As you now doubt have read, listened and watched all over, this is the 40th anniversary of Expo ’67 – Man and His World.

You’ll no doubt have seen photos posted on Flickr, newsreels of the great events and listen to Baby Boomers all over lament as how those really were the good old days.. when Montreal made its mark on the world.

You’ll also hear later some of these same people complain, that our society today no longer has this vision. That these types of projects are no longer tolerated. They will point to the Casino/Cirque du Soleil as an example of ‘great’ projects that were killed.

I’m 35 years old. I wasn’t around for Expo ’67. I don’t remember the Olympics. But I am quite aware of the mess that was left over after these grand ideas. I am quite aware of the deficits and more importantly the environmental cost that was left over.

In a news article published in the Globe and Mail of April 27nth, written by Tu Thanh Ha, Ha writes that at the time of Expo ’67 “Hydro Quebec was building the world’s largest multiple-arch dam on the Manicouagan River. Planners thought Montreal would have a population of six million by the year 2000. (Montreal has a population of 1.8 million). Hundreds of low-income houses were razed to make way for an underground expressway and the CBC tower. ”

“”We had that old idea that progress means new things”, said Mr Marois, who is now a university professor specializing in urban development”.


There it is in a nutshell.

This idea that we need mega projects, large expositions, to CONSUME in order to progress is an antiquated idea. Or at least it should be.

If you are 40 and under, ever feel like the Gods bestowed upon us a planet, a finite amount of food and all the materials needed to live and that your ancestors threw a huge party and left you with the bill and the clean up ?

That’s exaggerating a little, but that’s often how I feel.

I listened to Radio Canada – Première Chaîne, Friday morning and René Homier-Roy quoted a former city official stating that Expo ’67 planners were concerned about the shad flies swarming tourists. The solution was to “dump tons and tons of DDT into the river”, to kill off the shad flies.

There’s a point where you can claim ignorance regarding the environment and claim that back then these weren’t concerns. But at a certain point, one must wonder.

“Tons and tons of DDT” directly into the river.

That’s progress all right.

4 Comments so far

  1. andre (unregistered) on April 28th, 2007 @ 8:28 am

    Wow! That’s a little wrinkle that I wasn’t aware of. Thanks for posting that.

  2. aj (unregistered) on April 28th, 2007 @ 10:43 am

    I think there’s a few things we could do without making radical changes to the city that would greatly improve things, and get us on a sustainable track:

    1. A congestion charge like London’s. NYC is now considering one, too.
    2. Raise parking rates.
    3. Get that citywide tram network built as a replacement; start running commuter trains more often.
    4. Add “freight-only” cars to the Metro; add freight elevators and create “commercial passes” to access them; maybe even run separate freight metros, perhaps during off-peak hours. Properly extended and linked with trams, this could replace a lot of trucks.
    5. Work with off-island suburbs to create a growth limit, to preserve farmland, crops and vital water resourcs; ideally the city and its suburbs should be able to sustain themselves within a 100-mile limit.

  3. Justin (unregistered) on April 28th, 2007 @ 11:50 am

    AJ, some great suggestions in there.. especially the Metro freight only suggestion. I had never thought of it.

    When it comes to the environment, I generally focus on things I can do and try and convince family members/friends to do the same. I’ve never really focused on what governments could do. Which isn’t to say it isn’t important. It’s most likely 50% of the story.

    But listening to this nostalgia regarding Expo ’67 and the comments that our city no longer has vision in regards to mega-projects struck me as really wrong headed in thinking.

    If anything, as you point out AJ, the city and the province needs projects that will directly work on saving the environment.. such as those you’ve listed.

  4. Ron Kaplan (unregistered) on May 1st, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

    My maternal family was from Montreal. I was 10 in 1967 and vividly recall visiting Expo 67 as part of our vacation (and Terre des Hommes for subsequent visits). I remember the Metro when it was brand spanking new, traveling to the Fair. I even recently bought the guidebook on ebay.

    Sadly my mom and her siblings are gone now and my cousins, save one, have moved to points west, but I still remember those days very fondly.

    BTW, if there are any almuni of Camp Maromac reading this, drop me a line; I was a counselor there from 1976-80.

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