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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

My First Time

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Streets Unplowed

I am not ready for a career in politics.

Not that I was ever planning one; but after attending my borough’s council meeting for the first time last Monday, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to sit through another one of them and remain polite.

How our elected officials are able to do it on a monthly basis, I haven’t the darndest idea.

My adventure actually began last month: The administration of Le Plateau Mont-Royal decided to use Facebook to invite citizens to February’s council meeting. So my friend Mathilde and I decided to go check it out. Needless to say, so many people showed up that they had to open up an annex with no view of the proceedings.

Being the diva that I am, I did not stick around:

“Me? Be relegated to standing-room only? Who does democracy think I am?”

And we left in a huff.

So last week, Mathilde reminded me that borough council meetings happen regardless of whether or not there is a Facebook event associated with it.

And that’s what brought us to Monday’s council meeting.

After arriving fashionably late, we took our seats closest to the doors – you know, in order to make a discreet exit should we ever become bored. After a few opening remarks, the real juicy part began: La période de questions (which roughly translates in English as: Rantings and Ravings).

For there were never really any questions – just grievances, complaints, accusations, and denunciations.

People decried the lack of snow removal (to which the administration responded that by not removing the snow and ice and letting Mother Nature take her course in a few days, the borough will save approximately 1 million dollars).

Others complained that the borough’s changes to traffic patterns were negatively affecting their business (to which Mayor Ferrandez responded that if your business depends only on vehicular traffic to stay viable, then you might want to rethink your business plan).

One man even began his diatribe by stating that although he doesn’t actually live in the Plateau, he still wanted to let council members know what a crappy job they were doing. He was from Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie.

I left the council meeting thinking my fellow citizens are incredibly ignorant. Don’t these people know that the borough needs to save money? Don’t these people know that quality of life trumps ease of traffic circulation?

However, as Mathilde and I walked home along l’avenue du Mont-Royal, I began to realise that the only “ignorant” person was myself.

Sure, my street was plowed clean after the last major snowfall. I live on a major artery. But looking down de Bullion, Hôtel-de-Ville, Coloniale, it became apparent that none of the residential streets were plowed at all. They were a fantastic mess.

Sure, as a young, able-bodied, adult male, icy sidewalks just add excitement to my day. But for an elderly woman with mobility difficulties, the sidewalks are downright dangerous.

Sure, I don’t own a car; I travel by foot and by transit in the winter. My office is only 20 minutes away. The grocery store is just around the corner. But if I worked in an industrial park on Côte-de-Liesse and the closest supermarket were a 30 minute walk in the blustering cold, I think I too would be a bit peeved about my street parking being covered in a foot of ice and snow.

I realized all those grievances, complaints, accusations, and denunciations during the council meeting were valid in the context of their realities.

Hmm. Maybe I am ready for a career in politics.

p.s. The next council meeting is on Monday, April 2, at la maison de la culture du Plateau Mont-Royal (465, avenue du Mont-Royal Est) and begins 19h. Make a night of it.

EDIT – and because not all of you live in the Plateau, click here to find out when your borough is holding its next council meeting.

Still Unplowed



  1. Just because they don’t clear the streets doesn’t mean they don’t clear the sidewalks. The Plateau does a better job of this than many cities in Canada, having small tractors clear sidewalks instead of asking residents to do so.

  2. I go every month.

    That photo at the end is entirely atypcial. It’s on Clark near Marie-Anne. I dunno who made that huge pile, or why, but no other street is like that.

    The Feb meeting was jam packed (also atypical) because of an organized campaign by some people unhappy with parking changes, and also because there was no January meeting (holidays).

    I encourage people to go. Informed citizens are important.

  3. I went to my first borough meeting a few weeks ago as part of the campaign. I had a different impression from you – although there were some angry people, and some crazy people (yes, we can say it), I was very impressed to see so many peope engaging with government. I was also impressed that the elected officials were so accessible for the exercise in accountability and transparency. I would like to go to a Plateau one soon.

  4. That snow pile is typical of private snow removal which just pushes the snow out on the street, waiting for the city workers to remove it, to clear the private / semi private / regarded-as-private space (alley or back of the shop). Great sense of the “vivre-ensemble” we need in such a dense neighborhood.

    Oh, right, and it’s completely illegal.

  5. I enjoyed reading this and it reminded me of that Wade Davis quote “Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you”.  I no longer live in the Plateau ( I am in Park Ex where the snow clearing was prompt and perfect!) but when I did I realized that traffic concerns, the demand that I give up my car and travel by bike, that I shop for groceries in a particular way ignored MY reality–I was a mother with six children and I worked 35 km outside the city.  But even now, if I am taking my five youngest on an outing, we go in the car when it is too far to walk because it is easier and costs less than paying for each of us to ride the bus.  I always want to tell others who frown on me “My life is not a failed attempt at being you”.

  6. I think politicians waste enough of OUR money buying OUR votes as it is! Bravo to the Plateau for challenging this hyperactive need to rid the city of any semblance of winter/snow, specially this late in the season, and for showing fiscal responsibility along with political courage in doing so.

    Apparently the borough saved 1.8M$ by not pandering to snow-haters in the city (1m$ /snow removal minus the removal they did on commercial arteries).

    I own a car (and I have kids and an elderly father) but I don’t mind the snow banks and the few inconveniences they cause; we live in a northern climate and grew up shoveling snow, (our own and that of our elderly neighbours – now that’s community!).

    It is a totally sensible move to take advantage of the early spring weather to melt the remaining snow banks, instead of picking it up and carting it away at great expense to us, the tax payer.

    The sidewalks were beautifully cleared of snow during and immediately following the recent snow falls, that is what is most important, and you don’t have to ‘climb’ a snow bank if you cross the street at an intersection, which is where you are supposed to cross anyway.

    Some people are just hyper-critical and get caught up in the partisan games. It’s just not coherent to say you don’t want tax increases but you want the government to do everything for you.

  7. I go to city council meetings and to the CDN/NDG meetings. I have been banned from asking questions at Hotel de Ville and am suing Montreal. :o) It seems that when a politician lies about you to the entire council and you react with; “Kiss mine”, that you get kicked out but the city councilor gets to stay. This same councilor lies in Tweets about doing what is in the best interest of humanity. Fortunately I caught him and he will continue to pay the price. Google: Is something rotten in Montreal? and please spread the word blog around. As far as being banned, the “cavalry” is interested in assisting as they have in other jurisdictions where politicians believe that the laws do not apply to them.

  8. Émile,

    it is not exactly a bad impression you had. There is a bit of both things.

    People are acting with public services like they would do with commercial services. It is a bit insane. It has this underlying assumptions of because I pay my taxes I should be the king (le client est roi). For me it is mostly showing that people do not care about the commons, the collectivity, the society. Paying for forgetting that you still have responsibilities.

    Most of the garbage that we see for example in the street is the result of 1. people throwing them 2. us not making the effort to clean our own streets. THAT is our _individual_ responsibility.

    The second part is about public services themselves and how they handled the information and the history of it. There is a lot of opacity on the issues. The context is lost because the information is not very well formatted and explicit. Note that a better way of expressing the information will not kill the ranting of many people, but at least it will give a tool for city officials to “slap our face with a reference” when there is a question. A bit like bug reports in open source software. Go read that Web page at tha link, there is the full history about this issue. I have written about it in

  9. Actually just press on my name to get to the blog with the video of me being evicted from the council meeting.

  10. I would like to know how many tickets are given out for the blatantly illegal and dangerously street-blocking habit of parking at 45 degree angle from the curb after snowstorm? Zero?

  11. Excellent comment above from anti-bike internet troll Murray Levine. Murray is one of Montreal’s finest trolls who is famously anti-Tour de ‘ile and even got it blocked from several island municipalities. Good Work Murray. I for one don’t regret having my website attacked by you because I dared to disagree with your anti-bike point of view. Go Tour de l’ile!

  12. “Others complained that the borough’s changes to traffic patterns were negatively affecting their business (to which Mayor Ferrandez responded that if your business depends only on vehicular traffic to stay viable, then you might want to rethink your business plan).” — I am not sure if he’s really that retarded or just the biggest troll mayor ever but…

    I love Ferrandez. This guy is my hero. Now that citizens along with business owners are slowly moving on to greener fields in Rosemont, St-Henri and other surrounding boroughs, property owners in those parts of the city are seeing nice returns on their investment. I really hope he makes Plateau a bigger black hole somehow. Maybe reverse the street flow at each intersection? Or create zig-zag obstacles in each lane. How about turning Mont-Royal into a pedestrians only street? Or forcing people to recycle their poo by cutting off the sewage system? 

  13. Re Peter F Maxwill’s comment (above) I have no clue who or what he is. I am not anti-Velo Quebec and I am most definitely not anti-bike.I am pro-having mass participation athletic events inviting their participants to raise funds. Yep I have had 2 cities ban Le Tour until their participants are invited to raise funds BUT I have also asked CSL, Laval and DDO to allow Le Tour back IF the participants are invited to raise funds for charity. They all said “No”. They do not want the inconvenience, etc. Velo QC’s holier than thou attitude cost them the streets of both DDO and CSL.

    I welcome any and all to attack my point of view but please, lets be factual.

  14.  @MURRAY LEVINE  well just saying, if you are blocking someone from doing what they want because they do not think the way you would like them to think, than yes you are ANTI velo Quebec and YOU ARE anti- tour de l’ile. 

    You live in a democracy, so if not everybody think like you, it does not mean that you are the one with “la science infuse”

  15. @ Alain; If doing what I do will bring more participants to the events of Velo QC; how am I anti Velo QC and anti Tour de l’Ile? Democracy also allows me to have my point of view, and if my point of view differs from that of Velo QC am I not allowed to try and convince them of the merits? We live in a province that is for all intents and purposes a sociological basket case. The median annual receipted charitable contribution of a tax filer in QC is only 44% of that of poorer/9th place New Brunswick. If the people of Quebec are to benefit at the same time as all other Canadians do from the benefits of medical research, shouldn’t we at least contribute to that medical research at a level more appropriate for our wealth? Why should the Marathon de Montreal and Velo QC events raise under $35,000 for charity with almost the same # of participants as the comparable NYC events that raised $35 million last year? The problem is far, far deeper than Velo QC and Le Tour.

  16. GOOD NEWS! After 21 yrs of my activism, VELO QUEBEC has decided to add an optional fundraising component to their events. The CBC called and will be recording an interview for broadcast on Daybreak tomorrow a.m. April 4/2013. Thank you all for your support and some from your lack of intelligence!

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