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2006 04 30
Montreal 2025: Bring your thesaurus
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This week the city of Montreal announced its big ideas for the future. The plan is called Imagining and Building Montreal 2025. The document that details the proposals is the usual swirl of propositions to bury unwanted highways and elevate the status of the city's less well off. Some good ideas (like adding 100km of bike lanes to the city, or improving the quality of city streets for pedestrians) can be found in the report, but you have to be willing to wade through statements like the following:

"Implementation of an integrated multi-sector revitalization
strategy by the relevant actors"

Apparently, the above means that the city will be helping out the poor by asking them what they want.

Also on the theme of language, in the 14 proposals for improvements to Montreal highways, there are lots of uses of grand modifiers like 'improve' and 'modernize' and 'integrate'. The proposal for the bike lanes is far less exciting: 'The completion of a bicycle beltway around Montréal'.

[email this story] Posted by David Ross on 04/30 at 12:30 PM
  1. In the context of planning documents dealing with a 20-year horizon, the fact that someone’s even using the word “implement” is a pretty strong commitment. It doesn’t read “develop and ignore” or “talk a lot about,” it means “do.” It’s pretty rare that one reads concrete language like that as far as planning is concerned, and in fact it’s a fairly strong commitment.

    “Integrated multi-sector” means that you try to get all the “relevant actors”—social services, different projects from different levels of government, businesses, community groups—on the same page. That’s different than going to the poor and asking them what they want, it’s getting everyone together and reassuring them that their interests are going to be taken into consideration and conflicts worked out to the mutual benefit of the parties. Very much part of the “multi-stakeholder participatory governance” vogue, but far better than Drapeau in a helicopter pointing at the neighbourhoods he wants torn down.

    Note that grand modifiers are often used to describe things outside of the city’s control, like the reconstruction of major provincial and federal highways. It’s a nice way of saying “the city wants you to do this even though it can’t force you.” It’s best read as a statement of priorities and general directions, not a declaration of what will occur.

    It can get a little frustrating to read, but it’s a nuanced kind of language all its own and the slight shadings between vague and concrete statements are in fact carefully considered and quite meaningful, in their own way.

    Posted by DC  on  05/01  at  03:43 PM

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