Say what you will about Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante’s first eight months in office, when it comes to animals, her Projet Montréal administration has been doing exactly what they said they would. Even her staunchest opponents can’t argue that fact.

Soon after taking office, they scrapped former mayor Denis Coderre’s much-maligned pit bull ban and promised a new, thorough animal control bylaw based on research. This past Thursday, they delivered.

Here are some of the highlights of the proposed plan, already approved by Montreal’s Executive Committee and up for vote by the full City Council tomorrow:

Calèche Ban

Montreal has issued 24 permits for horse-drawn Calèches to operate this year and in 2019, but won’t be issuing any more. As of 2020, horses pulling tourists through the streets of Old Montreal in the hot sun will be a thing of the past.

This follows several videos in recent years of horses collapsing on the “job” as well as years of opposition to the practice from Plante’s party and over a century’s worth from the Montreal SPCA. The plan also involves:

  • A move towards electric-powered calèches
  • Funding renovations of the Griffintown Horse Palace and converting it into a museum and potential living space for horses (something started under Coderre)
  • Finding new homes for the horses currently being used, which counters the calèche industry’s claim that the horses will have to be slaughtered

Rescue Not Breeders

As of July 2019, pet stores in Montreal will only be permitted to sell dogs, cats and rabbits that come from animal shelters, not from breeders. This is certainly a bold move that will prompt resistance, mostly from pet stores, but the Plante Administration is surely prepared for that.

What’s really fascinating and encouraging here, though, is that Montreal is effectively turning adopting a rescue pet from an ethical choice many currently make into the most standard and efficient way to bring an animal home in the city.

It’s the Owner, Not the Breed

While Coderre’s Pit Bull Ban is now a thing of the past, the Plante Administration hasn’t forgotten about what prompted it in the first place: a woman who died because a dog attacked her. The new bylaw deals with dangerous dogs by focusing on specific dogs that are violent and their owners, not with blanket targeting of entire breeds.

Under the new plan, if a dog bites a human, the dog’s owner is required to report it within 72 hours and muzzle the dog when outside until experts trained by the city do their job. These inspectors will classify the dog as either normal, potentially dangerous or dangerous and determine what restrictions, if any, need to be applied. The owner pays for the evaluation.

This is clearly one area where Montreal’s new administration is sticking to their promises while backing them up with logic and research.

* Featured image by Jean Gagnon via WikiMedia Commons

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

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

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

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

Winding Highway in the Middle of the City

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

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

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

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

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

The Shortcut is Gone, But the Risk Remains

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

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

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

A Proposal

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Featured image of the Camillien Houde lookout via WikiMedia Commons

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

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

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

Their stories are much more than that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Marie-Ève Bordeleau?

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

Marie-Ève Bordeleau (image via Facebook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Featured image: Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Wow, they’re actually admitting it. On-again/off-again Bloc Leader and die-hard soverignist Gilles Duceppe endorsed Denis Coderre, a staunch Liberal and federalist, in his bid for re-election as Mayor of Montreal.

During the last Montreal Municipal Election campaign in 2013, there were rumors that supporters of the Liberals (both provincial and federal), the Bloc Québécois (BQ) and the Parti Québécois (PQ) were secretly pushing Melanie Joly’s candidacy for Mayor, not in hopes that she would win, but that she would split the anti-establishment vote and prevent a Projet Montréal victory. Whether there was involvement from those forces or not, that’s exactly what happened: Coderre won and Joly was off to greener pastures in Ottawa.

But why would these seemingly divergent groups have a common goal? The argument goes that establishment parties would do anything to stop anyone loosely aligned, even in terms of who supports them, with parties like the Federal NDP or Québec Solidaire (QS) provincially.

While that may seem like pie in the sky conspiracy stuff, Gilles Duceppe just endorsed Denis Coderre and he said why. Mixed in with reasons/excuses like how he feels the Pink line is unrealistic and there are a couple of soverignist candidates on Equipe Coderre, Duceppe said that Plante and Projet were “too close to QS and the NDP.”

For decades, both the federalist provincial and federal Libs and the sovereignist PQ and BQ thrived on everyone being focused on the National Question and the division it brings instead of more pressing issues like the corporate dominance, austerity and, more locally, transit. Now that their dominance is threatened at the municipal level by an arguably leftist party with a dynamic leader who is concerned with making life in Montreal better above all, they are scared.

Moreover, they are getting desperate. Desperate enough, apparently, to get in bed together publicly.

Earlier this week, establishment press tried to make a big deal out of Projet Leader Valérie Plante not answering a question about how she voted in the 1995 referendum, a smart move considering this election is about Montreal, not the specter of sovereignty and both sovereignists and federalists can be found in both main parties running. I wonder if they will give equal play to Coderre getting an endorsement from a prominent sovereignist like Duceppe.

Probably not, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Gilles Duceppe endorsed Denis Coderre. The other shoe has dropped.

This election is about the staus quo versus a new way of doing things and it only took the Liberals and the Bloc to make that crystal clear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She’s Positive, Ambitious and Logical

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

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

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

She’s Not Denis Coderre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She Has a Montreal First Outlook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I can’t really say I’m surprised. After all, it’s clear that Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre doesn’t like being challenged.

In fall 2016, when the debate over the mayor’s pit bull ban was raging, citizens came to City Hall to express their displeasure during the part of council meetings reserved for public interventions and questions. Roughly a minute into Montreal resident Kim Doucet’s preamble, Coderre simply and quite clearly said “Cut the Mic!”

Fast forward a year and Coderre finds himself neck and neck in the polls with Projet Montréal leader Valérie Plante, who was largely unknown outside of political circles just a few months ago. This, apparently, has our mayor on the defensive and back to his old trick of cutting off opposition.

According to Radio-Canada, Coderre has declined participating in at least four debates, all of which Plante has accepted invitations to:

Now as you can see, we’re not talking smaller organizations or even media known for bias. These are mainstream TV and radio debates and ones hosted by prominent organizations.

Coderre did agree to debate Plante twice, once in French and once in English. Given the fact that the linguistic makeup of this city pretty much requires that if a candidate does one language they have to do the other, this is akin to agreeing to only one debate pretty much anywhere else.

The French debate has already been set for October 19th at Centre Shearaton hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and moderated by François Cardinal of La Presse. The English debate will be hosted by either CTV, The Gazette or CJAD.

It’s interesting to note that even though the host of the English debate has not been confirmed, Coderre has already ruled out both CBC TV and radio. So he’s not just trying to limit the number of debates, he’s being rather picky.

According to Marc-André Gosselin, Coderre’s press attaché, the mayor wants one “grand debate” in French and English and “for the rest” they are focusing on the campaign trail. It makes me wonder how debates are not, according to the Coderre campaign, an integral part of the campaign trail, but rather something else entirely, something to be avoided as much as possible.

I wonder what Coderre is so afraid of? Why is the man who loves the spotlight trying to limit his time in it?

The cynical political side of me says that the mayor and his team feel that if too many people see an alternative to his administration in the form of Plante, the vote might increase and he may be out of a job. However, I think this one is more a matter of personality and ego than one of strategy.

While he may have taken part in a number of debates before becoming mayor, since he got the job he has demonstrated hostility towards those who would challenge him. So far this has been limited to citizens and media, but Plante is someone he can’t just walk away from. This is one woman he can’t simply have his employees cut the mic on when he doesn’t like what she is saying.

It’s really no surprise that Denis “Cut the mic!” Coderre is trying to avoid debating someone who disagrees with him as much as possible.

The City of Montreal is a mess and it’s time for change. The municipal elections are this November and candidates are clamoring to show that they are most qualified to fix our construction problems, frivolous expenditures and lack of accountability. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to take an interest in municipal politics, and it’s easy to see why.

Federal and Provincial politics deal with sexy issues like healthcare, education, Native rights, law enforcement and treaties. Municipal politics deals with dogs and decorations and infrastructure. They’re not sexy but they are important, so this article will give you a crash course on Montreal’s upcoming elections and some of the issues at hand.

First, let’s talk about dogs.

In June 2016 a dog mauled a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman to death. In response, City Hall under current mayor Denis Coderre introduced a bylaw requiring that dogs be muzzled in public, banning pitbulls and other “dangerous breeds”.

The rules were met with outrage from everyone, arguing that the law created arbitrary rules in an attempt to prevent something that’s impossible to predict. It pushes the notion that certain breeds are more prone to violence than others and has forced many dog owners to consider leaving the city rather than getting rid of their beloved pets in order to conform to the bylaw. Despite the outrage, the bylaw stands.

Projet Montreal led by Valérie Plante is by far Coderre’s greatest competition, and they have a few things to say about the current mayor.

The party’s website says:

“Like you, we care for the safety of all. And like you, we also know that policies based on a dog’s breed or appearance (BSL) are ineffective in protecting the public.”

Rather than banning some breeds, their focus is on responsible pet ownership including providing financial incentives for pet sterilization, and better control of the sales and life conditions of pets. It’s clear that should Projet win the election one of their first orders of business will be abolishing the pitbull ban.

Now let’s talk about expenditures.

This year is Montreal’s 375th anniversary and we should be celebrating, but how much celebrating is too much?

Anyone who plans a party knows that one must work within a budget, especially if the money is not yours.

In honor of the City’s anniversary, Coderre spent $39.5 million to light up the Jacques Cartier Bridge with LED lights. Coderre also took the liberty of spending $3.45 million on granite tree stumps on Mount Royal, which strike many as not only frivolous, but impractical. As Sue Montgomery, Projet Montréal’s candidate for borough mayor of CDN/NDG recently mentioned, the design of the stumps doesn’t even allow people to sit on them, as they’re slanted in such a way people and objects slide right off (unlike actual tree stumps).

Where did the money for these things come from?

It came from the taxpayers, which means that we’re footing the bill. Was there public consultation about this? Did the mayor seek our consent before using our money to buy these things?

Not really.

One of Projet Montreal’s big platforms this election is that of accountability. They want the city’s leadership to answer to citizens the way they’re supposed to.

Coderre’s goal for all these projects was to put Montreal on the map, but as many of Coderre’s critics have pointed out, the city was already on the map. We have the Jazz Festival, the Just for Laughs festival, Francopholies, Nuits d’Afrique, Carifest, the fireworks competition and tons of other annual events that draw thousands of tourists every year. Most of us agree that the money spent on cosmetic additions was a waste. That money could have been better spent fixing a Montreal problem so great it’s become a joke:

The problem I’m talking about is municipal construction.

Projet Montreal calls the problem “Kône-o-Rama” and vows to “end bad traffic management by creating a traffic authority, ready to intervene to eliminate obstacles on roads, sidewalks and bike paths.”

The problem, however, is much more than that.

Construction projects, while often necessary, are poorly managed. Highway exits are closed, but the signs indicating as much are often placed too close to the site of the work, leaving motorists struggling to find alternate access points to their destinations, creating delays.

Where sidewalks are closed for construction, workers seldom indicate alternate footpaths for pedestrians, something that especially puts the city’s disabled, elderly, and people with babies at risk. Where businesses are blocked off due to holes in the street, the best construction workers offer is a wobbly and unsafe ramp to get to the door. Not to mention the noise, the dust, and the lack of proper safety barriers.

It has become such a joke in this town that souvenir shops now offer ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of traffic cones with the city’s name on them.

Coderre has been conspicuously silent about all of this, while Projet Montreal is demanding remedies as part of their accountability and accessibility platforms. They want to see coordination between the construction projects to make sure cyclists and pedestrians are kept safe and the city is accessible for everyone.

Projet Montreal is not the only party to challenge the current administration.

Other parties include Vrai Changement, pushing leader Justine McIntyre for mayor of the Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough. Vrai Changement is running on a platform of economic development, less dependence on motor vehicles, and improving public transportation. Unfortunately, the party focus seems primarily on the Pierrefonds-Roxboro and Lachine boroughs and not on the city’s overall well-being.

Coalition Montreal has candidates running mostly in the Côte des Neiges and NDG borough. They are pushing Zaki Ghavitian for Borough Mayor and hoping leader Marvin Rotrand, former vice-chair of the STM currently on the city council, retains his council seat representing Snowdon. Whether they present a candidate for JMayor of Montreal remains to be seen.

More than any other election, the municipal one is the one most likely to affect our daily lives. Stay informed and when the time comes, VOTE.

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

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

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

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

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

* Featured image via WikiMedia Commons

Panelists 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