Montreal Projectionary Party Mayoral Candidate Richard Bergeron had a boat ride yesterday with various hand picked members of the media yesterday. I had written about Bergeron previously. Not in a very flattering way. So when I was invited aboard, I felt like it was an invitation from Tony Soprano. I seriously thought about bringing some sort of hidden flotation device in my underpants in case I was tossed overboard. But alas the man who would be mayor was a gracious host and answered all questions. He's a bright and compelling individual. That being said, I'm still not entirely sold on his vision.
For example, I mentioned that we could get a ton more green space and slow down urban sprawl by increasing the density of the city. If some people would swap their obession with having a back yard and front lawn and could be persuaded to live in a downtown high rise, that would mean more room for green, something that Le Corbusier pointed out. Bergeron said Le Corbusier had been eclipsed by Jane Jacobs and others, but I wasn't entirely satisified that my notion had been discredited.
He stated that we should get Guy Laliberte to do his Cirque du Soleil/Lotto Quebec Project - the same one proposed in the Point and then rejected by the city - in the East end along the waterside. But of course those who know Laliberte will tell you that he's one stubborn mule. To get him to go back to this idea is pretty unlikely.
So I queried Bergeron about his ideas for attracting private investment to Montreal. This is a semi-code question to see if he's a super lefty or possibly even a separatist. The correct answer, of course, would be to promise to appoint a blue ribbon committee of business volk to find ways to increase investment. They in turn would hopefully state the obvious and suggest that the oppressive Bill 101 be relaxed or repealed, to allow Montreal back into the league of competitive cities. But Bergeron sorta shrugged and said that we should first manage a bunch of other stuff and then worry about that stuff.
Bergeron, an urban planning prof, is no fool and has a lot of neat ideas, such as resuscitating the old beach in West Verdun and opening up the port in the east end. Plus the boat ride allowed me to snap a few neat pics, such as the panorama shot below.
He also said that boulevards such as St. Joseph and Park were once prestigious addresses and should be brought back to that status. This stayed with me as I left and drove up St. Lawrence Main Street.
I was dumbstruck by the number of empty storefronts and places to rent were now available. Even the once white-hot part of the strip from Sherbrooke to Pine had countless For Rent signs. Crazy hat ladies and Trustafarians (see the pic) are not enough to save the Main.
A Chinese shopkeeper woman told me business has been in freefall ever since the city quadrupled the price of parking from 50 cents to $2 an hour. The city's recent insane decision to double the price of parking tickets from the already-unreasonable $42 to $85 will accelerate the abandonment of main street for the mall.
Bergeron didn't pass those car rules but he's pushing that same agenda. He stresses that a city should be seen as an organic unit. But part of that organism requires people to get to places. If someone has to bring their kids to hockey practice and then pop in and buy some screws at the hardware store and drop in to buy a framed picture from a picture store, the consumer and merchants benefit. If we make it difficult for such movement, everyone loses. But the city doesn't really care if merchants go bust because they now collect the former business tax from the building owner. So you can expect the city to foreclose on more buildings with commercial units, they'll get their money either way.
The weakness of the Montreal Projectionarian Party is that they are anti-car and to be anti car is to be anti movement and cities require people to move around.