Mon­treal Mayor Valérie Plante prom­ises & hopes

Montreal Times - - Front Page - By Ser­gio Martinez

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.

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