Well, it’s about time! For far too long have I waited for a change like this to appear, the change of course being the renaming of Montreal’s city streets! I mean, for a secular society to have street names like St. Catherine, St. Laurent, St. Denis, and Notre-Dame-de-Grace is a little archaic (if kind of romantically European).
Oh wait—this just in—none of those streets are being renamed! But they are finally naming a street after long serving Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa, Liberal Premier of Quebec from 1970-1976, and again from 1985-1994 . He is famous for Bill 22 (Bill 101’s only slightly tamer cousin, and predecessor), bungling the Victoria Charter (Trudeau’s first attempt to amend our country’s constitution), asking Trudeau to enforce the War Measures Act, initiating the James Bay Hydroelectric project, and losing the 1976 election to Rene Levesque. All that was only in his first term! His second saw him invoke the notwithstanding clause in order to override the Supreme Court’s ruling that Bill 101 was unconstitutional, and he represented Quebec at the table during Mulroney’s tragic attempt to amend the Constitution .
Bourassa pissed off both Anglophones and Francophones, separatists and federalists, environmentalists, animals, aboriginals, Liberals, Conservatives, and the NDP didn’t matter at the time, so I don’t know if he pissed them off too, but it’s likely he did. Most often, he clashed with Rene Levesque, which is why, when then mayor Gerald Tremblay (before he fled office in a cloud of scandal himself) tried to name Park Avenue after Bourassa, it passed city council, but a grassroots public outcry developed around the decision. There were accusations about no public consultation, as well as the fact that the streets named after two political rivals would bisect each other . Oh what a world!
This was all eight years ago. It’s taken that much time for the city, province, and country to finally agree on where and what to name after Bourassa, who needed more than a puny street in Laval. “They [his family] wanted something really big!” Tremblay said recently in a rare interview. Apparently, Bourassa’s family was hoping to get the Champlain Bridge renamed after him, but it was in Federal jurisdiction. The bridge may have been an apt reminder of this controversial man. In any case, a portion of University Avenue will likely be renamed Robert Bourassa Blvd. at an elaborate ceremony arranged by Mayor Dennis Coderre next week. If City Hall is in one piece, and the Great Hall hasn’t been stripped of its gold and marble, that is.
The area that will be renamed is a small portion, that only runs between Rene Levesque and Notre Dame de Grace, which I find unfair, considering Rene Levesque gets an entire Boulevard named after him. Except for the two portions where it is still Dorchester. At least this way it doesn’t cross Rene Levesque, although Jean Masson, a trustee of the Robert Bourassa Commemorative Trust and friend to the late Premier, felt that to have the two streets cross would be fitting considering the personality of the leaders. McGill was consulted—it is University Avenue—however it wasn’t confirmed that it would be named in honour of Robert until recently No public consultation was done.
I can’t wait to see what they name after Parizeau, Bouchard, Landry, Charest, and Marois. Perhaps Marois could take the name of one of the crumbling bridges; once it collapses, we could leave it as a artistic monument to her! I suppose we should rename a one-way street after Bouchard for obvious reasons…maybe we can rename Prince Arthur Avenue, Avenue Lucien Bouchard? I’m not sure what streets are white enough to name Parizeau—perhaps McTavish? The Scots of Montreal at the time were very white. Charest’s name could be placed on President Kennedy Avenue. Why we have a street named after an American president I do not know. And Landry, well, how about the Red Light district? After all, there was that nasty line he said about our flag.