We feel your pain, Montreal

November 4, 2009

Guelph Mercury, 04/11/09montreal canada

Ah, another day in the Royal City. Take a trip down the dirt road that used to be our main street, around yet another detour, over the craters in the streets and past the mob of thugs shaking the bus full of city officials.

And some other city thinks they’ve got it worse than us? This week’s front-page headline in Maclean’s magazine screamed “Montreal is a corrupt, crumbling, mob-ridden disgrace.” Guelph will be on next week’s cover, I guess.

Sure, Canada’s second-biggest city may still have its poutine and joie de vivre. But we can commiserate with the embarrassment Montrealers are feeling theses days. Not so much on the corruption part – there’s thankfully no evidence of that. But when you talk about a city where road construction seems to serve someone other than the public, and where goons hurl threats and more to intimidate civic leaders, you might as well be talking about Guelph.

Montreal is battling allegations the mob controls the road building business in the city. There is talk of brown envelopes stuffed with cash showing up at city hall, and contracts that are inflated well beyond their true costs. Part of that explains why it costs on average 30 per cent more to build a stretch of road in Quebec than it does anywhere else in the country.

But I’d put money on the line it costs twice as long to rebuild a street in our fair city.

Remember when you could actually drive down Gordon or Wyndham streets? Or Speedvale. Or Paisley. I don’t. This has become a city where you can’t travel from point A to point B without running an obstacle course of dirt roads, heavy equipment, stacks of culverts, piles of gravel or plain old road closure signs. And never a worker in sight—they’re apparently all at home resting after the grueling 25-hour week they put in fixing our streets.

Incredibly, Guelph didn’t make the recent list of worst roads in Ontario. A local disc jockey quipped “that’s because we don’t have any roads anymore. They’re all under construction.”

And Montreal may have its mob problems but we’ve got goons of our own. They may not dress in suits and drive fancy cars, but they aim to intimidate just the same. They think they’re beyond reproach. Guelph has long had its share of activists and anarchists. But this fight over the Hanlon Creek Business Park has brought out the worst in some of them.

When did this become the kind of city where ‘activists’ think it’s fine to show up at someone’s private doorstep – en masse – and warn them and their family away from a city project? And if the police intervene, these activists run to the legal system and launch a civil lawsuit?

Or a city where people who claim to care about the environment think it’s fine to descend into goonism, getting violent at a sod-turning event? Whether you like it or not, if you show up at a protest and begin shouting “You will pay for this. Your life is on the line” at the people taking part, you’re nothing more than a thug.

I understand that people get angry and tempers flare. And I’m no Hanlon Creek Business Park booster. The project is not particularly innovative or progressive, and it’s costing us a pretty piece of land, but by trying to stop it through violence and intimidation, you’ve done more damage than good.

Once you’ve crossed that line, you’re just a goon.

Greg Mercer is a Guelph-based freelance writer. His column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at greg_mercer@hotmail.com, and past columns can be read at gregmercer.ca

One Response to We feel your pain, Montreal

  1. Tyler on November 29, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Gordon was fixed already. Don’t exaggerate. Plus I know some of the “goons” you’re talking about. Personally I hear a lot of bad press, and to be honest, I don’t really know if I can believe it. But let’s assume you’re right. Shaking a bus makes them goons? And yet the cops who threaten arrest of protesters who had the support of the community (nearby) are not?

    How about a million dollar lawsuit for anyone acting under the “instruction of LIMITS”? Doesn’t the arrest and a threat of a lawsuit fit your description of “violence and intimidation?”

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