Luc Ferrandez, Borough Mayor of Plateau Mont-Royal since 2009, former interim leader of Projet Montréal and more recently the Executive Committee member responsible for Montreal’s large parks, is out. He announced that he is leaving politics in a Facebook post earlier today. He has already submitted his resignation and it goes into effect in June.

Frequently controversial and never afraid to say exactly what was on his mind, sometimes to a fault, his departure announcement was very on-brand:

He didn’t give a benign reason (spending time with his family, etc.) and then follow it up with a bunch of thank-yous to his colleagues like a typical politician would. Instead he attacked the Plante Administration’s environmental bona fides and then followed it up with a bunch of thank-yous to his colleagues in that same administration as only Luc Ferrandez would.

His Rationale

Basically,Ferrandez feels that the current city government isn’t doing all it can to protect the environment. He also feels that he is someone known for his commitment to protecting the environment. Therefore, as he explained, his continued presence in the administration maintained a “false image” that they were doing all they could.

For Ferrandez, all they could be doing is a pretty extensive list. It includes proposals Plateau residents might expect, like taxing all parking spaces, taxing all cars coming into downtown and increasing the size of green spaces. There are also proposed limits and taxes on petrol products coming through our port.

The most interesting part, though, is his plan to limit the height of buildings in certain areas, but increase the height of buildings near parks and Metro stations. Basically, it’s designed to limit the need for daily car travel, something that’s probably worth its own article, but not today.

A Double-Edged Sword for Plante

Now the focus is, has to be, on what his departure means for Mayor Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal. The next municipal election is still two years away, but running without Ferrandez on the ballot will definitely be a factor.

On one hand, this may help Plante city-wide. Last election, incumbent Mayor Denis Coderre made “in a Plante-Ferrandez administration” his go-to snide remark in debates, knowing that the Plateau Mayor’s reputation, bolstered by local corporate media, was something that could hurt his opponent in parts of the city that were markedly different than the Plateau.

In the Plateau, though, Plante’s party loses someone who was re-elected, along with his entire team of councillors, twice, each time a landslide victory. Replacing him won’t be the easiest task, and it’s one that Projet needs to accomplish soon, because when his resignation takes effect in June, they have a 120 day by-election campaign to retain control of the borough that has been at the core of the party for a decade.

Featured Image via Facebook

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.

 

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!”

 

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

Anyone living in the Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough will tell you that unless you are construction worker with a cushy government contract, the area is a living hell. Entire blocks of main streets have been closed to construction and companies operate in flagrant violation of municipal noise and safety laws.

Everyone is afraid to phone in a complaint because of concerns of reprisals from people wielding heavy machinery. Businesses are suffering, people are losing sleep and getting noise headaches, and even buying groceries has become an obstacle course of spraying gravel and thoroughfares laden with holes, making it hazardous for the borough’s disabled and elderly and anyone with a baby carriage.

It is concerns over the borough’s construction problems and the offer of the most pragmatic solution that will likely determine the outcome of the upcoming municipal election in NDG/Côte des Neiges.

I had the privilege of speaking to one of the candidates for borough mayor, Sue Montgomery, a former journalist now representing Projet Montreal, a party running on a platform of accessibility for the disabled, cultural diversity, and administrative accountability, among other things. She is up against current Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre’s man, Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, and a newcomer, Zaki Ghavitian, who entered the race last Tuesday.

Montgomery welcomed me into her home in NDG. Though running for office, there is little that is politician-like about her. She met me at the door and cheerfully joked about how the humid weather impacted her curly hair. It did not feel like an interview but rather like a new friend inviting me for tea.

Here’s what we talked about.

SG: Why are you running?

SM: Part of the reason is what’s going on south of the border. I’m horrified by it like many people and I thought if good people don’t step up, the same thing could possibly happen here. Obviously I’m not running for president but it starts at the grassroots and can go up.

I’ve lived here for 20 years and I think it’s an amazing borough but I don’t think it’s at its potential. I think there are a lot of problems and I think there’s some incredible grassroots groups that are active here and I’d like to work with those groups and coordinate things better. We’re the biggest borough, but I’d like us to be the envy of the other boroughs.

What do you feel the current leadership is doing well?

I don’t think Russell is doing a bad job. He has a lot of experience as a politician. I don’t think he’s really into the job. He’s not here full time. He works downtown on the Executive Committee so he’s really only here a couple of days a week and I think this borough needs a full time mayor, which is what I would be. I have no desire to be on the Executive Committee.

What do you feel you can improve?

In terms of our borough, right now, construction is a nightmare. I would like to improve the coordination of it, the organization of it, and the communication about it. I would also like to improve communication with residents, so instead of having a thing where we meet every month at borough council meetings, I would like to hold casual once a month also in a café.

I think the borough council meeting can be a bit intimidating. A lot of people don’t understand politics – I count myself among them earlier in my life – I didn’t take a lot of interest in it. I think a lot of women and young people don’t because they don’t recognize themselves in the people who are running things, i.e. middle aged white guys. I would like to make it more grassroots, more democratic, more consultation, more discussion.

As mayor, I’m not going to have the answers. I’m going to have a lot of questions: Why are things like this? Why is it working like this? Why is not working like this? Which is my journalistic background. I have ideas, but I don’t have the answers. I think the people who have the answers are groups like Head and Hands and the NDG Food Depot, NDG Community Council, the Immigrant Workers’ Center. These are people at the ground level who know this is what we need and how do we get that.

Regarding the construction in NDG, what do you feel is the source of the problems?

A lot of this work is done by subcontractors, so there should be a mechanism to find them if their worksite is not secure for pedestrians and cyclists. We need people to go around and check that they’re properly set up.

To me it feels like there’s no accountability here. I remember being a journalist when the bridge collapsed. Heads would roll in other provinces for something like that and they didn’t here. No one was ever held accountable. I would want to know do they have a list of complaints? Do they have a list of what was done with those complaints? Was it followed up? How was it followed up? If it wasn’t, why not? Who is responsible here?

Do you think a standard protocol should be set up?

Absolutely! It’s all about accountability. You can’t just have a number people call and nothing happens. I’ve talked to people since the storm (the microburst which hit NDG particularly hard) where they’ve called in about trees and were told it would be 3 years, 5 years…

How do you feel the city reacted to that big storm?

From what I hear from residents, they were pretty impressed with the cleanup and I know that a lot of healthy trees came down. But I would like to know how many of those trees were rotten and how many of them had been reported because we were SUPER lucky that no one was injured.

I’ve talked to an arborist who told me that this borough is the most neglected when it comes to tree maintenance and a lot of the trees that came down were rotten. With climate change, we’re going to see a lot more of these storms and so that has to be a priority, maintaining those trees.

Montgomery chatted openly about the challenges she will face as the only female candidate running in the borough. Her focus is on improving access for people who rely on sidewalks, bicycles, and public transportation while making sure that the more problematic elements in CDN/NDG are held to account.

Her unpolitician-like demeanor is appealing to more cynical voters and her approachability makes her a sure contender. Whether she’ll be able to win over those who want to be led by a politician remains to be seen.

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

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

Panelists Lyle Stewart and Cem Ertekin discuss new Projet Montréal Leader Valérie Plante and the upcoming film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with host Jason C. McLean.

News Roundup Topics: Standing Rock (temporary?) victory, Trudeau’s pipelines, the death of Fidel Castro and Val d’Or

Panelists:

Lyle Stewart: Veteran Montreal journalist

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor and contributor

Host: Jason C. McLean

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

Report by Hannah Besseau

Referenced article by Lyle Stewart from The Nation

Recorded Sunday, December 4, 2016 in Montreal

LISTEN:

WATCH:

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

There has been quite a bit of talk about money in politics lately. Thanks in part to Bernie Sanders, we all know about the obscene amounts of money donated anonymously through SuperPacs to political candidates in the United States.

But the problem isn’t limited to the States, and it’s also not limited to major national campaigns. In fact, it has permeated even the most basic elements of our representative democracies.

There’s a phrase I saw, or rather re-saw, recently in a meme, and I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, now:

“If it’s inaccessible to the poor, it’s neither radical nor revolutionary.”

I have been trying to reconcile this with my long-held view that internet media can be revolutionary. There are good arguments both for and against the notion. When it comes to party politics, though, things become a little more cut and dry.

Application Fees for the Top Job

On Monday, Projet Montréal, arguably the most progressive political party in the city, officially began its search for a new leader. There were, of course, rules. Understandably, you have to be legally eligible to be a candidate for Mayor of Montréal (because that’s what the job essentially is) and you have to have already been a member of the party (fair play, considering they want to weed out people running just to disparage the party).

But there’s more: you also need to have previously donated at least $300 to the party and must raise between $5 000 and $30 000 during the campaign. Yes, there are financial requirements for prospective candidates.

On one hand, I understand that a City Councillor who owes their better-than-average paying job, in part, to a party, should give a little back. I also realize that for many, $300 isn’t all that much money.

However, these requirements limit the field to those who are already elected or have enough money lying around to make that $300 investment. If someone doesn’t, sure they can borrow it off their friend, but then they will be beholden to their friend. Sure, it’s not like owing Walmart or Imperial Oil, but it’s still owing a contributor.

When it comes to raising money during the campaign, it does make sense that a well-funded campaign will do better than a poorly funded one, so I imagine any candidate for leadership will try to raise money. But making it a requirement effectively works against someone who has an idea of another way to succeed (an excellent social media campaign, for example).

It’s not that foregoing raising funds in lieu of another approach will work. It’s that someone who has that idea should be given the chance to succeed or fail with it.

That said, you do not have to be a member of a political party to become Mayor, you can run as an independent. That’s not the case everywhere, though.

You Need to Lead a Party to be Prime Minister

The Federal NDP will also be holding its leadership race in the near future. The NDP also has rules for candidates wishing to enter (at this point, just proposed rules):

  1. Leadership hopefuls need to collect 500 signatures from party members in different regions of the country. Makes sense.
  2. Half those signatures need to be from “female-identified members” and 100 need to come from “other equity-seeking groups” which means visible minorities, Aboriginal Peoples, members of the LGBTQ community and people with disabilities. Yes, sure, absolutely. The more representative, the better.
  3. There is a $30 000 entry fee. Wait, what? Some people don’t make that in a year!

30 grand for a chance to be NDP Leader? That’s like taking three huge steps forward and then 30 000 steps back when it comes to inclusivity, especially when you consider that those the NDP is trying to include in the voting process are more likely to be those who can’t afford the leadership registration fee.

Former candidate Cheri DiNovo brought this issue to the forefront, refusing to officially enter the race and pay the fee. While she said she could probably raise the money, no candidate should have to in order to run.

And she’s absolutely correct. The only people who can afford to spend $30 000 on a job application when getting the job isn’t a sure thing (and a PM or MP’s salary isn’t either, even if you do get the job) are those who are already wealthy, are already elected officials, or those who know enough donors to raise the money from.

9194884056_86180db1f9_o

No matter how you cut it, there is a huge personal economic restriction placed on people not already part of the political process who want to throw their hat in the ring. Sure, anyone can get involved, but the limits to the higher levels aren’t based on experience, they’re based on personal finances.

And unlike municipal politics, you need to be the leader of a political party to become Prime Minister of Canada. Not sure what the other major parties charge to run for leader, but if the progressive, left NDP is any indication, PM is a job inaccessible to those who don’t have or can’t raise large sums of money.

Until someone with hardly any cash can successfully run for mayor or PM on a party ticket, party politics remain inaccessible to the poor and therefore cannot be considered radical or revolutionary.

Projet Montréal is now officially searching for a new leader. So if you want to throw your proverbial hat in the ring to become the next head of the Official Opposition party in City Hall, you have until mid October to do so.

That is, provided you are already a member of the party. Leadership candidates can only be people who are registered members of Projet Montréal as of today, a move presumably to stop haters from messing the party up from the inside.

To run for leader, you also need to be eligible to be a candidate for Mayor of Montreal (understandably), plus you would have had to have made a donation of at least $300 to the party. You also need to raise at least $5000 in donations from members and non members, with leadership run expenses capped at $30 000.

If you want to vote for the leader instead of becoming the party boss, it’s a little more affordable and you have a bit more time.  You need to already be a member or sign up as one by November 4th. Former members who haven’t renewed for over a year have until November 19th to do so if they want a say in who will challenge Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre in 2017. One year Projet Montréal memberships cost $10.

Luc Ferrandez officially kicked off the contest today with a press conference and video. The Plateau Borough Mayor became Interim Leader of Projet Montréal in October 2014 but has already announced that he won’t be seeking the party’s top job on a permanent basis. Saint-Édouard City Councillor François Limoges is the only declared candidate so far.

This is Projet Montréal’s first leadership race. Co-founder Richard Bergeron had led the party since its inception in 2004, taking it from one elected city councillor (himself) to Official Opposition status. Bergeron quit the party shortly after the 2013 Montreal Municipal Election to sit as an independent and be part of Coderre’s Executive Committee.

The Projet Montréal Leadership Election will be a Universal Ballot and take place at a special convention on  December 4th, 2016.

I think Montrealers owe Gerald Tremblay and even Jean Drapeau an apology. Sure, they may have been corrupt, but at least they had the basic decency to make their abuse of city funds look, on some level, beneficial.

Denis Coderre won’t even extend us the courtesy of trying to pull the wool over our eyes. He’s paying, or rather Montrealers are paying, $3.45 million for granite shaped as tree stumps on Mount Royal, supposedly in celebration of our city’s 375th anniversary.

Drapeau: Corruption in the Details

Drapeau’s administration was responsible for building the Olympic Stadium. Yes, there were trucks driving in and out, then around the block, then back in, counted twice and paid twice or multiple times (page 6).

Was it grossly over budget and behind schedule due to corruption? Yes. Is it occasionally functional at best and a bit of an eyesore? Absolutely. Was Drapeau able to make a good case for building the thing in the first place? Yes he was.

The idea of a city the size of Montreal having an Olympic stadium that also can double as a baseball, football and concert venue is a good one. Or, at very least, it’s an idea that you can logically argue is beneficial. The corruption and waste, in this case, was all in the details.

Tremblay and the Arts: A Different Opinion

The most glaring example of corruption in the Tremblay administration (and there are many to choose from) has got to be the Quartier de Spectacles project. We’re talking no-bid contracts given to connected developers who chose to ignore rather vocal input and opposition from the existing artistic community, local business owners and historical preservationists and move ahead with their unpopular and badly conceived projects.

It took a court case and media shitstorm to stop the expropriation of Café Cleopatre, but the rest of the project has already become reality, or most likely will.

Was this a case of politicians doing favours for their friends at Montrealers’ expense. No doubt. Could Tremblay realistically argue public benefit? Unfortunately, yes.

I don’t for a minute buy the argument that we need to push independent artists out of their venues and tear down historic buildings in order to accommodate corporate art backers and uber-mainstream culture in order to be an international arts city. In fact, I find that angle repugnant and an insult to the very core of what makes Montreal artistically unique.

However, I will grant Tremblay one thing. While I didn’t and still don’t see any benefit in his plan, he was completely justified to argue that there was. One of those things where time will tell, I guess.

Coderre: Lost in the Woods

At first glance, Coderre’s granite tree stumps look…like a fucking terrible idea. An eyesore, really. Who needs fake nature when you’re surrounded by real nature?

Then you hear the price tag. Then all you hear is the price tag. How could the city be paying so much? Clearly someone’s getting the proverbial brown envelope, probably a friend of the Mayor. At least I hope someone is. If this isn’t corruption, then it’s catastrophically bad urban planning, which is probably worse.

mordecai richler gazeebo

This isn’t just some overpriced project like the Mordecai Richler Gazeebo which will cost $724 000. Sure, that’s way too much. Sure, Coderre rejected an offer of a free gazeebo to go with this plan instead. But at the very least, despite being worth nowhere near what Montreal will pay for it, a restored Gazeebo on the mountain named after one of Montreal’s most celebrated authors is a good thing.

This also isn’t like the public tree-shaped benches costing in the thousands opposition party Projet Montreal, who voted against the granite stumps on the mountain, installed on streets in the Plateau. Overpriced? Sure. Unnecessary? Yeah. But at least a tree-like bench on a city street, it can be argued, serves a purpose.

A place to sit? A good thing. Fake nature on an urban street? Sure. Kinda cheesey, but sure. But fake nature in the middle of a beautiful space full of real nature. It’s not just an unnecessary waste, it’s unwanted.

If you want to sit down on something natural, sit on a rock or, wait for it, an actual tree stump. If you want to sit on something made by humans, use a bench. There are plenty of them around the mountain and they didn’t cost a fraction of what these granite stumps will.

If you really want the sitting on nature experience but would prefer not have to sit on the actual nature that is all around you and think the city should pay $3.45 million for you to be able to do just that, then, hopefully, most likely, you don’t exist. If you do, then Denis Coderre would really like you to speak up right now.

Sure, some of these fake granite (parts of) trees are scheduled to appear in other spots in the city, like the campus of Université de Montréal (which also has quite a bit of nature in it, if I remember correctly), but it’s the ones on the Mountain that are particularly galling.

Coderre is taking a public beating on this one, from all corners of the political spectrum. And rightly so. This isn’t just corruption. This isn’t just out-of-touch, overpriced decadence. It’s something people wouldn’t want, in most cases, even if the price tag was $5.

Denis Coderre forgot the first rule of corruption: try to make it look like you are doing a good thing. If you’re going to screw us, Mr. Mayor, at least let us think that we’re enjoying it.

A couple days back I was at the mayor’s press conference concerning the provincial budget and something he said, and repeated, caught my attention. In essence he insisted Montreal is a metropolis that requires a greater say in how provincial tax dollars are spent in our city. I couldn’t agree more and I know where I heard this before.

Referring to the provincial budget, Coderre shrugged and said, simply, that it was realistic, but generally gave the impression he thought it was uninspired and was far too vague on the specifics of provincial money earmarked to develop social housing and improve infrastructure. A few months ago, Richard Bergeron was more direct: Quebec has to revisit its pact with the city.

Autoroute_Ville-Marie

Yesterday’s news is that the open trench of the Ville-Marie Expressway will be covered over between Hotel-de-Ville and Sanguinet and Coderre has put Bergeron in charge. Though plans to cover the trench go back nearly thirty years, it was Bergeron and Projet Montréal that campaigned on the idea during the last election.

Bergeron’s plan, as you might expect, is bold. He wants to cover the entirety of the trench from the Palais des Congres all the way to the Champ-de-Mars métro station, adjacent to the new superhospital. Coderre’s plan is limited – initially – to the easternmost section, where hospital, métro station and city hall meet. By pushing this idea, with or without Transport Quebec’s initial approval, Coderre may encourage private developers to get interested in the project and this in turn may encourage the transport ministry to get on board.

Why the province is apparently in charge of the aerial construction rights over our city’s exposed highway trenches is anyone’s guess. Why one of the most conservative and arguably corrupt ministries in this province is even allowed onto the island to do any roadwork is another.

200px-Flags_in_Montreal_July_2011But this aside, Coderre and Bergeron have something in common: neither are keeners vis-à-vis PQ and provincial interventions in this city’s affairs. They both want opportunities to show we can take care of ourselves, and in my opinion this couldn’t possibly come at a better time.

As long as the PQ is sabre rattling about how Quebec would be better off without ‘interference’ from the Fed, so too should the city of Montreal make it known we’d be better off without the meddling of the province. If Quebec requires autonomy from Canada, Montreal requires autonomy from Quebec.

Given that we’ve got a provincial election coming up, and a federal one after that, having an ardent federalist and Liberal in the mayor’s seat is just about the best situation for our city and its citizens.

There’s more though. Coderre made important changes to the role of the city inspector general based on recommendations by Bergeron and Projet Montréal. And further still, Bergeron has indicated he’s sticking around in municipal politics for longer than he originally thought. Perhaps he thought he’d be useless with Coderre in power. Perhaps he underestimated Coderre.

I feel an unlikely bromance is developing. Coderre’s recent announcement concerning the Ville-Marie isn’t a matter of one stealing another’s ideas. The idea has been around for a while. Rather, it’s that Coderre seems to be listening to Bergeron and the two of them are clearly working together on key points of mutual interest.

While this might not satisfy hardcore Projet Montréal purists, this is about as good it gets local-politics wise. That Coderre has specifically mentioned he wants this portion of the highway trench to be redeveloped as a public space is only further indicative that Coderre is aware of the value and necessity of Projet Montréal’s platform.

coderre marois

If Coderre really is going to be our city’s 21st century equivalent to Jean Drapeau, then I can only hope Bergeron is our latter day Lucien L’allier. So far I’m encouraged by Denis Coderre in his role as mayor, though in Montreal politics, as we should all know by now, mayors generally start out well and finish in the dumps. I’m hoping this process came to an end with the disastrous Tremblay/Applebaum administration. What encourages me most is that Coderre has reached out to his chief rival (let’s be real, Joly wasn’t really interested and Coté didn’t have a chance) and the two men have found enough common ground they’re actively working together.

That both men are further insistent we handle our own affairs in this city, possibly to the chagrin of the Parti Quebecois, is music to my ears. Anything, any legislation or political relationship that limits what the PQ can do to us is a victory for not only our city and its citizens, but the country more broadly.

If the PQ is destined to win a majority simply as a result of vote-splitting and uninspired leadership, so be it. Without Montreal, the PQ has no hope of achieving its single primary goal, its raison d’être. With two ‘bulldogs’ in city hall, the next few months should prove very interesting indeed.

The world was supposed to end in 2012. It didn’t. In fact, if 2013 in the news is any indication, it didn’t even change all that much.

There were a few pleasant surprises, a few unpleasant ones, some things didn’t change at all, for better or worse, and there was distraction and that’s where I’ll begin…

Distraction

Biggest distraction of the year? Without a doubt, this guy:

rob ford tired

Not only did Rob Ford dominate the headlines in Canada, distracting from the Senate scandal among other things, he managed to take top billing in the US for a while, overpowering problems with the Obamacare rollout, and even made headline news in Africa. His biggest accomplishment, though, seems to be that his crack use and personal problems have distracted everyone from the fact that he really has terrible policies and kinda sucks as mayor.

The biggest distraction this side of the 401 has got to be the Charter of Quebec Values, or the Charter of Secularism or whatever Marois and company are calling it now. It’s garnered the ire of everyone from the Jewish General Hospital, QPIRG Concordia and even Anonymous and it’s the proof that, despite how they may try to promote it, the PQ has lost any progressive cred they may have had.

With even Harley Davidson coming out against it, it’s clear that some people are seeing through what it essentially a cynical ploy designed to galvanize the right-wing separatist portion of the PQ’s base. Marois’ endgame is clear: re-establishing politics as usual in Quebec, which brings us to…

More of the same

You’d think in a year that saw a record-breaking three different mayors of Montreal, there would be some change. Well, unfortunately, Montrealers, or a small portion of them, voted in Denis Coderre, a candidate that ran with a good chunk of Gerald Tremblay and Michael Applebaum’s former Union Montreal teammates. So far, he’s stuffed the executive committee with his own people despite not having a majority and has declared war on erotic massage parlours, something he didn’t mention at all during the campaign.

Denis Coderre

2013 also saw more police repression with the SPVM enforcing bylaw P6 in a very unapologetic and hardcore way. It’s also been the year of police political profiling, fortunately some activists like Katie Nelson are now fighting it in the courts and the court of public opinion. ortunately, protesting Stephen Harper still seems to be kosher in Montreal.

It’s also nice to see that the Idle No More movement continues to grow, despite it not being as big in Quebec. Local activists here did have a facepalm-inducing run-in with the cops when they tried to put up a tipi in Montreal. F

There’s also supposed to be another multi-million dollar building going up on the lower Main, an area that doesn’t need it. But, believe it or not, it’s not all more of the same locally, there were…

A few pleasant surprises

We’re getting new metro cars! And we’re not talking about a few tweaks, this is actually a new design! Who would have thought such a thing was possible?

new-metro-exterior

Also, Projet Montreal did end up doing quite well in the municipal election. They held on to two boroughs, nearly added a third, became the official opposition and held Coderre to a minority on council. Melanie Joly also had an impact on our municipal scene and will be someone to watch in the years to come.

Most of the pleasant surprises this year happened in Ottawa (David DesBaillets goes through some of them) and internationally (Niall Clapham Ricardo takes a look at socialism on the rise). For me, the biggest standouts are how Canada just decriminalized prostitution, the courage of Edward Snowden and the fact that the US somehow managed to bungle its way out of a war that nobody wanted or needed in Syria, but most (including me) thought was inevitable.

So that’s just a brief look at how I saw 2013. I do hope that in 2014, we can do away with the distractions and the status quo. That would be a pleasant surprise, but not an impossible one.

* Top image by Jay Manafest