Sud-Ouest is one of city’s most di­verse dis­tricts

Con­stituents in­clude long-time res­i­dents and newly ar­rived, af­flu­ent condo dwellers

Montreal Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - BILL BROWNSTEIN bbrown­stein@poste­me­dia.com Twit­ter.com/ bill­brown­stein

Craig Sauvé had never con­tem­plated a ca­reer in the cir­cus arts. But one might say that his job as city coun­cil­lor in the Sud-Ouest bor­ough con­sti­tutes as much a bal­anc­ing act on a high-wire — with­out a net — as the most sea­soned of tightrope walk­ers.

Sauvé is up for re-elec­tion in the bor­ough’s Saint-Henri-Est—Pe­tite-Bour­gogne—Pointe-Saint-Charles—Griffin­town district. And as the his­to­ries of the afore­men­tioned com­mu­ni­ties well in­di­cate, this is one of the most di­verse dis­tricts in the city. Res­i­dents come from all over the cul­tural, lin­guis­tic, eco­nomic and age map liv­ing in dis­tinct com­mu­ni­ties.

Sauvé’s con­stituents in­clude res­i­dents who have lived in their ar­eas all their lives, many of whom have to rely on govern­ment as­sis­tance to get by; and they also in­clude newly ar­rived af­flu­ent res­i­dents who have moved from other parts of the city to lux­ury con­dos on the La­chine Canal and en­vi­rons and who have helped to drive up hous­ing and other costs — much to the cha­grin of the for­mer group.

As a re­sult of this con­flu­ence, anti-gen­tri­fi­ca­tion forces have van­dal­ized restau­rants, bou­tiques and homes in Saint-Henri. And on the other end of the so­cio-cul­tural-po­lit­i­cal spec­trum, there have been in­ci­dents of mu­rals be­ing de-faced, such as Colom­bian-Amer­i­can artist Jes­sica Sabo­gal’s de­pic­tion of an In­dige­nous wo­man with the words: “White supremacy is killing me.” Ear­lier this week, the mu­ral was van­dal­ized for the third time.

Those acts notwith­stand­ing, Sauvé’s district is con­sid­ered, with­out doubt, one of the city’s most vi­brant, rich in restos, clubs, arts and fes­ti­vals and yet also rich in tra­di­tional val­ues which em­brace the roots of, among oth­ers, the city’s black and Ir­ish com­mu­ni­ties.

No more proof of the above need be pro­vided than last month’s well-de­served bor­ough trib­ute to piano leg­end Oliver Jones close to where he grew up in Lit­tle Bur­gundy. In ad­di­tion to a mas­sive out­door con­cert, fea­tur­ing a who’s who of the jazz scene and Jones him­self tick­ling the ivories, the homage also en­tailed the re­nam­ing of the Do­min­ion St.’s Sainte-Cuné­gonde So­cial Cen­tre to the Oliver Jones Cen­tre.

Sauvé, 36, who had ac­tu­ally con­tem­plated a full-time ca­reer in mu­sic him­self, doesn’t shirk from his du­ties. He is there for the cel­e­bra­tions. He is also there at any sign of dis­cord in the com­mu­nity. Ever sen­si­tive to the plight of se­niors and those on wel­fare, the Pro­jet Mon­tréal can­di­date is also quick to point out that “we are a small busi­ness party.”

“We’ve got some big files to work on, for sure,” Sauvé un­der­states. “We re­ally try to find those points which are cen­tral to peo­ple’s lives here and which unite peo­ple.”

Sauvé is chat­ting with con­stituents in the Mai­son Saint-Charles com­mu­nity cen­tre in the Pointe with Sud-Ouest bor­ough mayor of eight years, Benoît Do­rais, also up for re­elec­tion but this time un­der the Pro­jet Mon­tréal ban­ner. The is­sue of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion is par­tic­u­larly sen­si­tive here.

“There is real eco­nomic tran­si­tion go­ing on here and there are a lot of peo­ple be­ing left be­hind,” Sauvé says. “Our job is to rec­og­nize that and to find ways to make sure that ev­ery­one is in­cluded and has a home. And I think ev­ery­one agrees on that.

“I think it’s a minute mi­nor­ity of peo­ple en­gaged in such (van­dal­iz­ing) ac­tions . ... But that’s not the way most peo­ple here want to go about it. They want peace­ful neigh­bour­hoods and don’t be­lieve in ag­gres­sive at­tacks. Van­dal­ism scares the peo­ple, like se­nior ci­ti­zens, who feel most vul­ner­a­ble, and it re­ally hurts so­cial in­clu­sion.”

Although he grew up in the West Is­land, Sauvé has lived in this district since he was 17 and

a stu­dent at Con­cor­dia, while Do­rais’s fam­ily goes back five gen­er­a­tions in St-Henri.

“It’s an amaz­ing thing to rep­re­sent all th­ese neigh­bour­hoods at once, but it is also such a huge weight on my shoul­ders to be the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of such his­tor­i­cal com­mu­ni­ties.” Sauvé says. “It’s cer­tainly chal­leng­ing to deal with the com­plex­ity of the com­mu­ni­ties, but it’s so sat­is­fy­ing to bring to­gether the rich­ness of all sides.”

Though not obliv­i­ous to the ben­e­fits of taxes they bring to the area, Sauvé and Do­rais cham­pi­oned a by­law lim­it­ing the num­ber of up­scale restau­rants to be built on Notre-Dame St., in or­der that res­i­dents have a wider ac­cess to all types of busi­nesses.

“I think ev­ery­body agrees that we have enough restau­rants here now,” Sauvé says. “That was driv­ing up the prices of com­mer­cial store­fronts. So we felt we had to do some­thing to keep the rents from not sky­rock­et­ing any fur­ther. While the taxes go up, that doesn’t mean res­i­dents’ pen­sions and rev­enues are go­ing up. Peo­ple are get­ting squeezed.”

“The idea is not to pe­nal­ize, but we have to at­tract other kinds of busi­nesses as well,” says Do­rais, 42, who was elected bor­ough mayor in 2013 as a mem­ber and then the leader of Coali­tion Mon­tréal, but who joined Pro­jet Mon­tréal last sum­mer. “Along with de­mands to in­vest in parks, traf­fic-calm­ing mea­sures and hous­ing, that is, with­out ques­tion, also a big is­sue, but we have to bal­ance the ben­e­fits of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion with the needs of the less for­tu­nate. It re­ally re­quires think­ing out­side the box.”

Adds Sauvé: “Ul­ti­mately our role is to fight poverty — to get­ting peo­ple homes that are af­ford­able and to mak­ing com­mu­ni­ties that are sus­tain­able — and yet also to make ev­ery­one feel at home.” Pause. “That’s def­i­nitely a bal­anc­ing act.”

We’ve got some big files to work on, for sure. We re­ally try to find those points which are cen­tral to peo­ple’s lives here and which unite peo­ple.

ALLEN McIN­NIS

Sud-Ouest bor­ough may­oral in­cum­bent Benoît Do­rais, right, and coun­cil­lor Craig Sauve speak with peo­ple as they ar­rive at Mai­son Saint-Charles com­mu­nity cen­tre.

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