At this time of needed and urgent recovery, the one essential element from government — particularly at the local level which most touches us — is reason and coherence. Instead, the past week has given us dogma, confusion and incoherence. Demand better — by calls or emails or physical presence - from your elected officials and bureaucrats and pull them toward reason.
Ten days ago the Plante administration announced an additional 350 km of bike paths and an almost total elimination of parking spaces in the heart of commercial arteries that include St.Laurent Blvd. and Queen Mary Rd. That move slashed another 800 parking spaces over the 1000 the Mayor has slashed in downtown alone. This in the midst of a vital economic reboot flying in the face of studies from the Retail Council and the Quebec Bar and Restaurant association that have demonstrated that customers flee and revenues fall every time parking is eliminated. Incoherence.
One group fought back. The merchants in Little Italy almost unanimously signed a petition against this move and the City agreed to let St. Zotique to Jean-Talon be a Plante-free zone along that stretch of St. Laurent. As much as what those merchants did should be a model for us all that unity brings results, the Plante administration reached into its bag of tricks and implemented another incoherent move.
The Mayor had bollards installed along St.Catherine St. W. from Atwater to Metcalfe with plans to extend them to Bleury. Two lanes of parking and traffic have been eliminated. And in a city where you can’t get a pothole fixed for a year, the bollards were done in a record 36 hours. Merchants are angry and scared and the Retail Council has warned that we may see up to 30% of storefronts on Montreal’s main shopping strip closed by August.
The Mayor’s excuse for this move was to “give people room for social distance as they walked.” Except that the sidewalks in much of the area — particularly west of Guy — are already 12-14 feet wide. And there aren’t too many people out to begin with. The borough of Ville Marie responsible for a third of Quebec’s GDP — downtown Montreal — has, according to the city’s own figures, some 400,000 cars a day and at the height of summer only 26,000 bicyclists a day. But facts don’t change this Mayor. Incoherence.
Do not think that this Mayor is stupid. She knows her policies do no good. But she is an opportunist pandering to her voting base that wants a war on cars and holds business in contempt. Remember this when we go to the polls in November 2021.
As Montrealers were victimized by the incoherence of City Hall, Cote St. Luc was victimized by the lack of clarity and coherence in guidelines between Quebec Public Health and police. Quebec has for two weeks allowed backyard gatherings of 10 people. Last week was the Jewish holiday of Shavuot which celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments and includes memorial prayers for family members.
Several groups tried to put up large tents in case of rain to cover prayer gatherings of ten. The police stopped this saying that this violated public health guidelines because this was not considered “outdoor” even though the tents had no sides. Just a top. Public health said that it had no problem with such individual tents but would not want three or four together at property lines making an effective gathering of 30 to 40. But police have not stopped people in three or four households next to each other from having bbqs and other gatherings.
We have to stop all this. It’s time to get normal again. And not the new normal. Just normal.