Montreal’s Head of Urban Planning Quits Over Proposed Turcot Overhaul
Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron resigned from the city’s executive committee last Thursday after refusing to support the Ministère du Transport de Québec’s $3 billion plan to overhaul the Turcot interchange.
Bergeron, who headed the city’s urban planning department, left because Mayor Gerald Tremblay had instructed him to support the MTQ’s proposal despite having not seen the final plan. When Bergeron declined, the mayor told him to resign.
“It was not fair,” said Bergeron. “I hadn’t seen anything [on Turcot] in three months and I had to defend the project to the public at city council meetings.”
Darren Becker, a spokesperson for Tremblay, said the mayor could not tolerate dissent on the “biggest development project in Montreal in nearly 50 years.”
“The mayor is Bergeron’s boss,” he said. “He has a right to ask for unity on the Turcot file.”
The day before Bergeron’s resignation, he publically declared he would quit his executive committee post if the new Turcot plan didn’t “meet Montrealers’ expectations.”
Since it was announced in 2007, the MTQ’s Turcot proposal has met opposition from Quebec’s Order of Engineers, Quebec’s Environmental Assessment Board, Montreal’s Board of Health and community groups in the city’s South West borough, home to the decaying Turcot.
The project would increase the Turcot’s capacity for traffic to over 290,000 vehicles daily and its construction would expropriate about 100 homes.
In April, the city presented the MTQ with a scaled down counter proposal for the Turcot that was rejected outright. Becker said that city hall has since been negotiating a compromise with the provincial government.
“The mayor is hopeful the final project will be different than the one we rejected in the spring,” he said. “This project will take into consideration the city’s concerns.”
The Charest Liberals are expected to unveil their revised Turcot plan later today but Bergeron said he does not expect any significant changes from the previous one.
“We’re approaching a time when the price of gas will reach $1.80 a litre,” said Bergeron. “This isn’t the time to expand our highways […] the MTQ’s project doesn’t address public transit needs, it’s outdated by 50 years.”
Bergeron’s resignation marks the end of an unprecedented era of bipartisanship during Tremblay’s time in office.
After a narrow election win against Bergeron and Vision Montreal candidate Louise Harel in November 2009, Tremblay pledged to mend fences with his political adversaries.
Less than two weeks after being reelected, Tremblay appointed Bergeron and Vision Montreal councillor Lyne Thériault to the executive committee, a decision making body that had previously been dominated by the mayor’s Union Montreal party.
But on Thursday, Bergeron accused the mayor of breaking the unity he sought to create by “rejoining his true political family in Quebec City” when he asked for Bergeron’s resignation.
“The MTQ came into Montreal like a cowboy and our supposed sheriff Mr. Tremblay has declared himself absent,” said Bergeron. “The fight for Turcot is not over—it is just beginning.”
This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 13, published November 9, 2010.