Original text signed by Isabelle Hudon, president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, published in La Presse, Le Journal de Montréal and the Métro.
March 14, 2006
Peel Basin a missed opportunity
No one was surprised at the many and varied reactions to the decision by Cirque du Soleil and Loto-Québec to abandon the Peel Basin Entertainment Complex project. In fact, the only element of surprise in the entire episode was Cirque's timing of its decision to refocus its energy on undertakings where the challenge is not so much in surviving the crossfire between those for and against the project as in achieving what the company is recognized for around the world: imagining, creating and REALIZING dreams.
No large project exists in today's world that is simple or exempt from risk. To embark on something bold something like the Peel Basin project inevitably involves treading on ground that's off the beaten path. Circumstances dictate that you can never be completely assured of success. You can only be meticulous and rigorous in your preparation and do all possible to surround yourself with top-notch partners. And that's exactly what Loto-Québec did when it sought the collaboration of Cirque du Soleil, the epitome of Montreal creativity and admired world wide.
In addition to excelling in all it does, Cirque du Soleil is also at the leading edge of social responsibility; Cirque has always believed it has a duty to ensure its surrounding community benefits from its creative force, and it has irrefutably demonstrated its capacity for working with its neighbours since establishing itself in Montreal's Saint-Michel district. How ironic that this company, whose social responsibility is beyond reproach, should be disparaged and accused of having questionable intentions from the very moment it joined the Peel Basin project. At the end of the day, it should come as no surprise whatsoever that this climate of mistrust finally drove Cirque to pull up stakes and take itself and its considerable talent elsewhere.
Given the painful experience of the Peel Basin project, perhaps it's time that we recognize the necessity of according project promoters the presumption of sincerity. Let's rigorously study the details of what they propose, and rather than giving into the temptation of assuming they have a hidden agenda, why not begin by trying to work with them? As this was not seriously done, Cirque, our great creative source of pride, has every reason to invest elsewhere in a superb project, but this time it will be one from which Montreal will reap no benefit. If only we could afford such a loss!
This is truly a shame, because the approach that's been so well honed by Cirque to use creativity and economic development to boost social development would have been particularly welcome in revitalizing a city sector where the need is genuine and has been for more than 40 years.