A lot of trust still to re­build: new chief

Mon­treal­ers could head south us­ing money saved from snow-clear­ing and heat­ing bills

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - josh­freed49@gmail.com JOSH FREED

We’ve just learned that our con­struc­tion woes won’t end in 2021 as promised, or even in 2023, or 2025.

A con­fi­den­tial two-year-old city re­port ob­tained by the Gazette pre­dicts that ma­jor con­struc­tion work in Mon­treal will con­tinue un­til 2040! And prob­a­bly much longer, when many of us are in walk­ers, wheel­chairs or graves.

The re­con­struc­tion of Berlin af­ter the Sec­ond World War was a quick patchup job com­pared to us.

Imag­ine an­other 20-plus years of driv­ing chaos, con­ges­tion, rerouted streets and a bil­lion orange cones — though by 2035, they’ll prob­a­bly be fly­ing orange drones.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to even con­tem­plate, so in­stead, let me put forth a rad­i­cal and dar­ing so­lu­tion.

There’s sim­ply too much work to get done in Mon­treal with two mil­lion of us liv­ing here, try­ing to get around, and it’s wear­ing us all out.

It’s time to close the is­land of Mon­treal for the six months of win­ter, and evac­u­ate the pop­u­la­tion south, while the work gets done.

Im­pos­si­ble? No! Here is my mod­est pro­posal:

The The The plan: plan: plan: When you do a mas­sive home ren­o­va­tion, you don’t hang around amid the noise, dust and de­bris. You move out.

The rea­son Mon­treal’s re­con­struc­tion is go­ing so slowly is that we Mon­treal­ers are get­ting in the way. City work­ers waste most of their time rerout­ing traf­fic, re-con­ing lanes and cre­at­ing new de­tours to ac­com­mo­date mo­torists who just shouldn’t be here.

Evac­u­at­ing Mon­treal would let the work­ers fo­cus full-time on their real job: re­build­ing our city from scratch.

The The The cost: cost: cost: My plan may sound out­ra­geous, but I’ve stud­ied the city’s new 2019 bud­get and it makes per­fect dol­lars and sense. For in­stance:

We’ll spend $166 mil­lion next year on snow-clear­ing con­tracts and countless more on heavy equip­ment. What a waste, when re­cent sci­en­tific ev­i­dence shows the snow would melt on its own, even if we weren’t here to see it.

We’ll spend an­other $600 mil­lion on pub­lic trans­port, which we wouldn’t need if there was no one here to trans­port. Hun­dreds of mil­lions more will go to win­ter re­cre­ation, an ob­vi­ous oxy­moron. We shovel out skat­ing rinks, heat hockey are­nas, gym­na­si­ums, mu­se­ums and li­braries, in a fu­tile ef­fort to amuse our­selves as we hide in­doors.

The heat­ing bill for my home alone is $2,000. Mul­ti­ply that by the is­land’s 750,000 house­holds and you’ve got more than a bil­lion dol­lars, need­lessly vanishing into thin air.

We could save a bil­lion more by re­duc­ing po­lice to a skele­ton squad. Their union would protest but not their mem­bers, since they’d get to go south, too, along with our crim­i­nals.

I be­lieve we could save much of next year’s $5.7-bil­lion bud­get with my plan. That’s about $2,750 per per­son, or $11,000 per fam­ily of four. I’m sure we could get match­ing fed­eral and Que­bec grants for every “road­work refugee,” boost­ing the pay­ments to $33,000 per fam­ily.

That’s plenty for travel costs and some spend­ing money, too.

Where would we flee? With group travel dis­counts for our two mil­lion cus­tomers we’d get spec­tac­u­lar rates on planes and ho­tels. Imag­ine how many Car­ib­bean beach ca­banas we could af­ford to rent!

We could buy a beach, an is­land, even a small coun­try. Que­be­cers prac­ti­cally run Flor­ida al­ready. How much more would it cost to buy a chunk of it on a time-shar­ing plan from next November through May?

There’d prob­a­bly be enough money left to pay ev­ery­one a de­cent al­lowance.

You can’t af­ford to take time off work, you say? The fact is you al­ready do. You spend win­ter shov­el­ling your walk, scrap­ing your wind­shield, lac­ing your boots and but­ton­ing your coat so you can un­but­ton it later.

What­ever you earn work­ing, you spend on win­ter tune-ups, win­ter clothes, win­ter heat­ing and treat­ing your win­ter flu. The truth is you can’t af­ford not to leave.

What hap­pens to Mon­treal when ev­ery­one’s gone? When you close a cot­tage for win­ter, you drain the pipes, lock the door and for­get it till spring.

The same goes for cities. We’d drain the La­chine Canal, put an­tifreeze in the Se­away and shut the lights and elec­tric­ity, sav­ing a for­tune in Hy­dro bills.

Then, our con­struc­tion work­ers could have Mon­treal to them­selves un­til the snow melts.

Frankly, the city it­self needs a break, too. There’d be no new wear-and-tear on the roads be­cause there’d be no traf­fic, no crum­bling side­walks be­cause there’d be no salt or sand.

When the snow melted, there’d be no rot­ting ap­ple cores, cho­co­late wrap­pers, soda cans or dog poo — be­cause there’d be no dogs. Just a well-rested city ready for a well-rested pop­u­la­tion ar­riv­ing home.

It’s too late to evac­u­ate this win­ter, but let’s start pre­par­ing to move out next year. Once we leave, we just need to seal off our is­land’s bridges and tun­nels, then put up large signs that say: “VILLE BARRÉE.”

I ad­mit we might not fin­ish all the con­struc­tion in one win­ter, but I have a Plan B. We do ex­actly the same thing every year, un­til the work is over.

With group travel dis­counts for our two mil­lion cus­tomers we’d get spec­tac­u­lar rates on planes and ho­tels. Imag­ine how many Car­ib­bean beach ca­banas we could af­ford to rent!


It’s too late to evac­u­ate the city this win­ter, but let’s start pre­par­ing to move south next year, Josh Freed writes.

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