Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 2 evening - politics rears its ugly head

So I went out last night for another quick look at the block and ran into one of my neighbours, Yann. He is halfway jokingly referred to as the Mayor of Clark Street because he is quite well known and does a lot to keep the front yard of one of the bigger apartments (where he lives) looking nice. I was remarking on how quickly the work was getting done and he said "It's an election year." His theory is that the entire project was launched because it's an election year. I felt a bit naive realizing this, as it is pretty classic municipal politics. The current mayor gives the impression that he is getting things done. And if he loses, he just kicks the expenses for the work to the next administration. The election year also accounts for the hup nature of the work going on.

So since the election is November 1st, I thought I'd give you a brief rundown on the situation. I am really not very well-informed on the elections. I suspect that municipal politics may be the one reason to continue reading newspapers, as all the dailies here are covering the election from many perspectives. Unfortunately, I generally don't read any of them. So be aware that my information here is primarily based on what I hear on CBC radio and some cursory web searching with a few articles skimmed at cafés.

The Incumbent: Mayor Gerard Tremblay (Union Montreal). He is either mired in corruption or disturbingly detached from the major decision-making that goes on in his office. The major scandal was a contract for installing water meters that set off a bunch of alarms. The tendering process was super sketchy and the final bid (which was already the largest contract the city had ever undertaken) was way more than had originally been predicted. Up until two weeks ago, the mayor backed the contract. Then the auditor-general came out and ripped the whole thing to shreds. Tremblay fired the top two guys behind the contract and cancelled it (and there was a big cancellation fee written into the contract, so either way the scumbag contractors walked away with our tax dollars). It really looks bad. And this ongoing story has been spiced up with all kinds of little stories about corrupt construction companies doing things like taking over sites, extortion, beating people up, all that good old school mafia stuff.

However, the rest of Tremblay's tenure, from a citizen's point of view, hasn't been all that bad (we're speaking relatively here, people). The metro is growing under his watch. The summer festival season is growing, despite the (perhaps temporary) loss of the Grand Prix. Snow removal was much improved last winter and there are lots of job-creating construction projects going on, including the Places des spectacles, which is a dedicated section of downtown for all the festivals here. The bike paths have also expanded and Bixi was a huge success. Also, some people argue that the water meter scandal is a function of an administration that is rooting out corruption, thus it is coming to light more.

The Main Competitor: Louise Harel (Vision Montreal). I hadn't even heard of her until she joined the election, but she is a big name in provincial politics. She was a PQ provincial deputy for the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood (one of the poorer ones in Montreal) for 27 years and was responsible for a lot of social legislation, particularily equality of pay for women, Emploi-Quebec and lots of other good stuff for working people. She was also the main force behind the fusion of all the municipalities in Montreal, which is still considered very controversial, particularly among the richer or anglophone communities.

Her pedigree is strong, but her platform is not very impressive. One of her big plans is a promise to get Expo 2020 to Montreal. Hello, the '60s are over. I'm not really against having an Expo here, but it really is not a solution for Montreal's issues in the 21st century. Other than that, she wants to have more dedicated bus lanes. Oh yeah, and she is going to sweep city hall clean of corruption (she actually brought a broom to her first press conference). Finally, she can't speak english, or at least she's not confident enough to participate in a debate in english, which thus cancelled any english debates. That to me is bullshit. I know Quebec is a francophone province, but Montreal is a polyglot town (50% of the population has a mother tongue that is not French) and if you can only speak French or English, you should then be able to speak some other second language, like Portuguese or Greek or Italian. Hell, the little neighbour kid next door speaks English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. That's a real Montrealer right there. She clearly does not represent that population. Considering that Elizabeth May, whose French is far worse than Louise Harel's english, went on the national stage and did a debate in french, I think Harel's move is a terrible cop-out.

The Mellow Left Edge: Richard Bergeron (Project Montreal). He's the super pro-public transport dude. He's far and away the most environmentally concerned of the candidates, but the base of his philosophy is all about humans living together in dense urban places and how that can be made healthier and more pleasant. Though he never wins, his history and expertise in the field of public transport is respected by everybody. Even though the environment is my fundamental political concern, he's not actually my ideal lefty candidate, as his platform is almost entirely focused on transit. Still, he's got my vote. And as is usual with these right-thinking people, he is making a big effort to get more people to register to vote and squabbling with the voting board over the limited amount of time citizens have been given to register.

The Harsh Right Edge: Louise O'Sullivan (Parti Montreal Ville-Marie). She represents a pro-business coalition and her platform seems mostly being critical of the current administration and bitching about graffiti and the general state of decline in Montreal. Sounds a lot like an anglophone from the west island! Hey Louise, the 50s are over. Her catchphrase in english is "Sustainable Wealth Creation" and she is arguing for the rights of cars. Please go away.

Then there is a bunch of other freaks as well as all the councillor positions, about which I know nothing. He's not in my district, but I hope my man Marc-Boris St-Maurice gets elected. His bio says it all (italics are mine):

Marc-Boris St-Maurice is a musician-turned-political activist who has lived and worked in Jeanne-Mance District for almost 20 years. He played bass in the band Grimskunk, started Indica Records, and was the founding leader of the Bloc Pot and the Marijuana Party of Canada. Currently, he serves as Director of the Montreal Compassion Center on Rachel street.

Okay, enough politics. We'll be getting back to our regularily scheduled construction programming soon, with lots of exciting photos and even some hot construciton video!


Christian Jarry said...

I don't think the fact Harel speaks only french is an issue to vote for or against her. The best example of this that's given so often is that the mayor of Ottawa doesn't speak any french at all.

It would be silly to say that it's not a nice to have but you have to remember (and I won't deny it's a problem), the only official language of Québec is french. I know already that you'll tell me that's not the case in Canada but this is a huge problem.

Anyways, this isn't much of an issue because I wouldn't vote for her if I could. Richard Bergeron would have my vote hands down.

Harel's biggest problem is her party. I mean it's the old Vision Montréal that was as corrupt if not more than Tremblay's party so in essence it's exchanging 4 quarters for a looney.

Jason L said...

This is great stuff - both the politics and the construction. Keep it up.

Buzby said...

In municipal politics you should always vote for the freaks because the true freaks are the politicians who claim to represent some main stream ideology or party.

marcsnyder said...
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