The big circus in the St. Lawrence


PETER DESBARATS October 5 1963
The big circus in the St. Lawrence


PETER DESBARATS October 5 1963


The big circus in the St. Lawrence


An irreverent advance look, in five parts, at what the boondoggling is about

ABOUT FORTY-TWO MONTHS from now, in the year of Canada’s hundredth birthday, Expo '67, the biggest official world’s fair ever held in North America, will open in

Montreal. Or then again, it may not. The governments of Montreal, Quebec and Canada have promised that it will be the “most terrific” official world's fair since Queen Victoria opened the Crystal Palace exhibition in 1851; that it

will attract from thirty-five million to fifty million visitors; that it will be worth every penny of the six hundred million dollars it will cost. But such is the current state of plans that the most logical next step might be to call the whole

thing off. As Madcan's went to press, in fact, several advisors to Prime Minister I.ester Pearson were telling him to do just that. Pearson, at the time, appeared to be holding firm. The fair loomed as a political issue that might lose the Liberals their support in Quebec. But still nothing looks certain about the fair ever opening at all. Although Pearson has indicated he will brook no delay, his advisers may yet change his mind.

This is no laughing matter. The prestige of the country is involved in the circus on the St. Lawrence. Up to now', within Canada, people have talked about the “Montreal fair," and although Ottawa and all the provinces have agreed to participate, Canadians outside Quebec have little knowledge about the project and less enthusiasm.

But it was Canada not Montreal. that applied successfully for the fair to the International Bureau of Exhibitions in Paris. If the fair flops, the flop will be what the world remembers about Canada in 1967.

Every Canadian taxpayer, through the federal government, has already started to put money into Expo ’67. Artificial islands are taking shape in the middle of the St. Lawrence River, the nucleus of a two-thousand-acre expanse of island - and - river fairground that could be the most spectacular exhibition site in history. The project has made a shaky start. The first commissioner general of the fair and his deputy have resigned because of bickering and power plays by governments. Here, and on the next four pages is a report on what’s gone wrong — and right — thus far, and how Canadian cartoonists envision the fair in 1967,

The cost:


How the fair’s price tag has risen from $40 million to more than $600 million

NO MATTER HOW MUC H C ASH Canada's 1967 world's lair gets, it seems to howl for more. Its original price tag was forty million dollars. To meet it, John Diefenhaker's government pledged twenty million dollars. Premier Jean I.esage in Quebec pledged fifteen million dollars. T he city of Montreal pledged five million dollars. No world’s fair in history had started with such a magnificent pot. But by this August, the estimated cost had reached six hundred million dollars. The federal government had raised its ante to seventy million dollars. Montreal was frowning over sitedevelopment costs of more than ten million dollars. The provincial government was trying to figure out how it would find one hundred million dollars for its share of a $175 million expressway to the site of the exhibition.

The six hundred million dollar figure includes all government and private investment related to the fair. But all of it, with the exception of about seventy-five million dollars to be spent by foreign exhibitors, will have to come from Canada — more than five hundred million dollars. The St. Lawrence

Seaway cost Canada and the United States only $458 million.

These new facts about cost have come to light at a bad time. The city of Montreal has been borrowing heavily in the past year to finance its $188 million subway. The Paris-style “metro” was supposed to cost $132 million but an underriver extension to the site of the fair and the South Shore mainland have upped the price. Expo ’67 officials have told Mayor Drapeau flatly that no subway in 1967 means no fair. The quarter-mile steel bridge — another eight million dollars — which will link the island site to Montreal harbor won't be able to handle the estimated four hundred thousand visitors a day.

Taxpayers in other parts of Canada have already started grumbling about contributions to the “Montreal fair.” The Toronto Globe and Mail has said that “Canada cannot be expected to underwrite wild extravagances — Canada cannot be expected to provide to Quebec, under the guise of fair costs, services which Quebec should provide for itself.”

The amount required for the fair is so large that Expo planners have hired economists to calculate its effect on the national and local economy. What happens when you inject six hundred million dollars

into a single city in less than four years? What happens to interest rates in New York when three governments in Canada, civic, provincial and federal, are trying to borrow money for fair expenses? In particular, what will happen to Montreal in 1968? After the ball is over, how do you avoid a slump?

Men may turn out to be an even bigger problem than money. The world’s fair corporation has discovered that the layer of executive talent in Canada is thin indeed and even thinner when you look for bilingual executives. As a result, a number of top jobs in the corporation are held by retired executives who might not even be around in 1967. The bilingual character of the corporation has forced it to recruit most of its employees within the borders of Quebec. And to add to the problem, the two top men hired first, Commissioner-General Paul Bienvenu and his deputy C. F. Carsley, have both walked out in a huff over politics.

By Oct. 1, 1965, when the fair is scheduled to move into the construction phase, men at every level will be in short supply. Contractors building Canadian and foreign pavilions on the site will be bidding for labor against others involved in vast highway, hotel, motel and apartment-block construction in the region. The new headquarters of Radio-Canada (the CBC) in east-end Montreal, not to mention the subway, will soak up hundreds of building workers.

One of the first outside consultants hired by the corporation to draw up a timetable came back with a somewhat discouraging report. He announced that the fair could easily open — in 1969. The schedule was based on times normally required for large government projects. “Nothing but extraordinary measures will get the fair in shape by the spring of 1967,” says Claude Robillard. its director of planning.

One extraordinary measure already taken has been the hiring of a thirty-one-year-old French Canadian named Maurice Houle as a

“scientific management consultant.” j Houle is drawing up a complete “electronic timetable” of all work involved in the exhibition, using “critical path” planning pioneered [ by U. S. navy experts building Polaris missiles and nuclear submarines. He has already gathered a detailed computer-card dossier on the exhibition. When these cards are fed into computers, the result is a complete picture of work in progress and warnings about “critical deadlines.” So far, Houle has discovered no fewer than fifteen thousand distinct “tasks” which have to be finished before the fairopens in forty-two months. He won't say how many have been finished by now.

The competition:

The States may have two “world’s fairs” almost at the same time as Canada’s

ON THE SURFACE, planners of Expo ’67 have a holicr-than-them attitude to what is happening on 646 acres of Flushing Meadows Park, where the New York World’s Fair will open in April 1964 for a two-year run. Apart from being “commercial,” they point out, the New York Fair is not even recognized by the International Bureau of Exhibitions, which does recognize Montreal's.

But their loftiness fails to hide some annoyance. If the Americans were among the thirty nations belonging to the IBE, they could be competed with evenly. But as it is, any American any time can decide to hold a “world’s fair” and damn the competition. There arc now reports that the city of Long Beach, Calif., is planning a four hundred million dollar “world’s


fair” of its own for 1967 — the year especially reserved for Canada by the 1BE.

Still, it's New York that bears the brunt of the Canadians’ annoyance. The federal government has turned its back on a million-dollar Canadian pavilion included in the original New York plans. The only large Canadian corporation with any plans to go there is the CPR. which will take part in a transportation exhibit. (A few other IBEmember countries, among them Britain, France and Russia, are also boycotting New York.) Robert Moses, president of the New York fair corporation, has cited Canada’s failure to participate as an example of the “recent deterioration of friendship” between Canada and the U. S.

If it eases Canadian consciences any, Canada is at least going to have the better fair — if it has one at all. The official theme of the New York event is “Peace Through Understanding,” and the way Moses

interprets it — “the achievement of man in an expanding universe and a shrinking‘globe” — sounds like a mirror version of the Expo ’67 theme, “Terre des Hommes, Man and his World.” But the New York fair is obviously designed much more to show off American business than as the kind of international exhibition planned for Montreal. New York's pavilions include some named the Better Living Building, the Pool of Industry Fountains, Formica Hilltop House, and Simmons Beautyrest Centre. No central authority dictates the planning of the New York fair; the exhibitors may put up any sort of architectural form they like. This may make it a little easier to sell to exhibitors than the Expo '67 plan, which is to play down national and business competition and stress international co-operation.

As far as attendance goes, though, the New York fair will probably prove as much help as hindrance. New York's may simply whet

appetites for our show. In any case, success or failure for Expo '67 will depend to a large extent on how it's regarded in and around

Montreal. At Brussels in 1958, a third of attendance was made up of local citizens. Brussels is roughly the same size as Montreal.


The next step:


Even if we have a project where are we going to get all the men to peddle it?


of Montreal's largest advertising agencies there is a battered upright piano. Its keys are stained with the sweat, tears and hot cigarettes of a French-Canadian adman whose jingles, in both languages, have made him Canada's most widely performed totally unknown composer. Today his name is more secret than ever. Only a handful of people know' that the piano and its player are in the throes of monumental composition. They are creating a musical theme for Expo '67.

No one has yet heard the words or the music. But you will, don’t worry — on radio and television and in movie houses in Canada and around the world. Children will whistle it as they work on their Expo coloring books. Adults will hum it as they light up with Expo matches and fill Expo ashtrays.

The song will be a small part of the biggest sales pitch in Canadian history, a drive that already has started. Canadian ambassadors and consuls in all parts of the globe have delivered formal invitations to take part in the fair to foreign governments and two have ac-

cepted: Britain with parental pride and Belgium because it held the last “first category” exhibition in 1958 and seconded Canada’s application for the 1967 edition. Canadian World Exhibition Corporation claims that at least forty nations have submitted “serious queries” about participation. The official prediction up until now' has been that fourteen or more countries will have signed on the dotted line before the end of the year.

But agreements to take part in an exhibition are easily come by, and sometimes as easily forgotten. France backed out of the 1964-65 fair in New York even as workmen broke ground for her pavilion. Officials of the Montreal exhibition won’t breathe easily until foreign pavilions are standing on their man-made islands in the middle of the St. Lawrence River.

The hard sell will hit foreign nations next year, but, while Canada has been dithering around wondering whether or not there'll even be a fair prospective exhibitors, both nations and business corporations, are beginning to bombard Expo officials with specific queries: What type of space is available? Will they be allowed to sell goods on the site? Up to now, no one has been able to provide answers. Expo planners have been occupied fully in trying to answer the question that still looms over all others: What kind of exhibition is Canada going to have?

The job of directing visitors, as well as exhibitors, to Montreal in 1967 is already occupying some of the best advertising and publicrelations brains in the country. A veteran Montreal public relations man, Guy Beaudry, the directorgeneral of information for the exhibition, has brought together agency men, government and business publicity executives ;nto an “idea committee.”

The first Expo ’67 poster is at the printers and more than two million copies of an initial mailing folder w'ill be sent soon to travel agents, railways, airlines and shipping companies in all major countries. The folder, like most publicity material, will be published in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian.

An Expo emblem has been selected and a special study is under way to determine what gives a fair “appeal” for women because, as Beaudry says, “women decide where men will go.” An American firm has been hired to survey the numbers and needs of prospective visitors, particularly those in the United States. And right now the committee is searching for slogans.

The site:


Jean Drapeau has had his way. Canada, of all places, is going to have more land

CANADA MAY BE SHORT of people, money, industry and opera houses, but it docs have plenty of extra land. Agreed? Not by the planners of our 1967 world's fair, who are creating more than three hundred new acres.

Doing it will cost more than ten million dollars. It will mean dredging up twenty-two million cubic yards of muck from the bed of the St. Lawrence River and quarrying a million cubic yards of rock for dikes. The federal government will have to construct an eight-to-ten million dollar “ice boom” across the St. Lawrence to protect the artificial islands. Bridges over the river, subways under it and ferries on it will be required to transport visitors to the site.

In return, though, Canada could have the most spectacular fairground the world has ever seen.

Here is what it could be like in April 1967, the month the fair is supposed — by some — to open. . .

Were driving to the fair along the new waterfront expressway just west of Montreal harbor. A few years ago, this was wasteland filled with rubbish, railway tracks and the redolent outbuildings of slaugh-

ter houses. Today it is a six-lane highway connected directly to the trans-island Metropolitan Boulevard and ending in a vast world's fair parking lot. Near the parking area rises a new stadium built by a large Canadian brewery. Now it is filled with world’s fair activities. Next year, it will be the new home of the Montreal Alouettes.

Special buses carry us from the parking lot to one of the main failentrances. Immediately beyond the gates is the exhibition’s administration building. The bus leaves us near the building and we are standing before the main Canadian government exhibition centre. It is a modern structure with patios leading up to the water’s edge. Near the shore, nozzles jutting up from the bed of the St. Lawrence River throw waterspouts high into the air — an awesome fountain with one of the world’s greatest rivers serving as its basin.

Standing on the shore near the new bridge to Ile Ste Hélène, we can look across the water at the foreign pavilions constructed on an artificial extension of the island. In the spring sunlight, the pavilions seem to hover above the surface of the river. The water is streaked with the wakes of ferries and small pleasure craft shuttling visitors between the Canadian building on the Island of Montreal and the foreign pavilions on Ile Ste Hélène.

More exhibition buildings rise from another artificial island, He Notre Dame, on the far side of Ile Ste Hélène. Three small bridges link together the two islands but there is also a great deal of water traffic in the narrow channel. Each island is criss-crossed by a network of canals and visitors can travel by water between exhibition buildings when they tire of walking. On He Notre Dame, the canal system is fed by pumps at the upstream end so that a steady current carries small boats effortlessly through the ex!i ib ition grou nds.

The decision to hold the fair on artificial islands belongs to Mayor Jean Drapeau. Most Montreal planners and architects were in favor of demolishing a downtown slum area and building a new “city within a city” for the exhibition. This would have meant convincing many foreign exhibitors to construct buildings that could become permanent downtown structures after 1967. Drapeau bulldozed his idea through all opposition. Again at the last moment, there was talk


of changing the site to still a third place, but Drapeau had won at least the first round.

While the arguments about sites were going on, there was great enthusiasm for the idea of holding a truly international exhibition, possibly with no national pavilions at all. Nations were supposed to rise above narrow, beat-the-Joneses competition to co-operate in international and cultural pavilions. But the idia, unfortunately, is probably ahead of its time; it's still a little too soon to ask the United States and Russia to stage a joint exhibit of, say, ways of getting to the moon and this general idea has been partly abandoned. The organizers still hope to present some

international pavilions. Canadian doctors have made some headway in their efforts to promote an international health pavilion involving many countries and private firms. The planners have also drawn up an ambitious vertical - horizontal plan for some exhibition buildings. According to this idea, exhibits would be grouped horizontally by theme and vertically by nations.

This concentration on the more high-toned kind of exhibit isn’t quite as impractical as it might seem at first glance. These exhibits are, in fact, the best draws at most fairs. Students of exhibitions have heen noting since Chicago’s Century of Progress in 1933-34 that ferris wheels, burlesque shows and

six-legged cows no longer attract much attention at world's fairs. The top exhibit at Chicago was an eight-acre Hall of Science; it outdrcw the most popular concessions, including the girlie shows, on the midway by thirty to one.

The problem of creating the land on which to hold these exhibits, if that is what the fair's planners eventually do, falls into three sections: raising the level of lie Ronde at the east end of 11c Ste Hélène; building up marshland now called lie Verte at the west end of Ste Hélène; and creating the brand-new He Notre Dame from nearby swampland bordering the Seaway dike.

The least important area, ac-

cording to Claude Robillard, the fair's director of planning, is lie Ronde. It is too far from the planned bridge, which will hit lie Verte, and its view of downtown Montreal is obscured by Jacques Cartier Bridge. Part of He Ronde, in fact, squats directly under the bridge, presenting a vista of steel girders, warehouses, smokestacks, refinery towers and other architectural wonders of the city’s east end. Some people believe the fair doesn't need it at all. But it was Ile Ronde where the city started work last summer and where Prime Minister Pearson, Premier Lesage and Mayor Drapeau ceremonially drove bulldozers last August at a sod-turning ceremony. ★