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.

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.

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.

Denis Coderre is the Mayor of Montreal. Let’s all let that sink in, the man who hangs with Club Charbonneau regulars, thinks it’s cool to lock up mask-wearing protestors and once helped make a coup happen in Haiti is now our mayor.

To put it mildly, it’s not the outcome I wanted, not in the slightest. That said, all is not bad, in fact some things could end up being quite good.

We lived through Gerald Tremblay and Michael Applebaum, so we can live through Coderre. They’re really not all that different.

What is different, and this is huge, is that Coderre does not have a majority on the city council. He only has 27 of the 33 seats required for one. Projet Montreal, with 20 seats, is now a very strong opposition, much stronger than they were after the last election.

They are also stronger at the borough level, retaining their control of the Plateau and Rosemont-La Petite Patrie and picking up all the city and borough council seats in Sud Ouest except for that of borough mayor. Projet’s Jason Prince very narrowly lost to incumbent and candidate for Marcel Côté’s Coalition Montréal Benoit Dorais.

projet montreal sud ouest bergeron
Projet Montreal candidates, now city and borough councillors in Sud Ouest (l-r) Craig Sauvé, Sophie Thiébaut, Anne-Marie Sigouin and Alain Vaillancourt with outgoing Projet leader Richard Bergeron in the centre

Meanwhile in Côte-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Projet’s seat count went from one to two, which also is huge. As NDG councilor Peter McQueen found out last time, one councilor can propose motions, but it takes a seconder for them to be heard and debated and in a council controlled by an opposing party that doesn’t listen to outside voices, that can mean nothing gets through. Now, Magda Popeanu, who beat uber incumbent Helen Fotopulos in the Côte-des-Neiges district and McQueen can support each other.

Projet leader Richard Bergeron won his seat in Saint Jacques in the Ville Marie borough. It was a bold move for him selecting a colistière (or running mate, whose seat the party leader takes if they aren’t elected mayor but their designated co-candidate is elected to council) outside of the safety of the Plateau.

This move paid off, ensuring that he can sit on the council as leader of the opposition. Yesterday, though, Bergeron decided that three elections are enough and he would only keep his seat, and the leadership of Projet, for the next 18-24 months then resign from politics for good.

This inevitably will mean a leadership race, the first in the party’s history. Whomever that leader will be will have to figure out who on the council the — Projet councillors can count on for support, if Bergeron hasn’t already set those particular wheels in motion by the time they take over.

Marcel Côté, whose colistière finished third to Popeanu and Fotopulos, doesn’t have a seat on council himself, but six of his teammates do. Some of them are ex-Union as are many of Coderre’s councillors, so them siding with Projet on key issues is doubtful at best, though you never know.

Mélanie Joly got four city councillors elected: Steve Shanahan in Peter McGill downtown, Lorraine Pagé in the Sault-au-Récollet district of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Justine McIntyre in Pierrefonds-Roxboro’s Bois-de-Liesse district and Normand Marinacci was elected borough mayor if L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève, where her party also picked up all four borough council seats. Borough councilors don’t sit on city council, despite potentially bringing some Vrai Changement to Île-Bizard.

Even though Joly finished second for mayor, just a few points ahead of Bergeron and not that far from Coderre, she failed to get a seat on council herself. She ran her colistière in NDG against McQueen, a popular incumbent.

If, instead, she had placed her running mate in Peter McGill, where she has personal political experience (in Shaughnessy Village), she’d have a seat on council today. It’s that kind of decision that led me to believe those (including FTB’s Taylor Noakes) who were and are saying that she had no intention of staying in the municipal arena if she wasn’t elected mayor and would try instead federally with the Liberals (she has worked with Trudeau before).

Melanie Joly
Mélanie Joly (photo by Valeria Bismar)

Now, though, it looks like she wants to stick around, after all. She has pledged to run for the first seat on council that opens up and extended an olive branch to Bergeron a day before he said he was quitting.

Olive branches and parties working together are how good things can actually come out of the current city administration. True, as mayor and through mechanisms like the executive committee, Coderre wields considerable power. It’s also true that Côté councilors will probably vote with their former Union Montreal or establishment colleagues, but they are not obliged to.

The Joly councilors, Joly herself and all the independents and borough-specific candidates are wildcards. If Projet could bring enough of those wildcards into their well-stacked deck and create enough groundswell in the districts represented by Côté candidates, then they may be able to bring about positive change whether Coderre wants it or not.

I’m not saying this will be enough to, say, get rid of P6, but it might. It can’t hurt to try with that or with other issues important to Montrealers like transport or the awarding of city contracts.

I’m hopeful. Mainly because this will require a grassroots approach to politics, rather than a top-down one. And that is the type of political approach where Projet Montreal excels.

The results are in. No, not the results that will name the next mayor and city council members Montreal will have for the next four years, those come later tonight.

It’s tradition for the editorial boards of media organisations to endorse a candidate or candidates in elections. This campaign, The Gazette and La Presse endorsed Denis Coderre while Le Devoir, The Link and Le Journal de Montreal came out in favour of Richard Bergeron and Projet Montreal.

Last municipal election, we played the editorial endorsement game. This time, though, we took a broader democratic approach and  let our readers pick for us with a poll in the sidebar of every page of our site.

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Our poll results as of 3pm on November 3

With 163 votes cast a the time this is being written, our readers have endorsed Projet Montreal in the 2013 Montreal Municipal election. The party led by Richard Bergeron got 54% of the vote, followed by Melanie Joly in second place with 18%.

None of the above was third with 9% of the vote, followed by Not Sure Yet and Marcel Côté’s Coalition Montreal, tied with 6% each. There’s An Election? came in fifth with 4%, narrowly edging out Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal, which got only five votes.

It’s interesting to note that in the last two “respected” polls, which came out over three weeks ago and admittedly had a much larger reach than our own, Coderre had a solid lead. It seems that FTB readers are looking for something different in their municipal government.

I’m one of those readers and I voted in our poll (only once, in order to test it, I tried to vote a second time, but it didn’t work, so the numbers are accurate). I, like the majority of those who answered our poll, voted for Projet Montreal and, full disclosure, started volunteering for them in NDG two weeks ago, shortly after making my decision.

Rather than try and figure out why our readers voted the way they did, I’ll tell you how I came to my decision.  Since I voted the same way as the majority of poll respondents, I think it can serve as analysis. These opinions are mine and not necessarily those of everyone involved with FTB or the editorial team. In fact, there are a wide range of opinions in our group.

Our last municipal administration was a disaster and a global embarrassment and not just because our mayor resigned and his replacement was arrested (I honestly needed to use Google to find out the name of our replacement replacement mayor just the other day, I stopped paying attention after Applebaum). I think back to the sudden and unceremonious eviction of Occupons Montreal and then the crackdown on the Maple Spring a year later, including draconian changes to bylaw P6.

I don’t want anyone who was part of that administration back in office. So a good chunk of the candidates running with Corerre and Côté are a no-go for me. Coderre’s personal involvement in the coup in Haiti and his voting with Harper to imprison masked protestors (plus his recent Hasidgate scandal) rule him out as mayor, as does Côté’s politics-as-usual robocall scandal. It seems like our readers agree, as Coderre and Côté finished behind choices that amount to spoiling your ballot.

That leaves Bergeron and Joly. Melanie Joly would be my second choice and she is also the second most popular choice among our readers.

I interviewed her. She is a smart, passionate person who I believe truly does care about her city. I think her nightlife charter is a great idea and one that Projet Montreal would be wise to adopt if they come to power.

While she does support the right to wear a mask at a protest, she agrees with the part of P6 that requires protestors provide a route. Projet, on the other hand, has already tried removing the additions to the bylaw passed during the Maple Spring and originally had tried to scrap P6 entirely. For me, that is a huge plus.

candidates montreal

Joly is not corrupt, though she hasn’t had the chance to be and neither have her team. Projet and Bergeron on the other hand were around during the Tremblay administration and came through the experience skweaky clean with no Projet member as much as mentioned at the Charbonneau commission.

Joly has some big ideas, too, but I like Bergeron’s more. Rapid bus lines wouldn’t work in all the places she is suggesting, whereas a blue line metro extension west and a tramway would, they’re both costed and Bergeron explained to Taylor Noakes how he would push Quebec to make his plans happen.

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind Joly as mayor. If Bergeron wasn’t an option, I’d take her over Coderre any day.

The problem is she’s not running independently for mayor. Instead she’s fronting a party that seems to have been put together overnight. Some of her candidates seem solid, like Sud Ouest borough mayor candidate Cindy Filiatrault. Others less so.

While I don’t have a problem with candidates who used to work in the sex industry, in fact I think transgendered ex-erotic massage therapists running for office is a very good thing, I do have a problem when a candidate is arrested for domestic abuse. Backchecking and a nomination process can avoid problems like that.

Projet, on the other hand, has a solid team, all of them vetted and nominated by members of the party. That’s not to say they’re seasoned politicians, some of them are, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

Projet candidates have roots in their communities which they have big plans for. This is a party of big thinkers who have the means and the will to turn their ideas into reality. People like borough mayor candidates Mike Simkin, Jason Prince and Mary-Ann Davis as well as a slew of other borough mayor, city council and borough council candidates, many of whom we have profiled right here, are why I chose to support PM.

This is not to say that all is perfect. Bergeron has come under fire for comments he made about the anti-police brutality march (which he clarified on FTB) and artists have criticised the Projet team that has run the Plateau for the past four years for excessive fines and restrictions on noise.

While some progressive activists are arguing for spoiled ballots, I think, given the city-wide picture and what’s at stake, it’s best to vote for the party that aspires to make things better in the general sense and has the means and the drive to do it with integrity and transparency and then after they are elected, take advantage of that transparency to hold their feet to the fire.

It seems like those who answered our poll, for the most part, agree with me. Now we can vote (until 8pm) in the only poll that really matters, the election itself.

You can find out where you can vote on the Elections Montreal site

As this year’s municipal election campaign winds down and all the issues are assessed it has become increasingly clear to myself (and, I think a large part of the general population) that what we really need here in Montreal is a degree of freedom from undue outside influence. Time and again it seems like we’re prevented from moving ahead addressing our own needs because of various kinds of interference or obstruction.

This is the question I put to Richard Bergeron, Projet Montreal leader and mayoral candidate:

After reviewing your party’s extensive program it has become clear to me that many of your projects, especially the bigger and more interesting ones, will require the city of Montreal to gain new powers. As an example, with regards to your ambitious Métro extension project, this is currently the responsibility of the AMT, a provincial government agency we have no control over. So with all this and everything else in mind, what will you do to secure a new degree of operational sovereignty for the city of Montreal?

Okay, well, the first thing is I can’t modify the Canadian constitution, nor can I change the fact that the provinces are responsible for deciding which powers are allocated to what cities and when. The relative power of a Canadian city, any Canadian city, is an area of provincial jurisdiction, and it just so happens that of all the cities in Canada, the cities with the least amount of power are the cities of Quebec.

The federal government doesn’t have much to do or say with regards to our city. They own or have owned large pieces of land, but much of this is being sold off and redeveloped. They own the port and the bridges and certain key highways but that’s about it. The province plays a much, much larger role in our affairs.

The province is involved in many different aspects of our lives and there are ministries responsible for those aspects – be it education, healthcare, utilities etc. But of all the government agencies and ministries, none is more important than Transport Quebec.

When they make a decision it carries a lot of weight. When they decide they are going to prioritize highway construction and repairs over investments in public transit, these are decisions made to appease suburban communities over the wants and needs of the citizens of Montreal.

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Bergeron and Justice John Gomery

The MTQ made the decision to greatly increase the capacity of the Turcot Interchange, despite professional and community opinion against doing so, in large part because of highway capacity improvements they’ve made elsewhere, such as the completion of highway 30 on the South Shore, highway extensions to Valleyfield or adding another lane to highway 15. All of these improvements were designed to better facilitate car movements to and from the city, which in turn require a larger Turcot Exchange and a new bridge, which is the responsibility of the federal government.

For over a decade the province has prioritized public transit investment that also goes to the benefit of the suburbs over the city. The MTQ has invested $1.75 billion in commuter rail, but at 18 million passengers per year, the entirety of the AMT’s commuter rail system doesn’t even equal a single reserved bus lane operating in the city, such as the lane on Henri-Bourassa Boulevard.

One reserved bus line carries more people per year than an entire suburban train scheme. And yet, again, money is directed towards the suburbs, not the city. And this in turn becomes an element of suburban community branding.

The mayor of Mascouche can now tell his residents, ‘we have a train station’ as will the real-estate agents. What they won’t tell you is that scarcely more than 1% of the residents of Mascouche will use or have any use for this train.

The Train de l’Est is both over budget and well behind schedule and maybe, at best, 1500 or 2000 people will use the Mascouche train station on a daily basis. That’s a very expensive investment in an off island suburb, and it’s clearly politically motivated.

Worse, the province can use these ministries and agencies to claim innocence. They say, ‘It wasn’t us who made this decision, it was the MUC, it was the AMT.’ But do they take responsibility for the screw ups, the cost-overruns, the delays or even the foolish lack of planning? No, of course not.

It’s disingenuous when the province says that the ‘Montreal community’ is planning a commuter train extension out to the suburbs when it’s very clearly not. So I have an idea – I’ll be the mayor of Montreal and only represent the interests of Montrealers. I’m not interested in trains out to the suburbs or in supporting any more urban sprawl. I’m against this and so is the party.

How far are you willing to take that?

It can go as far as me refusing to attend the meetings of the agglomeration council, the CMM (Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal) and/or simply eliminating the Montreal delegation to the CMM. Doing so would render the CMM superfluous and it would fall because they need us much more than we need them.

I can’t and have no intention to be the mayor, simultaneously, of Montreal, Laval, Longueuil, Mascouche, Beaconsfield etc. One city is enough to focus on without unnecessary and ultimately futile outside obligations. Doing so would it make it very, very difficult for the province to continue passing the buck to its ministries and agencies when it comes to development here in Montreal.

Pauline Marois and Jean-François Lisée (Canadian Press)
Pauline Marois and Jean-François Lisée (Canadian Press)

It seems like both the provincial liberals and the péquistes have both been working against Montreal’s interests.

And it would be the same with the CAQ too. I remember meeting with Francois Legault in the spring of 2012 and he told me he’d be our city’s number one defender. I explained to him the crucial dichotomy of the city and its suburbs and how we’re losing 20 000 middle-class residents each year and, further, how the province has facilitated this exodus towards the suburbs.

And I went on to say that if he really wanted to win the election, all he had to do was campaign in the suburbs and run on a pro-suburban development platform, to forget about the 514 and focus on the 450, as this was the surefire way to get elected. And he said to me quite solemnly, ‘No, no I’d never do that. I want to invest in Quebec’s great metropolis, I understand how important it is blah blah blah.

That was in May of 2012. By the fall he was using Luc Ferrandez as some kind of a socialist boogeyman to motivate his predominantly middle-class French-Canadian base, because of course as you know, Luc Ferrandez apparently scares suburban dwellers.

Basically no matter which way you cut it, whether in federal or provincial terms, the politicians court the suburban voters at the expense of the urban citizens. We’re locked in a zero-sum game.

And as you’ve probably already noticed, when the provincial politicians do come to Montreal – what do they say? They say either Montreal isn’t French enough and the spread of English needs to be stopped, or, they say that Montreal isn’t cosmopolitan enough and we adopt official bilingualism, always, always playing one group against the other for cheap political points.

And once again we see, we’re locked in a zero sum game. Your prospective gains, as a politician, by courting the Montreal vote, is almost nothing, especially when you consider that about half the metropolitan population lives in the suburbs. So the politicians don’t say anything, don’t make any announcements of concrete plans, projects or programs when it comes to our city, and in reality once elected they put their entire focus on the suburbs anyways.

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Proposed metro blue line extension heading both east and west

You mentioned métro extensions. Not a high priority for the provincial government. Highway extensions? Absolutely. In fact they’re doing quite well building new highways – the 25 got a bridge, the 19 is being extended, the 30 is already completed. But when you ask about a métro extension, suddenly we don’t have the money or the means or it’s simply too expensive – the province will find any excuse it can to support the suburban vote over the city vote.

And in the rare case that a premier feels like she owes something to the people of Montreal, do we get our Métro extended? No. We get a provincial mandate to establish a two-year long study of a Métro extension that was planned thirty years ago and will cost the taxpayers $40 million, no debate. This is all we get.

And let me tell you something – the Blue Line extension is perhaps the simplest extension, technically speaking. The route is pretty much straight and flat, and there are vacant lots along the way where stations could be inserted. I’m exasperated – where’s the problem?

So what is the $40 million for?

To buy them time, to buy them votes. Look – we inaugurated the last station of the current Blue Line in March of 1988. At that time I had just entered the job market as a recently-graduated urbanist. What do you think my first major professional engagement was? Studying the extension of the Blue Line towards Anjou!

And I’ll go you one better, this extension was a part of the Blue Line’s original plan. And do you know how much we’ve spent studying the Blue Line extension since then? More than $300 million to study something that has already been studied and analyzed ad nauseum.

This is how the politicians keep the wheels of our construction industry turning. Ms. Marois made such a big splash too – a big press conference all to announce she’s calling for a study. It’s a farce.

I think what the city of Montreal needs is a mayor who is going to simply stop being involved in these provincially designed fictions; the CMM, the AMT, these impede our growth by giving the mayor unnecessary responsibilities. The last time a sitting mayor tried to stand up to bad planning on the part of the province was when Gerald Tremblay pushed an alternative Turcot Interchnage design and plan, one designed by me as head of the Executive Committee by the way, and he was told quite simply from his political bosses in Quebec City, ‘look, you’re either with us or with Bergeron,’ so he folded like a card table and that’s that.

Back in March of this year Ms. Marois green lighted the same damned Turcot project, the one no one likes and doesn’t make any sense, the same project so cavalierly pushed by the previous administration, and do you know what Ms. Harel said? Not one word.

Back in 2010 Ms. Harel supported the city’s alternative Turcot plan, but once Ms. Harel’s political boss became premier, all of a sudden she doesn’t say a word and has nothing bad to say about her boss. Well guess what? I don’t have any bosses, and I don’t owe anyone any favours.

I can’t be any more emphatic about this point – I don’t belong to any other political party but Projet Montréal and am extremely proud that I have no political bosses. This scares the political establishment in incalculable ways, because it means Montreal will have a free mayor, a mayor unencumbered by yesterday’s garbage.

Quite simply we live in a province whose entire history has been dominated by an old boys club patronage-heavy political system. I have no interest in this at all, and that’s why both the party and I are as clean and pure as the driven snow.

We need a mayor that sees the suburbs as competitors, competitors who, each and every year, steal 20 000 residents and taxpayers from the city of Montreal. And they do so while offering fewer services and an arguably lower quality of life. And yet we still lose. We lose $2.5 billion in investment as a direct consequence of suburban sprawl, each and every single year, and yet I’m expected to collaborate and cooperate with the suburbs and the province, to facilitate these losses? No way!

p6 police kettle
SPVM police kettle enforcing bylaw P6 (image by Tim McSorley for the Media Co-Op)

Let’s change gears briefly. In a recent interview some comments you made about the annual police brutality march and the use of municipal bylaw P-6 left some confused about your position. I know that your party twice moved motions, which were defeated by your opponents on council, to repeal the controversial portions of P-6, those that mirrored the now repealed Law 12, and you’ve been quite clear in the past that you consider P-6 to be a violation of basic civil liberties. Has your position changed?

No. Allow me to be crystal clear: myself, my party, we are opposed to the 2012 additions to P-6, we have always opposed them, and we will continue to oppose them. Our position has not changed. There is no place for these type of draconian restrictions on the right to peaceful protest in a democratic society. A Projet Montreal administration will move swiftly to repeal these sections of P-6.

Now let’s move on to the question of the annual police brutality march. What’s your position on that?

The question of the police brutality march is a difficult one, because of the regularity with which it descends into violence and chaos. Previous mayors have ignored it, allowed it to happen and then held a press conference the next day to denounce the violence and score political points.

My approach would be quite different. I would sit down with the organizers, open a dialogue, and make sure that their protest is able to unfold without restriction, but in a way which respects public space and the importance of maintaining a safe and secure environment for all.

My administration would do everything in our power to ensure that protests unfold without violence or provocation. In the case that we fail, we will direct police to target those who have carried out criminal acts, and charge them under the law. It is important, when it comes to protest, that our police force targets the guilty, and does not criminalize an entire class of people for the crimes of a handful among them.

I don’t believe, as my opponents seem to, that we can either have the right to protest, or safe streets, but not both. I believe that a balance can be struck which respects the rights of all citizens. Striking that balance is the role of a responsible government, and it is the role I see for my administration.

The following is an excerpt from a featured interview with mayoral candidate and Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron by FTB contributor Taylor Noakes which you can expect to see in full next week. Given that Bergeron’s interview with Radio X this past Saturday raised many eyebrows on the left, we are releasing his responses to two questions which address what he said on the air (along with a French translation because of francophone interest in the topic).

Forget the Box: In a recent interview some comments you made about the annual police brutality march and the use of municipal bylaw P-6 left some confused about your position. I know that your party twice moved motions, which were defeated by your opponents on council, to repeal the controversial portions of P-6, those that mirrored the now repealed Law 12, and you’ve been quite clear in the past that you consider P-6 to be a violation of basic civil liberties. Has your position changed?

Richard Bergeron: No. Allow me to be crystal clear: myself, my party, we are opposed to the 2012 additions to P-6, we have always opposed them, and we will continue to oppose them. Our position has not changed. There is no place for these type of draconian restrictions on the right to peaceful protest in a democratic society. A Projet Montreal administration will move swiftly to repeal these sections of P-6.

FTB: Now let’s move on to the question of the annual police brutality march. What’s your position on that?

Bergeron: The question of the police brutality march is a difficult one, because of the regularity with which it descends into violence and chaos. Previous mayors have ignored it, allowed it to happen and then held a press conference the next day to denounce the violence and score political points.

My approach would be quite different. I would sit down with the organizers, open a dialogue, and make sure that their protest is able to unfold without restriction, but in a way which respects public space and the importance of maintaining a safe and secure environment for all.

My administration would do everything in our power to ensure that protests unfold without violence or provocation. In the case that we fail, we will direct police to target those who have carried out criminal acts, and charge them under the law. It is important, when it comes to protest, that our police force targets the guilty, and does not criminalize an entire class of people for the crimes of a handful among them.

I don’t believe, as my opponents seem to, that we can either have the right to protest, or safe streets, but not both. I believe that a balance can be struck which respects the rights of all citizens. Striking that balance is the role of a responsible government, and it is the role I see for my administration.

________________________________________________________________________

Forget the Box: Dans une interview récente, un commentaire que vous avez fait sur la question de la manifestation annuelle contre la brutalité policière a laissé certains perplexes. Je sais que votre parti a fait deux propositions – défaites – pour abroger les dispositions controversées de P-6, celles qui rappelaient la loi 12, maintenant abrogée. Dans le passé, vous avez clairement déclaré que vous considériez que le règlement P-6 violait les libertés fondamentales. Est-ce que vous avez changé d’avis?

Bergeron: Non. Je vais être clair : mon parti et moi sommes opposés aux amendements de 2012 à P-6, nous l’avons toujours été et nous continuerons de nous y opposer. Notre position n’a pas changé. Il n’y a pas de place pour ces restrictions draconiennes au droit de manifester dans une société démocratique. Une administration de Projet Montréal agira rapidement pour abroger ces amendements.

FTB: Parlons maintenant de la question de la manifestation contre la brutalité policière. Quelle est votre position à ce sujet?

Bergeron: La question de la manifestation contre la brutalité policière est complexe, compte tenu qu’elle dégénère régulièrement dans la violence et le chaos. Les maires précédents ont ignoré ce problème, ont permis qu’il arrive et ont tenu une conférence de presse le lendemain pour dénoncer la violence et marquer des points politiques.

Mon approche serait différente. Je m’assiérais avec les organisateurs, je dialoguerais et je m’assurerais que la manifestation puisse être tenue sans restriction, mais dans le respect du bien public et de l’importance du maintien d’un environnement sécuritaire pour tous.

Mon administration ferait tout en son pouvoir pour s’assurer que les manifestations aient lieu sans violence ou provocation. Si nous échouons, nous demanderons à la police de cibler ceux qui ont commis des actes criminels et les condamner en conséquence. Il est important, dans ce contexte, que la police cible ceux qui sont coupables, sans criminaliser tout un groupe pour des délits isolés.

Je ne crois pas, contrairement à mes adversaires, que l’on peut défendre le droit de manifester, ou des rues sécuritaires, mais pas les deux. Je crois que l’on peut trouver un juste milieu pour respecter les droits de tous les citoyens. Trouver ce compromis est le rôle d’un gouvernement responsable, et ce sera le rôle de mon administration.