MONTREAL Parking is never a problem at Montreal-Mirabel International Airport, where entire days go by without a single passenger passing through the terminal. The granite floors are squeaky clean, the carpets look brand new, the aluminum trimmings are polished.
It must have made a handy set for Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta-Jones for their recent film "The Terminal." But as an airport, it is one of the great white elephants of aeronautics history - one that mirrors many of Montreal's - and Quebec Province's - growing pains.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau labeled the airport "a project for the 21st century" when his government promoted it in the late 1960s, viewing it as a tool to help Montreal develop into a global cultural and financial magnet.
But on Oct. 31 the final passenger flight - an Air Transit charter flight to Paris - will take off from its tarmac, and the terminal will be converted into a training center, or a casino, or a shopping center depending on the bids Aeroports de Montreal receives.
Bitter disputes between the federal government in Ottawa and a series of separatist provincial governments in Quebec City stymied the building of a high-speed rail link or even a superhighway to connect the airport to downtown Montreal.