Closing Mount Royal: Plante administration exploits the politics of fear

By Beryl Wajsman on February 15, 2018

George Orwell warned that the limits to freedom by command-state government will come as much through the use of the psychology of fear as the brute force of arms. That is a prophecy that has become overwhelmingly evident as rule and regulation is constantly formulated to limit our everyday actions “for our own good.” Quebec elected officials know that game very well. Le Jour’s great editor Jean-Charles Harvey first condemned it in his seminal novel of Quebec political life titled “La Peur” – “The Fear” – published in 1938 in the darkest time of the Duplessis era. But the tactics of the old right, have been adopted by the new left. And they leap on any excuse – even human tragedy – to propagate their agenda of control and make us feel like children who cannot be trusted to conduct their own lives without the yoke of administrative leash.

A tragedy occurred on Mount Royal some time ago. A cyclist was killed by a driver making an illegal u turn. It could have happened on any street or side street. But the new municipal government has made it clear from its inception, that they are “les amis de la montagne.” Now, that used to mean opposition to development and preservation of the remarkable park that Frederick Law Olmstead planned and realized. But now it seems that being a “friend of the mountain” is license to use any occurrence to further impose this administration’s desire to restrict the use of cars. Indeed its executive committee member responsible for transport, Luc Ferrandez, so much as said so.

Ferrandez is mayor of the Plateau borough. Over the eight years he has been in that position he has closed numerous streets to cars and eliminated many parking spots. The Plateau is ground zero for the war on cars on Montreal. The reaction from most residents, particularly merchants, has been outrage. Well, Ferrandez is now taking his anti-car policy to a broader canvas. He has announced that due to the cyclist’s death, Montreal is stopping thru traffic connecting the east and west sides of the city around Mount Royal. Motorists coming from the east can go no further than Smith House. Those coming from the west will be able to go only as far as Beaver Lake. Between them will be an 8,000 foot long no-man’s land.

This decision is ill-advised, will contribute to more traffic congestion and is nothing other than a cheap exploitation of a human tragedy to further a political agenda that is popular with the Projet Montreal base. Worse than anything else, the decision perpetuates the politics of fear. Every time there is a tragedy, governments come up with new prohibitions. Elected officials do it to gain more power over our lives but also because they lack the intellectual honesty and political courage to tell people the truth. Not every problem in life can be solved. That’s why the word “accident” exists in both official languages. Life is not a dress rehearsal and it demands self-reliance. Liberty demands responsibility. That’s why so many dread it. And it is on that dread – and on the pandering to the fragility and ignorance of the broad public - that decisions like this are made.

Bill Maher recently commented on the plethora of freedom-restricting regulations saying, “The safest place to live is in a police state. But who wants to live in a police state?” We may not be a police state but as noted civil liberties attorney Julius Grey has written, “Quebec is an inspector state.” But Ferrandez’ decision is not only cowardly and exploitative, it flies in the face of his own environmental agenda. Ten thousands cars a day, during regular hours, make use of the road to cross the mountain. There are more during rush hours. This decision, set to come into force April 1, will send those cars into the already congested arteries of Park Ave. and Cote des Neiges Rd. causing more backups, delays and air pollution from idling cars. It is a decision that is “stylish” but without any substance.

When asked in a radio interview whether he wants to do a “Plateausization” of Montreal, Ferrandez responded that it’s a slow process but it is the “same approach with cars as with cigarettes.” What he refuses to face is that most people who drive do so for work. And many have two jobs. Cars are also an expression of peoples’ desire for freedom of mobility and therefore an inherent threat to the fiat state. But then we suppose that individual freedom is not high on the collectivist agenda of Mr. Ferrandez and Projet Montreal. One can only reflect with trepidation if there is a fatal car incident in the vicinity of St. Laurent and St. Catherine. What then? Another 8,000 foot long no-man’s land effectively cutting the city in half?


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Beryl P. Wajsman

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