mount Royal under Attack: Don't We Ever Learn?

There are times when the short-sightedness of people with a bit of power is breath-taking. I’m not talking here about the idea that letting the market work—a point of view widely held by a whole generation of government officials, business people and, sadly, economists until just recently—is anything but a path to disaster. That’s over and done for, perhaps. No, rather I’m talking about current decisions which are going to have long-lasting effects on the rest of us.

On the local level, this includes two projects that are going to affect the very heart of the city, Mount Royal. The Alouettes football team, has just announced that it will enlarge Molson Stadium on the edge of the mountain at a cost of $30 million, of which $4 million will come from the city, and $19 million from the province. Not only is this an extremely questionable use of public funds (the city’s contribution is 10 per cent of what it wants the transit commission to cut from its budget next year) but the change will increase traffic on the mountain and nibble away some more at it.

On the other side of the mountain, the Université de Montréal has just sold an old convent it bought a few years ago and is talking about selling its music school building. Both of these are set high on the mountain side with a glorious view north toward the Laurentians and the setting sun. No plans have been approved for what might take their place, but its clear that developers are going to want to put in condos. And that means the mountain will be under threat from this side too.

Montreal is special in part because of Mount Royal. It should be preserved for all of us to enjoy, not sold off a couple of acres at a time for the pleasure of football fans or people rich enough to afford luxury housing.

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