Tag Archives: Montréal Parks

Shakespeare in Cabot Square

Cabot Square in the Fall – not my work

How fortunate my mistake.

I was originally supposed to see Repercussion Theatre’s production of The Taming of the Shrew in Verdun, but had mixed-up the dates. Seeing how few dates were left, I proposed Friday August 3rd, in Cabot Square. It would be a nice way to cap off the week, and a picnic was planned for the occasion.

But wait – Cabot Square? Come again?

They can’t be serious!

My previous encounters with the summer delight that is Shakespeare in the Park had been in the broad green expanses of Westmount Park and NDG Park, places I assumed had been designed with outdoor theatre in mind. Cabot Square is run-down, the whole area is, and the park is typically filled with a wide assortment of people living on the edge doing their edgewise living. It’s far more a public square than park, as the design supports pedestrian through-traffic. There’s not much grass and you’d be wise to watch where you sit – broken beer bottles being the least of your concerns. It isn’t pretty, and I wondered whether the busy and hectic backdrop of entertainment complexes, bus stops and a hospital would, combined, have a detrimental effect on the quality of the performance?

I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I’m delighted to see just how effectively urban public theatre can quickly and rather decisively transform an otherwise unsightly part of town. Despite the background noise and the limitations of the space, Repercussion Theatre did an exemplary job entertaining well over a hundred enthusiastic spectators. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that they came mentally prepared for the site, something I found rather fascinating, and knew ahead of time to expect the unexpected and unpredictable. Good on them too, it worked quite well. Perhaps these are just the hallmarks of talented actors, but I digress.

The set itself was minimalist and easily transportable, and stationed on the slightly more spacious eastern side of the square, with the majority of the audience seated in collapsable chairs by the Cabot monument. This left a fair bit of open space undisturbed by the performance, and kept it disconnected from the busier western side (where you’ll find several more bus stops and the always boisterous Métro entrance). With the position of lights, seats, picnic tables and a couple fold-down tents, the area for the performance was clearly delineated without requiring any actual obstructions, such as fences, folding tables or security guards. In this way, it was far more inviting than it might be otherwise. That said, there are risks involved, such as having the performance disrupted by yahoos running amok in the city. But hey, c’est la vie. Excellent actors make all the difference.

I met a few friends after a long day of work, all of us well-dressed and keen to participate in a moment of public culture. We sat down stage left and enjoyed a sumptuous picnic of fine Indian cuisine from Thali and a nice Portuguese white wine whose name escapes me at the moment. Joining us was probably the best behaved racing hound I’ve ever met; didn’t make a sound the entire time and seemed to be legitimately relaxed around so many people. The show got off without a hitch and it was immediately apparent that this was a well-oiled machine, having done more than a dozen earlier performances. I recognized several actors off the bat, having somewhat come up in the milieu of Montréal’s Anglophone theatre community. And on that note, Repercussion does excellent work and I’m glad to see that despite the many difficulties experienced by this community over the years, it nonetheless keeps itself going with vibrant well-executed productions and talented actors. We’re rather fortunate in this respect.

The eruption of amplified human voices at ten past seven got the temporarily re-located public drinking enthusiasts going early, and shouts coming from the edge of the square would occasionally compete with the dialogue, but never enough to trip anyone up. Halfway through the first act one of these enthusiasts approached the stage enquiring ‘you wanna kill somebody? you… you… wanna kill some buddy, eh?’

All of a sudden an audience member appeared by the drunk’s side and seemed to be going in for a kiss. His hand was on his shoulder and he seemed to be whispering to him, and after an initial protest the intrepid spectator reached further down for his waist. He quickly silenced the drunk and got him to move away without a fuss. I would find out later the spectator was in fact just that, an average citizen watching the show who had the wherewithal and requisite gumption to prevent a greater disturbance. I was quite impressed to say the very least. Suffice it to say if you think I get a kick out of organized citizens reclaiming urban space, I’m certainly overjoyed to see the disorganized amongst us stepping up at the crucial moment to assist in prolonging the reclamation of urban space by the citizenry.

Discussing the matter after the show with our intrepid peacemaker, he remarked how much more authentic a setting Cabot Square really is for this kind of entertainment, as compared to the manicured lawns and genteel manners of other public spaces used in this year’s production. It dawned on me at the moment that Cabot Square was rather apropos. Much like back in the 16th century, the people brought their own chairs, booze, food, dogs, whole families etc. and occasionally people would rather impetuously interfere with the goings on. Midway through the second act a fistfight occurred just behind the stage – no actors were harmed during the production though despite some rather raucous slapstick between local mainstays Alex McCooeye (Petruchio) and Matt Gagnon (Grumio). Kirsten Rasmussen delivered an excellent performance as the intensely independent and free-spirited (if somewhat overly scandalized) Katharina, and her well-timed command of Shakespearian double-entendres and innuendo gave way to excited bursts of laughter from parents with unknowing children in tow. Shakespeare, when un-Disneyfied, can be immensely entertaining for all ages and has always seemed to me to reveal itself to be increasingly complex, intricate, as one’s command of the English language expands and evolves. Repercussion’s cast paid a loving tribute to the Bard in this respect, and it was very well received from all in attendance.

I definitely want more of this.

Heat Waves and Watering Bans and Environmental Degradation (oh my!)

The Beaver – not just a euphemism any more!

Yes, it’s sweltering out. I know. We know. We all know. It happens. It will dominate the local s’news until it’s replaced by exciting Smartphone coverage of the raucous thunderstorms apparently on route to light up the night sky.

The thing here is that I often find the perennial complaining about the heat to be an insincere form of back-handed self-flattery. See? It’s not really that cold up here, it can be downright tropical in fact… And it misses the point. We do have a say in what kind of weather we have, and we could be doing much, much more to help stabilize local climatic and environmental conditions. The way the news tells it, whether NBC, the CBC or the local yokels trying to fill the air before the half hour they dedicate to sports coverage, you’d think we only just became aware weather exists in the first place, and that we had never had a heat wave before, never had major forest fires or droughts. This is subtle refusal to acknowledge human beings are having a direct and often detrimental effect on weather patterns and the environment. Climate change is real – but it also runs both ways.

I refuse to complain about the weather out of principle – do you not remember five months ago when we were freezing? When we collectively put on anywhere from five to twenty pounds of insulation au-naturel so that we don’t otherwise parade around in snow suits and balaclavas? I can remember and I hate the cold, but especially Winter’s such as the last one. Too little snow, far too many bone-chilling days and high winds, not to mention that awful tease we got in mid-March when for a week it was as though we had skipped Spring altogether. Of course I made the best of it when I had a chance – we all did. But I can’t escape the fact that for all this talk and apparent knowledge about the weather and climate and the peculiarities of our regional meteorology, geography and ecology, we seem to forget, constantly, what has happened recently.

Does it not strike us all as odd that every summer now has record breaking heat waves?
That every summer carries the risk of and most cases increasingly destructive forest fires?
Or that the water quality is poor and seemingly, always at record-low levels?
Or how about that the French seem to think us Québecois talk about the weather incessantly?

I know general interest news stories tend to repeat themselves, but it seems to me that something’s not quite right with our weather patterns, in that it seems we’re not getting the clockwork weather systems we once got used to. Winter used to start earlier, Spring used to be longer, and all seasons seemed to have been much wetter not so long ago. And even if we are currently facing a rare meteorological phenomenon, you’d think we be smart enough to employ various measures to protect ourselves. Water levels, wet-lands and heat waves all have something in common – they’re all implicated in ground-water retention, and we have the means, at the very least, to develop new and expand on existing wetlands within the Greater Montréal region.

As I sit here waiting for the inevitable and highly exciting lightning strikes I can’t help but notice my burnt suburban lawn, nowhere near as green and healthy as it’s supposed to be. Ferns and other plants have shrunk, our vegetable patch isn’t producing and as far as I can tell, the phenomenon seems to be adversely affecting my whole neighbourhood, if not a good chunk of the region. The water levels are at ten year lows, watering bans are in full effect as a consequence (though I’m surprised to see who seems to be ‘above the law’) and the news coming in from les régions (indeed, all of rural Canada and the US) is that this year’s harvest won’t nearly be as bountiful as had been hoped. Locally, this not only means higher food prices, but an additional complication to regional economic stability. Never underestimate the primacy of agriculture in our economy, it’s remarkably multi-faceted and forms a core component of the region’s economy.

So then what’s to be done? Something’s amiss when the confluence of two rivers and multiple tributaries in a land overwhelmed by freshwater lakes can’t provide enough water for a city of our size spread out as we are across a very large geographic area. Though I’m by no means an environmental scientist, I would argue that there nonetheless seems to be a correlation between environmental degradation (particularly of wetlands) and the constantly recurring adverse weather and climatic conditions. As I write this a brief downpour has wound down and a temporary humidity has set in. Tweets have indicated the heat wave isn’t expected to break for several more days. We seem to alternate increasingly between dry heat spells and sudden torrential storms, as opposed to a more regular cycle of cooler daytime temperatures and far more precipitation across all seasons.

There’s been talk coming from the local chapter of the Suzuki Foundation recently of expanding or otherwise developing a local green belt specifically to counter-act this problem. And that’s where our furry national symbol comes into play. A simple re-introduction of beavers as part of a larger preservation/conservation and rehabilitation plan would help retain significant quantities of groundwater. In fact, a few beaver colonies strategically located may be able to replenish natural aquifers, meaning lack of rain won’t matter as much given that Spring meltwater could be held over a longer period of time. More trapped groundwater, such as in marshlands, swamps, natural beaches etc, mean more water for irrigation, be it for agriculture or simply keeping the grass green. But it’s all the other goodies that come with building new wetlands – more biodiversity, cooler temperatures, less erosion, cleaner air and cleaner water, to name but a few benefits.

We need to get on this right away. A comprehensive plan for the entire archipelago and metropolitan region needs to be put into action so that we don’t completely destroy the naturally lush and historically bountiful eco-system we’re encroaching on. Low-density residential housing development, both on and off-island needs to come to a halt, and remaining green-spaces need to be treated properly and for what they are – the circulatory and respiratory systems of an interconnected mass of humanity.

Now if only we can convince the powers at be that investing in environmental rehabilitation is worthwhile, for the greater good, over a long term.

I fear it is precisely for those reasons, and the fact that we can’t make a buck off of it, that nothing will come of this.

And we’ll continue to be ignorant as the problem is perennially presented to us as something out of the ordinary. We seem to suffer from collective short-term memory loss, especially when it comes to ecological issues. What do y’all think?

Are there deer in Mount Royal Park?

So a couple days ago I’m hanging out with my roommate and his buddy says to me, he says, “y’all wouldn’t believe this shit but I saw a deer up on the Mountain.”

Straight up hand to god he swears side to side he seen a living, breathing deer somewhere’s about the Mountain and I casually ask ‘wheres’?

He replies he doesn’t remember exactly, but it was ‘somewheres on the North Face up behind U-de-M’, and he was absolutely certain of what he saw. I protested this point vehemently, and the situation degenerated quickly into a Mexican stand-off of mutual incredulity. I, incredulous that there would be deer in a two-hundred hectare park. And he, incredulous that there wouldn’t. I find it highly suspicious given the extent of urbanization around the Mountain, the numerous roads, fences and trails that bisect the Mountain. Certainly the deer would get hit by cars, and how many could possibly survive on the Mountain without being seen? I’ve never heard of anyone spotting a live deer on the Mountain, and I’ve lived here my whole life.

Am I nuts?

I’ve tried to imagine what may have led my associate to believe there is at least one live deer on the Mountain. Perhaps the staff at the Biodome bring the deer out for a romp in the woods once in a while. Maybe the Biosphere has introduced the species covertly as part of some mis-guided ‘urban-reforestation plan’. There are endless possibilities really.

Did he see a horse? The SPVM has a stable up there and the police regularly patrol the Mountain on horseback in the summertime. I doubt he’d confuse one for the other though.

Maybe it was back during the strike at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery back a few Summers ago. The cemeteries take up about two thirds of the central and eastern parts of what we know as Mount Royal. This is a considerable amount of space that was almost entirely fenced off and completely unmaintained for several months. Perhaps the Eco-Musée at the Morgan Arboretum let their deer out for a stretch.

Or perhaps there is some small pocket of natural Montréal wilderness, largely inaccessible to most park visitors and away from major roads in which a small group of deer have been able to sustain themselves for multiple generations. Perhaps it is an isolated gully, or perhaps they have simply adapted to urban living, and stick to a very small territory. There are plenty of deer living in the region, indeed, I’ve seen a whole family feeding in a swamp in July of 2004 just off of Chemin Ste-Marie near the Anse-a-Lorme Trail. But I really can’t imagine them living inside the most densely populated city in Canada.

Unless someone caught a deer somehow and decided to introduce them to the park all by themselves. Why someone would do this I don’t know.

So many unanswered questions!

I’ll do my best to get to the bottom of it.

A new Planetarium at the Big O & what will come of Chaboillez Square?

I believe this is a model superimposed onto an actual photograph, likely used in Dow's publicity for the sponsored Expo 67 gift. Not the work of the author.

This is Chaboillez Square, or rather what remains of it.

Technically speaking Chaboillez Square is now the small park in front of the Dow Planetarium, where parking spaces have been placed in the publicity shot featured above. The Planetarium itself was a gift from the Dow Brewery (located behind the Planetarium and currently being converted into condominiums) for Expo 67. With a seating capacity of 375, it is still the largest Planetarium in the country, though the operations are to be moved to a new facility, sponsored in part by Rio Tinto Alcan. While the decision to build a new Planetarium is not an issue of contention, the decision to place the new facility in Maisonneuve Park, adjacent to the Big O, Saputo Stadium, the Insectarium, Biodome, the Botanical Gardens and other diverse diversions is leading some to question whether it is wise to concentrate so many public education and entertainment facilities in the same place. The City is insistent that this plan makes sense as it groups together some of the city’s premiere science-themed museums in one central location, doubtless with tourists and families clearly in mind, not to mention the population balance for the metropolitan region, for which the location is exceptionally well-suited.

But is too much concentration a good idea?

And will a new Planetarium be enough to reverse the fortunes of this still somewhat blighted area? And what underlies this reactionary feeling against placing cultural institutions ‘in the East End’?

The blue star indicates the new site of the Planetarium - not the work of the author

It’s discouraging that so many major cultural venues have been moved here, a still somewhat disconnected island of high-density and urban modernism detached from the city, and painfully so. The Olympic Stadium and the grounds around it always seem cold, sterile and lifeless to me, and you can’t help but feel you are in the presence of a somewhat well maintained monument to a bygone age when walking around the site. Sure, there are times when it looks good and it works, but those times don’t come nearly as often as they used to. There are oft-repeated claim that centralizing these institutions and entertainment venues will have major economic spinoffs for the community, though they hardly seem to have been fully realized as the Olympic Stadium and Maisonneuve Park facilities are, to a degree insular, and appear to have little interaction with the built environment around them. The Olympic Stadium alone was supposed to act as the focal point for a major East End renovation and spurn the gentrification of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve; what seems to have occurred instead is the gradual recycling of lands once set-aside for new civic institutions and the centralization effort – a use it or lose it situation doubtless a result of the Big O’s big debt. What’s certain is that whatever happens at this site (on the whole) tends to have little impact on the surrounding community, and the reach of Montreal’s downtown urban tapestry has yet to extend this far East. Imagine if all this was concentrated to the West of the CBD – say in NDG, Lachine or LaSalle? I can imagine it would look about as hopelessly disjunct as it does where it is. So the question is, how do we better integrate the Olympic Stadium and its related facilities into a new, more cohesive urban tapestry? A well-designed Planetarium may, at the very least, provide some proportion and a new focal point for orientation within the greater sphere of the design. I suppose that would be rather a pro pos of a Planetarium, and certainly of the ‘orientation through exploration’ design of the greater portion of the city.

Of course there’s not too many places to put large facilities such as these, but it feels as though the density of this sector of the City is still quite imbalanced, and perhaps a city effort to increase residential density with new medium and high-income high-rises in this sector may subsequently trigger at least a partial gentrification or a more proportional sense of scale. A better surface link to the rest of the City, as was attempted, in a manner of thinking, with Corridart.

Then there’s the issue of Westside Montrealers getting the shaft, losing another cultural venue ‘to the East’ as it were. It’s unfortunate that most of the complaining comes from West Islanders who aren’t even citizens of Montrealers, but the fact remains that there are over a million people living East of the Main. The Big O location is surprisingly central, though many loudmouths would like to convince you that East Enders don’t go to museums. The racism I’ve seen in various comment sections is wild – hard to believe some people still think so poorly of Francophones in this day and age.

There is a practical concern however, in that a balance needs to be established between cultural concentration (as you might find in the sprawling, multilevelled Quartier des Spectacles & Place des Arts complex) which is easily accessed and integrated into a high-density urban tapestry, as opposed to the Olympic Stadium site, which seems accessed for the most part via the Pie-IX Métro station and lacks other key services around the site as you might find downtown. It’s tricky, but consider the distribution of universities and how they anchor four distinct parts of the city, or how the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts defines what remains of the Golden Square Mile. Moving the MMFA to any other location seems irresponsible, perhaps inasmuch as moving hockey away from the Forum led to a prolonged, highly localized depression on Ste-Cat’s West.

The situation at Chaboillez Square (the historic name for the large open space where the Dow Planetarium was built in the mid-1960s) is fascinating and particular. While Heritage Montreal has listed the building as threatened and historically valuable, the neighbourhood around the square changes and modernizes dramatically. In an area once defined by industry and poverty, new institutions and neighbourhoods have sprung up. The Quartier des Multimedias, ETS and new residential developments on Notre-Dame and St-Jacques are slowly transforming the area immediately south of the Central Business District, and this area will likely become highly gentrified over the next few decades. The focus on high technology jobs and recycling old buildings has given the sector a noticeable aesthetic, one which is particular to Montréal. That being said, there is a dearth of cultural space, community infrastructure (such as public schools, parks, playgrounds etc) and large, open green spaces. Chaboillez Square, or perhaps a heavily remodelled version making use of space above highway on and off ramps, could support these activities for a new neighbourhood.

Consider it for yourself: here is a link to a bird’s eye perspective from Bing Maps. Compare the area being redeveloped with the large public spaces to the East and North and ask yourself what the future of Chaboillez Square ought to look like.

Then attend the public consultation meetings. Your opinion matters.

Parc Oxygene: the Small Cause & the Cost of Community

Protest signs facing onto Parc Oxygene

This article was originally published on the Forget the Box news collective a few days back. In fact, it’s one of my first ‘assignments’ as a writer. Neat eh?

Have you ever seen a really small rally or demonstration?
Like the kind where you instinctively ask yourself whether those gathered may require the services of a new communications director?
Or feel compelled to determine exactly which crackpot idea would lead to this small congregation? “What’s so ‘special’ about your special-interest group”, you may ask yourself, for shits and giggles.
In Montréal you’d be hard pressed to go a day without some kind of protest, rally, vigil etc. somewhere in the city – public demonstrations are a key element of civic life, and Montrealer’s are generally proud and active members of their community, and thus inclined to participate. That being said, and with our many infamous riots and other major public gatherings well in mind, we must keep in mind that the day to day demo in our city is typically a small gathering, attended by only a handful of people. You’ve doubtless seen these quaint affairs, and perhaps have even had a laugh at their expense. After all, there are no small civic demonstrations – or at least not as far as the TV cameras will show you. There are only large potential threats to internal security, marauding black-masked anarchists and an endless parade of indolent, self-righteous students in attendance at these events, right?
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of taking in a small demonstration. There were only a couple dozen people in attendance, but this was not a rally in which the force for change would be measured in mere attendance statistics. Few ever are. Change is effected by concerned citizens who work tirelessly, and too often without any recognition, to achieve altruistic goals. On Saturday I got a chance to meet some of these people, and as result of my meeting I’d like to state that I believe in their cause and would further like to see their wish realized.
That wish, incidentally, is to see a small, unusable plot of land that has been turned into a park recognized and protected for what it is.
The saga of Parc Oxygene goes all the way back to the very heady days of the 1960s. Back then Parc Oxygene didn’t even exist, largely because the adjacent La Cité apartment complex was still nothing more than an architect’s proposal. The La Cité development was a testament to inefficient government planning, unscrupulous real-estate developers drunk with power and served, for these reasons, to galvanize public opinion into a cohesive protest force. The Milton-Parc Citizens Committee was formed to stop the development and protect the community, which in turn would lead to the creation of Save Montreal, Heritage Montreal, the Canadian Centre for Architecture and our city’s generally more enlightened approach to urban redevelopment and architectural conservation. While the MPCC wasn’t able to stop the project completely, they were able to scale it down to about an eighth of what was originally planned. Subsequently, the MPCC grew into a major community organization, and today they protect the interests of the residents of more than 600 rental units in the area, not to mention many local small businesses. Take a trip to the corner of Milton and Parc and take a seat at any of the three cafés on that intersection (I prefer the Second Cup for its massive terrace and, no joke, the community of regulars) and watch the world go by. Clearly there is a community here, and the streets dance with the movement of people carrying on their day-to-day. It is a fascinating vantage point on the city, one I’d highly recommend to tourist and seasoned boulevardier alike. Consider that all this activity takes places in the shadow of the massive housing, retail and office complex that is the La Cité development. Over the years the community here has demonstrated its resilience to massive urban renewal projects and has managed to get along despite the alterations that occurred over forty years ago. Perhaps time truly does heal all wounds…
Despite the scars, the neighbourhood has managed to stimulate its own renewal, and as you can imagine, land value in the Milton-Parc neighbourhood, not to mention the adjacent Quartier Ste-Famille and McGill Ghetto areas has skyrocketed. What is curious is that the present threat is not from mega-projects, as it was back in the 60s and 70s, but by small, discreet condo projects, aiming to jam postage-stamp condos into alleyways, overhangs, courtyards and any other small tracts of land which may be available in a given area. We’ve benefitted as a community from the laws that enforce building height and massing restrictions, inasmuch as we’ve benefitted from an as yet un-satiated condo market that has until now largely focused on recycling old factories. But there are only so many old buildings that can be converted, and it’s for that reason that the MPCC suddenly finds itself once again dealing with La Cité’s legacy. A residual plot of land from the project’s construction, declared unusable by the city (yet somehow there’s a claim to ownership, complicating issues), and since converted into a pleasant little green-space, aptly named Parc Oxygene, perhaps because people so often forget the free resource provided by flora.
The park was an initiative of the residents of this close-knit community, as it had previously been used by taxi drivers revved up on thoughts of F1 glory and quick shortcuts through a dense part of the city. Frankly, before it was taken over by the citizens, it was bare, barren and dangerous. And of course, being an open space connected to the alleyway meant that it was frequently filled with children during the day and the homeless at night. Far from ideal for all parties concerned. When residents asked the City as to what the status of the land was, they were told that it could not be developed, and was thus unusable for this purpose. Too bad for the proprietor, but this proved to be a major boon for the community, as the locals quickly pooled their resources, planted flowers and shrubs, created a little path, and gave something directly back to the community. Feel good altruism at its finest.
Unfortunately, the reason for this rally in particular was to remind the public that this space exists, and that, as almost all green space is these days, it is under threat of redevelopment into – wait for it – condominiums. Eight at four hundred grand is the estimate, wedged onto a plot of land no larger than the floor-space of a typical Victorian row house. And poof goes the park in the process.
Though the City is still adamant that the land is unusable, the owner has a team of lawyers apparently working round the clock to find a solution to this project in Quebec City of all places. This seems doubtful, likely little more than intimidation. At the event on Saturday, the owner’s wife showed up and told people to ‘get off her lawn’.
Think twice about the next small rally you pass, as the cause may be righteous and more practical than you think. Small community involvement never catches the public’s eye, but they are still a vital and important tool and element of our civic lives. And who cares if the issue at hand isn’t good enough to be on the six o’clock news – if it affects you or your community, then it is your responsibility to stay informed. Of all the anxieties expressed at this gathering, the one that struck me was the feeling of hopelessness experienced by those who overhear a popular and preachy discourse pertinent to the merits of preserving the diversity of the urban environment. It’s a great game to talk, but too few walk it. So think too about your day-to-day access to green space in this city, and consider that Montreal is in no way a leader in this respect. Citizen access to public green space is still embarrassingly low in Montreal by international standards. Our access to condos is thoroughly unencumbered, by contrast.

Coda –

In retrospect I find this story slightly disturbing.

Our desire for the free market to remain ‘unencumbered’ by government imposed restrictions is in actuality a desire by private interests (in essence, no different than you or I, except with investment capital & lawyers on retainer) to not be held down by any societal responsibility, to cut themselves off from the collective for a brief moment to give themselves an unfair advantage over the interests of their fellow man. Consider when the owner’s wife shows up to curse us out and call the cops, telling demonstrators and members of the community to get off her land, she was also demonstrating – very clearly mind you – that she did not consider herself to be in any way integrated with other members of her society. She may even tell you as much to your face, for spite.

She didn’t recognize that all citizens are fundamentally united, chiefly via taxation and the specifics of our citizenship, constitution and charter, and that her imposition on others by refusing to realize this is far, far greater than the imposition she feels by recognizing her tacit claim to land ownership may be worthless given a decision made in favour of the interests of the collective.

What kind of sick society would have you believe you belong to a collective, tax you accordingly to provide for the whole, and then turn around and accord special interest arrangements to put some above the great mass, for their myopic, individualistic and ultimately financially-driven motives?

Standing even among a couple dozen like-minded people demonstrating their belief that the interests of the collective always outweigh the interests of the Howard Roark crowd is sufficient enough for me to see what’s right here. While city’s across North America build modern tenements in the form of postage-stamp condos on every square foot of ‘apparently available’ land, the delicate balance that was achieved so well in Montreal becomes threatened. Make no mistake, there’s a reason we have so many great neighbourhoods in this city – it wasn’t an accident, it was planned. Parts of this city were designed and built by some of the finest minds in the business – other parts were influenced after the fact. It’s part of our legacy as the first Metropolis of Canada, and we damn well better fight to keep it. I find it difficult to believe the social-cohesion of this city isn’t at least in part a result of excellent neighbourhood design and cohesive community planning and management. I can’t imagine what this city would look like and how it would feel if we allowed all the Fatal’s of this world to do whatever they felt with every scrap of land illegally transferred into their ‘ownership’.

Suffice it to say, if free-market capitalism in action seeks to destroy a community green space, then I’ll take socialist city-planning any day of the work-week.

A pleasant trip down memory lane – Expo Express

I have no idea who put this together, but good job anyways. The Expo Express was a surface rapid transit system developed for use at Expo 67, connecting the Centre d’Acceuil at the Cité du Havre with a line connecting to all points at the fairgrounds. Curiously, it was never connected to the Métro station on Ile-Ste-Helene, though this perhaps indicates that the line was never meant to be a part of the larger traffic system.

It ran between 1967 and 1972 then was dismantled. You can still see the bridge which runs from Ile-Notre-Dame towards La Ronde, and Place des Nations would have once been directly connected to the system.

Consider, during Expo there was a fully-operational Métro, elevated rail, mini rail, tethered gondola and ferries – not to mention bridge and road access to the Expo site from effectively all directions. It makes me wonder if this wasn’t supposed to be an indication of the way to come – total shared public transit saturation.