Seven weeks after banning the construction of new billboards in the borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal, the neighbourhood’s council voted to pull down all 45 remaining billboards. The costs of removal will fall on their owners.
Projet Montréal authored the ban on the grounds that they only benefit corporate advertisers and detract from the beauty of the city. Project Montréal – inaugurated as a municipal party in 2004 on a platform of urban sustainability – swept the elections for borough council in Plateau-Mont-Royal last year.
Alex Norris, Projet Montréal’s councillor, summarized the party’s position in a September 7 press release.
“The main beneficiaries of this advertising are a handful of powerful companies,” he said. “The losers are the citizens exposed to their ugliness day after day after day. It’s a very bad deal for Montrealers.” Projet Montréal contends that lost tax revenue from the billboards will be marginal.
Projet Montréal calls for a “return to the public conception of the city.” The party’s other plans include closing off numerous streets to vehicle traffic. The sentiment of favouring the positive experience of public space over economic expediency might well lead to more projects with a broader impact than the billboard resolution.
Alex McGill, a Plateau resident and U2 McGill student, sees beauty as a draw for the popular neighbourhood: “it feels like one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Montreal. Also, being so close to Mount Royal and the park, it’s a great place to walk around.”
Projet Montréal’s plan may face formidable opposition: the Canadian constitution. Julius Grey, a constitutional rights lawyer in Montreal, told the Gazette yesterday that the ban was “obviously illegal” by freedom of speech laws.