What the borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce needs is better management and that’s why retired engineer Zaki Ghavitian, 66, wants to be borough mayor.
His entry into the race makes it a three-way battle, against incumbent Russell Copeman and former journalist Sue Montgomery, running for Projet Montréal.
It remains to be seen how his campaign will affect its dynamics, and the final result.
Born to a Jewish family in Isfahan, Iran, the eldest of six children, the Ghavitian family moved to Teheran, and at age 17 Zaki came to Montreal to study, fully intending to return. He was the only son in the family. His father ran a small textile shop and as he recalls, “we were very poor.”
After earning undergraduate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at École Polytechnique, he began working at Hydro Québec intending
to obtain experience, but with the
convulsive Islamic Revolution of 1979, decided to stay here.
“I really enjoyed myself in Montreal, and the events in Iran were the excuse not to go back.”
He sent money to his family, some of whom have since moved to Israel while others remain in Iran.
Married with four children, 25 to 36, the Ghavitians have lived on Clanranald, between Dupuis and Bourret, for the past 35 years.
He worked mainly with Hydro Quebec’s international division as a project manager in the Persian Gulf, several African nations, and northern Quebec. He says it is that experience that makes him suited for political office.
In the 2009 municipal election he ran for the mayor’s job in Ahuntsic-Cartierville for Louise Harel’s Vision Montréal, placing third. He also came third in the 2011 federal election, when he campaigned as a Conservative in Laval-Les Îles.
“They approached me because of my knowledge and experience as a project manager.”
He is proud of his track record representing fellow engineers, having served as president of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec and president of Engineers Canada, an umbrella organization of 12 provincial engineering groups.
“They called me Mr. Clean,” he says. He is currently president of the Sephardic synagogue in the YM-YWHA building on Westbury where he also works out three times a week.
His expertise is in cost control and management and having retired at 65, he says he wants to “serve the city.”
“I see Coalition Montreal as a mirror of my values. They are consulting, listening to citizens, and getting the job done, not doing politics.”
He also has special concerns for seniors, saying his parents are older. “I know what they are going through.”
“If I am elected, one of the most important things is to ensure that any commercial residence or low-income housing unit have a certificate of cleanliness. “There are bylaws but they don’t enforce them.”
He said he plans to make sure there are enough inspectors, and would hire more if necessary, to make sure that residents “live in dignity.”
How does he define “dignity?”
“At least that there are no cockroaches, or vermin.”
He wants every restaurant to display a certificate of cleanliness, as is required in other large North American cities.
His most important goal is to better manage taxes, and “not only repair roads in the last year of a mandate when there is an election.”
“They are spending lots of money, there is lots of stress on people, the job is not coordinated, and the quality of the work could be improved.
“On snow removal, how come they put up signs that there is no parking all day in an area, and they only come three days later?”
He also is committed to better maintenance of sidewalks in winter.
“Russell Copeman is a politician, he was elected with Coalition Montréal. He looked for power, changed parties and joined with Denis Coderre.
“We need someone who is more present in the borough, the biggest in Montreal.”
He claims that Project Montréal, the party of borough mayoral candidate Sue Montgomery, is only interested in “bicycle paths and greenspace.”
As for the current administration: “Mr. Coderre has to listen more to citizens, and not just be a one-man show. Spending on Montreal’s 375th anniversary was “a waste of money, it could have been better spent for citizens.”