Ramming a controversial project through and making executive decisions that go against the ruling of a public consultation body aren’t new in politics. Generally, though, they’re the sort of things politicians do when they have a few years left in their mandate or when they’re almost out of office and can’t return (like how US presidents pardon their friends at the end of their second term). It’s not the sort of thing they do just before an election campaign.
Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay is an exception. According to La Presse, his executive committee has decided to ignore the recommendations of the Office de Consultaton Publique de Montreal (OCPM) and the protests of citizens and give the Angus Development Corporation the green light on its controversial Quadrilatere project.
Tremblay and Yaccarini (photo by Robert Skinner, La Presse)
The Angus plan would replace three artistic venues, including the Cleopatra showbar, with an office tower under the banner of Quartier des Spectacles (show quarter). It has drawn considerable criticism from historians, artists and ordinary residents, many of whom spoke at the OCPM meetings in June.
After the OCPM announced its findings, Angus stated that they would go back to the drawing board and present a new plan to the city council on Monday. Now, they don’t have to, thanks to the mayor.
The executive committee decision came down just before the start of the municipal election campaign where Tremblay faces opposition from both Vision Montreal’s Louise Harel and Project Montreal’s Richard Bergeron. The timing could be seen as a way to get discussions on the project out of the way.
Tremblay is already facing criticism for his executive committee vice-chairman André Lavallée’s ties to the FLQ, allegations of illegal financing and the recent water-meter scandal. Maybe a debate on a project which his administration and the mayor personally are heavily involved in is not what he needs.
Tremblay took control of the Quartier des Spectacles project away from the Ville Marie borough in 2007, which was among the reasons behind borough mayor Benoit Labonte’s departure from Tremblay’s party (he’s now with Vision and was the leader of the party for a while). Since then, Tremblay has stood in steadfast defense of Angus’ plans, despite the criticism.
While it was originally Labonte who approached Yaccarini, he did so as a member of Tremblay’s government. Instead of a bidding war among developers, the Tremblay administration instead courted Angus, as they weren’t part of the downtown real estate establishment and could deliver a project “outside the norm.”
It now appears that their “norm” includes the developing artists who perform in the neighborhood as well as the people who live there and those interested in the history of Montreal’s old Red Light district. Their plans do not.
Courting developers who have no roots in the lower Main, the arts or downtown and defending their wishes over what people who live and work in the area want may be the one scandal that the Tremblay administration can’t handle.