Very regrettably, I was unable to attend last night’s rendez vous with citizens and the government in Saint Henri, but I will post some things that I find such as this article in Westmount Watch.
On Monday evening Jan. 31, 2011, at the St. Zotique Cultural, Sports, and Recreation Centre in St. Henri, bureaucrats from the Ministry of Transport of Quebec (MTQ) faced a storm of citizen anger about the MTQ’s Turcot transport project.
“Our government is raping us now,” said Natasha Alexandrov of Point St. Charles, to the applause of more than 400 people crammed in the centre’s gymnasium.
Amid Disney-like illustrations spread on the gym walls by MTQ personnel, Mme. Alexandrov summed up the feelings of residents about the $3 billion dollars of public money spent to bring huge amounts of car traffic down to the very street level of neighbourhoods in the South West borough.
“You are destroying – to build something that no one wants,” she told the grim-faced civil servants sitting at a front table . “We see people in Tunisia and Egypt saying NO,” she added. “I thought this was a place where we could say NO.”
And she added: “Someone must be putting money in their pockets.” The three officials presented much the same provincial plan, maintaining current car and truck levels, which received nearly unanimous disapproval at last year’s BAPE hearings in the same gym. But on Monday night the atmosphere was full of ire tinged by disgust.
“We are not having a project that is addressing the 21st century,” said St. Henri resident Derek Robertson. “What we are going to get is a wider, larger highway with more cars, more noise, more dust and pollution.”
Officials at the MTQ, Robertson says, are “stuck in the 1960s with asphalt and concrete.”
The transport critic of the Green Coalition, Avrom Shtern, echoed this view: “The MTQ have not evolved since the 1950s and the one thing that indicates this is that this project is still mainly a car-oriented project.”
“If it were really modern,” Westmount Watch asked,”would the project be multi-modal?”
“Absolutely,” said Shtern, “and a tram would come first.”
Roberston pointed out that the MTQ car and truck obsession is also expensive since “the project was initially $1 billion, then $1.5 billion, now $3 billion – and engineers I know say it will go well above that.”
Environmentalist Daniel Breton indicated that he thought that the evening had dire implications for all of Quebec.
“Quebec has an objective to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.”
Breton was referring to the commitment made by Premier Jean Charest and by then Minister of Sustainable Development, Line Beauchamp, on Nov. 23, 2009, to achieve “a 20% reduction below 1990 levels,” like the European Union, so Quebec would become “the leader in the fight against climate change.”
In St. Henri this week Breton pointed out to the audience of citizens that this target would mean 50% reduction of auto and truck traffic – not the zero reduction represented by the MTQ’s Turcot scheme.
“Tonight we are seeing the death of Quebec’s objectives,” Breton said, “if there are no changes in what we see tonight, then this is the end.”
But the Projet Montreal councilor for the South West, Sophie Thiébaut, saw something positive emerging from the collapse of Quebec’s environmental pretensions as outlined by Breton. She saw citizen determination in the face of governmental abdication.
“During the BAPE hearings last year and tonight we saw the same number of people and that means people are not giving up. “
Point St. Charles Community organizer John Bradley looked at the people standing by the gym walls and commented: “This number of people in this room means there are thousands of people in the South West who are against this Turcot project, but the MTQ seems hell-bent on going ahead.”
And Sophie Thiébaut added: “People are holding fast and they are continuing their protest.”