Some Canadian cities like Ottawa have a sparkling 8 hectares per 1,000 residents. Toronto has 3.24, London England 2.7 while Montreal has a mere 1.2.
Thirty years ago* Montreal had 4,066 hectares of green space, which made for 1.8 hectares of green space per 1,000 people and the aim was to bump that up to to standard by adding 2,226 hectares but rather than increase, that number has declined by one third.
Some parts of town have more green space than others. Having ample green space in the West Island doesn't mean much if you live in Anjou. Montreal has opted to centralize its green space in places like Agrignon Park and Mount Royal. So those huge expanses skewer the numbers because if you don't live within easy access of those places, you're not likely to enjoy them and your green space ratio is likely far more grim.
Take my neighbourhood, known as the St. Raymond's parish of NDG. Bureaucrats like to pretend that this is part of the larger Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace, which encompasses a huge span of territory.
But in fact St. Raymond's parish is a sealed unit, bounded by a cliff, a railroad track, the Decarie expressway and Cavendish Boulevard. There are few ways in and out of this area, which measures about 40 hectares in size. The population of the area is about 6,000-8,000. So the math suggests we should have about 15 hectares of green space. But the area has about 1.5 hectares concentrated overwhelmingly in Oxford Park, about 10% of which was recently paved over inexplicably by Projet Montreal city councillor and purported friend of green spaces, Peter McQueen.
So my neighbourhood has only one-tenth of the green space which it should have just to reach the norms but rather than add to it, politicians like McQueen and many others are decreasing it.
In this case the green space was lost because the bureaucrats and politicians thought they should turn it into sports facilities, including a soccer field, a sport which has gobbled up a lot of green space from the public in recent years, most famously on Fletchers Field some time ago, although little seems to have been learned from that.
(The proliferation of these athletic facilities at the expense of green space has been justified by the laughable "midnight basketball" idea that it's impossible to rob banks and sell crack while you're playing basketball. But in fact if we want to advance the underclass, there are much better ways, for example, we could simply use that sports budget to pay them to join book clubs, rather than heap money on the creation of facilities that do nothing to advance them professionally or intellectually.)
Another paradox is that wealthy neighbourhoods have more green space than poor neighbourhoods, and yet those wealthy people already have a much greater access to backyards and country houses and other recreational advantages, so the distribution of parklands is socially unjust, weighted against the poor, of course.
A few propositions concerning green space policy: don't merely add to it, add to accessible green spaces that people can actually walk to easily. Adjust zoning to allow for much taller buildings, which will then shrink the urban land density footprint and allow more verdant space around buildings. And reduce the number of soccer fields and other athletic facilities which have been gobbling up green space.
*City short of local parks, study finds: by Ingrid Peritz. The Gazette [Montreal, Que] 24 Apr 1985: 3.