Updates from April, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 20:35 on 2012/04/09 Permalink | Reply  

    HuffPostQc has an exclusive alleging that the Turcot reconstruction is going to take longer and be more expensive because of the Quebec transport ministry’s insistence on moving both road and rail onto marshy areas closer to the escarpment.

    • Charles 22:04 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Worst project ever! They should just drop the whole thing. They are so many better alternatives proposed, especially Turcot 375, that there is no reason to go on with the current plan.

    • tommy 07:34 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      I agree with Charles. I don’t know what Turcot 375 is but moving the thing to the bottom of the cliff is really a bad idea.

    • Kate 09:46 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      This page has a video outlining the Turcot 375 alternative plan.

    • jeather 11:18 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      The reconstruction will take longer and be more expensive no matter what. HPQ gave one possible excuse, but it’s a construction project in Quebec: they never finish on time or budget.

    • William 11:34 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      An exclusive allegation, huh…

    • Kate 22:27 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Very exclusive! Nobody else has it!

  • Kate 20:18 on 2012/04/09 Permalink | Reply  

    Andrew Coyne talks about what the F-35 plane will really cost Canada – $40 billion dollars, he concludes.

    What nobody seems to have discussed recently is why exactly Canada needs to prioritize these pricey boy-toys before so many other things.

    • Adam 20:55 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Stupid, stupid, stupid. I would rather they put $40 billion of something in a big pile and set it on fire. Better than spending it on machines that kill people.

    • No\Deli 21:40 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Priorities are for girls.

    • Chris 23:12 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Kate, there’s nothing to discuss. It’s all quite obvious: corporate welfare for a friendly American company, law and order, war and discipline, fear and control. And, conveniently, they’ll be no money left for those pesky social programs, which will need to be cut in short order.

    • John B 02:00 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Well, our current warplanes are going to fall out of the sky sooner or later, (they’re telling us around 2020 or something), and since it seems to take at least 10 – 15 years for the government to buy anything we need to be getting our act together to replace them now, (whether or not we need fighter aircraft appears to have already been decided).

      Now, there are probably other aircraft out there that will do the job for less, (maybe even do the job better), but they’re not quite so shiny and cutting-edge.

    • Kate 09:55 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      That touches on the thing the Tories seem hesitant to discuss, which is their vision of what Canada ought to be doing internationally. But we can judge them by their actions.

      We used to be a country that led by example, but by preferring warplanes over culture and quality of life they make it clear that the priority is to try to be in there with the big boys. Never mind that in our time, invasion and occupation are achieved economically, not belligerently, and that the way to strengthen Canada is to educate and inspire generations of its citizens, not impoverish them to buy 20th-century war kit.

    • Jack 10:20 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Thank God we were able to bomb Libya with the last batch of war planes, who next with our next 40 billion dollar boondoggle.

    • Matt 10:33 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Some things I’ll never understand.

    • mdblog 13:36 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Kate, while I agree with the idea that money is better spent on priorities other than pricey killing machines, I disagree with your inference that things used to be different. Canada’s air force has been regarded as one of the finest in the world since at least WW2 and has been deployed in many conflicts during that time. Vietnam is one prominent example of where we did not deploy our air power but it is the exception and not the rule, I believe.

    • Kate 11:22 on 2012/04/11 Permalink

      mdblog, I would ask in response how much those WWII planes cost relative to, say, the average income of the Canadians of the era.

  • Kate 20:12 on 2012/04/09 Permalink | Reply  

    Why do kids in Montreal and environs have so many more learning disabilities compared to the regions? I’m going to guess that the country kids go outside more.

    • Ian 20:21 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      I’ll venture a guess – I grew up in the country and we used to just call kids like that “slow”. There were no resources around to identify them as specifically helpable so unless they were really seriously developmentally challenged they just went through the same school everyone else did, but with worse grades and less attention paid to them unless they were discipline cases. Kind of how like in the old days people died of “consumption” a lot.

    • Faiz Imam 21:19 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      I could easily see that. It’s very similar to the “spike” in Autism diagnoses, as well as for NHL concussions.

      But is the lack of medical resources in rural areas really that stark?

    • Alison Cummins 21:59 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      TED (trouble envahissant du développement) is french for PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder).


      It includes autism and Asperger syndrome, also PDD NOS (not otherwise specified).

      Much of the increase over time in autism diagnoses is diagnostic substitution. Kids used to be diagnosed as “retarded,” whereas now they are diagnosed as “autistic.” Unless you look at the entire basket of developmental problems in children and look at whether altogether the basket is bigger at different times or places, identifying a change in one element of the basket doesn’t tell you much. If “autism” is going up and “retardation” is going down, then it’s probably just a question of labels. If “autism” is going up and “retardation” is constant, then it could be a real increase in autism or it could be more active screening for the marginal (could just about pass as NT/neurotypical) kids so they can get a diagnosis. See this nice article: http://photoninthedarkness.com/?p=158

      *** *** ***
      “Consumption” was tuberculosis of the lungs. They died of it a lot because they didn’t have antibiotics. Now that we’re running out of antibiotics we can expect to start dying of it a lot again.

    • Ian 22:09 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Depends on how rural, but compared to the big city with its multitude of specailist hospitals, yes. Even general diagnosis is only useful if treatment is available.

    • Brad 05:50 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Alison makes a great point about diagnostic substitution; in some cases there also may be cultural issues at play and also basic issues such as access to doctors who can make a diagnosis. There’s also the possibility of environmental contaminants playing a role: exposure to lead, mercury, PCBs, PBDEs, phthalates, and organophosphate pesticides has been associated with a variety of neurological disorders, including ASDs (autism spectrum disorders). One study in California found an association between exposure to pollutants from automobile traffic and ASDs. All of these pollutants are likely more prevalent in urban environments than in rural areas.

    • Alison Cummins 08:30 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      I love Ian’s point that diagnosis is only as useful as the available treatment options. That makes a huge difference in diagnostic bias. For instance, interventions specific for autistic children are funded by the educational system in California, which means that the bias will be to find autism in marginal cases (might be something else which doesn’t have funded interventions, which isn’t helpful to anyone).

      I’m less enthusiastic about Brad’s concern about environmental conaminants. Lead and mercury have not been associated with ASDs. People who insist that their autistic children are actually suffering from heavy metal poisoning subject their poor children to dangerous and painful chelation “treatments” with industrial solvents that do nothing for autism but sometimes kill the children. Autism has its origins in early fetal development — apparently the first eight weeks — so any posited environmental cause has to be mediated by the pregnant mother. Exposing a child to pollutants after it is born cannot cause autism.

      Exposure of the mother to organophosphate pesticides has been associated with autism, but those are definitely more common in agricultural communities than in urban areas.

      My preferred explanation would be the fashionable Vitamin D. People born (not conceived) in cities are at higher risk for schizophrenia, so it would be parsimonious to think that maybe people conceived (not born) in cities might be at higher risk for autism. Sadly, there is little evidence to support this hypothesis.

    • Brad 09:43 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Actually there are a number of published studies showing associations between mercury exposure and ASDs, although there are also studies showing no connection so it’s not clear. The only thing that does seem clear is that concerns about thimerosal in vaccines is not connected to autism. But there are at least three studies showing higher mercury levels in blood, baby teeth, and urine of children with ASDs (presumably passed on from the mother), whereas a more recent study found no difference. A study in Texas also found an association between proximity to sources of mercury (power plants and industrial sources) and prevalence of ASDs.

      All that said, current research suggests there is no single risk factor yet identified that can cause ASDs and it’s likely to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors, parental age, etc.

    • Brad 09:47 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Whoops, I wasn’t clear on thimerosal above — what I meant to write was the “concerns about thimerosal in vaccines” are unfounded, as there is no demonstrated connection to autism.”

    • Kate 10:03 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      I have a feeling that growing numbers of things like ADD and autism are part of a picture where we cannot stop and focus any more, we’re constantly scanning for new things in our environment – oh, I’m up for it, doing this blog, constant torrent of new data always coming in. No pauses, jump edits. The excitement of a hockey game is not enough – any pause is instantly filled with loud music and commercials.

      I think it’s going to turn out that this gets transmitted to kids in the womb, chemically. I’m not a medical or scientific person so I can’t begin to frame a biochemical theory. No, I’m not thrilled with the idea that pregnant women should go live for nine months in a meditative retreat, but it might be a place to start.

    • Alison Cummins 10:10 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      There’s no reason to suspect mercury other than the crank fixation on thimerosal. Nothing we know about mercury suggests that it would cause autism, and globally the totality of evidence does not support a link. There are many more than five studies on autism and mercury.

    • Alison Cummins 10:14 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Since autism rates seem to be constant over time, we should probably be looking at causes that are constant over time. When people of all ages are screened for autism using the same criteria, the rate is on the order of 1% for everyone from two years old to 88 years old. Children born today do not appear to be at significantly higher risk from children born in 1924.

    • Kate 10:19 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      So it’s solid that autism numbers are not up, it’s just diagnosis that’s up?

    • Brad 10:30 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Data from the National Health Interview Survey in the US show an increase in the prevalence of ASDs in the US population (ages 5-17) from 0.1% in 1997 to 1.0% in 2010. I think if you look at these references you’ll find that the increasing prevalence cannot in fact be fully explained by changes in diagnostic criteria, age at diagnosis, inclusion of milder cases etc.

      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2009. Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders — autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, United States, 2006. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 58 (SS 10):1-20.

      Hertz-Picciotto, I., and L. Delwiche. 2009. The rise in autism and the role of age at diagnosis. Epidemiology 20 (1):84-90.

      King, M., and P. Bearman. 2009. Diagnostic change and the increased prevalence of autism. International Journal of Epidemiology 38 (5):1224-1234.

      King, M.D., C. Fountain, D. Dakhlallah, and P.S. Bearman. 2009. Estimated autism risk and older reproductive age. American Journal of Public Health 99 (9):1673-1679.

      Liu, K.Y., M. King, and P.S. Bearman. 2010. Social influence and the autism epidemic. American Journal of Sociology 115 (5):1387-434.

      Shelton, J.F., D.J. Tancredi, and I. Hertz-Picciotto. 2010. Independent and dependent contributions of advanced maternal and paternal ages to autism risk. Autism Research 3 (1):30-9.

    • Alison Cummins 11:32 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      No, not solid. But neither is it solid that they *are* up. So looking for the cause of the rise in autism is premature until we know that there is a rise.

    • Alison Cummins 12:02 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Brad, Kate,

      From the director of NIMH, Thomas Insel:
      “This takes us back to the central question: has the number of children with ASD increased or not? Total population epidemiological studies suggest much or all of the increase is due to better and wider detection. Studies of administrative and services data suggest that better detection cannot fully explain the profound and continuing increase. Are we seeing more affected or more detected? The question is vitally important, but there is not one, simple answer just as autism is not a single, simple disorder.”


      “However, regardless of cause, we now know that autism is very common. It therefore deserves a proper level of attention and resources, both for research and services for those on the spectrum.”


      It’s completely fair to look for the causes of autism[s], but focussing on changes in the last thirty years is not warranted by what we know right now.

    • Alison Cummins 12:56 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      “I think if you look at these references you’ll find that the increasing prevalence cannot in fact be fully explained by changes in diagnostic criteria, age at diagnosis, inclusion of milder cases etc.”

      Brad, you know I can’t look at these references without going to a medical library. (No, it’s not sufficient to read an abstract which is all we can access for free online.

      And even if I did go to a medical library, not being an autism epidemiology researcher or anything similar, I simply don’t have the depth and breadth of familiarity with the whole of the literature to place your six papers in context.

      Do you have links to credible discussions of the papers?

    • Brad 13:25 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Alison: here’s a link to the source I got these from (which in the interest of disclosure is a report I am working on, although not as an author): http://www.epa.gov/ace/ace3draft/draft_pdfs/ACE3NeurodevelopmentalDisordersReviewPackage3-02-11.pdf. This chapter (still in draft) covers a number of neurodevelopmental disorders that may have environmental causes; ASDs are included here in one section although it’s certainly true that the environmental connection is the most tenuous compared with the other disorders discussed in that section. This report has gone through extensive peer and public review and should be published later this year.

  • Kate 20:09 on 2012/04/09 Permalink | Reply  

    Even though the possibility of saving the academic term is getting narrower, students are continuing their strike. Some hundreds gathered at Berri Square Monday with plans afoot for another really big demo this Saturday.

  • Kate 09:19 on 2012/04/09 Permalink | Reply  

    ManQuel Avenir’s Monday guest blogger Alexandre Taillefer has four ideas none of which work for me. He wants to move Calder’s Man – doesn’t say where to – forgets how beautifully it stands out on the island when viewed from the Old Port. This is a piece that needs distance to be seen properly. It’s totally in the right place – can you imagine that thing standing astride Dorchester Square or looming over Beaver Lake?

    I keep hearing about making the new Champlain a piece of big showy architecture when whether we’ll even have the money to build the plainest bridge in the world is in question. We have a beautiful bridge already. I want to see the new Champlain be the best designed bridge we can afford in the engineering sense, but let’s not fritter millions on fantastic frou-frou for the sake of it.

    Taillefer also wants to turn the Jacques-Cartier into a hanging garden and build another new bridge beside it. I don’t think I need to explain how silly this one is.

    Another thing that crops up from time to time that he mentions is “making Mount Royal more accessible.” I don’t get it. There are multiple ways to get into the park. You can’t walk uphill from the downtown core without getting to it. You can take the 11 bus, or walk over from Côte-des-Neiges metro, or – if you must – you can drive. If we’re talking about big city parks that are inaccessible (for many of us), let’s talk Cap St-Jacques, but not Mount Royal.

    • Robert J 09:30 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      It’s amazing how the more pragmatic ideas actually end up being more elegant in most cases in big cities.

    • Steve Quilliam 10:17 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      This guy’s idea are silly and not interesting at all. On the other hand, i understand what he means by making Mount-Royal more accessible. As You have explained, Kate, yes there are many ways to access the park but i think many people, like me, tend to compare it with New York’s Central Park, for many reasons, and it is true that our park, mainly from the Downtown core, doesn’t have the same accessibility than Central Park. Of course it is a mountain therefor it can not be as easy to access it but maybe they could improve the accessibility around Université de Montréal, at least.

    • Kate 11:33 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Well, there’s nothing we can do about the fact that the park’s on top of a hill. I suppose there could be a downtown shuttle to the top.

      I’m not sure what’s happening with the area between Mount Royal park and the UdeM. There has been talk about adding some space there to the park but I don’t know what the progress is on that story.

    • ant6n 12:37 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Public transit access is pretty meager – there used to be a TRAM going up. Now it’s only that irregular 11 bus, which also has an inconvenient route. The mountain seems to be most accessible to cars, with convenient parking and nice views from the road.

    • ant6n 12:53 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Also, if you walk up from downtown, most streets dead-end on Pine. Above pine, there are a bunch of not very permeable areas – a bunch of hospitals, and a few rich people cul-de-sacs. Between Guy (where access is blocked by the General) and Parc (where direct access is blocked by the McGill Hospital), there’s really only the path going up on Peel.
      Map (including foot paths)

    • mare 13:58 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      I don’t think you mean Parc, where access is excellent, but Guy. Côte des Neiges.

      I agree with the article that from downtown there is not much (any?) signage to direct foot traffic towards the mountain e.g. the stairs commencing across from Peel.

      It’s also ironic that Rue de la Montagne (named “after” bishop Mountain) doesn’t have access to the mountain.

    • ant6n 15:10 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      I mean along Pine, between Cotes-Des-Neiges/Pine and Parc/Pine. Basically the hole Downtown facing segment only has one access point – at Peel.

    • ant6n 15:13 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      …Yes, the access fro Parc, along the Plateau-facing section is pretty decent. But I was referring to the idea that going from downtown anywhere up you’ll have access to the mountain.

    • Robert J 15:51 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      I think access is pretty good as it stands.

      There is a slight lack of signage. A really coherent city-wide signage system indicating entrances and routes to access Mont-Royal park would be great. The design could be based on some of the older existing ones. There are a number of stairways through private property near Pine/Dr. Penfield that lead to the Park as well as various paths around the cemeteries that could become public spaces. McGill should also allow/encourage the public to take routes via the campus.

      It’s hard to negociate that with owners but the city should do everything it can. But that’s an ongoing process…

    • Robert H 18:57 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Keep the paths and stairs in good repair, maintain the belvedere, the chalet, the Smith house, Beaver lake and the pavilion with the other existing amenities. Though signage could be better, Mount Royal is wonderful as is. Given its location, we shouldn’t expect it to be as accessible as New York’s Central Park; besides we already have that trait in Parc La Fontaine, another wonderful park. One factor Mount Royal park does have in common with Central park (along with Mr. Olmstead) is that it has frequently needed and will continue to need protection from those who have various schemes to “improve” it. Anybody remember Mayor Drapeau’s tower?

    • Robert H 19:06 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Forgot to add that I liked your remark about Cap-Saint-Jacques. I’m a city dweller without a car; that place may as well be in Kingston…………Jamaica.

    • ant6n 19:21 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Yes, given that it’s on a mountain, it should only have two official accesses from pine and cotes-des-neiges, on a 3km stretch, not even mentioning access from ‘behind’ the mountain.
      Access is good coming from the Plateau, and that’s all that matters.

    • Robert H 20:56 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Yes, given that traffic on Pine and Côte de Neiges can barely move because of the surging hordes trying to cross to get to the park at all times.

    • Kevin 08:27 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      The mountain needs a watchamacallit — those things on rails that go up the side of steep cliffs. There’s one in Quebec City.

      A funicular. That’s it. The mountain needs a couple of funiculars.

    • ant6n 10:03 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      I think the issue is that not enough access to the park means it’s inconvenient to get there, meaning fewer people go there – at least coming from the areas that have inconvenient access. It’s pretty accessible form the Plateau, i.e. Parc Jeane Mance, so there’s always people there.

    • Kate 10:16 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      There are often quite a lot of people at the park on nice afternoons. I don’t think it would necessarily be good for the park or the city to significantly increase the numbers.

      What they could do immediately, I think, is extend the hours for services. Unless things changed within the last year, it’s possible to be on Mount Royal in summertime, with plenty of late daylight remaining, yet find that all the facilities – the lookout chalet, Smith House and the Beaver Lake chalet – are locked up tight, no bathrooms. This is just dumb. I’m sure there are students needing summer jobs that would be happy to get some paid hours staffing these facilities on the longer evenings of summer.

    • ant6n 11:44 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      I think it would be good for the _people_ if the park was more accessbile. As you say, there’s always lots of people — on the Eastern slopes that are fairly accessible. I don’t understand how anybody can be against better access to green space, given that we lack green spaces in Montreal.

    • walkerp 13:52 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Theoretically, I would like the park to be more accessible to everyone and it is ridiculous how big institutions like UdM and the MUHC block it from the public. But god when you see the garbage there, most of it filling the slopes around the belvedere and the lookout, you can’t help but feel that a lot of these people are just too ignorant and selfish to be allowed to have access to such a beautiful space.

      If it were better managed, with proper education and signs, this would probably help a lot. As it is, it is one more element of neglect in this sputtering city, one that fortunately was well-designed in the first place and has some ability to protect itself so that such neglect works out well for people like me who don’t need signs or paved access to get around.

    • ant6n 17:47 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      Although that argument can also work the other way round — in many urban contexts, lack of people results in neglect.

  • Kate 09:04 on 2012/04/09 Permalink | Reply  

    Warren Kinsella counters an editorial trend to dismiss Quebec, Montreal and everything that’s not Calgary in considering Canada’s political future. Will the election of the Wildrose party be Alberta’s 1976 PQ win?

    • Robert J 09:45 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      A slightly weird article. I think one of the things we may realize over time is that Montreal is still one of the big north-eastern atlantic cities, which means that people from New York, Boston, and even a lot of Torontonians will always relate to us culturally more than midwesterners or westerners.

      So when push comes to shove and the cowboys get funky, I think the big old northeastern cities still have a lot of weight in politics and perhaps more importantly in political thought.

    • Josh 16:11 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      He loses all credibility at the end with his plea for everyone to read “Montreal-based” Sun papers. Yeah – if there’s anything I think when I pick up the Toronto or Edmonton Suns, it’s that they’re too Montreal-centric.

    • Antonio 17:34 on 2012/04/09 Permalink

      Interesting article on the Wildrose Party, the imminent Alberta election and how it all might pertain to Quebec: http://blogues.journaldequebec.com/ericduhaime/general/la-travailleuse-contre-lassiste-social

    • Jack 10:35 on 2012/04/10 Permalink

      I would be truly careful with any analytical content coming from Kinsella, he is a Karl Rove wanabee. His battles with Paul Martin supporters were spectacularly juvenile. Josh is right on, how can a guy who claims to be a Chretianite Canadian work for Pierre Karl Peladeau?Someone who has played his sovereignist credentials to get Bernard Landry to dig into the Caisse de Depot to buy Videotron for him,with my money! Someone who insisted that Pierre Falardeau’s funeral was newsworthy enough to be covered live and its entirety by LCN, and more frightening sponsors hours of Quebec bashing daily on Sun News….Montreal based?

  • Kate 09:01 on 2012/04/09 Permalink | Reply  

    Two arrests were made at the Bal en Blanc, which is winding down as I post. Given that 15,000 people attend, that’s negligible.

  • Kate 08:59 on 2012/04/09 Permalink | Reply  

    Comic Serge Grenier, known for his work in Les Cyniques in the 1960s, died on the weekend.

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