The Arrogance of Mayor Tremblay

The controversy over the decision to rename Montreal’s Park Avenue after Robert Bourassa (see Wednesday’s “Robert Bourassa Is Stealing My Street”) continues to mushroom. Yesterday, the Gazette devoted three pages to the news, all of it highly critical of the renaming. It followed this morning with two more pages of angry letters and commentary. La Presse also weighed in today with an excellent column by Michèle Ouimet and an insightful article on the renaming of Dorchester Boulevard after René Lévesque, another dead premier, eighteen years ago.

Park Avenue has been around since 1883 and a large part of the city — Mile End and Park Extension, most notably — grew up around it. Many Montrealers have a sentimental attachment to the street, especially since a lot of them can trace their family history back to Park Avenue, which has welcomed successive waves of immigrants for more than a century. Greek Montrealers even have a word to describe the string of neighbourhoods along the avenue: Parkaveneika. Erasing its name also erases a big chunk of Montreal’s heritage.

But there is another issue at play: the arrogant, unilateral actions of Mayor Gérald Tremblay.

Peter Tsatoumas, the owner of Navarino, a popular Park Avenue café, summed up the thoughts of many when he called the name change “an insult to Montrealers.” What is so insulting is that the decision to rename Park was made in secret, behind closed doors, by the city’s executive council, an elite cabinet of city councillors and unelected officials. No Park Avenue residents or merchants were consulted before the decision was made, nor were any of the city’s heritage or cultural groups. Les Amis de la montagne, a publicly-funded watchdog organization created to protect Mount Royal, was not notified, despite the fact that Park Avenue’s name and location make it part of its jurisdiction. Even the city’s own heritage and toponomy commissions were not consulted before Tremblay and his crew made their decision.

“[C’est] comme si les Montréalais, ces gueux, n’avaient pas leur mot à dire,” fumes Michèle Ouimet in today’s La Presse. “Comme si la ville apparetenait au maire. Bing, bang, Gérald Tremblay s’est levé un bon matin et hop! Fini l’avenue du Parc.” Ouimet points out that Tremblay’s decision to rename Park Avenue was influenced by his long relationship with Robert Bourassa: the two men were friends and Tremblay was a cabinet minister in Bourassa’s government. “Ça manque de distance pour juger de la grandeur d’un homme politique,” she writes.

Of course, Ouimet doesn’t go as far as the editors of the Gazette, who compared Tremblay to a certain North Korean dictator and suggested that Montrealers engage in a mass act of civil disobedience by refusing to acknowledge Park Avenue’s renaming. “Save Park Avenue!” they urged their readers.

Save Park Avenue indeed. You can make your voice heard tomorrow by heading to the Sir George Étienne Cartier monument on Park Avenue at 2pm, where a protest will march to Gérald Tremblay’s house in Outremont to remind him of something called democracy.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Friday October 20 2006at 06:10 pm , filed under Politics, Society and Culture and tagged . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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