Critics say the city of Montreal is wasting millions on an ill-conceived plan to beautify Mount Royal with artistic benches.

In May Montreal City Council approved a $3.45 million deal to install short granite statues across the mountain, included in the Notre Dame des Neiges cemetery, around St. Joseph's Oratory, and the University of Montreal.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the work should be thought of as an extensive piece of public art, and not as park benches.

“It's a piece of art that will bring accessibility,” he said. “It's kind of useful, you can use it to take the time to look at the environment.”

Cote St. Luc councillor Dida Berku said that as a legacy project for Montreal's 375th anniversary, the sitting statues don't make much sense.

"Is it necessary to add granite tree stumps? Shouldn't we rather as a priority be using that money to create a real legacy for the future generations?" said Berku.

"A real legacy project is where you acquire greenspace for the future."

Opposition councillors say the installation is far too expensive, and unneeded.



Some of the 27 stumps will include maps of the mountain, while others will include artistic bronze elements.

One concern is that the cost of the granite in the winning bid was 27 per cent higher than the first estimate and that the granite itself costs 43 per cent more than the market price.

Only two companies bid on the project, with Amenagement Coté Jardin making the lowest bid.

Coderre said the project is justified.

“I look at it as an investment. It's not just the expense of the project itself, but look at the impact of investment that will come out for our citizens and Montreal as a city of design,” he said.

Les Amis de la Montagne likes the principle behind the project, but are disappointed they are not using rocks found on the mountain itself

“It's not necessarily in keeping with the tradition of landscaping in the mountain, but we'll live with it,” said Helene Panaioti, communications and public affairs director for the group.

The contract was approved by both city council, and by the Agglomeration council -- although every opposition councillor and every suburban mayor voted against it.

The project still requires the approval of the Quebec's Ministry of Culture.