Digital Kayak

A Legacy to Celebrate?

The former mayor's bleak vision may haunt us for a long time to come.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published November 08, 2007

Jack MacDonald, former mayor of Hamilton and long-time proponent of the Red Hill Valley Parkway, wants to have his ashes spread across the Parkway when he dies.

From Jack MacDonald's legacy, printed in the Hamilton Spectator on November 5:

The longest proponent of the Red Hill Valley Parkway wants his ashes spread across the four-lane highway.

Former mayor Jack MacDonald, who turned 80 last month, made the declaration this weekend at the official opening of the road he first moved to build five decades ago.

"It's been my life's work," he said, noting he's often wondered if he would live to see the road's completion. "I was afraid they'd have to spread my ashes in an open field."

It speaks volumes about MacDonald's mindset that his idea of an eternal resting place is to be blown about by the exhaust of traffic racing up and down the escarpment, his last bodily remnants scattered amidst discarded coffee cups, fast food wrappers, and scraps of blown truck tires.

His wish to be strewn across the highway also raises certain practical questions. How does he intend that it be carried out?

Will someone drive down the Parkway with an urn, sprinkling bits out of the window?

Or will there be a ceremony on an overpass that culminates with the dumping of his mortal remains onto the road? (Is that even safe?)

Will there ever be a time when a piece of roadside grit flies into a motorist's eye, and they wonder, "Was that a piece of Mayor MacDonald?"

I wasn't sure if MacDonald was serious, so I emailed the author of the piece, Nicole MacIntyre, to make sure he wasn't joking. He's serious, she says. "He views the road as his greatest accomplishment."

MacDonald's vision is from a very different time, namely, the 1950s. Given what we now know about the rising demand and limited supply of oil, and the clear and present danger of climate change: why are we, as a city, led by a fifty-year-old vision?

The road is built, and I am content to judge it on its merits. But I fear for Hamilton's future if this city is guided by visionaries who, after death, would rather be driven over by commuters than laid down to rest peacefully in an open field.

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz


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By jason (registered) | Posted November 08, 2007 at 22:14:25

sooner or later we'll slowly see a changing of the guard in the Hammer and have younger, more progressive folks leading the city into the future.

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By kevin (registered) | Posted November 09, 2007 at 09:24:09

Terry Cooke is a young man.

Jack's eternal reward will be appropriate.

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By Frank (registered) | Posted November 09, 2007 at 09:31:34

I tend to agree with Jason...

The highway is built so crying over spilled milk is, well, childish. There may have been better ways to get the trucks and immense amount of traffic which currently uses Hwy 20 up the escarpment but it's done now. Change #20's cross section, make it more pedestrian friendly and I can guarantee the vast number of people who live in the apartments in the surveys adjoining the #20 corridor (like me and thousands of others) will take Sunday afternoon walks down to the beach front. Right now? There's not even a sidewalk north of Barton! Not to mention the road sucks and it's imppossible to fix because of the volume of traffic. Oh, and the hideous buildings along the road need to get changed. As I was driving down it the other day I tried to find a nice building and couldn't find a single one. I did, however, feel sorry for the people who live between King and Queenston. It's nearly impossible to get out of your driveway unless you're going 60 as you leave it!

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By jason (registered) | Posted November 09, 2007 at 10:34:43

personally, I think Jack MacDonald's legacy is overseeing the demolition of the old Birks building and old city hall.

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