And she had reason to celebrate. Not only did Plante get re-elected Mayor of Montreal with a higher percentage of the vote than she got in 2017, her party Projet Montréal increased its seat count in City Council by three. Projet will now control 11 of the city’s 19 boroughs as well.
“Montrealers confirmed 2017 was not a fluke,” Plante said in her victory speech, “but the beginning of an era … and that you can lead the city of Montreal with a smile.”
Projet’s Incumbent Re-Election Streak Continues
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that when a Projet candidate wins a new council seat or borough mayorship, they generally get re-elected. The only time this doesn’t seem to work is when they switch parties before running in the next election (former leader Richard Bergeron, anyone?). That incumbent re-election streak continued, for the most part, last night, and now we can add Mayor of Montreal to the positions it encompasses.
Projet’s dominance in the Plateau, Rosemont and Sud-Ouest continues for the third (and fourth, in the case of the first two boroughs mentioned) election in a row. And now Verdun is squarely in the Projet column (Antoine Richard, Borough Mayor candidate for Denis Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, and his recent sketchy real estate dealings may have played some part in that).
Outremont, on the other hand, goes against this incumbency narrative with Projet only retaining one of the two Borough Council seats they won in 2017 and incumbent Borough Mayor Philipe Tomlinson of Projet losing to Ensemble’s Laurent Desbois. It’s by only 23 votes, so there will probably be a recount.
The Montgomery/Plante Saga is Over (Maybe) and CDN/NDG Makes History
Montreal’s most populous borough, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (CDN-NDG) had become the most controversial and most difficult to call. Sue Montgomery was elected Borough Mayor under the Projet banner in 2017, but after a very public booting from the Projet caucus and subsequent court cases, she formed her own borough-specific party Courage to run to keep the same job.
Projet nominated Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, the first black woman Administration Council of the Ordre des infirmières du Québec, as their candidate to replace her. Meanwhile, former interim opposition leader (when Coderre was in the private sector) Lionel Perez became the Ensemble candidate for the job.
At first, on Election Night, it looked like Perez had won. Several networks and other media outlets even called the race for him. But then on Monday morning, as the final votes were being counted, his lead started to shrink and just before noon, Kasoki Katahwa was declared the winner by just 83 votes, making history as the first Black woman elected to a mayorship in Montreal.
Projet had re-won the control it got in the borough in 2017. Peter McQueen was handily re-elected to his fourth consecutive mandate as City Councilor for NDG and Magda Popeanu to her third in CDN. Despina Sourias won her first mandate in Loyola, but the party’s second in that district (Christian Arseneault had won Loyola as the Projet candidate in 2013 before leaving the party and withdrawing from the election).
With Borough Mayor, Projet continued its incumbent re-election streak. Plante found out about Kasoki Katahwa’s win during a press conference, delcaring “CDN-NDG, we’re coming home!” and added that the party’s plan for the borough had been “interrupted” last mandate.
As for Montgomery, she finished fourth in the Borough Mayor race behind Kashoki Katahwa, Perez and Matthew Kerr, candidate for Balarama Holness’ Mouvement Montréal party. None of the Courage candidates were elected.
If you add Montgomery’s votes (3087) to Kashoki Katahwa’s (11 940), you get 15 027, which is close to the 14 463 votes Plante got in CDN-NDG for Mayor of Montreal. So most of those who voted Montgomery at the Borough Mayor level probably also voted Plante at the City Mayor level, meaning Montgomery could have been a spoiler for Perez if 84 people had stayed home.
But that didn’t happen. And now CDN-NDG has made history.
Coderre, Montrealers Just Aren’t That Into You
While Plante said this vote proved Projet’s victory four years ago wasn’t a fluke, it also proved that Montreal voters rejecting Denis Coderre in 2017 wasn’t just a momentary case of bad election timing following the disaster of the Formula-e, but rather a rejection of his whole arrogant tenure as Mayor.
The pit bull ban, the fake granite tree stumps, abusing his power as Ville-Marie Borough Mayor to block car sharing (even though people in the borough had resoundingly voted for other people for Mayor and the destruction of nightlife. And that’s just the old 2017 Coderre.
The new 2021 Denis Coderre, who claimed to have learned from his mistakes, made a slew of new ones during the campaign. There was the promise of skyscrapers taller than the Mountain, the pledge to put the John A. MacDonald statue back in Place du Canada and the plan to ban drinking in parks after 8pm…all of which he backtracked on.
And then there was the Verdun Borough Mayor candidate who had been engaging in sketchy, though not technically illeagal, practices as a real estate agent but Coderre kept on his ticket. Plus the revelation that Coderre himself was on the payroll of reno-victing giant Cogir during his four-year break from politics.
Coderre always saw Montreal Mayor as a consolation prize and one he was entitled to. After being a Cabinet Minister and then ceding Federal Liberal leadership to Justin Trudeau, he should at least have this.
Dirty politics and Montreal have always gone hand-in-hand, that wasn’t going to change in the long run. This random chick from Abitibi got lucky, but things would soon be back to normal.
He wasn’t really trying. Not when he was Mayor and not during this campaign. The arrogance and entitlement were palpable. Until it was too late.
If Coderre stays on as Leader of the Opposition this time, I’ll be stunned. If he doesn’t but tries to run again next time, I’ll be less stunned. If he does that and his party accepts him back, well, the loss is really on them.
By now, I hope Denis Coderre realizes that Montreal is not a consolation prize and that Montrealers, or at least Montreal voters, really aren’t that into him. And that the only fluke was when Mélanie Joly split the progressive and anti-establishment vote in 2013 and he won.
Balarama Holness Says He’s Here to Stay
Speaking of Joly and vote-splitting then jumping to Federal politics, that’s exactly what I suspected Balarama Holness might be after. However, now that the dust has settled, I realize that the Mouvement Montréal leader didn’t end up being a spoiler for either Coderre or Plante.
Also, his co-candidate was Idil Issa in Peter-McGill, the same district Joly should have picked for hers if she had wanted to stay in municipal politics. If your co-candidate wins their council seat but you aren’t elected Mayor, you get to take their seat.
While Joly’s candidate in Peter-McGill did win, she had placed her co-candidate in NDG against the heavily-favoured McQueen, ensuring there was nothing holding her back from a Federal run if she didn’t get the top job in the city. Holness, on the other hand, chose a running-mate in a district where she had a shot.
Unfortunately, neither Issa nor any other Ensemble candidate won a seat. It wasn’t the best first outing for a new party vote-wise, but they and Holness did impress me by bringing some new ideas to the table such as the City-State and defunding the police. Overall, he helped push Plante and Projet closer to their base (something they probably would have done on their own, but he helped).
Holness says he plans to stay in Montreal and I welcome that decision. His biggest critique of Plante and Projet wasn’t the direction they wanted to head in, but that they weren’t getting there fast enough.
With four years to build his party and critique City Hall from the sidelines of power while growing stronger roots in various communities, he could have a much stronger showing next time. He’s already got the debating chops and the ideas, his party just needs to work on their ground game and get-out-the-vote.
The real winner this year is Montreal. Not only did we dodge the Coderre bullet (that would have been a disaster, and one we already experienced at that), but we decided to make the major political shift of 2017 stick and continue, at least for another four years. We’re not going back to business-as-usual.
Yes, that’s an odd thing to say when we’re talking about a slew of incumbent victories, but the business-as-usual I’m referring to is the way the city operated for decades leading up to 2017. Four years ago we rejected the cronyism, corporatism and paternalism that has governed our city since before I was born. The faces changed, the direction didn’t.
Four years ago we opted for an approach that emphasizes affordable, livable communities, ecologically sustainable development and international participation on our terms, not on our dime. Did Plante and Projet get everything right? No. Especially when it came to diversity and use of the police.
But they have taken steps to improve and fix their mistakes and are still headed on the same path. And Montrealers decided to vote for another four years on that path instead of regressing, And for that reason, Montreal is the real winner of the election.
As Plante said, it wasn’t a fluke, but the beginning of an era.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney just watched the English Debate between Valérie Plante, Denis Coderre and Balarama Holness and share their thoughts on it and the 2021 Montreal Municipal Election (November 6th and 7th)
Is it that time again? We’ll, at the time of writing this, not for a few months. The 2021 Montreal Municipal Election is on November 7th, but the campaigning has already begun.
So, with that in mind, we’re launching our 2021 Montreal Municipal Election Poll. And the focus of the poll is the Mayoral race.
We’re making all declared candidates for Mayor of Montreal choices and will be adding new candidates if and when they join. So yes, you can switch your vote right up until the poll closes on November 5th at midnight.
We’ve also added an Undecided category as well as None of the Above. If you make up your mind later, or a new candidate piques your interest, please feel free to change your vote.
If you’re planning on voting for a City Councilor or Borough Mayor from a different party than your choice for Mayor of Montreal, that would be a split ticket in the actual election, but not here. This vote is only for the city-wide Mayor.
The winner of this poll gets the official endorsement of FTB readers and a post to announce it. While we do these polls for all elections where Montrealers can vote (Municipal, Provincial, Federal) and even some where most of them can’t (US Primaries), the 2017 Montreal Municipal Election Poll was the first time FTB readers selected the same candidate that the general electorate did.
So have your say below (or in the sidebar of any page on this site):
We didn’t hear all that much about Montreal municipal politics in 2020. Plenty was happening on the local front, but with COVID-19 raging for most of the year, our focus remained on the response.
Yes, our city administration did play a part in that response, but it was mostly limited to initiatives to cope with what was happening. The big picture stuff like what money is coming to bail individuals out and whether or not we are on lockdown and what that means were the perview of our Federal and Provincial governments respectively.
Throw the political madness south of the border into the mix and our local politics just got buried, for the most part. It looked like that would change in 2021, but almost right out of the gate we got a curfew across Quebec and a failed (but still ongoing) coup attempt in the US.
This year, though, is an election year in Montreal, so the local political scene will undoubted come to the forefront, whether world events want it to or not. I spoke with Niall Clapham-Ricardo about the upcoming election in the latest FTB Fridays and one thing that became clear was that this was Valérie Plante’s election to lose.
Who is the Opposition?
While Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and her party Projet Montréal suffered some setbacks in 2020 and did some things that really annoyed even some die-hard supporters, their opposition is divided. She is running opposed by many, but at the same time running pretty much unapposed.
The primary and Official Opposition in City Hall is Ensemble Montréal, formerly known as Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal. Lionel Perez is their interim leader.
And by interim, I mean he’s not running for Mayor of Montreal against Plante. At this point, no one is.
There are rumours that Denis Coderre might try for another kick at the can in 2021, something the former mayor hasn’t ruled out and even hinted at. If he does go for it, he will undoubtedly be able to retake the reigns of the party created for him.
This could explain why Ensemble has waited this long to pick his replacement. If Coderre decides not to run, though, they might find themselves scrambling to find a new standard bearer to challenge Plante.
If the former mayor is in, though, the fact that he chose to stay on the sidelines for four years will undoubtedly be a factor, as will stuff that he did as mayor before losing. The 2017 election was as much a repudiation of Coderre’s pit bull ban, his handling of the Formula E race and his general demeanor as mayor as it was a vote for Plante.
Meanwhile in Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery is starting her own party. Originally elected under the Projet banner, Plante kicked Montgomery out of the party’s caucus for refusing to fire her Chief-of-Staff earlier last year.
Montgomery recently won a court case against the city and my colleague Samantha spoke with her last week about the decision and the political situation in the borough. It’s important to note that while they’re not against branching out, Montgomery’s new party will currently only be running candidates within the borough (same with the upstart CDN-NDG party which has no affiliation with Montgomery’s organization).
CDN-NDG is the city’s most populous borough, and while losing ground there will almost certainly affect Projet’s control of City Council, there is still no direct challenge to Plante’s leadership coming from the borough. That is unless you count Ensemble Interim Leader Perez, who I don’t.
As for other potential challengers to Plante, some have floated David Heurtel’s name as a potential candidate, but it looks like the former Quebec Immigration Minister is waiting to see if Coderre is in or out before going for Ensemble leadership.
Meanwhile, former Montreal Allouettes player and former Projet candidate for Borough Mayor of Montréal-Nord Balarama Holness is considering a run for the city’s top job, but hasn’t said with which party.
Even former Projet councillor Guillaume Lavoie, who lost a leadership bid to Plante in 2017, is considering running. Some speculate he is looking to take the reigns of Mélanie Joly’s former party Vrai changement Montréal.\
Currently, there is only one declared candiate to unseat Plante as Mayor of Montreal: Félix-Antoine Joli-Coeur, who has previously counselled former Mayor Gérald Tremblay and former Quebec Premier Pauline Marois. This will undoubtedly change, but whether or not they sign up with enough time for the voting public to get to know them remains to be seen.
So, this election is shaping up to be all about Plante. With that in mind, let’s look at how that could play out electorally:
Haters Gonna Hate, Loyalists Gonna be Loyal
Even before the latest election season began, there were people predisposed to hate everything Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal might do. These are people who, for the most part, didn’t vote for them the last time, and certainly won’t vote for them this time.
They’re the type who will find any story that could be spun to show the current administration in a negative light and do just that. You had better believe they will be voting on election day and will likely coalesce behind the candidate and party that has the best chance of beating Plante and Projet, regardless of who that is.
On the other hand, Projet has its loyalists. People who have supported the party since Richard Bergeron was leader and continue to do so. For them, the party can do no wrong.
These two groups will presumably cancel each other out at the polls. So the decision then falls to two other groups:
Group 1: The Projet Machine
This is the smaller of the two groups, but potentially the most influential in the outcome. Voter turnout in municipal elections isn’t traditionally the greatest, so a dedicated group of people getting out the vote can be, and frequently is, the difference.
The Projet Machine is impressive, or at least it was when I last witnessed it in action on Election Day in 2017. Full disclosure, I not only supported and voted for Projet since it was formed, but also volunteered on the phone for the party for the past few elections.
I saw a well-organized, smart and motivated group of people. There were seasoned political professionals as well as people just giving all the time they could to help out.
The one thing they all had in common was dedication. Not to the Projet brand specifically, but to the progressive approach to city management it represented. To a new way of doing things.
While Plante and her party have lived up to many of their promises, they have also taken some decisions that could alienate a good chunk of their militant base. So the question becomes: How much of that base will stick with them?
While I see myself as part of this group, I can’t speak for it as a whole. What I can do is go over some of the things Plante and Projet have done that weaken my resolve to support them.
You won’t find blocking cars from taking a shortcut across the mountain, more bike paths, cancelling the Formula E contract or any of the measures like expanded terrasses and decreased traffic passed to encourage neighborhood tourism during a pandemic on this list. I strongly supported those initiatives and still do. This is what we voted for.
Here is where, IMHO, they screwed up:
Sending Riot Cops to a Homeless Encampment: While homelessness is a complex issue, going full authoritarian is never a good move. Instead of coming down personally to the tent city the homeless had built as a safe alternative to shelters in a time of COVID and demanding the Legault Government provide an adequate alternative, Mayor Plante sent in the riot cops.
Not Standing Up Forcefully Against Bill 21: This should have been a no-brainer. Montrealers oppose Bill 21 (aka the Religious Symbol Ban) by a wide margin. The current Quebec Government, which only won two seats on the Island of Montreal, wants to impose it to appease their rural base. While Plante said she is personally against it, she decided not to oppose and potentially block its implementation here.
Waiting Too Long to Appoint an Anti-Racism Commissioner: Ultimately this one turned out to be something Plante should be applauded for. Naming Bochra Manaï as the city’s first Anti-Racism Commissioner last week was a good move, and one that drew the ire of Premier Legault because Manaï had strongly opposed Bill 21 (apparently Legault had hoped someone from the SPVM would be appointed instead – really). The question remains, though: Why did Plante wait this long?
Changing Names: Now this one is a bit personal for me and may not resonate with other former Projet die-hards. Shutting down calls to rename Lionel-Groulx Metro after Oscar Peterson is one thing (and one that is arguably not the city’s call). Changing plans to rename a street after Daisy Sweeney is another (and one that is very much the city’s call). Randomly suggesting that the Griffintown REM stop be named after Bernard Landry and then doubling down on it speaks to a pattern: we don’t mess with history unless it pleases the majority.
Honestly, I’ll probably still vote for Plante again, because the alternative is probably worse. But it would take either a major shift in the administration responding to Quebec City (not on COVID, they don’t really have a choice) or other progressive priorities or the scary prospect of a Coderre victory to get me to volunteer again. Not sure, though, if they can bring the rest of the base back.
Group 2: The General Public
This is the group that doesn’t pay close attention to municipal politics for the most part of each four-year cycle. Their vote will be decided, most likely, in the weeks leading up to the election.
While a solid persuasion campaign, followed by a get-out-the-vote campaign is crucial, people first need to believe that they are voting in their best interest.
Plante is the name that they know. If they are reasonably satisfied with how things are going under her leadership, they will vote for her.
That is unless another name, say Coderre, comes down the pipe and convinces them otherwise. If the challenger is Coderre, then his legacy as Mayor comes into play as well.
Regardless of who it is, this is Plante’s election to lose, or win.
Host Jason C. McLean and special guest Niall Clapham-Ricardo discuss the 2021 Montreal Municipal Election and whether or not Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal can get back their militant base in time.
It’s been a tough year. A virus is killing people left and right, and Quebec is under curfew from 8 pm to 5 am every day in an attempt to curb its spread. Leaders have had to make tough choices, and that includes Côte-des-Neiges— Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough mayor Sue Montgomery.
In addition to running the borough through the pandemic, Montgomery has been dealing with issues with Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante that culminated in Montgomery’s expulsion from Plante’s party, Projet Montréal and her victory is Superior Court against the City of Montreal in December 2020. I had an opportunity to speak to Montgomery by phone about the pandemic and her recent legal victory.
We spoke just after Quebec had announced the curfew. When asked about the new rules, Montgomery pointed out that no one has ever been through a pandemic like this before. She spoke of how adherence to the new measures speaks to a broader sense of civic responsibility among the citizens of the borough.
“I understand the frustration with people…We’re all tired, we’d like get back to work, but the bottom line is that everyone has to do their bit,” she said, repeating the public health guidelines of hand-washing, mask wearing, and social distancing. “The sooner we all start doing that, the sooner we can get back to normal.”
As to what role the borough has in the implementation of public health guidelines, Montgomery points out that the province sets the rules and municipal governments are there to play a supportive role. The borough’s activities include supporting community organizations that help the less fortunate and vulnerable, mentioning the unemployed, elderly, and disabled. She noted that since the start of the pandemic, the demand at food banks has skyrocketed.
Montgomery mentioned that the unusual circumstances created by the pandemic have brought to light certain issues, such as the need for affordable housing to combat homelessness, and places for people to be able to relieve themselves with dignity, as safety measures have made it impossible for people to avail themselves of toilets in restaurants and cafes. The latter is not only a disability issue, but also a sanitation issue.
Regarding her recent Superior Court victory, Montgomery’s feelings are mixed: she’s thrilled at her win and she’s saddened by the fact they had to go through it.
For those of you who don’t know what led to Montgomery’s expulsion from Projet Montréal, here’s a quick summary:
Sue Montgomery was elected Borough Mayor of CDN-NDG in November 2017 as a member of Valérie Plante’s Projet Montréal. When she took office, she brought with her Annalisa Harris, her chief of staff.
Harris and the Borough Director, Stephane Plante (no relation to the mayor) clashed, with the latter claiming psychological harassment by the former. The City of Montreal ordered a report that they claimed confirmed psychological harassment by Harris of the Borough Director and Mayor Plante demanded that Montgomery fire her.
Montgomery refused, requesting to see the report first. The City of Montreal refused to provide it, and Montgomery refused to fire Harris without proof of misconduct.
In response, Plante kicked Montgomery out of her party. After numerous attempts to settle the dispute amicably, it ended up in court.
The Superior Court, presided over by Judge Bernard Synnott, ruled in Montgomery’s favor, confirming the claims of psychological harassment by Harris were bogus, but also affirming elected officials’ authority over bureaucrats like the Borough Director, and allowing her access to the aforementioned report.
The City of Montreal had until January 11, 2021 to appeal the decision, but there’s no news of them filing an appeal.
Despite every road block, Montgomery is positive about all she’s been able to accomplish. As for Plante’s role in the events leading up to the legal decision, Montgomery has some choice words:
“Had Valérie Plante done her job from the get-go and read this report about so-called harassment, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Because of this court procedure, I have now been able to get the report and there is nothing in there that could even be remotely considered psychological harassment. There’s been a lot of effort, a lot of money, a lot of drafts throughout this last year because Valérie Plante didn’t do her job… Valérie should have supported me the way I supported Annalisa. She preferred to not take a stand.”
Montgomery says she stood by Annalisa Harris because it was the right thing to do, and rightfully points out that to fire her without evidence would have been illegal under Quebec labor law. She feels she handled it as best she could. Montgomery gave Annalisa Harris a choice as to whether to fight the accusations or not because the borough mayor would not fire her, speaking highly of her chief of staff’s abilities.
Montgomery knows that the issues leading up to her victory in court will still need to be addressed but she is prepared to offer an olive branch to the City of Montreal and Mayor Plante. With the municipal elections in November 2021, Montgomery confirmed that she is running again and is creating a new party, though the name of it is still in the works.
Featured Image: Sue Montgomery running for CDN-NDG Borough Mayor in 2017 (photo by Samantha Gold)