Jason C. McLean and Special Guests Dawn McSweeney and Jerry Gabriel start with Quebec’s second curfew which begins on New Year’s Eve and then talk about some of the top news stories of 2021.
While dancing may only be officially allowed at indoor venues in Quebec starting on November 15th, last night Valérie Plante got the ball rolling early:
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.
As Montrealers head to the polls for the second day in a row (and the fourth nonconsecutive day if you count the advanced voting last weekend) to choose their next mayor, city council, borough councils and borough mayors, we’re announcing the results of our poll. FTB readers have, once again, chosen Valérie Plante of Projet Montréal as the next Mayor of Montreal.
The incumbent mayor handily won the poll with 313 votes, beating former mayor Denis Coderre’s 194 votes, which landed the Ensemble Montréal leader in second place. First-time contender Balarama Holness, who entered both the mayoral race and our poll later than the other two, finished third with 30 votes.
The other candidates for Mayor of Montreal barely registered, if they did at all. None of the Above and Undecided got 24 and 22 votes respectively.
These results are close, proportionally at least, to the most recent actual election polls. Also, FTB readers endorsed Plante in 2017 as well, making it the first time our largely progressive readership aligned with the actual results of an election (federal, provincial or municipal).
Will that be the case again tonight after all the votes have been counted? We’ll have to wait and see.
While I don’t pretend to know why people responding to our poll voted the way they did, I also voted for Plante and Projet Montréal and personally endorse both her and them. So I can at least offer a few reasons why, which could align with the thinking of FTB readers:
- With better environmental planning (including newer parks and green spaces which also facilitate walking around town), improved access to public transit and eliminating roadblocks to a happy society like police quotas, Plante and Projet had quite a few positive accomplishments over the past four years.
- Plante and Projet handled the COVID-19 pandemic response as well as any municipal government in Quebec could. While relief benefits to individuals and lockdowns were in the hands of the Federal and Provincial governments respectively, the city’s public health department’s contract tracing efforts helped curve the third wave and Montreal had lower numbers proportionally than other parts of Quebec. Plante also made a number of major streets pedestrian-only during the summer to help local restaurants and bars attract more local business with terrasses.
- While her administration had its flaws, which many people, including myself, have pointed out over the past four years, overall, they are headed in a more forward-thinking and progressive direction.
- Denis Coderre, the principal opponent, was (and would be) a disaster. Just remember the Formula-e, the pit bull ban and all that spending for the 375eme (tree stumps, etc.). Now factor in his work, when not in power, for a reno-viction giant and you know where his priorities will lie. While many have criticized (and rightly so) Plante’s approach to homelessness, a Coderre administration promises to create more homeless through reno-victions.
- While Balarama Holness has some good progressive ideas and wants to go further than Plante on some of what Projet has done and is proposing (his main criticism of the Mayor isn’t her ideas, but that she hasn’t made them all happen), he doesn’t seem to have the ground game to come close to winning and the prospect of four more years of Coderre is just too great a risk.
Well, that’s how I see it and how the majority of our readers responding to our poll voted, the real choice is up to Montrealers tonight. We’ll announce the winner and provide analysis in the next few days.
Featured Image via ProjetMontreal.org
If you haven’t already voted in the actual 2021 Montreal Municipal Election, you have until 8pm tonight. Find out where on the Elections Montreal website
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.
In just over two years, Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante have gone from the seemingly closest of teammates to not even being in the same party let alone the same page.
For those who don’t follow Montreal municipal politics that closely, it’s turning into quite the saga. Like the Star Wars prequels: just as much politics but with better dialogue and no CGI. Though it’s not blatantly obvious at this point who the Emperor is.
I’ll do by best to reacap:
The Story So Far
Two Fridays ago Plante kicked Montgomery out of the Projet Montréal caucus. Why? Montgomery refused to fire a member of her borough staff accused of psychological harassment of other borough employees despite the Comptroller General calling on her to do just that in a report.
The same evening Montgomery posted on Facebook that both she and Plante didn’t have enough evidence to warrant firing someone. She also stressed that she takes harassment very seriously and also made it clear she will continue as Borough Mayor as an independent (for now, though I’m not ruling out her joining another party at some point in the future).
The following Monday, the Plante Administration countered by releasing some of what they know and arguing there was enough evidence to warrant firing. The next day, Montgomery went on CJAD, reiterated her previous stance and said that “this is about silencing a whistleblower in my borough.”
Montgomery was saying that someone looking into irregularities of CDN/NDG funding versus that of other boroughs may have played a part in all of this. Was she implying that the harassment charge was a smokescreen? Was the employee accused of harassment the whistleblower?
I’m not really sure. What I do know is that people are taking sides.
This past Monday, a large and vocal contingent of Montgomery supporters showed up at the Borough Council meeting, where Montgomery effectively called the Comptroller General’s report BS. The three Projet councillors in the Borough, though, were singing a different tune.
Peter McQueen (NDG), Magda Popeanu (CDN) and Christian Arseneault (Loyola) held a press conference before the meeting where they argued that Montgomery was on a “personal crusade” that made it difficult to get actual borough work done. It seems like the two CDN/NDG opposition councillors Marvin Rotrand and Lionel Perez are on the same page as their local Projet colleagues on this matter.
On Tuesday, Plante said, in a statement, that she would be violating Canada’s Privacy Act if she released a confidential labour report, adding: “It is high time Ms. Montgomery stops fabricating stories and creating alternative facts.”
It’s a good time to let you know that I am a longtime Projet supporter and even volunteered in NDG/CDN for a day on the phones to help get out the vote for both Plante and Montgomery. As such, I’m not going to take sides, at least not in this piece.
Instead, I’m going to try and figure out how this will affect the next Montreal Municipal Election, which happens in just under two years time. And, no, I’m not going
CDN/NDG Isn’t the Plateau
Last year longtime Plateau Borough Mayor Luc Ferrandez quit not only his and Plante’s party, but his job as well. Projet didnt miss a beat, replacing him in a by-election, with another guy named Luc to boot.
That’s the Plateau, a borough where Projet won all the City Council and Borough Council seats plus the mayorship three elections in a row. CDN/NDG is a different story.
In 2009 only McQueen won a council seat under the Projet banner. Popeanu joined him in 2013, giving the party a larger presence on the council, but not control of it.
It wasn’t until the 2017 election, when Arseneault and Montgomery won, that Projet held a majority of the council and the mayorship, effectively giving the party control of the borough. Maintaining or building on that lead wasn’t a sure thing with Montgomery on board and becomes an even more uncertain prospect with a different candidate.
In short, giving up control of the most populous borough in the city on purpose two years after you finally got it is not politically expedient in the slightest. Plante either seriously miscalculated (unlikely) or really felt like she had no choice.
Running Without the Team
Montgomery, I suspect, also truly felt like she had no choice. Either that or thought she was calling the Mayor’s bluff by refusing to fire her staffer.
She must know that getting elected to another term will be considerably more difficult without the party apparatus and volunteer base that helped her win the first time around. Not to mention popular councillors like McQueen urging his constituents to check her box as well.
Even if she thought the Plante brand was tarnished in CDN-NDG, being on the same ticket wouldn’t hurt her chances of winning, as people frequently don’t vote along party lines in every box. Going it alone will.
And she will, most likely, be going it alone. Given what Perez, one of the two opposition councillors in CDN-NDG and interim leader of Ensemble Montréal (the former Équipe Denis Coderre) had to say about her, it’s doubtful the Official Opposition would welcome her with open arms (I predict they’ll run Perez as CDN-NDG Borough Mayor, he’s had the job before).
Yes, Montgomery was a public figure with name recognition before the last election and she does have supporters that will board a bus to cheer for her. The question is whether or not they will also canvas, call and get out the vote for her the way the Projet team did and would have done again.
Not Easy to Predict
While people are taking sides now, many had already taken them well before the last election. Projet supporters in the borough will most likely back Plante, the council candidates and whomever they run as Borough Mayor. Newer converts who came into the Projet fold thanks largely to Montgomery, may not.
Projet haters, though, may not latch onto Montgomery, especially if she is running against both her former party and the Official Opposition. She did get elected supporting the Projet platform, which is what most of the party’s haters hate, and her departure from the party had nothing to do with her shifting in policy .
Sure, she could change her tune, but that would seem opportunistic at best and probably wouldn’t help her much. Winning re-election is now a longshot for her, though not an impossible one.
Undoubtedly, Montgomery running again as an independent with a similar platform as that of her former party will hurt Projet’s chances of re-establishing control of the borough. It may, though, benefit the opposition more than it will her.
Plante’s best move right now would be to announce a project or immediate improvement in the borough alongside her city councillors. Something you need the Mayor of Montreal to authorize like more 105 buses.
In the long run, her best move is to pick a Borough Mayor candidate at least as strong as Montgomery was and hope for and work for the best.
This saga isn’t over yet.
Montreal politics in the 2010s saw quite a bit of change, followed by more change. The city had five mayors in ten years.
The decade kicked off with the final two years of Gérald Tremblay’s twelve year reign as Mayor. By November 2012, though, the Quebec corruption scandal had engulfed many of his closest associates, meaning he had to resign before his term was up.
While Tremblay may have avoided any personal repercussions for the crooked business-as-usual approach Montreal and Quebec were famous for, his successor Michael Applebaum wasn’t so lucky. Applebaum was arrested at City Hall just over seven months into his term as Interim Mayor and was subsequently (March 2017) sentenced to a year in prison March for bribery and extortion that happened when he was Borough Mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
Enter Laurent Blanchard, temporary replacement mayor for the temporary replacement mayor. He had one job: not get arrested for six months until the election and he pulled it off! Great job M. Blanchard.
2013: Time for Change?
The stage was set for 2013. In one corner, former Liberal Cabinet Minister Denis Coderre leading the cleverly named Équipe Denis Coderre, a group largely comprised of former team Tremblay members (the ones who weren’t arrested). In the other, Projet Montréal, still led by its founder Richard Bergeron.
That was the case until political upstart Mélanie Joly entered the fray with her newly formed Vrai changement pour Montréal party. Joly’s energy and political skill helped her overcome accusations that she was only using this run as a springboard to federal politics and that it was all about her, not her team.
She finished second to Coderre in the mayoral race, only six points down, but her party was fourth in the seat count, way behind Coderre’s team and Projet Montréal and also with less representation than Marcel Côté’s Coalition Montréal. Joly quit municipal politics shortly thereafter and ran federally for the Liberals two years later. She is currently our Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie.
As for Projet, they held the Plateau and Rosemont boroughs and made significant gains elsewhere, most notably taking all but the Borough Mayor’s seat in the Sud Ouest (until Benoit Dorais eventually decided to join his councillors).
Denis “Cut the Mic” Coderre
For the next four years, though, Denis Coderre was running the table. And he had no problem reminding everyone of that fact whenever he felt he needed to or just wanted to:
- Car sharing service downtown? Use the power the Mayor has as the defacto Bourough Mayor of Ville Marie to block it and admit it’s because of personal support from the taxi industry.
- Montreal’s turning 375? Time to spend a ton of money on random stuff like granite tree stumps and a national anthem for a borough where support for the administration is strong.
- A dog (that wasn’t a pit bull) attacks someone? Ban all pit bulls.
- Someone brings up valid points about the pit bull ban? “Cut the mic!“
- Flooding in the West Island? Pull rescue workers off the job for a photo op.
- Opposing federal party installs a community mailbox? Personally take a jackhammer to it. (Okay, that one was kinda cool)
- Formula E organizers want the race to go through city streets even though there’s a perfectly good racetrack to use? Do their bidding, disrupt people’s lives and try to make the event look like a success with free tickets.
That last one, honestly, probably cost him re-election more than anything else. Yes, the Coderre era, brief as it was, ended.
Valérie Plante and a New Direction
On November 5, 2017, Valérie Plante, who was never supposed to have defeated former PQ Cabinet Minister Louise Harel for a council seat, was the underdog in the Projet Montréal leadership race and an extreme longshot to take down Coderre at the beginning of the campaign, became Montreal’s first elected female mayor. Her party also took control of not only City Council but also several bouroughs including CDN/NDG, the city’s largest.
Right out of the gate, Plante and her team undid two of Coderre’s most unpopular decisions: the pit bull ban and the prospect of a second Formula E race running through Montreal’s streets. They also recently overturned in council the Tremblay-era changes to bylaw P-6 which had previously been overturned by the courts in 2016 and 2018.
Plante and her team also voted early on to ban calèche horses, a law that goes into effect tomorrow. So they’re starting the new decade with a promise even Coderre tried to deliver on but failed.
One of Plante’s most controversial moves was the pilot project to bar private cars from using the mountain as a shortcut. They ultimately decided not to make it permanent after respondents to the public consultation process they had set up overwhelmingly rejected it (personally I thought it was a good idea that didn’t go far enough).
That decision to listen to the public most likely played into longtime Plateau Borough Mayor and Projet Montréal heavyweight Luc Ferrandez resigning. Earlier this year, he stepped down saying he thought his party wasn’t willing to go far enough for the environment.
For years, Ferrandez had been successful in the Plateau but harmful to his party in other parts of the city. Now, Plante and Projet’s opponents don’t have the Ferrandez albatros to contend with and his replacement Luc Rabouin handily retained power for the party in the borough.
This doesn’t mean Plante and company didn’t make mistakes in their first two years. They haven’t properly dealt with ongoing problems like systemic racism in the Montreal Police Force (SPVM) and in our institutions, the for-profit authoritarian leanings of our transit system and its ticket enforcer cops or adequately challenged the CAQ Provincial Government’s bigoted Bill 21, something Montrealers, by and large oppose, despite support in the rest of Quebec.
There are also some self-made mistakes like cancelling plans to rename a street in the Sud Ouest after the late Daisy Sweeney or the idea of naming the Griffintown REM train stop after former PQ Premier Bernard Landry. The latter an idea that didn’t need to be floated to begin with and should have been withdrawn after public outcry from the historic Irish community.
Plante was, however, successful, in securing funding for some of her signature campaign promise, the Montreal Metro Pink Line. In particular, the western portion that will travel above ground.
If the Pink Line starts to see the light of day and Plante fixes or starts to fix the problems I just mentioned, she’ll be on her way to another term. She has two years.
So, will the next decade be as bumpy on the Montreal political scene as this past one was? I honestly don’t know, I don’t have 2020 vision.
Featured Image by Jason C. McLean
Say what you will about Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s first eight months in office, when it comes to animals, her Projet Montréal administration has been doing exactly what they said they would. Even her staunchest opponents can’t argue that fact.
Soon after taking office, they scrapped former mayor Denis Coderre’s much-maligned pit bull ban and promised a new, thorough animal control bylaw based on research. This past Thursday, they delivered.
Here are some of the highlights of the proposed plan, already approved by Montreal’s Executive Committee and up for vote by the full City Council tomorrow:
Montreal has issued 24 permits for horse-drawn Calèches to operate this year and in 2019, but won’t be issuing any more. As of 2020, horses pulling tourists through the streets of Old Montreal in the hot sun will be a thing of the past.
This follows several videos in recent years of horses collapsing on the “job” as well as years of opposition to the practice from Plante’s party and over a century’s worth from the Montreal SPCA. The plan also involves:
- A move towards electric-powered calèches
- Funding renovations of the Griffintown Horse Palace and converting it into a museum and potential living space for horses (something started under Coderre)
- Finding new homes for the horses currently being used, which counters the calèche industry’s claim that the horses will have to be slaughtered
Rescue Not Breeders
As of July 2019, pet stores in Montreal will only be permitted to sell dogs, cats and rabbits that come from animal shelters, not from breeders. This is certainly a bold move that will prompt resistance, mostly from pet stores, but the Plante Administration is surely prepared for that.
What’s really fascinating and encouraging here, though, is that Montreal is effectively turning adopting a rescue pet from an ethical choice many currently make into the most standard and efficient way to bring an animal home in the city.
It’s the Owner, Not the Breed
While Coderre’s Pit Bull Ban is now a thing of the past, the Plante Administration hasn’t forgotten about what prompted it in the first place: a woman who died because a dog attacked her. The new bylaw deals with dangerous dogs by focusing on specific dogs that are violent and their owners, not with blanket targeting of entire breeds.
Under the new plan, if a dog bites a human, the dog’s owner is required to report it within 72 hours and muzzle the dog when outside until experts trained by the city do their job. These inspectors will classify the dog as either normal, potentially dangerous or dangerous and determine what restrictions, if any, need to be applied. The owner pays for the evaluation.
This is clearly one area where Montreal’s new administration is sticking to their promises while backing them up with logic and research.
* Featured image by Jean Gagnon via WikiMedia Commons
Wow, they’re actually admitting it. On-again/off-again Bloc Leader and die-hard soverignist Gilles Duceppe endorsed Denis Coderre, a staunch Liberal and federalist, in his bid for re-election as Mayor of Montreal.
During the last Montreal Municipal Election campaign in 2013, there were rumors that supporters of the Liberals (both provincial and federal), the Bloc Québécois (BQ) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) were secretly pushing Melanie Joly’s candidacy for Mayor, not in hopes that she would win, but that she would split the anti-establishment vote and prevent a Projet Montréal victory. Whether there was involvement from those forces or not, that’s exactly what happened: Coderre won and Joly was off to greener pastures in Ottawa.
But why would these seemingly divergent groups have a common goal? The argument goes that establishment parties would do anything to stop anyone loosely aligned, even in terms of who supports them, with parties like the Federal NDP or Québec Solidaire (QS) provincially.
While that may seem like pie in the sky conspiracy stuff, Gilles Duceppe just endorsed Denis Coderre and he said why. Mixed in with reasons/excuses like how he feels the Pink line is unrealistic and there are a couple of soverignist candidates on Equipe Coderre, Duceppe said that Plante and Projet were “too close to QS and the NDP.”
For decades, both the federalist provincial and federal Libs and the sovereignist PQ and BQ thrived on everyone being focused on the National Question and the division it brings instead of more pressing issues like the corporate dominance, austerity and, more locally, transit. Now that their dominance is threatened at the municipal level by an arguably leftist party with a dynamic leader who is concerned with making life in Montreal better above all, they are scared.
Moreover, they are getting desperate. Desperate enough, apparently, to get in bed together publicly.
Earlier this week, establishment press tried to make a big deal out of Projet Leader Valérie Plante not answering a question about how she voted in the 1995 referendum, a smart move considering this election is about Montreal, not the specter of sovereignty and both sovereignists and federalists can be found in both main parties running. I wonder if they will give equal play to Coderre getting an endorsement from a prominent sovereignist like Duceppe.
Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Gilles Duceppe endorsed Denis Coderre. The other shoe has dropped.
This election is about the staus quo versus a new way of doing things and it only took the Liberals and the Bloc to make that crystal clear.
I can’t really say I’m surprised. After all, it’s clear that Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre doesn’t like being challenged.
In fall 2016, when the debate over the mayor’s pit bull ban was raging, citizens came to City Hall to express their displeasure during the part of council meetings reserved for public interventions and questions. Roughly a minute into Montreal resident Kim Doucet’s preamble, Coderre simply and quite clearly said “Cut the Mic!”
Fast forward a year and Coderre finds himself neck and neck in the polls with Projet Montréal leader Valérie Plante, who was largely unknown outside of political circles just a few months ago. This, apparently, has our mayor on the defensive and back to his old trick of cutting off opposition.
According to Radio-Canada, Coderre has declined participating in at least four debates, all of which Plante has accepted invitations to:
Now as you can see, we’re not talking smaller organizations or even media known for bias. These are mainstream TV and radio debates and ones hosted by prominent organizations.
Coderre did agree to debate Plante twice, once in French and once in English. Given the fact that the linguistic makeup of this city pretty much requires that if a candidate does one language they have to do the other, this is akin to agreeing to only one debate pretty much anywhere else.
The French debate has already been set for October 19th at Centre Shearaton hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and moderated by François Cardinal of La Presse. The English debate will be hosted by either CTV, The Gazette or CJAD.
It’s interesting to note that even though the host of the English debate has not been confirmed, Coderre has already ruled out both CBC TV and radio. So he’s not just trying to limit the number of debates, he’s being rather picky.
According to Marc-André Gosselin, Coderre’s press attaché, the mayor wants one “grand debate” in French and English and “for the rest” they are focusing on the campaign trail. It makes me wonder how debates are not, according to the Coderre campaign, an integral part of the campaign trail, but rather something else entirely, something to be avoided as much as possible.
I wonder what Coderre is so afraid of? Why is the man who loves the spotlight trying to limit his time in it?
The cynical political side of me says that the mayor and his team feel that if too many people see an alternative to his administration in the form of Plante, the vote might increase and he may be out of a job. However, I think this one is more a matter of personality and ego than one of strategy.
While he may have taken part in a number of debates before becoming mayor, since he got the job he has demonstrated hostility towards those who would challenge him. So far this has been limited to citizens and media, but Plante is someone he can’t just walk away from. This is one woman he can’t simply have his employees cut the mic on when he doesn’t like what she is saying.
It’s really no surprise that Denis “Cut the mic!” Coderre is trying to avoid debating someone who disagrees with him as much as possible.
The City of Montreal is a mess and it’s time for change. The municipal elections are this November and candidates are clamoring to show that they are most qualified to fix our construction problems, frivolous expenditures and lack of accountability. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to take an interest in municipal politics, and it’s easy to see why.
Federal and Provincial politics deal with sexy issues like healthcare, education, Native rights, law enforcement and treaties. Municipal politics deals with dogs and decorations and infrastructure. They’re not sexy but they are important, so this article will give you a crash course on Montreal’s upcoming elections and some of the issues at hand.
First, let’s talk about dogs.
In June 2016 a dog mauled a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman to death. In response, City Hall under current mayor Denis Coderre introduced a bylaw requiring that dogs be muzzled in public, banning pitbulls and other “dangerous breeds”.
The rules were met with outrage from everyone, arguing that the law created arbitrary rules in an attempt to prevent something that’s impossible to predict. It pushes the notion that certain breeds are more prone to violence than others and has forced many dog owners to consider leaving the city rather than getting rid of their beloved pets in order to conform to the bylaw. Despite the outrage, the bylaw stands.
Projet Montreal led by Valérie Plante is by far Coderre’s greatest competition, and they have a few things to say about the current mayor.
The party’s website says:
“Like you, we care for the safety of all. And like you, we also know that policies based on a dog’s breed or appearance (BSL) are ineffective in protecting the public.”
Rather than banning some breeds, their focus is on responsible pet ownership including providing financial incentives for pet sterilization, and better control of the sales and life conditions of pets. It’s clear that should Projet win the election one of their first orders of business will be abolishing the pitbull ban.
Now let’s talk about expenditures.
This year is Montreal’s 375th anniversary and we should be celebrating, but how much celebrating is too much?
Anyone who plans a party knows that one must work within a budget, especially if the money is not yours.
In honor of the City’s anniversary, Coderre spent $39.5 million to light up the Jacques Cartier Bridge with LED lights. Coderre also took the liberty of spending $3.45 million on granite tree stumps on Mount Royal, which strike many as not only frivolous, but impractical. As Sue Montgomery, Projet Montréal’s candidate for borough mayor of CDN/NDG recently mentioned, the design of the stumps doesn’t even allow people to sit on them, as they’re slanted in such a way people and objects slide right off (unlike actual tree stumps).
Where did the money for these things come from?
It came from the taxpayers, which means that we’re footing the bill. Was there public consultation about this? Did the mayor seek our consent before using our money to buy these things?
One of Projet Montreal’s big platforms this election is that of accountability. They want the city’s leadership to answer to citizens the way they’re supposed to.
Coderre’s goal for all these projects was to put Montreal on the map, but as many of Coderre’s critics have pointed out, the city was already on the map. We have the Jazz Festival, the Just for Laughs festival, Francopholies, Nuits d’Afrique, Carifest, the fireworks competition and tons of other annual events that draw thousands of tourists every year. Most of us agree that the money spent on cosmetic additions was a waste. That money could have been better spent fixing a Montreal problem so great it’s become a joke:
The problem I’m talking about is municipal construction.
Projet Montreal calls the problem “Kône-o-Rama” and vows to “end bad traffic management by creating a traffic authority, ready to intervene to eliminate obstacles on roads, sidewalks and bike paths.”
The problem, however, is much more than that.
Construction projects, while often necessary, are poorly managed. Highway exits are closed, but the signs indicating as much are often placed too close to the site of the work, leaving motorists struggling to find alternate access points to their destinations, creating delays.
Where sidewalks are closed for construction, workers seldom indicate alternate footpaths for pedestrians, something that especially puts the city’s disabled, elderly, and people with babies at risk. Where businesses are blocked off due to holes in the street, the best construction workers offer is a wobbly and unsafe ramp to get to the door. Not to mention the noise, the dust, and the lack of proper safety barriers.
It has become such a joke in this town that souvenir shops now offer ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of traffic cones with the city’s name on them.
Coderre has been conspicuously silent about all of this, while Projet Montreal is demanding remedies as part of their accountability and accessibility platforms. They want to see coordination between the construction projects to make sure cyclists and pedestrians are kept safe and the city is accessible for everyone.
Projet Montreal is not the only party to challenge the current administration.
Other parties include Vrai Changement, pushing leader Justine McIntyre for mayor of the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough. Vrai Changement is running on a platform of economic development, less dependence on motor vehicles, and improving public transportation. Unfortunately, the party focus seems primarily on the Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Lachine boroughs and not on the city’s overall well-being.
Coalition Montreal has candidates running mostly in the Côte des Neiges and NDG borough. They are pushing Zaki Ghavitian for Borough Mayor and hoping leader Marvin Rotrand, former vice-chair of the STM currently on the city council, retains his council seat representing Snowdon. Whether they present a candidate for JMayor of Montreal remains to be seen.
More than any other election, the municipal one is the one most likely to affect our daily lives. Stay informed and when the time comes, VOTE.
After years of tax exemptions, the religious communities in the City of Montreal are facing big tax bills. It has recently come to light that once exempt institutions like the Cote des Neiges Presbyterian Church are receiving tax bills from the City. Inspectors from the City of Montreal are now visiting churches more regularly, taking pictures and noting how every space in the church is used.
Municipal property inspections are nothing new. It’s how the City of Montreal assesses how to tax you and for how much. Religious institutions, however, are the exception.
According to the Quebec Act Respecting Municipal Taxation, a property “in the name of a religious institution… used by it or gratuitously by another religious institution… not to derive income but in the immediate pursuit of the religious or charitable objects” is exempt from all municipal or school property taxes. That means that as long as a given space is owned by a religious institution and is used exclusively for worship or other religious ends, it is considered to be exempt from property taxes.
The problem is that many religious institutions in Montreal don’t use their property exclusively for worship, hosting vital community organizations in available spaces within their buildings. The tax bills and increased inspections likely mean that the City is interpreting the law more strictly so that they can tax houses of worship for the spaces they don’t use for religious services and prayer.
The City of Montreal claims that they are simply trying to prevent people from defrauding the system, but not everyone agrees.
M, an expert on municipal assessments and taxation, said that they’re doing it because it will result in tax revenue from sources that weren’t providing any tax revenue before.
I asked M what the municipal assessors would be looking for when deciding how much to tax a religious institution.
“Proof that there are parts of a church that aren’t being used for worship,” he replied.
A room used for worship is tax exempt, a room used for anything else would hypothetically be subject to taxation.
I asked M if the City could tax some parts of a house of worship while exempting other parts of the same building from taxation.
“They can split the assessment, and they do. I’ve seen it before. They can send a bill that indicates the taxable portion and the non-taxable portion,” he said.
That begs the question as to whether facilities that while not used exclusively for worship, would be considered an essential part of any building, let alone a church. Though people rarely worship while on the toilet, for example, it should be considered an essential part of any space’s facilities and subject to any exemptions tied to a given space.
Though some have praised the City’s move to start taxing religious institutions as an assertion of the separation of church and state and a break for taxpayers, there is reason to believe the move will come at the expense of community organizations.
NDG City Councilor Peter McQueen points out that important community groups in NDG such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, as well as the NDG Food Depot and the NDG Community Council rely on the City’s churches to provide spaces for them to meet. He explained that this is because historically the churches were involved in charity work separate from the state.
I asked McQueen how he felt these groups would be affected by the new taxation rules.
“Terrible! I mean, if these groups had to leave the churches they’d be in a major quandary here in NDG.”
He said that if these groups had to find other places to meet, the City would have to step up and meet the demand. Currently in Cote des Neiges and NDG most community spaces are used for sports or borough offices. Houses of worship have until now been filling the need for spaces for these community groups to meet, but that may change with the new taxation rules.
At the end of the day, the issue comes down to one of money.
Will this move by the City of Montreal make the City more money, or cost it money in the long run?
Peter McQueen thinks it will end up costing the City, as it will have to step up to meet the demand for community meeting spaces that had previously been filled by the churches.
M thinks the City may choose to simply not fill that need, which would come at the expense of the community that relies on these groups to help the needy and provide safe activities for their children.
There is the additional risk that some congregations may fold altogether under the new taxation rules, as their dwindling flocks and basic expenses put houses of worship in the red before they ever see a tax bill. They can always contest the tax assessments in court, and there will likely be legal challenges if there are enough tax dollars involved.
At the end of the day, it will be the community that pays for this.
This is part of an on-going series putting the spotlight on local candidates, electoral districts and municipal politics in Montreal. Though it’s our intention to interview candidates from all parties, so far our efforts have been hampered by the lack of established political parties in the city.
We’ll do what we can to present a broad spectrum of candidates and issues of concern to all Montrealers, though so far we’re limited to only one citizen-driven political party with established local representatives who actually want to talk. I hope this changes, though on a personal note, I’m less than enthusiastic about candidate-driven ‘political parties’ organized top-down rather than from the grassroots. I should emphasize this is my personal bias, and not the opinion of Forget the Box.
As to the style of this and other interviews (not all of which will be done by me), the answers are not direct quotations. Who wants to read a transcript besides NSA analysts anyways? I prefer to paraphrase, though I’ve been careful to fully capture the spirit and content of each response. Ergo it’s not verbatim but as close as I can make it. I hope you enjoy.
The Peter-McGill district is defined (working counter-clockwise from the north) by the mountain, Westmount, the 720/Guy/Notre-Dame in the south (i.e. including everything up to Little Burgundy and Griffintown), with an eastern edge created by University, Pine and Parc. It includes Concordia and McGill, the remnants of the Golden Mile, much of the modern central business district not to mention a multitude of institutions. St-Catherine and Sherbrooke streets run down the middle of the district.
It is a demonstration of the incredible contrasts of our city. The juxtaposition of so much diversity in a part of town you could walk across in half an hour makes it a fascinating place to want to represent.
Consider the district has a very high median income, over $70 000 per annum in 2009, yet also a significant homeless problem, at about 10% of the local population in 2006 (and I’m assuming both these figures have increased since). Moreover, an incredible 45% of the district’s residents live below the poverty line (many of which are students).
Though only 22% of residents speak French at home, 63% are bilingual in both official languages. Immigrants represent 44% of the local population, the majority of them Chinese, though immigrants from Lebanon, Morocco and France are also well represented in the district.
What’s curious about Peter-McGill, is, first, that small-scale enterprises seem to thrive near the large residential sectors of the district and second, that the district has large depopulated areas, notably in the central business and retail district towards the eastern edge of Peter-McGill. Suffice it to say there are a lot of competing interests here and it will be a difficult task for any potential candidate.
I met up with Jimmy Zoubris, city councillor candidate for Projet Montréal in Peter-McGill district, at one of my favourite local cafés, the Shaika in NDG.
What do you like about the city?
This. Small, independently owned and operated cafés, bistros, restaurants. These are a rarity in the suburbs, but in the city, they’re everywhere.
Trendy little coffee shops are competing one-on-one with major chains and it often looks like the little guy’s winning. There’s a lot of potential.
It’s certainly what my district could use more of, especially as you get closer to the downtown core. Projet Montréal wants to empower entrepreneurs and support the development of more small businesses. Too much of the downtown is dead after five or six.
You’re a small businessman and we’ve spoken before of your thoughts concerning the necessity for a better business climate for small-scale entrepreneurs; what can the city do to improve the situation?
People don’t like empty storefronts on our main commercial arteries. It’s a peculiar problem. It doesn’t mean one business has driven others out of business and are winning capitalism, it means property values have increased out of step with actual business revenue.
And like a virus it can spread to a whole block; remember what Saint Catherine’s from Fort to Lambert-Closse looked like a few years ago? It was a ghost town!
Projet Montréal wants to change all that and so do I. The city has the resources to initiate buy-local campaigns and develop web portals and social media sites and applications for local businesses and business development.
The city needs to pay attention to merchant’s needs, especially on the small end of the scale. Simple improvements to sidewalks, be it by repairing old cement, or installing recycling bins and benches, whatever, improvements like these can do a lot to help local businesses.
And on top of that, the city should probably become more involved in promoting the creativity and uniqueness of local goods and services, and the fact they’re so much more available to urban citizens than suburbanites. Facilitating a better business environment that supports local entrepreneurs is one part of a broad plan to reverse population loss to the suburbs.
What do you like the most and what do you like the least about living in your district?
Like? Well, for one thing the nightlife. It’s not just Crescent Street, on the whole we’re well equipped with a wide variety of restaurants, bars, bistros, nightclubs to suit all tastes.
It’s the part of town that seems to be on all the time, and I don’t mind that. For a lot of Montrealers this is an exciting, entertaining district.
As to what I like least, it’s the class extremes, too much obscene wealth next to abject poverty. We have about 2000 homeless in this district, that’s a problem that’s been ignored for far too long.
What do you propose to fix it?
The city should take the lead, partner with established charities like Acceuil Bonneau and work to increase their capacity, possibly by securing abandoned residential and institutional properties that haven’t sold in many years. Coincidentally, there’s an abandoned old folks home across from the CCA that hasn’t sold in over a decade. No doubt we should definitely collaborate with established charities and see if we can help them help others better.
There are well over one hundred thousand students living in what most would consider to be ‘downtown’ Montreal or in the most urban first ring suburbs. It’s clear they’re politically motivated, and yet the youth don’t participate in Montreal municipal elections. What’s Projet Montréal doing about this?
For one we have 19 candidates under the age of 35. Granted, that’s not exactly young, but we’re doing what we can and as you might imagine, we have a lot of volunteers under the age of 30.
Richard Bergeron proposed a few years ago that the city open week-long voting booths in the CEGEPs and universities to facilitate voting for Montreal’s students. It’s no different than absentee voting anywhere else, and we certainly have the technology to make it work. But Union Montréal struck down the idea, instead permitting those who own property in the city to vote even if they live and pay municipal taxes elsewhere.
It’s sickening really, and it’s a kind of disenfranchisement as well. Of course, the political establishment in this city has been leery about the student vote since the early 1970s, when the party created by the students nearly ousted Mayor Jean Drapeau.
What would you like to see wiped off the map or otherwise expelled from Montreal?
What a question! Ha! Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll answer it in two parts. For one, I’d like to officially banish Jeff Loria (chuckles all around, Jeff Loria is the art collector who ran the Expos into the ground). I’d put up a sign telling him to go back home to Florida (more laughs).
As to what I’d like to see disappear, definitely the big gaping hole where the Ville-Marie Expressway divides Old Montreal from the rest of the city. It has to be covered. Even if nothing’s put on top of it and we leave a big open field of grass, it would be a major improvement over how it currently stands. My understanding is that the Palais des Congrès is looking to expand on the western edge of the remaining trench and the CHUM will expand on the eastern edge, the city should step in and cover the rest.
We need to stitch this city back up, it’s been divided – physically, culturally – for far too long. Projet has a plan to change all that.