Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante promises & hopes
Montrealers made history this past Sunday by electing the city's first female mayor. Beyond the step forward that for women, in general, this event represents, the question now is how the new administration will manage the many challenges the city faces and what changes we are going to see soon when the authoritarian style of Denis Coderre will be a thing of the past.
Projet Montréal, the party led by Valerie Plante, our new mayor, has made proposals that if implemented, they would result in important advances in participatory democracy and consultation with the citizens. Ms. Plante's party could be characterized as a coalition of people from various backgrounds who also have different priorities, who seem to have in common a progressive outlook on politics. This political view is evident in some of the main points of the party's program: emphasis on citizens' involvement in decisionmaking, improving public transit, concerns about the environment, and also, a more compassionate approach regarding the poor and other sectors of society who may be in a position of disadvantage. Good intentions, however, are not good enough. This somehow unexpected victory of a progressive or left-leaning party is not something new. In 1986 Jean Doré, leading the Montreal Citizens Movement (MCM) won a landslide victory. He was re-elected in 1990. In 1994 his party, now disintegrating, was soundly defeated. In the end, Doré's era marked a sad moment for progressive movements in the city. His administration was ineffectual, and his worst moment came when he sided with developers allowing the demolition of a number of Victorian-era houses in what became known as the Overdale scandal (for the name of the street in the downtown area where this destruction took place).The left-leaning councillors left the party, and after that, the MCM itself merely disappeared.
Of course, history doesn't have to repeat itself, and most likely there is no comparison between those two leaders who captured the imagination and hopes of people seeking changes in our city. Let's hope then that Valerie Plante—unlike what Doré did— will deliver what she and her party have promised.
On the search for democracy front, there may be good news for the residents of the Ville Marie borough, the only one that doesn't elect its own mayor. Ms. Plante will also be the mayor here, but her party has pledged in its platform (item 5.2 c) (To) "require the Government of Quebec to correct the inequity suffered by the citizens of the Borough of Ville-Marie, who do not elect their borough mayor and two of their councillors." In another point that should mean a change regarding the practices of the previous administration, it states: "(d) (To) enhance the channels for citizen engagement and input on development projects or zoning changes, small and large-scale."
The most potentially complex issue, however, could be to implement an ambitious plan for the improvement of public transportation. In particular what Projet Montréal named the Pink Line, a new metro line that would start at Bonaventure, combine with the Green Line at McGill, the Orange Line at MontRoyal, the projected Blue Line station at Jean Talon and Pie IX, to finish in Montreal-North. The line would eventually be extended west to Lachine too. During the campaign, there were some conflicting reports regarding its cost, calculated in around five billion. Coalition Montreal, while campaigning, proposed a different metro line, a variant of the Blue Line starting at Université de Montréal station and ending in Griffintown near the École de Technologie Superieur (ETS).That political group named its project the Knowledge Line since it would connect U. de Montréal, Concordia, the Fine Arts Museum and the ETS.
There is no question that the metro network is in need of expansion, the new mayor would build the Blue Line extension to Anjou and the Orange Line in the north-west to Bois-Franc to connect with the train station there. In its map, Projet Montréal also plans to extend the Blue Line west, apparently to NDG, Montreal West, and Cote St. Luc, although on this there are no details.The new administration has also promised the purchase of 300 buses and to create an express bus network. The problem that Ms. Plante may find in fulfilling these promises is that the money needed for the big transit projects must also come from both, the provincial and the federal governments. The goodwill of the city administration is not enough.
And of course, taxes are the other big concerns for citizens and businesses. The Projet Montréal platform says: "To encourage and help families to stay in Montreal, Valérie Plante will facilitate homeownership. The welcome tax will be abolished for families with children or those expecting children. Financial aid programs will be improved." It has also promised not to increase property taxes beyond the cost of living and make it easier for small businesses to pay their taxes.
Good times ahead for Montreal? Let's hope that this will be the case. For now, our best wishes to the first female mayor of our city, and this fact being another reason to be proud of Montreal.