As these lines were being written, formal proceedings began against Gilles Vaillancourt, the ex-mayor and so-called King of Laval, who faces 12 charges, including conspiracy, fraud, influence peddling, breach of trust and gangsterism.
As the highest-profile municipal official to be indicted so far, the case against Vaillancourt and 36 others is symptomatic of the rot that has infected municipal politics in and around Montreal. Our deteriorating infrastructure is a more literal issue of rot, not unconnected with the corruption.
We believe these are the main concerns facing voters in the November 3 municipal elections in cities and towns across Quebec. How the various parties and their leaders prepare to deal with them and which is most likely to provide the desired level of honesty and integrity in government should be the ballot questions.
Mayoral candidate Denis Coderre, the former Liberal MP for north-end Bourassa, proposes the creation of an inspector-general to “inquire into and attack cases of corruption.”
Coderre has recruited more members of ex-mayor Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montreal than other parties. They include people of quality and integrity who could be effective if a coalition were to be reinstituted as it was when Tremblay quit.
Early polls indicate he is the front-runner, with newcomer Mélanie Joly showing suprising strength.
Whoever occupies the mayor’s chair, a coalition approach representing all groups would be ideal. Team Coderre members worthy of support include St. Laurent borough mayor Alan DeSousa, veteran Helen Fotopulos, seeking re-election in Côte des Neiges, and newcomer Ruth Rosenfeld, former president of the Montreal Teachers Association, running in Loyola district.
Richard Bergeron’s Projet Montréal has the advantage of never having held power in the central government and has a clean record. This party is the only one that has a real and active membership base, much like the Montreal Citizens Movement in the mid-1970s.
In the Plateau Mont Royal borough, where it holds every seat, the administration of borough mayor Luc Ferrandez has set an example of people-first politics.
In an area with extremely high density, it has made tremendous strides in enhancing pedestrian safety, creating green spaces, giving priority to local residents and safe bike paths, and ensuring that restaurant and bar terraces do not interfere with pedestrians.
It has shown the way in promoting neighbourhood-first policies, the way of the future for our city. Its team deserves re-election and broad support, including Alex Norris, a powerful voice for integrity at city hall; multi-talented TV personality Marie Plourde, making her first electoral bid; environmentalist Peter McQueen in Notre Dame de Grâce; Mindy Pollack in Outremont, the first Hasidic woman to run for municipal office; affable Jimmy Zoubris, who runs a stationery store on Park, seeking election in downtown Peter-McGill district.
Where we disagree with Bergeron is on his party’s proposal to invest $1 billion on the first phase of a tramway. Given problems with fixing our roads, sidewalks, aqueduct and sewage systems, and the challenge of financing our excellent bus and métro system, the tramway dream seems just that for now. Seniors will recall how clogged a tramway can get in a heavy snowstorm.
Coalition Montreal leader Marcel Côté, an economist and successful think-tank founder, appears to have the right combination of a strong political program, and people with track records of integrity to implement it. The fact that he conducted research for and gave advice to the Mulroney government does not disqualify him.
He does not have Coderre’s folksy charm, he does not share Bergeron’s green dreams, but he seems to have a practical and sober view of policy necessities.
He says he would set aside the proposed $2 billion for light-rail system on the Champlain Bridge and the $1-billion downtown-airport rail link and instead focus on fixing existing infrastructure. His team includes city hall veteran Marvin Rotrand, whose honesty and people-first values are beyond reproach, former Liberal MNA Russell Copeman, returning to politics with his bid to become mayor of Côte des Neiges—Notre dame de Grâce borough, and former Vision Montreal stalwarts Louise Harel and Elsie Lefebvre, committed to Quebec sovereignty but effective, honest and committed to the public good.
Above all, go out and vote or your complacency will get you the administration you deserve. Montreal voters can cast ballots for three to five candidates: city mayor, borough mayor and one city councilor in your district.
Residents in some of the 19 boroughs may vote for one or both candidates for borough council that govern parking and traffic patterns, culture and recreation, snow removal and garbage collection.