The City of Montreal put forward a controversial request to the Quebec government to amend the Quebec Highway Code to allow cyclists to perform a rolling stop – popularly known as the “Idaho stop”, named for the state that legalized it in 1982 – which would eliminate the need for cyclists to come to a full stop at stop signs, under certain circumstances.

This request has drawn the ire of many motorists, who already see cyclists’ generally unpredictable habits and disregard for the law as a threat to their comfort and safety. Common sense dictates that formalizing what is perceived as reckless behaviour would only succeed in putting lives at risk.

It must be said that what is considered common sense is not necessarily true or accurate, especially when it comes to risk assessment. Policies and practices that can improve safety are often counterintuitive, such as the example of mandatory helmet policies, which have been demonstrated to not improve overall safety.

Studies have shown that drivers are less likely to give cyclists a wide enough berth when passing, if the cyclist is wearing a helmet. Let me be clear that I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t wear helmets when cycling, but the kind of head trauma that helmets protect us from is comparatively rare to the other dangers faced on the road, and legislation should encourage rather than discourage cycling.

Which brings us to the Idaho stop.

Formally, the change will allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs, meaning that we could slow down, gauge if there is oncoming traffic, and carry on if the coast is clear. Functionally, we already do. As an avid cyclist in the city of Montreal for the better part of thirty years (and more recently a driver), my habits are unlikely to change and the risk of being fined for running a stop sign on my bike has never been a deterrent, which is true of most cyclists in the city.

The reason is twofold.

First of all, cycling is a very physical activity, and maintaining efficiency is what makes it worthwhile. The amount of energy expended coming to a full stop, and then starting again from zero is significantly greater than maintaining some forward motion and balancing upright while scanning for traffic. Having to do this at every intersection would be a deterrent from riding at all.

City councillor and member of the Mayor’s executive committee Craig Sauvé knows this distinction.

“Pushing a pedal in a car to accelerate is not the same as moving one’s entire body to accelerate as a cyclist does,” he told me when I asked for his input.

This difference in acceleration contributes to the second factor: safety. As is often the case at an intersection on our crowded roads, I find myself next to a car, or stopped in their blind spot. And Montreal drivers aren’t exactly known for their consistent use of turn signals.

If I’m at a full stop, and a car – or worse, a truck – suddenly veers in my direction, I very likely will not have enough time to accelerate fast enough to get out of the way. However, if I maintain motion , I can accelerate or stop as needed very quickly, and will also place myself sooner in the driver’s field of vision, so they don’t accidentally clip or crush me.

Zvi Leve, a member of the Montreal Bike Coalition, views this kind of policy as a way to shift the focus of our enforcement efforts away from ineffective traffic calming methods and towards actions which are truly dangerous to others.

“We need infrastructure which is designed for the safety needs of vulnerable road users. We have designed our cities for vehicle circulation, and then we wonder why pedestrians and cyclists keep getting injured.”

Leve doesn’t suggest that this should be a free for all for cyclists, and is quick to point out that pedestrians are the most vulnerable, and need the most protections.

“Cyclists also need to understand the ‘rules of the road’ and to cede the right of way when necessary. In fact, that is what it comes down to: The ‘right of way’ can be ceded but it should never be taken.”

Hopefully, this mindfulness of courtesy regarding right of way will catch on with drivers as well. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to further infrastructural changes that will improve safety, and in a tangible way, save lives, and so is Sauvé:

“The reality is that the current highway safety code was made a half a century ago with only cars in mind. Society has evolved and there are more and more cyclists on the road every year. We have to change our highway code in Montreal to reflect that reality.”

* Featured image by Richard Mason/Cyclelicious via flickr Creative Commons

The Plante Administration really isn’t wasting much time implementing their election promises. The pit bull ban is gone, so is the Formula E, and now cars won’t have a mountain shortcut to get from one side of Montreal to the other as part of a pilot project this spring and summer.

The city will close Camillien Houde to cars between Beaver Lake and Smith House (the big lookout) while allowing buses and bikes to pass. This stems from a promise to do something about bike safety on the mountain in the wake of the death of cyclist Clément Ouimet last summer.

Their strategy seems to be get as much done as possible early and let Montrealers grow to like the changes over the next few years. Since this is the first time Projet Montreal, or any left-of-centre political outsiders for that matter, find themselves in power here, it makes sense.

But is this particular plan a good idea? One that we will come to appreciate in four years’ time? Yes, but only if it goes further.

Winding Highway in the Middle of the City

Not everyone is happy with this pilot project, as expected. Even some Plante supporters aren’t for the plan. Some feel this was too hasty and decided without enough consultation while others wonder why they didn’t just make a separate bike path. Most criticism, though, centers around additional traffic on other routes.

Living in Montreal my whole life but not being a driver, I have traveled that stretch by car and taxi many times. It always felt like I was in a racing video game, even with cautious, responsible drivers behind the wheel.

The lack of stops turns it into a highway by default. And at that, it’s a highway that winds and curves its way up and down a mountain. It was a bad idea to begin with, albeit a convenient one.

Yes, this will mean more cars on other roads, but the safety concerns for both cyclists and drivers outweigh the inconvenience. Also, public transit users will still be able to take advantage of this shortcut as buses will still go through.

This is a needed move. My only concern, though, is that it doesn’t go far enough.

The Shortcut is Gone, But the Risk Remains

Blocking off a chunk of Camillien Houde will mean fewer cars, but not no cars. Now, all those who drive up the mountain will be doing so to visit a part of the mountain such as Smith House and then return.

Well, almost all. There will inevitably be those unaware of the change who will make their way up expecting to end up on the other side only to find out they have to turn back.

If this seems like just a minor problem, it won’t be. The only thing worse than drivers barreling down a winding pseudo-highway is frustrated drivers trying to make up lost time barreling down a winding pseudo-highway.

A Proposal

The #11 Bus at Parc and Mount Royal about to travel over the mountain

There is an easy fix, though, and it’s one I hope the Plante administration considers:

  1. Stop all car traffic at Parc and Mount-Royal on the eastern end and Beaver Lake in the west.
  2. Create two lanes, one in each direction, for city buses and emergency vehicles, two separate lanes for cyclists and, if possible, a space for pedestrians.
  3. Add more buses on the route and create stops: one at the Camillien Houde lookout midway up from the east, one at Smith House and one at Beaver Lake for now and maybe more later. All stops should be wheelchair accessible.

If people want to visit the mountain and are unable to do so on foot or by bike (or just don’t want to), they can do so by bus. There’s already a parking  lot at Beaver Lake. For this plan to really work, the city would need to make another one near Parc and Mount-Royal. You can drive to the mountain, but not over it.

If this seems like a permanent change, then good. A pilot project can only go so far and risks alienating people without fully showing the payoff.

Eliminating the mountain shortcut will draw the same ire if you cut cars at Smith House or at Parc and Mount-Royal, so why not go all the way and fully eliminate a pseudo-highway that was a bad idea to begin with.

* Featured image of the Camillien Houde lookout via WikiMedia Commons

When it comes to issues of racism and police brutality, Canadians suffer from a bad case of denial. We think these are the problems of people in the United States despite evidence of cops brutalizing Indigenous Canadians and spraying peaceful protesters in the face with pepper spray. It is particularly clear when attacks by authorities come completely unprovoked and the perpetrators scramble to protect their own while the victim is left permanently damaged.

No case demonstrates this so clearly as that of Majiza Philip.

“I was charging them with excessive force and misconduct,” Majiza said of her latest court battle with the Montreal Police (SPVM), a case she is now demanding be reopened. This followed a judge throwing out charges of assault, resisting arrest, and obstruction of justice levied against Majiza by the police in 2014.

Majiza Philip was not looking for trouble. She had been warned by family members in the past to comply with the police who have a habit of thinking the worst of people of colour.

What happened to her was not only a display of police brutality, but of gross injustice. It demonstrates the need for an Ethics Commissioner truly independent from our province’s police forces and the abolition of laws that protect the authorities when they deliberately hurt those they have sworn to protect.

This article will tell Majiza’s story and point out all the mistakes made by those who abused their authority to hurt her. This is her version of events. Since the burden of proof in criminal cases is so high and her account was the one deemed credible by the courts, there is no reason to doubt her story.

One night in November 2014 Majiza and her friend were at a rap concert. Security was high that night due to the rapper’s reputation for drugs and violence.

After the concert her friend was forced to wait outside while she got their coats. He was soon arrested and put in a police car.

Majiza went to check on him and was informed by authorities that he’d been arrested for loitering and public drunkenness. She asked which station they would bring him to and then lightly tapped on the window of the back seat of the police car to get her friend’s attention and see if he was ok.

Suddenly, she felt a push from behind. It was a large white male officer who accused her of assaulting another officer. Majiza backed away in fear and self-defense, rightfully stating that the officer had no right to touch her.

She pleaded with onlookers for help as undeterred, the officer slammed her down on the hood of a police car. With the help of other cops, he began wrenching her arms behind her back. At one point she felt pressure followed by her left arm going limp.

Majiza was shoved into a police car and was only spared the pain of her broken arm in the short time that followed due to the adrenaline from trying to protect herself. She pleaded with the police for help as the pain kicked in and her hands numbed, but they were dismissive.

“They laughed at me a couple of times,” she recalled, noting that they were more interested in discussing their dinner plans.

“It’s REALLY hurting,” she remembers telling the officers, “and they were like ‘Oh, whatever.’ I kept telling them there was pain.”

At this point Majiza didn’t know her arm was broken. All she wanted was the cuffs off so when it finally occurred to the police to ask if she wanted medical attention, she refused.

Prosecutors would later try and use this refusal against her at trial when any medical professional would testify that you have at least fifteen minutes before the pain and extent of your injuries finally kicks in.

It eventually occurred to the police to call an ambulance where EMTs confirmed Majiza’s arm was broken. Before she was lifted into the ambulance, the police attempted to have her sign a notice to appear at her hearing but high on pain and concerned that the document was actually a waiver exonerating those who arrested her, she refused to sign it.

“I’m not signing anything,” she told the police at the time, “I don’t know why I’m here. You never told me I was under arrest.”

She told them to send it to her by mail, and though she was legally entitled to it, she never received anything.

After a disastrous attempt to get care at Saint Luc Hospital – they denied her care because her pain interfered with her ability to speak to medical professionals in French – she was given a sling and a painkiller and sent home. She went to Saint Mary’s hospital in the morning where doctors immediately put her in a cast and booked her for surgery in the following weeks.

She now has a massive scar and pins holding her arm together, the pain returning when the weather is damp. It took over three months before she could go back to work.

Majiza has no criminal record.

In addition to managing a small café in Montreal, she teaches tap-dancing to children and works in her community. The latter jobs require police checks, which she clears every time.

The night she was arrested the only reason the cops had to believe she was a danger was the colour of her skin and the fact that she was at a rap concert. Though the arresting officers made no racial slurs, Majiza points out that though her friend was also arrested that night, he – a white male – was treated far less roughly by police and with a great deal more courtesy than she was. She believes the police have a racism problem as many of them come from places in rural Quebec where attitudes towards ethnic diversity are less than enlightened.

“I just spoke up for him,” Majiza said referring to her friend, “I didn’t assault anybody, didn’t do anything and I got my arm broken and I got hit with a bunch of charges. I can’t say it was racially motivated but I do feel like they treated me differently because I was black.”

When she was able, Majiza Philip contacted the Center for Research- Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a non-profit that works towards diversity and racial equality in Montreal. They helped her file a report with the police Ethics Commissioner who allegedly took her complaint seriously and filed a year-long investigation. Unfortunately, as per the current Loi sur la Police, officers are not legally obligated to cooperate with investigations of complaints against them.

According to Majiza Philip and CRARR, this needs to change as it affords citizens no real justice against police who abuse their power, protecting the cops over the people they hurt.

At her trial she was represented pro-bono by criminal justice lawyer Arij Riahi, facing charges of assault, obstruction of justice, and resisting arrest. Prosecutors tried to argue that Philip had weak bones, making them more susceptible to breaking. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant, as Canadian law has long since recognized the “Thin Skull Rule” making a defendant liable for a victim’s injuries even if they’re especially severe due to a pre-existing yet stable condition.

The trial concluded last month with the judge throwing out all charges against her, finding Majiza’s testimony far more credible than that of the officers who mostly spent the trial scrambling to protect themselves with the one responsible for her broken arm conveniently suffering from concussion-induced amnesia. The police never even mentioned at trial that they broke her arm – a fact the judge found outrageous.

Majiza is now demanding that the new Ethics Commissioner reopen her case. With the Ethics Commissioner who handled her complaint now suspended, perhaps she now has a chance of getting justice.

Though the Commissioner has never reopened cases, Majiza can demand it in the face of new evidence. She knows that incidents like hers are more likely to be avoided with the introduction of body cameras on officers, as well mandatory ethnic diversity quotas on the police force. In addition, she calls on the government to change the law and make a police Ethics Commissioner who is truly independent of the people they are charged to investigate.

The Quebec government has two choices here.

They can confirm the stereotypes that Quebec is racist and hostile to ethnic and religious diversity, or they can give victims like Majiza Philip the justice they deserve.

* Featured image by Kym Dominique Ferguson courtesy of Majiza Philip

Now that society is acknowledging the widespread problem of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse thanks to the #MeToo movement, it is more important than ever to discuss what healthy expressions of sexuality are. They are not the expressions of willful ignorance and internalized misogyny of morons like actress Catharine Deneuve, who cannot tell the difference between consensual and non-consensual sexual conduct. They ARE what you will see, explore, and learn about at Montreal’s annual Salon de l’Amour et de la Séduction.

Held every year at Place Bonaventure, the event hosts vendors of sex toys and lingerie while a stage at the back shows you the world’s best in erotic performance art and burlesque. A Fetish corner has members of Montreal’s alternative sexual community who will talk about BDSM and why it’s a far cry from the abusive behavior you see in Fifty Shades of Grey.

A lecture section hosts renowned experts like Dr. Laurie Betito and Dr. Jess who discuss everything from sex after 50 to the anatomy of the G spot and clitoris. Non-profit groups like the Sexual Health Network of Quebec will answer questions, hand out condoms, and tell you why teaching kids about consent and STI prevention and contraception is so important.

Porn stars and cosplayers are there for meets and greets and the floor is peppered with the occasional vendor of non-sexual wares. Innovators in sexual technology are there to sell and tell you why their products are different from what’s already on the market.

One such vendor is Chip, representing Boy Butter, an innovation in lubrication technology. His product is one of the few lubricants originally designed for men, though he told me many women enjoy it as well.

He explained that most sexual lubricants take for granted that women produce their own naturally – though anyone truly familiar with female anatomy knows that this is not always the case. As Chip demonstrated, his product is designed to stay slick without getting sticky and while the original Boy Butter isn’t condom safe, his other product, You’ll Never Believe It’s Not Boy Butter, is.

Dr. Laurie Betito is an author and the host of a radio show on CJAD 800. In addition to giving a lecture on sex after 50, she was there to answer questions about sex and sexuality. She provided this reporter with valuable insight on sex with disabilities and explained that after the age of 50, sexual problems are largely emotional in women, and primarily physical in men.

Dr. Laurie is also a member of the Sexual Health Network of Quebec, an organization devoted to teaching sex ed in public schools throughout Quebec. The Network had their own booth at the Salon, represented by volunteers led by Stephanie Mitelman, a certified sexuality educator.

Their work focuses primarily on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and STIs, though they also cover consent and what constitutes healthy relationships. They are ready and willing to provide lessons even in schools with existing sex-ed curricula and whether or not schools welcome their help depends on how important said schools consider sex ed. They are currently in the midst of a huge fundraising drive so if you believe in the importance of teaching kids about healthy sexual behavior, the Sexual Health Network of Quebec is a group worth supporting.

If you go to the Salon to shop, do so carefully. Though most sex toys are on sale, the larger booths tend to overcharge for even basic model vibrators and dildos. A clever shopper can however find a deal at smaller booths that will sell you vibrating bullets and massage candle for as little as ten dollars. One vendor on the outskirts of the salon sells beautiful quality corsets in a variety of sizes for thirty-five dollars each.

If you want to see a show, you are definitely in the right place. Performances from burlesque artists Scarlett James and instructors from Montreal’s Arabesque Burlesque Academy are a dazzling display proving that you don’t need to be anorexically thin with balloon boobs to be sexy. It was however, one male performer at the Salon who for me stole the show.

Brent Ray Fraser is an erotic performance artist like no other. Classically trained in fine art, he got into stripping as a way to overcome his shyness and boy did he ever succeed.

Though he is a stunning specimen of man and a very talented painter, it is the way he paints that is particularly fascinating. An artist myself I am always interested in learning about new styles and mediums, but Fraser takes this to a whole new level by painting with his penis.

He is the only painter I’ve ever seen to seamlessly combine painting with stripping. Not only does he move effortlessly but the finished painting at the end of his performance is just as beautiful and expressive, though part of me wonders how he successfully washes the acrylic paint off his member without hurting himself scrubbing. If you get a chance to see his act, DO, you’ll be dazzled for days to come.

For those of you interested in exploring an alternative sexual lifestyle, the Salon de l’Amour is best place to do it. The fetish corner has dominants and submissives from Montreal’s fetish scene who will happily teach you about healthy BDSM and even demonstrate some tools used in play.

One representative of the community explained that the Fifty Shades of Grey books brought people to them, some of whom stayed, while others found that it wasn’t for them. The clubs welcome almost every fetish except scat and blood play which can pose hygiene risks.

If you’re interested in becoming a swinger, you can explore that too, but be wary of some of these groups. One organization I would not recommend is SDC.com, a dating site for swinger couples that is attempting to break into the Canadian market. Unfortunately, their attitude is not very Canadian and against the spirit of the Salon itself.

Though the Salon is wheelchair accessible and has a designated rest area for disabled attendees, the representative of SDC I spoke to was rude and elitist. The regional director I met said they refuse the disabled and insisted they have strict (aka snooty) criteria.

Whether this is his own prejudice or indicative of his company’s broader culture of bigotry is unclear. If it is the latter, it has no place at the Salon, which clearly prides itself on inclusion. I recommend that those interested in swinging look elsewhere.

If you’re a prude, a body shamer, or an LGBTQIphobe, stay away from the Salon. You are not welcome. If you’re over 18 and respectful, then check it out. You’re guaranteed great bargains and breathtaking performances.

* Photos by Kerry Ann Cannon

The administration of newly elected mayor Valérie Plante is off to a good start. She cancelled the traffic-inducing ridiculously expensive publicity stunt called the “Formula E” races and in a move long overdue, has appointed an Indigenous Commissioner to the city’s administration. Her choice for the post is Cree lawyer Marie-Ève Bordeleau.

This article is about her, the importance of her appointment, and who she will help.

When people think of Montreal’s indigenous community, they unfortunately think of alcoholics and panhandlers that work primarily in the city’s downtown core.

Their stories are much more than that.

The city was founded by Indigenous people, and the suffering of much of the community is a direct result of the impact of colonialism. Though a 2015 survey indicates that Natives make up one-point six percent of Montreal’s population, they make up over ten percent of its homeless.

Indigenous Montrealers face discrimination at every level from accessing basic health care to finding a place to live. Many renters in the city refuse to lease to Indigenous Canadians and those who do are usually slumlords. Quebec police forces have earned a reputation for treating them more severely than whites, and the city’s Indigenous support groups have been calling on the municipal authorities to cooperate with them to make Montreal a better place for their people.

The idea of appointing an Indigenous Commissioner is not a new one. In January 2017 then-mayor Denis Coderre announced that he would appoint one following a meeting he had with aboriginal groups. At the same time, Coderre promised to run an aboriginal candidate in the upcoming election and have native staff members on his campaign.

The city’s indigenous groups were justifiably skeptical, as white politicians have a long history of promising action to Native communities with no follow-through. True to their skepticism, Coderre did none of this and thankfully Mayor Plante is working to fix it.

Montreal’s Indigenous Commissioner has a lot of work to do. Appointed for a term of three years, she is tasked with developing a reconciliation strategy for the city of Montreal with regards to its Indigenous population. She must also advise the mayor on the best ways of building bridges between the city’s administration, its indigenous population, and the rest of the citizenry. She must lead working groups consisting of representatives from municipal departments on how best to include indigenous perspectives in the drafting of laws and regulations.

On top of all that, the Indigenous Commissioner must address the issue of homelessness within the community. As the newly appointed commissioner has said, it’s really “a project of collective healing.”

The appointment of an Indigenous Commissioner to the municipal administration is a big deal as it is a recognition that Montreal cannot continue to neglect its Native population. It must, however, be stressed that the importance of this appointment goes beyond symbolism and one glance at Marie-Ève Bordeleau’s impressive resumé confirms this.

Who is Marie-Ève Bordeleau?

Marie-Ève Bordeleau is a lawyer from Senneterre who studied at Université Laval. Her father is Cree from Waswanipi and her mother is Quebecoise.

Marie-Ève Bordeleau (image via Facebook)

After graduating law school, she was selected by The Pacific Center for Public Integrity, a non-governmental organization, to work with Indigenous communities in Fiji. From there, Bordeleau worked at the firm of Morin and Murdoch where she worked Indigenous law cases that required her to travel throughout the reserves in the Baie James area. She was also involved the in 2015 Val D’Or crisis in which provincial police were accused of abusing indigenous people, especially women, in their custody.

Perhaps the most significant characteristic of our new Indigenous Commissioner’s career is the clear dedication to improving the lives of Indigenous people.

In 2016 she started a mobile mediation service for Indigenous communities with her colleague, Martha Montour. It’s office is located in Kahnawake and offers mediation services – a way for two parties in a conflict to work out their differences in a structured environment outside a courtroom – in the fields of family law, labour law, as well as between Indigenous organizations and tribal councils.

Bordeleau has also traveled across Canada consulting with those who run shelters for Indigenous women fleeing family violence and has met with their directors and aid workers in order to develop legal tools to best help them. In the interviews she’s given, she expresses her outrage at the discrimination faced by Native women.

In 2016 she told Droit Inc., an online legal journal, that she thinks the Commission on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is a step in the right direction for the Federal government, but like all Indigenous people dealing with a mostly white government, she knows their intentions are good but they still must prove themselves through action.

What Bordeleau has constantly stressed is that Indigenous communities need more resources, including greater access to grants and subsidies and financing parity between the institutions and organizations of these communities. She has noted in the past that one key to healing relations between Indigenous communities and provincial and federal governments is that the latter formally recognize that the problems facing Canada’s Indigenous people are due to the impact of colonization.

Montreal’s new Commissioner of Indigenous Affairs is more than just a symbolic post. It is an indication that the city is truly committed to healing relations with its Native population and working actively to improve their lives. Mayor Plante could have appointed any Indigenous leader to the post, but instead she chose a woman whose career has been distinguished by its proven commitment to recognizing and fixing the problems facing her people.

If anyone can promote healing between Montreal and its Indigenous community, it’s Marie-Ève Bordeleau.

With her at the helm, there’s hope for the future.

Featured image: Facebook

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

If you like unique original art and unique takes of the well-established classics, there is plenty to check out this week (this weekend in particular) in Montreal. So let’s get started:

Doris: the art show

Montreal-based performer and art maker Jessica Rae is hosting a one-day immersive art show set in a trash-kitsch dream world inspired by her grandmother.

The event will feature hand sculptures, mobile art and x-mas tree decorations which you can purchase. The chips, soda, jelly rolls and wine, though, are free!

Consult the Facebook event page for more info.

Doris: the art show takes place Saturday, December 9 from 2pm – 7pm at 3655 boul St-Laurent, #205, all ages welcome

The Film Society’s 25th Anniversary Surprise Screening

You may have seen or at least heard of a Montreal company presenting silent films with live musical accompaniment. That was Le Cinéclub de Montréal or The Film Society of Montreal and they’ve been in operation for 25 years.

To celebrate that milestone, they’re holding a surprise free screening this Saturday. By surprise, we mean that we don’t know what film will be screened, though you can bet it will be a classic and there will be something unique to the Film Society happening either before, after or alongside it.

Le Cinéclub de Montréal / The Film Society of Montreal’s 25th Anniversary Surprise Screening is Saturday, December 9th at 6:30pm at Cinema de Sève in Concordia’s Webster Library (LB), 1400 de Maisonneuve Ouest

Geordie Productions’ A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens’ holiday classic A Christmas Carol has been adapted for the stage and screen so many times, it’s really difficult to come up with a unique take on it. Montreal’s Geordie Productions, though, has, in more ways than one.

They’ve cast lawyers, judges and other leaders in Montreal’s legal and business communities as actors. Quebec Superior Court Justice the Honourable Pepita G. Capriolo plays Ebenezia Scrooge, so yes, Scrooge is also a woman in this production.

There are only a few shows and each one includes a cocktail hour and silent auction. This holiday tradition is a fundraiser to allow Geordie to continue to function and bring its plays to schools year-round.

A Christmas Carol presented by Geordie Productions runs Friday, December 8th at 7pm and Saturday, December 9th at 2pm and 7pm at the D.B. Clarke Theatre, Concordia University Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve Ouest, tickets are $25 and available through geordie.ca

* Featured image courtesy The Film Society of Montreal

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

A few days after being sworn in as Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante has unveiled our city’s new Executive Committee.  This is the group that generates documents like budgets and by-laws and presents them to City Council.

As promised, it’s gender-balanced and draws from various parts of town. It also includes a member not from Plante’s Projet Montréal party, Verdun Borough Mayor Jean-François Parenteau who ran with Coderre’s team but now sits as an independent.

Montreal’s largest borough, Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, is represented by Councillor Magda Popeanu, one of the committee’s vice presidents now in charge of the rather large portfolio dealing with housing. The Sud Ouest is well represented by the Committee President and Borough Mayor Benoit Dorais and Craig Sauvé, a City Councillor who will be an Associate Councillor on the committee helping with mobility (he was Projet’s former transport critic).

Boroughs that recently went Projet like Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension will be represented, as will Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie and Le Plateau Mont-Royal, two Projet strongholds. Plateau Borough Mayor and quite the divisive figure Luc Ferrandez got the major parks portfolio, something that even his harshest critics would agree is right up his alley.

Unfortunately, as various media outlets, the opposition and even Plante herself noted, this committee fails when it comes to diversity. While 40% of Projet’s electoral slate were visible minority candidates, none of them were elected.

The only four elected non-white City Councillors ran with Coderre. While Plante’s team did approach most of them about joining the Executive Committee, there was one condition that Parenteau met but they apparently refused to: leave the Équipe Coderre caucus. They don’t have to be Projet members, they just can’t still be members of the former mayor’s party.

These are all the newly announced members of Montreal’s Executive Committee:

Valérie Plante: The Mayor of Montreal and Ville-Marie Borough Mayor will also be in charge of Downtown, Mount-Royal and international relations

Benoit Dorais: The Sud-Ouest Borough Mayor will serve as President of the Executive Committee and also handle finance, human resources and legal affairs

Magda Popeanu: The City Councillor for Côte-des-Neiges will serve as Vice-President responsible for housing, real estate planning and management and diversity

Sylvain Ouellet: The City Councillor for François-Perrault (in Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension) will serve as Vice-President responsible for water and water infrastructure management, infrastructure and electrical services

Éric Alan Caldwell: The City Councillor for Hochelaga will be responsible for urban planning, transit and the Office de consultation publique de Montréal

Christine Gosselin: The City Councillor for Vieux-Rosemont will be responsible for heritage, culture and design

Luc Ferrandez: The Plateau Borough Mayor will be responsible for the environment, major parks, sustainable development and green space

Nathalie Goulet: The City Councillor for Ahuntsic will be responsible for public security

Robert Beaudry: The City Councillor for Saint-Jacques (Ville-Marie Borough) is responsible for ecomomy, business and intergovernmental affairs

Rosannie Filato: The City Councillor for Villeray will be responsible for social and community development, the homeless, youth, sports and recreation

François William Croteau: The Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie Borough Mayor will be responsible for smart city, information technology and innovation

Laurence Lavigne Lalonde: The City Councillor for Maisonneuve–Longue-Pointe (Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Borough) will be responsible for transparency, democracy, governance, citizen life and Espace pour la vie

Jean-François Parenteau: The Verdun Borough Mayor will be responsible for citizen services and purchasing

Sophie Mauzerolle: The City Councillor for Sainte-Marie (Ville-Marie Borough) will serve as an Associate Councillor assisting Plante directly

Alex Norris: The City Councillor for Jeanne-Mance (Plateau Borough) will serve as and Associate Councillor assisting with public security

Marianne Giguère: The City Councillor for de Lorimier (Plateau Borough) will serve as an Associate Councillor assisting with active transit

Craig Sauvé: The City Councillor for Saint-Henri—Little-Burgundy—Point-Saint-Charles will serve as an Associate Councillor assisting with mobility and citizen services

Suzie Miron: The City Councillor for Tétreaultville (Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Borough) will serve as an Associate Councillor assisting with infrastructure

The streets of Montreal are filled with all sorts of graffiti, wheatpastes, and murals, but the artist Swarm is one of few that stand out among the rest. Originally from Ottawa, Ontario, the multi-disciplinary artist started doing street art in Toronto in 2011, and has been Montreal-based since 2014. Heavily inspired by outer space, bright colours, portals, and the void, her wheat pastes and sprays add an ethereal, dreamy vibe to the city’s infrastructure.

wheatpaste, 2016, photo credit: Swarm

Aside from that, she has been involved with Unceded Voices since 2014, a collective of anti-colonial street artists, participated in OFFMural-Es (2014), a feminist/anti-corporate/anti-colonial street art movement, and was a featured artist in Street Meet Saskatoon (2015), an annual public/street/graffiti art festival. While a lot of her work is politically charged, Swarm is also a master of celestial imagery which fuels her work across many disciplines.

While popular motifs of space beings/plants, portals, and naturally occurring patterns in space and nature seem literal on the surface, in her artist statement she talks about them as symbols for abolishing oppressive power structures, her experiences with gender identity, gender oppression, and being multi-racial. These themes carry over from her political work into the work she does where the audience only sees the surface and is left to interpret the meaning, which is intended to provoke feelings of boundlessness, transcendence, and hope.

Sleepover Drone installation, 2017, photo credit: Swarm

It’s important to note that Swarm is a multi-disciplinary artist because she doesn’t fall into one category. Other than street art, she practices studio arts, printmaking, makes jewellery, and creates beautiful installations in Montreal’s DIY scenes.

Sleepover Drone!, a recurring event at Mile-End DIY-space La Plante, often commissions Swarm’s installations to create an otherworldly experience for those interacting in the space. Metallic flowers, portals into space, soft drapery and lights strung around the room’s perimeter all sets the perfect ambience for the drone-music-centered events.

You can also see a permanent installation on the terrace of Casa del Popolo, which includes a pink fence, giant moons and space plants at the very least. You’ll have to go check it out in person to see it, or scroll through her instagram to find photos. Wherever you see her installations, it’s always magical and makes you feel like you’re in a dream.

Swarm also has an Etsy store, Maison Cinq, where you can buy stickers, screen printed patches, handmade jewellery and original art directly from her.

* Featured image: Wheatpaste (2016), photo credit: Swarm

Usually when writing these election breakdowns, I always have to search for the silver lining. Not this time.  I’m very proud of Montreal.

First, we have elected a woman as Mayor for the first time in 375 years. And an extremely progressive woman, too.  Valérie Plante, a one-term City Counselor who rose to become the leader of Projet Montréal and in just a few months has unseated career politician, former federal cabinet minister and incumbent Mayor Denis Coderre who has now quit municipal politics after just four years in it.

This is a tectonic shift in Montreal politics which will have repercussions in both the provincial and federal political arenas. No surpise that Plante pretty much put Quebec City and Ottawa on notice, in the most polite way possible, during her victory speech.

As a whole, it was one of the most spontaneous, upbeat, fun and positive bits of political discourse I have ever witnessed. It was also a serious promise to focus on Montreal and bring everyone together to do it.

Definitely worth watching:

While Mayor of Montreal is a very powerful position in and of itself, a majority on City Council makes it that much easier for the winner to hit the ground running. Otherwise, they would need to form coalitions with independent councilors and those from other parties.

Plante would have been able to pull off the latter rather easily, given that pretty much everyone not running on Coderre’s team endorsed her for Mayor. However, that won’t be necessary, as Projet Montréal won 34 of the 65 seats available, giving her a majority.

Thanks to that, she has already started putting together her Executive Committee with Sud Ouest Borough Mayor Benoit Dorais as its President and has already started talking to Quebec officials and is planning to talk to Ottawa about getting more buses on the road and potential funding for the Pink line. It looks like things will move fast, which is great news for transit users, pet owners, cyclists, people who dislike wasteful spending but are fond of transparency and, arguably, all Montrealers.

Huge Borough Gains for Projet Montréal

Projet is also now quite strong in borough governments. Ten borough mayors belong to the party, eleven if you count Ville Marie (Downtown and Old Montreal), as the Mayor of Montreal also leads that central Borough Council.

As a Ville Marie resident, I found that particular setup annoying when Coderre, who was not our voters’ choice for Mayor (he finished third among Ville Marie voters in 2013), wielded power over the council made up entirely of the opposition. This time, Ville Marie voters chose Plante first, just like the city, so who we voted for is who’s in charge at both the city and borough level, a very welcome change.

Projet also holds the majority on the Ville Marie Borough Council with Plante’s co-candidate Sophie Mauzerolle retaining Sainte-Marie by a healthy margin and Robert Beaudry winning in St-Jacques over the three time Projet mayoral candidate who left the party he co-founded to run with Coderre. Definitely one for the Bad Career Moves Hall of Fame.

Voters in Peter McGill, my district, elected Cathy Wong, the lone Équipe Denis Coderre (probably gonna have to change the party name now) councilor in Ville Marie. While I was hoping for a clean sweep of the borough with Projet’s Jabiz Sharifan, I’m glad that at least Steve Shanahan, who abused his municipal office to run federally for Harper, lost.

Projet maintained complete control of the Plateau, Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie and Sud Ouest. It wasn’t even close in most of those races. The party also swept places like Lachine and L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève where they had no representation previously and made significant gains in boroughs like Outremont.

Perhaps the most significant local increase happened in the city’s most populous borough, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. It’s also the part of town hardest hit by Montreal’s traffic woes.

Former Gazette journalist Sue Montgomery unseated former provincial MNA and incumbent Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, who would have been President of the Executive Committee had both he and Coderre won. Peter McQueen won a third consecutive mandate in NDG by one of the largest margins of victory in the city and Magda Popeanu was re-elected to a second term in Côte-des-Neiges.

Voters in Loyola elected Projet’s Christian Arseneault, giving the party three of the borough’s five council seats. He beat out Coderre candidate Gabriel Retta with incumbent independent councilor Jeremy Searle finishing third. I guess calling constituents at 4am to argue with them and showing up at council meetings (allegedly) drunk will cause you to drop in votes.

Former Interim Mayor of the borough Lionel Perez was re-elected in Darlington, making him the only member of Coderre’s team on the Borough Council. Marvin Rotrand, the leader and only elected candidate for Coalition Montreal held on in Snowdon. With 35 years in office, it would take quite a bit to unseat him, though he only beat Projet’s Irina Maria Grecu by 576 votes. He also came out in support of Plante for Mayor during the campaign and just announced that this term will be his last.

It’s clear which party will be running the show in this major borough for the next four years.

The Changing Face of Montreal Politics

With political establishment heavyweights like Copeman and now-former Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension Borough Mayor Anie Samson losing to political newcomers (though ones who have been very involved in their communities), the face of politics in Montreal is changing. Business-as-usual is now in the minority at City Hall.

The Old Boys Club mentality has been show the door both figuratively and literally. There are now more women in positions of power in the city than men. Another first for Montreal.

The new look also fortunately comes with a new, progressive attitude. Plante and Projet won because Montrealers from all over the city and from all walks of life rejected the bread and circuses to hide inaction approach that has guided our development for decades.

We’re on a path of ambitious, though realistic infrastructure development. One of sustainable and fair mobility and a locally-focused attitude. It’s a great time to be a Montrealer.

St. Laurent Boulevard is set to lose a jewel of a bookshop as rising rents force a beloved bookseller into early retirement after 25 years.

On October 26th workers from 1-800-GOT-JUNK carried armfuls of books to the back of a dump truck. Inside Librairie T. Westcott, hidden behind stacks teetering on the verge of collapse, Terry Westcott sat behind the cash and sold books like it was a regular day.

The customers seemed more or less unaware that the bookstore he had run for so many years was being taken apart piece by piece behind him. For his part, Terry seemed to be playing along with the facade.

“Do you have a copy of Old Man and the Sea?” a woman asked. Terry smiled and pointed to a shelf a short distance away. “If we have any Hemingway it’s in the Literature section. But I don’t think we do at this time.”

“Oh well, I had to ask,” replied the woman and headed for the Literature shelf, dodging a worker clearing out books as she passed.

Outside, it started raining. The worker dutifully dumped his armload onto the growing pile of soggy books. “Don’t worry, it’s going in the recycling, not the dump,” the worker offered, as if trying to downplay some sense of personal culpability.

During a pause in the dramatic scene that was unfolding, I got a chance to ask Terry about his bookstore, why it was closing and his fondest memories of the place. Soft-spoken to the point of a whisper, he graciously obliged.

“My lease ended September of last year in 2016. Then in June the landlord came and told me that he had advertised the store for rent online and he’d received an offer of $4500 a month. There’s no way I can maintain a used bookshop at $4500 a month.”

Terry told me he would stay open as long as possible, until he was locked out. Some books would be donated, some would be sold, but most were headed for the dump truck.

“Yeah, it’s all going into the recycling. Around 20 000 books, altogether. It’s ridiculous.”

The inability to meet exorbitant rental fees is a familiar story along St. Laurent Boulevard. Every block of The Main contains at least one or two shuttered businesses. While Quebec has excellent rent control legislation in residential zones, small businesses like Terry Westcott’s survive at the whim of landlords, who can increase their rents to whatever price they can get from new tenants.

The loss of Librairie T. Westcott is a blow. A small store, Terry made use of every square foot. Organized by subject, piles of books reached close to the ceiling in places and navigating the aisles was sometimes a challenge. Whether Terry planned it this way or not, it had the effect of making each ‘find’ more gratifying, especially if you did it without causing a bookvalanche.

This is not to say things were disorganized. Once I laid down a number of heavy books I’d wanted to buy and when I came back for them five minutes later discovered that Terry had silently placed them all back in the their respective sections.

“A bookstore is a community, not just a business.” Terry said. Apart from hundreds of customers drawn in off the street, dozens of dedicated regulars came through his shop each month. “I read a sociological study that if a bookstore’s in the area, the crime rate drops by 30%. Somebody told me that Paris protects their bookshops [from rent increases]. I don’t know if it’s true or not.”

When asked about his fondest memories, he tells me it’s the community that he helped foster that he’ll miss the most: “People that are still book buyers and have a passion for books.”

He’ll also miss his two devoted regulars: “I had two little cats in the store and they’re a very fond memory. One died at 19, the other at 18.”

Their names? Emma (after Jane Austen) and Eliot (after T.S.). “The veterinarians could never get his name right, spelling it ‘Elliott’ like Pierre Elliott Trudeau.”

I ask him what he’ll do after he retires.

“Well, I’m 74 but I don’t want to retire. I’m still healthy and mentally active, I was hoping to continue. So I have no plans in particular. Maybe I’ll watch golf on television, read the newspaper. Maybe I’ll take in another cat, an older one. They have their lives to live too.”

At the time of writing, hundreds of books have been trucked away. The entire back wall is now bare in preparation for renovations by the new tenant.

But one thing is certain— as long as he can manage to keep his doors open, Terry and Librairie T. Westcott will continue to enrich the community he helped foster for the last quarter century.

* While it’s still open, T. Westcott Books is located at 4065 boul. St-Laurent

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:

On Friday morning, transit users stood at stops along the 80 du Parc South route wearing surgical masks and other face coverings to protest recently passed amendments to C-62. One Montreal bus driver honked his horn and covered his face in solidarity and now faces disciplinary actions from the STM (Société de transport de Montréal, the Montreal transit commission) as a result.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly voted for changes to the so-called “religious neutrality of the state” law which now require all those receiving provincial or municipal government services such as riding on public transit to do so with their faces uncovered. Basically, no niqabs on the bus.

The union representing Montreal transit workers say they don’t want their members to be stuck enforcing this law. They will be defending the driver at his hearing.

Meanwhile the STM says it is still “evaluating” the new rules but didn’t take that long to evaluate whether or not to try and punish the driver. He may get a reprimand or be suspended depending on factors like his work history.

The STM feels he made them look bad. If optics is what they’re concerned with, then they really aren’t looking at the full picture.

Going after a driver for showing solidarity with both a targeted minority and those transit users protesting the law targeting them looks real bad, especially when you consider that this driver will be among those tasked with enforcing that law. Bus drivers didn’t sign up to enforce the xenophobic will of the state.

Not taking a stand against C-62, something those you serve, Montrealers, don’t want, also looks real bad. The STM should have taken a cue from its union and made a statement against this unfair and bigoted legislation, at the very least from the angle that it puts them in a position that goes well beyond their mandate.

Of course, this is the same organization that censured Jacques the Singing Bus Driver of 165 fame and the guy who used to announce the stops on the 80 with a bit of location info (“St-Viateur, la rue des bagels”). While passengers seemed to enjoy a driver having a good time at work, STM killjoys shut them down.

I still don’t agree with those decisions, but at least I understand the mentality behind them. This time, though, the STM’s stance is indefensible.

If the police can wear camo pants for years because of a salary negotiation, then one bus driver has every right to honk his horn and cover his mouth for a moment to take a symbolic stand against state bigotry that may soon directly affect his job.

If more bus drivers (maybe the union as a whole) staged protests like this, which, by the way, don’t disrupt transit service one bit, it would send a powerful message. If the STM backed them, the organization would be on the right side of history.

The women who wear niqabs or burqas are the real potential victims of C-62, but it looks like the first casualty may be a Montreal bus driver showing solidarity.

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