Quebec Studies

Urban Development Policies in Montreal, 1960-1978: An Authoritarian Quiet Revolution

Quebec Studies (1988), 6, (1), 26–40.


Québec Studies, No. 6,1988 URBAN DEVELOPMENT POLICIES IN MONTREAL, 1960-1978: AN AUTHORITARIAN QUIET REVOLUTION by Michel Barcelo As the Quiet Revolution was emerging at the provincial level in I960, bringing forward wide-ranging liberal ideals to modernize Québec, similar ideals were appearing in urban development policies in Montreal. These ideals had very similar motivations at both levels of government, as exemplified by the following statement of Lucien Saulnier, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the City, in 1963: "At the end of this decade, [Montreal] will have vividly taken its rank amongst the great cities of the world. . . . For the first time, we are becoming conscious of who we are and of the position we can take, not only in Canada but in the whole world. . . . So we will have in Montreal those amenities which proudly embellish most of the great cities: majestic public squares, monuments and fountains, museums and urban forests." The eighteen years from 1960 to 1978 saw these bold urban ideals implemented through an original as well as ruthless strategy under the almost unchallenged leadership of Jean Drapeau and Lucien Saulnier, which recalls, to a certain extent, that of Napoleon ΠΙ and Haussman in nineteenth-century Paris. To many, it has appeared as a planless effort: it is a fact that there was to be no formal urban planning mechanism, nor "plan" of the kind generally accepted in democratic societies since at least World War Π; but there was to be, as illustrated by the following analysis, an undeniable and singular policy direction given to a large number of apparently unrelated projects, which have had and are still having a profound impact on Montreal: a powerful and authoritarian "plan" in its own right. Interpreting the general ideals of the Drapeau-Saulnier team in terms of urban planning policy, Gérard Filion, editor of Le Devoir, a supporter of the Quiet Revolution as well as of the newlyelected City Administration, proposed the following course of action in I960: "It is of the utmost importance to give to Montreal the look of a great metropolis, through the opening up of major traffic arteries, the demolition of leprous slums, the construction of major buildings" (Le Devoir, October 5,1960).

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Author details

Barcelo, Michel