Anger about Parc Ave. renaming grows as council vote approaches

Opposition to Montreal's plan to rename Parc Avenue continues to mount as city councillors add their voices to those demanding public consultations.

Opposition to Montreal's plan to rename Parc Avenue in honour of the late premier Robert Bourassa continues to mount, as city councillors add their voices to citizens' groups and business associations demanding public consultations.

Nearly 12,000 people have signed an online petition against the name change proposed by Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay in mid-October.

On Thursday, city councillor Marvin Rotrand, a member of Tremblay's political party, expressed his concerns about the way the mayor's administration has handled the issue.

Rotrand said he's not necessarily opposed to changing the street's name, but he'd like to see public consultations.

The Parc Avenue Merchants Association alsowants to be consulted, and has voted unanimously to fight the name change, which it says will cost their businesses because many are named after the street.

The association's vice-president, Kostas Voggas, said merchants are angry and will "fight the name change without any compromise."

Others say Parc Avenue should remain unchanged, as part of Montreal's heritage and history.

Parc Avenue was named after the famed Mont-Royal Park in the 1880s, when it was built to connect the city's lower side to the Plateau Mont-Royal.

"The street has a special significance for Montreal," said Sylvie Guilbault, director of Les amis de la montagne, a non-profit group.

That's why the street name is important, she said. "A street of its kind doesn't change names just like that," she told CBC.

Local resident Alison Louder, 22, helped organize a protest in support of Parc Avenue along with other groups as part of the Citizens for Democratic Deliberation in Montreal.

She and her family grew up behind Parc Ave. and feel strongly attached to the name.

But it's what she refers to as the "autocratic" nature of the city's actions that bothers many people.

"It's not like we're against Robert Bourassa. This isn't an anti-Bourassa movement. This is about making sure things are done democratically in the city.

"I wouldn't care if they changed the name to Gandhi. The way they're going about it is completely wrong. The street brings all kinds of communities together, and it doesn't seem to me that Tremblay understands what this street means to this city," she said.

Louder says the coalition has a list of alternative ways to honour Bourassa, including renaming the Parc-Pine Interchange, or part of the Old Port, or the new Montreal superhospital.

The coalition hopes to present its suggestions at city council Oct. 30, when Tremblay's motion to change Parc Avenue's name will be tabled.

City councillors will vote on the motion at the following council meeting.