Students in Montreal are aggravated and appalled by the minor annoyances that life here has thrown at them, such as the maze of construction and the grinding traffic. But, those of us who have been living here for a while know exactly what the problem is: Montreal’s municipal government has lately directed its energies towards projects of dubious utility. On the rare occasions that it does deign to act, the City tends to either make an unnecessary issue out of something minor, or mess with something that’s working just fine. Either way, it’s a given that the municipal government will devote tax dollars to something extraneous, rather than things that residents of Montreal care about.
The most recent example of a completely unnecessary issue that the City has taken upon itself to deal with is the shocking scourge of dog owners not picking up their pooch’s…you know. Given that it’s a small issue, one would figure that individual boroughs could handle it on their own—but no! The municipal government, which should be focusing on greater, more pressing issues that affect the entire city, has decided to meddle and devote $950,000 of taxpayer money to an advertising campaign: This includes photos, statues of dog crap on top of bus shelters downtown, and live street art performances. While ton caca de chien, c’est pas de rien (your dog’s doodoo, it’s no small matter) is a pretty funny slogan, it’s highly unlikely that the war on feces campaign is going to be treated as any more than a punchline at the City’s expense. One wonders how Mayor Denis Coderre and his administration can endorse this boondoggle with a straight face, especially given that there are several public infrastructure issues in Montreal that deserve urgent attention. These include increasing snow and ice removal operations, paving streets, and making public transportation more affordable and wheelchair accessible.
The City’s administration would do well to remember an important saying: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Time after time—to the detriment of Montrealers—the City manages to misplace its priorities, neglecting urgent infrastructure maintenance in favour of expensive beautification stunts. One example of the latter, which is of particular interest to McGill students, is the City’s decision to completely tear up McTavish Street in order to complete a link in the Fleuve-Montagne project for Montreal’s 375th birthday. The overall cost for the project is currently projected to be $55.3 million—a 30 per cent increase from the city’s last estimation, and 75 per cent from the previous projection. Seventy-five per cent is a shift from absurd to outright wasteful. The Fleuve-Montagne path is just another example of the excessive amount of money going to often unnecessary and low-priority programs for residents. Other recent examples include the artificial tree stumps on Mount Royal and the 39.5 million-dollar mood lighting on the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.
It seems as though Montreal is not in touch with its citizens’ priorities. Efforts should be focused on public infrastructure maintenance—in other words, the things that students and residents need and can benefit from now. Present issues should be resolved before trying to figure out what beautification projects can be afforded in the future. Ultimately, it comes down to priorities. It seems like the City of Montreal has the wrong ones.