During the 2017 Montreal Municipal Election campaign, Valérie Plante said that she would either move the Formula E electric car race to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve or cancel it. Today, she made good on that promise.

Moving it from the southeastern most part of Downtown where it caused numerous headaches for local residents and businesses last year to the world-class racetrack just a metro ride away wasn’t an option for 2018, so she tried to postpone for one year. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of Formula E, wouldn’t have it, so Plante cancelled the race.

FIA tweeted their reaction to the news with quite a bit of snark:

Of course, spiraling out of control into a guardrail is a pretty apt metaphor for how many Montrealers felt about the way former Mayor Denis Coderre and his administration handled the race’s Montreal debut last year. The disruptions were one thing, but the cost and lack of return for it is a whole other story.

The race’s local promoter Montreal it’s electric, a non-proft organization started by the city under Coderre, gave away 20 000 tickets to boost attendance at the race to 45 000. Voters only found this out a few days before the election and it may have been one of the things that put Plante over the top on election day.

Today, in a press conference announcing the cancellation, Plante revealed that Montreal it’s electric already went through its $10 million line of credit from the city and still owes $6.5 million. Plante figures that if you add that cost of running the race again by building a temporary track, it would cost Montreal between $30 and $35 million just for 2018.

Yes, cancelling the Montreal Formula E, which was supposed to run for two more years, comes with penalties, but Plante argues that it will be much cheaper than going ahead with another edition following last year’s costly Coderre model.

It’s also interesting to note that Montreal is/now was the only city to fund the race. Perhaps Coderre wasn’t the best negotiator.

Plante and most Montrealers would probably agree that promoting electric cars is a good thing, as is attracting international events. Paying millions and disrupting city life is just not the way she wants to do it.

* Featured image is a screengrab of the still unchanged Montreal Formula E website

That didn’t take long. Less than a month after taking office, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s Projet Montréal administration announced they will fulfill an important campaign promise: getting rid of former Mayor Denis Coderre’s controversial breed-specific legislation (BSL), often referred to as the pit bull ban.

In a press release, Craig Sauvé, Sud Ouest City Councillor and the Executive Committee (EC) member responsible for the city’s animal management, announced that the EC will officially vote to suspend the articles of Bylaw 16-060 which deal with a specific breed, cross-breed or traits of a breed of dog that Coderre’s administration had passed in late 2016.

Montreal headfirst jump into breed-specific legislation drew the ire of dog owners, the SPCA and international animal rights activists last year. Projet Montréal, then in opposition, had characterized it as legislation written “on the back of a napkin” and Plante’s promise to eliminate it and replace it with something based on evidence could very well be one of the main reasons she was elected.

In the press release, Sauvé claimed that this was just a “first step” as the party plans to work on new legislation dealing with dog attacks but focused on the upbringing and bad owners, not the breed. This will, of course, be done in consultation with groups like the SPCA.

For now, dog lovers can breathe a sigh of relief that Montreal’s costly, confusing and wildly unpopular experiment with breed-specific legislation will soon be a thing of the past.

 

* Featured image 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.

It wasn’t even close. Forget the Box readers have selected Valérie Plante, leader of Projet Montréal, to be the next Mayor of Montreal in our Municipal Election Poll.

This site doesn’t do editorial endorsements of politicians or political parties. Instead, we let our readers decide who we endorse through site polls. In this one, Plante had a commanding lead with 83% of the vote. “None of the Above” came in second with only 8% followed by incumbent Mayor Denis Coderre with 7%:

When we launched the poll, there were only two declared candidates. Since then Jean Fortier entered the race then dropped out to endorse Plante Also Dollar Cinema owner Bernie Gurberg (whom I was half tempted to vote for just so I could vote for a Bernie), YouTuber Tyler Lemco (the guy with the signs you can write on) and three others threw their hats in the ring.

If they were in at the beginning, they would have been on the list. While it’s true we could have added them as they entered and dropped the ball on that one, it’s also true people could have added them as options themselves. Plus, Plante was leading by such a large margin, it wouldn’t have changed who won.

While this is obviously not the vote that counts, for that one we’ll have to wait until after 8pm on Sunday, November 5th, it seems like the wider Montreal electorate is warming up to Plante as well. The latest polls show her in a tight race with Coderre and clearly on the upswing.

So that brings us to why. While I’m not sure what is in the heads of our readers, I also strongly support Plante, so will try to explain her popularity. Here are the three main reasons I think our readers chose Valérie Plante:

She’s Positive, Ambitious and Logical

Valérie Plante has big plans for Montreal. That much is certain. She wants to build a whole new metro line, the Pink line, with 29 stations. If that isn’t an ambitious, positive vision of Montreal’s future, I don’t know what is.

Funny thing is, it’s also a well thought out and costed plan where she knows where the money could come from and how long it would take to build. It’s also something that is needed, which anyone who rides the Orange line or NDG buses as rush hour can attest to.

When Coderre calls it pie in the sky, it’s funny, because the only thing he has to back the statement up is the fact that he’s on good terms with the provincial and federal Liberal governments and she’s not. While Plante’s party has long accused Coderre of “writing legislation on the back of a napkin” I suspect that in this case, it’s his reasons why the Pink line wouldn’t work that aren’t thought out…pie in the sky negation.

She’s Not Denis Coderre

While Plante clearly prefers going positive, her principal opponent’s negatives are definitely among the main reasons some may vote for her. She’s the only candidate with a realistic chance of beating Coderre, an electoral imperative for many.

To call Denis Coderre a divisive figure is a bit of an understatement. You either agree with him or he cuts your mic. Some admittedly love his style, but they probably haven’t found themselves on the opposite site of an issue he has put his bombastic personality behind, which is pretty much every issue he touches.

While he may win points for personally jack-hammering the cement for a community mailbox, he brings that same my-way-or-the-under-construction-highway mentality to defending the ill-conceived Pit Bull Ban, the much maligned Urban Rodeo, those damn granite fake tree stumps and the Formula E (we just found out, by the way, that over 40% of those in attendance got their tickets for free).

Coderre has brought Montreal international attention, but all too frequently that attention has come in the form of scorn (Pit Bull Ban) and ridicule (a national anthem for one borough, the tree stumps). Voting him out has become a necessity for many and voting Plante is the way to make that happen.

It’s important to note that Valérie Plante is also not Luc Ferrandez, though the two are on the same team. Coderre, however, wants voters outside of the Plateau to think that her and the Plateau Borough Mayor are the same person, having brought his name up in both debates.

While Ferrandez is well-liked with voters in the borough he oversees, at least liked enough to win re-election for himself and all of his counselors last election (so far, incumbency has not been a problem with Projet), his name sparks images of traffic calming measures and other plans that work in the Plateau but could scare some in other parts of the city.

Projet and Plante know that different parts of town have different needs and what is needed for streets just off St-Denis may not be the same thing streets just off Monkland or Notre-Dame need. Nice try, Denis, but Montrealers are smarter than that.

She Has a Montreal First Outlook

Plante versus Coderre isn’t like St-Viateur Bagels versus Fairmont Bagels. It’s closer to St-Viateur Bagels versus what passes for a bagel at Tim Horton’s.

While Coderre is focused on getting large corporations to set up shop here, Plante wants to focus on local independent business. And not just the ones currently hidden by construction, either.

Plante’s preference for the local comes to the forefront in other areas, too. Coderre is all about projects that he thinks will put Montreal “on the map” globally so to speak, whereas Plante is concerned with the lasting usefulness those projects will have for residents as well as their cost. The projects she offers, meanwhile, are for the benefit of Montrealers primarily.

Their approaches are probably most sharply contrasted when it comes to the prospect of the Expos returning. Coderre wants it to happen and is willing to commit to pay into a new stadium to make it possible. Plante likes the idea but pledged to hold a referendum on whether or not Montrealers want to pay for it first.

Plante summed up the difference in the English debate by referring to Coderre’s previous insistence that Major League Baseball needs to be respected: “I’m not attached to pleasing Major League Baseball, I want to please Montrealers. The needs are big, the wallet is small.”

Montreal is already a world-class city. We don’t need to appease the global, or even provincial, powers-that-be to prove it. Focusing on making things better for those of us who live here is what needs to be done. You don’t see New York City sucking up to Albany or trying to prove itself on the global stage, do you?

Plante knows this, FTB readers know this and I suspect Montreal voters know this, too. We’ll just have to wait until Sunday to find out.

FTB readers officially endorse Valérie Plante to be the next Mayor of Montreal. If you want to make it count and haven’t already voted in the advanced polls, find out how you can vote through the Elections Montreal website or a letter that came in the mail.

 

Debate Season 2017 in Montreal is done. There were only two debates between incumbent Mayor Denis Coderre and challenger Valérie Plante of Projet Montréal (unless you count the informal one on Tout le monde en Parle).

There was one in French and one in English (more were offered, Plante accepted and Coderre refused). The French debate took place last Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce and the English one finished a few hours ago at Loyola.

If you came here to watch it, skip ahead to the video. If you want my analysis first (or after), here it is:

Admittedly, I came into this debate cheering for Plante, but she did not disappoint. She spoke with energy and a very positive attitude. Coderre was, well, Coderre. Gruff old school politician, and unabashedly so.

He had a very Coderre moment when talking about the Pink line. Instead of just shrugging it off as something that would never happen as he has done in the past, he went into why, boasting about his good relationship to the Provincial and Federal Liberal and laughing off Plante’s ability to get things done with just her “friends in Quebec Solidaire.”

While that quip clearly was intended to imply a connection between Projet and a provincial party some anglos may be wary of (Plante, fortunately, didn’t take the bait), it also exposed the Coderre mentality of “I’m buddies with the Liberals in power, so I can make things happen in the back room.”

Shouldn’t the Mayor of Montreal, elected representative of the people of Montreal, be able to deal with Quebec and Canada regardless of who they are buddies with? Do we really want to vote for the same Old Boys Club and expect change or do we want someone who speaks for us?

It also brings up the issue of how steadfast Coderre can be in his opposition to his buddy Couillard’s Bill C-62, something both he and Plante oppose. While Coderre tried to score points with Plante having to clarify her position, she turned the tide by talking about how neither she nor her opponent ever had to deal with the kind of discrimination this bill brings.

Coderre did have his moments, most notably by acknowledging that the debate was taking place on unseeded indigenous land and when talking about renaming Amherst Street, something Plante had also supports. I wish Plante had said an immediate yes when moderator Leslie Roberts of CJAD asked about also renaming Lionel-Groulx Metro, but both her and Coderre took a pass on that one and just said that there needed to be discussion.

The Pit Bull Ban, Montreal 375 spending and the Formula E were also topics. While I’m guessing who won these sections will fall in line with people’s existing picks, for those looking to be convinced, Plante did the best job of convincing, though when Coderre referred to the SPCA as merely a lobby group, he may have convinced some to vote Plante.

Watch the debate (in four parts) and vote on November 5th:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Panelist Ron Roxtar and host Jason C. McLean discuss Montreal turning sidewalks into bike paths, caleche horses and more. Plus interviews with Projet Montréal City Counselor for St-Henri, Little Burgundy, Pointe-St-Charles and Griffintown Craig Sauvé and music legend Shawn Phillips, Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Caleche horses in Montreal, shooting guns at a hurricane, clowns protesting, POP Montreal and Lady Gaga

Panelist:

Ron Roxtar – Entertainment Journalist

Host: Jason C. McLean

Produced by Hannah Besseau (audio) and Xavier Richer Vis (video)

Craig Sauvé and Shawn Phillips interviews by Jason C. McLean, edited by Xavier Richer Vis

Recorded Sunday, September 10, 2017

LISTEN:

WATCH:

* Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal want to expand the Montreal Metro with an entirely new line, the 29-station Pink line, which would run from Montreal North to Lachine, intersecting both the Orange and Green lines a few times and the Blue Line once. Her mayoral rival Denis Coderre doesn’t think it’s a viable solution to the city’s transit woes…is what I would have written if that was what he said.

Instead, Coderre did what he always does. He dismissed the idea outright, telling reporters that ” it’ll never happen” and comparing it to a joke you might hear at Just for Laughs.

I’ve been to Just for Laughs and I’ve also rode both the western and eastern ends of the Orange Line and the 105 bus at rush hour, they are not comparable. Overcrowding on public transit is not a joke. It’s something that someone running for or running to be re-elected to the post of Mayor of Montreal should care about.

So why does Coderre feel we shouldn’t even discuss it? Is it the price tag, which Plante estimates at $6 Billion? Well, she already knows where that money is potentially going to come from: the new federal infrastructure bank and two provincial funds, one specifically for transit and the other for infrastructure.

Also, it’s a little funny that a mayor who can spend $1 Billion on Montreal’s 375th birthday, double what Canada spent on its 150th, with some of that money going to eyesores like those granite tree stumps and a National Anthem for one borough, would have a problem funding a project that Montrealers could rely on for years or decades to come.

Could it be that Coderre feels the six year time frame proposed by Plante is unrealistic and would be too disruptive? He does, but forgets that the original two lines of the metro were built in four years and without a tunnel-boring machine, something that hadn’t been invented in the 60s.

If, by chance, he is implying that it can’t be done in that time-frame given the corruption Montreal’s construction industry is infamous for, well, even Jean “count the trucks twice” Drapeau’s record with the metro proves that it can. Yes, the plan is even corruption-proof (though I’m sure Plante and her team would work outside of a corrupt system).

Could it be that Coderre doesn’t want to upset the apple cart he’s holding for the powers-that-be in Quebec City? Bingo!

You see, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is part of the Réseau de transport métropolitain (RTM), a provincial body which runs transit in Montreal and the surrounding area including buses, metros and above-ground trains. So any new initiatives, say, a whole new line on the metro, needs to be worked out with the provincial authorities.

De-clogging Montreal’s existing transit infrastructure with new projects clearly isn’t the RTM’s top priority and why would it be? I wouldn’t expect the Mayors of Longueil or Laval or their representatives to push for it, that’s the Mayor of Montreal’s job.

Our current mayor clearly doesn’t want to stand up for what Montreal needs, if this comment from the press conference where he was dismissing the Pink line is any indication:

“Let’s be frank here, it’ll never happen. You cannot say that. There’s other things that we can do. First the Blue line, then through the planning we’re talking about to finish the Orange line.”

Okay, extending the Blue line east, fine (Projet wants that too, BTW). But finishing the Orange line? Um, last time I checked the Orange line was complete, at least on the Island of Montreal. Any new stops would have to be in Laval.

While I completely understand the RTM being concerned with this, the Mayor of Montreal shouldn’t be. Or, at the very least, our Mayor should be more concerned with the relief from the sardine can that is the Orange line at rush hour actual Montreal voters are asking for.

Public transit is not a joke. The concerns of riders aren’t jokes, either. Whether you support the Pink line as Plante and Projet have proposed it or not, at the very least, the concerns of transit users should be discussed, not dismissed and laughed off.

A more honest response from Coderre would have been: “It’ll never happen…as long as I’m Mayor!”

 

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?

Not really.

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.

In 2014, a truck ran into and killed cyclist Mathilde Blais as she rode through an underpass on St-Denis. City Hall opposition party Projet Montreal and other groups immediately called for something to be done. Now, it seems like the solution Mayor Denis Coderre’s administration came up with is to turn a potentially dangerous situation for cyclists into a different potentially dangerous situation for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The sidewalk on Atwater Avenue between Rene Levesque and St-Antoine heading towards the underpass near Lionel Groulx Metro is now also a bike path. At least that’s what the paint city workers put there indicates.

“They’re basically setting up future collisions between pedestrians and cyclists,” said Craig Sauvé, City Councillor with Projet Montréal in a phone interview, “or worse, if a cyclist has to veer into traffic at the last second to avoid hitting a pedestrian.”

Sauvé, who represents St-Henri, Little Burgundy and Pointe St-Charles and is a cyclist himself, knew that changes were coming, changes he and his party had pushed for, but seeing what the Coderre administration had actually done left him feeling bewildered and a little bit panicked.

“They’re not securing,” he commented, “they’re putting paint and saying it’s secure. In order to secure places, you have to give cyclists their space as well and if you don’t they’re going to take it and it will be the same zero sum game as there was before.”

Montreal’s bike paths are controlled by City Hall, regardless of the borough or boroughs (or even de-merged cities) they run through. Atwater isn’t the only recent painted change to come to light. On Montée de Liesse, paint directs cyclists to somehow drive onto a part of sidewalk that doesn’t even dip. If they dismount, they would be doing so in traffic:

Photo credit: u/butidigest on reddit

For Sauvé, a good solution to this mess would be delineating and protecting part of the roads going through underpasses with an actual barrier like one made of cement or even plastic poles. Something which, he observes, quite doable on Atwater as there are currently three lanes of traffic in either direction, one of which could easily be turned into a space for cyclists.

And that’s exactly what Sauvé, fellow politicans, activists and concerned citizens were asking the Coderre administration to do. It’s really not that hard. Instead of paint, just bring some plastic poles.

It seems like Coderre is all for bike safety as long as it doesn’t inconvenience motorists in the slightest. The health and safety of pedestrians is not even an afterthought, it’s inconsequential.

As a proud member of the BMW Set (bus, metro, walk), that just doesn’t fly. I’ve walked through that particular underpass countless times on the sidewalk and know that, especially when walking up the rather steep hill, the last thing you want to contend with is bikes whipping down it.

I wonder if anyone involved in planning these new “bike paths” had ever rode a bike or walked through any of the underpasses in question. It honestly looks like a mistake, one that they are repeating all across the city.

Could it be that they just don’t know? More likely they don’t really care and see bike safety as something they grudgingly pay lip service to and pedestrian safety as something that only matters when a bad story makes the news.

If the city really wants to make things safer for cyclists, they should ask cyclists what to do and really should consult pedestrians before dual-zoning a sidewalk on a rather steep incline. Otherwise they’ll wind up replacing one dangerous situation with one potentially more treacherous.

* Listen to the full interview with Craig Sauvé on the next FTB Podcast

Just when you thought you had heard the last of xenophobia and hate driving mainstream Quebec politics, they’re back! Or rather, they never left.

I’m well aware that the vicious undercurrent of bigotry in Quebec has only gotten bolder in the past year. There was the attack on the Mosque in Ste-Foy, then there was that Front National copycat poster that went up during the Gouin by-election. Just last week, local members of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant group La Meute were spotted marching with neo-Nazis and the Klan in Charlotteville and now a former organizer of the xenophobic group PEDIGA is looking to start a far-right political party.

When it comes to major Quebec political parties (ones that actually have a chance of being elected), though, it really looked like we were finally beyond hate and fearmongering for votes. After all, electoral Islamophobia had failed twice at the ballot box: there was the electoral disaster the Charter of Quebec Values brought to the PQ and the Bloc’s failed attempt to use Harper’s opposition to the niqab as a wedge issue – sure, it did knock down the NDP, but it helped Justin Trudeau sail to a majority government.

While it’s likely the PQ under the leadership of Charter architect Jean-François Lisée may try a re-branded version of the failed legislation come election time, that would really be an act of desperation. It looks, though, like the party that won a majority in 2014 largely by opposing Pauline Marois on the Charter now plans to one-up her with much more restrictive bigoted legislation.

The Charter on Steroids

In 2015, Philippe Couillard’s Liberals tabled Bill 62, the so-called “religious neutrality bill” which banned people providing government services and those receiving them from covering their faces. It didn’t go as far as the PQ’s Charter in that it focused on one religious symbol, the Niqab or Burqa, and had a limited scope in its application.

That scope may be getting wider if the Liberals have their way. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée wants it to apply to municipalities, metropolitan communities, the National Assembly and public transit organizations and proposed amendments to the bill last Tuesday to make that a reality.

One of the places the Liberals want to ban the burqa (image: Jason C. McLean)

The most jarring aspect is, of course, extending it to public transit. Think about that for a moment:

Not only is being asked to remove a face covering for the duration of a trip on the bus or metro a humiliating experience, it is also something that may very well deny access to public transit to people who need it. Forcing someone to choose between their faith and an essential service that many who live in a city need is just plain wrong.

It is discrimination that serves no valid purpose whatsoever, unless you count getting votes from clueless bigots as a valid purpose.

I have rode on the metro with a woman in a burqa in the next seat several times. It didn’t bother me in the slightest. Just fellow passengers dressed differently than I was. There are frequently people on my commute wearing various religious garb and it is just a part of life here in Montreal. I’m more concerned about the creeps and assholes whose faces are uncovered along with their shitty demeanor.

But, of course, this legislation isn’t designed to appeal to me or my fellow Montrealers. It’s designed to get votes from people in rural ridings, many of whom have never rode public transit with someone wearing a hijab, never mind a burqa, in their lives. Them and a handful of suburbanites and maybe a few big city bigots whose intolerance supersedes their daily experience.

While I rarely give props to Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, on this one I have to. He has announced plans to use the city’s status as a metropolis to not implement the amendments if they pass. I’m pretty sure Projet Montreal would do the same if they were in power.

Regis Labeaume’s False Equivalence

The Mayor of Quebec City, however, seems perfectly content fanning the flames of intolerance.

While Régis Labeaume did say that La Meute was not welcome back to the city he governs after last weekend’s protest, he extended the same sentiments to those who showed up to oppose the hate group’s public display of bigotry and intolerance.

La Meute marching in Quebec City (image: CBC)

If you think that sounds a little too close to a certain Nazi-sympathizing American politician’s much maligned comment about hate and violence existing on “all sides” in Charlottesville, you’re not alone. Jaggi Singh was in Quebec as a participant, not an organizer, but that didn’t stop Labeaume from using “la gang à Singh” as a descriptor for those protesting La Meute.

Singh responded in a Facebook statement which has since been republished by several media outlets. Here’s a excerpt:

“Mayor Labeaume, like Donald Trump, is claiming equivalency between anti-racists — and the varied tactics and strategies we use — and the racist far-right. His false equivalency, like Donald Trump’s after Charlottesville, is absurd. With his comments today, Mayor Labeaume is essentially pandering to racists in Quebec City, repeating a disgusting tactic he has used since he’s been a public figure.

More generally, Mayor Labeaume is replicating the rhetoric of the racist far-right by essentially telling people to “go back to where you came from”. This is the main talking point of far-right anti-immigrant groups, including the racists of La Meute, the Storm Alliance, and Soldiers of Odin, all of whom have a strong presence in Mayor Labeaume’s Quebec City.”

It’s not just a moral false equivalence, though, but a numerical one as well. The counter-protesters clearly outnumbered the La Meute gang, who hid in a parking garage for a good portion of the protest protected by police.

That didn’t stop Labeaume from saying that La Meute had won the popularity contest. Putting aside for a minute the fact that they clearly didn’t, to frame a conflict between hatemongers and those opposed to racism and fascism as a popularity contest shows a clear lack of…oh screw it, the guy’s a grade-A asshole Trump-wannabe who at best panders to racists and doesn’t care about it and at worst is one himself.

Quebec bigots, for the most part, may not be so obvious as to carry around swastika flags like their American counterparts, but they are just as hate-filled and virulent and their mainstream political apologists and supporters like Couillard, Lisée and Labeaume are all too happy to pander for their votes.

La plus ca change…

On November 5th, 2017, Montrealers return to the polls to determine if Denis Coderre will remain the city’s mayor for the next four years or if new Projet Montréal leader Valérie Plante will get the job. Meanwhile you, Forget the Box readers, can head to our poll right now and pick who you want to see as the next Mayor of Montreal.

The poll closes on November 4th, when we will write an endorsement of the winner on behalf of our readers and publish it the same day, the day before the actual vote. At publication time, there are only two declared candidates for the city’s top job, if more join the list, we will add them as options on the poll and you can, too.

You can also change your vote right up until the poll closes. If we replace this poll in our sidebar with a new one, it will remain active and accessible through this post. Also please feel free to leave a comment as to why you voted the way that you did (but comments don’t count as votes, obviously).

In the meantime, we’ll also be covering the election campaigns to the best of our abilities. Not only the mayoral race, but as many city council and borough mayor races as we can. It’s a big city and an important election, so have your say November 5th, 2017 at the polls and right now in this poll:

Who do you want to see as Mayor of Montreal after the November 5th municipal election?
  • Valérie Plante (Projet Montréal) 83%, 214 votes
    214 votes 83%
    214 votes - 83% of all votes
  • None of the above 8%, 21 vote
    21 vote 8%
    21 vote - 8% of all votes
  • Denis Coderre (Équipe Denis Coderre) 7%, 19 votes
    19 votes 7%
    19 votes - 7% of all votes
  • Whoever wins!!! Good luck!!* 1%, 3 votes
    3 votes 1%
    3 votes - 1% of all votes
Total Votes: 257
August 8, 2017 - November 2, 2017
* - added by visitor
Voting is closed

* Featured image via WikiMedia Commons

Panelists Tanu Oberoi and Laurence Tenenbaum discuss Mont;real’s 375th birthday celebrations and Guns n’ Roses returning to our city with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup, Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Sean Spicer resigns, new Governor General and the death of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park

Panelists:

Tanu Oberoi: Web designer, musician

Laurence Tenenbaum: FTB co-founder

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagha (video)

Production Assistant: Xavier Richer Vis

Montreal 375 Report: Jerry Gabriel (narration), Xavier Richer Vis (video)

G n’ R Report: Hannah Besseau (narration), Xavier Richer Vis (video)

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WATCH:

Recorded Sunday July 23, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec

Montreal will invest $3.6 million over two years in a brand new institute dedicated to developing electric and smart transportation. This investment is part of the city’s efforts as a member of the C40, the Cities Climate Leadership Group.

The Institute of Electrification and Smart Transportation will have three main mandates: favouring cooperation between regional partners for research and development of sustainable transportation, establishing international partnerships and stimulating the commercialization of new technologies. It will be situated in the Quartier de l’innovation. The École des technologies supérieures (ÉTS) , McGill University, Concordia and UQÀM are all expected to partner in the project.

“The Institute will make use of Montreal’s assets as a city of innovation to galvanize efforts and knowledge, and shine on the international scene,” Mayor Denis Coderre claimed in a press release. The announcement was made on Wednesday, during the 52nd Congress of the Association québécoise des transports.

The Mayor’s office claims this is an “important step in the realization of [their] ambitious strategy for the electrification of transport.” Indeed, the creation of the institute is one of the 10 points of the 2016-2020 Strategy for electrification and smart transportation outlined last summer.

Other measures put forward in the plan include exchanging city vehicles for electrical cars, electrification of public transit and developing a second, purely economic plan to encourage the local development of the electric transportation sector.

However, the opposition at City Hall is not too impressed with the new institute. Projet Montréal’s transport critic Craig Sauvé says that they have seen no serious plan or content backing up the announcement.

“That’s pretty much the Coderre style,” he observed, “announce a project that will most likely garner positive headlines but without doing any substantive groundwork before the announcement.”

Although Sauvé admits that the city’s efforts for electrification are a good thing overall, he believes it is a short-sighted strategy.

“The Coderre administration is very car-focused,” he claimed, “they still have this vision that is out of the 1950’s!”

According to Sauvé, the city should put more money into better bike lanes, urban planning and public transit in order to reduce the number of cars on the road.

“You can electrify everything you want, but it won’t solve the traffic, it won’t solve the pollution still created by the production of new cars and road networks,” he argued.

FTB contacted the city’s executive committee for further comments, but was still waiting for a reply at publication time.

Mayor Coderre announced earlier this week that the city is investing at least $24 million in Formula E, a major international car race featuring only electric cars. The event will be held downtown on July 29th and 30th. The Coderre administration hopes that it will serve as publicity for electric and smart transportation in Montreal and boost the city’s status as a leader in climate action.

Back in November 2013, the government of Quebec had promised $35 million for the creation of a province-wide institute with the same purpose. Many cities were interested in hosting it. The promise did not survive the change of government.

 

* Featured image: electric cars in Berlin, Germany, all credits to Avda, Berlin – Potsdamer Platz – E-Mobility-Charging, CC BY-SA 3.0

In 2015, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre announced that the concert space on the western end of Parc Jean-Drapeau on Île Sainte-Hélène is getting a redesign. The municipal and provincial government will invest a total of $73 million to expand the space used by promoter Evenko to stage events like Osheaga, Heavy Montréal and ÎleSoniq every summer.

While originally planned for Montreal’s 375th anniversary, it won’t be ready until next year. This means Osheaga will have a new home for the summer and Heavy Montréal will take a year off.

Capacity would increase from 45 000 to 65 000, though it will remain an open-air ampitheatre. At the time of the original announcement, the Mayor assured people that some of the budget would be spent on reducing the sound that made its way across the water to the South Shore where St-Lambert residents had been filing noise complaints for a few summers. This would presumably mean that Evenko could stage more concerts in the space.

This week, the environmental impact of the project went public. 1000 trees will have to be cut down to make it possible. While Coderre promised $18 million to plant new trees, Projet Montreal, the official opposition party in City Hall, is not happy to say the least.

Calling it a “chainsaw massacre” of Montreal’s shared greenspace to benefit one private promoter, they argued that a more environmentally-friendly version should have been considered. They also decried the lack of public consultation on the project.

With so many issues at play here, we decided to turn to you, our readers and not just make it a straight Yes or No question. In this poll, please let us know whether or not you support this project and why. If none of the answers fit what you think, you can add your own:

How do you feel about the current plan to build a new ampitheatre in Parc Jean-Drapeau?
  • Bad idea through and through 30%, 25 votes
    25 votes 30%
    25 votes - 30% of all votes
  • Any plan of this scope needs public consultation. Period. 30%, 25 votes
    25 votes 30%
    25 votes - 30% of all votes
  • I like the idea of a new ampitheatre but cutting down that many trees is unjustifiable 14%, 12 votes
    12 votes 14%
    12 votes - 14% of all votes
  • The area was in great need of repairs and a place able to welcome all the events happening an the Parc.* 10%, 8 votes
    8 votes 10%
    8 votes - 10% of all votes
  • The old concert space was fine and doesn't need to change 8%, 7 votes
    7 votes 8%
    7 votes - 8% of all votes
  • We need a new ampitheatre and this is the right way to make it happen 6%, 5 votes
    5 votes 6%
    5 votes - 6% of all votes
  • I don't care (well, I care enough to answer the poll, but that's it) 1%, 1 vote
    1 vote 1%
    1 vote - 1% of all votes
  • I live in St-Lambert (or have friends who live there) and am fine with any plan that curbs the noise 0%, 0 votes
    0 votes
    0 votes - 0% of all votes
Total Votes: 83
April 1, 2017 - May 1, 2017
Voting is closed

Panelists Ellana Blacher and David DesBaillets discuss Montreal’s new official status as a sanctuary city and the Oscars with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup. Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: New Montreal flag, M-103 and Islamophobia, Milo’s downfall and trusting the mainstream media

Panelists:

Ellana Blacher: Spoken word artist

David DesBaillets: Law student and blogger

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagha (video)

Reports by Hannah Besseau

Recorded Tuesday, February 21st, 2017 in Montreal

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Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons