With only seven months to go until the Nov. 1 municipal election, Vision Montreal leader Benoit Labonté has launched his campaign, which includes ads like the one seen above as well as a blog which his duties as Ville-Marie mayor apparently leave him plenty of time to keep updated. (There are also the requisite YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages)
Labonté, whose public persona is so poor he’s being outpolled by the city’s equivalent of Ralph Nader, has a lot of work to do in those seven months if he’s going to be competitive in this fall’s election – both in his race for mayor and the downticket races for city councillors and borough executives that his party’s future depends on.
His main fault is that nobody knows anything about him or what he’s about, other than his rather public falling out with Mayor Gérald Tremblay. That’s a problem entirely of his doing. When you see interviews or campaign videos, you hear words like “audace” and “espoir” and “intégrité” and whatever. But Tremblay could say the same about himself. There’s no differentiation between the two of them.
It’s not a question of message. The two men simply don’t diverge enough in their opinions. Labonté is big on sustainable development and green policy (for the most part – see below). But so is Tremblay. Labonté wants the private sector to contribute to make this city better. But so does Tremblay.
Labonté’s image problem stems from the simple fact that Tremblay has actually been a pretty good mayor. Sure, he’s had issues with the demerged suburbs, his executive committee performs far too much of the people’s work behind closed doors, the municipal bureaucracy is horribly bloated and the unions all hate his guts. But none of that would change in a Labonté administration.
I tried to look at Vision Montreal’s platform to see what kind of policies they would follow, what kind of bylaws they would pass and what kind of budget they would create that would be different than the current administration. But I couldn’t find one, either on Labonté’s website or on the Vision Montreal one. Even his political “manifesto” doesn’t include any specific ideas in its 2,347 words. The closest thing I could find were a couple of videos posted a year ago, including the one above, which outline some things he’s done as borough mayor. But I’ve already pointed out the flaws in these (to recap: his plastic bag recycling system creates waste where there was none before; his Parco-Don is a gimmick that isn’t bringing in much money; and to add a new one – his commitment to pedestrianization of streets is tainted by his demand to get rid of a reserved bus lane in the Old Port because it interferes with traffic and parking).
UPDATE (April 11): Spacing Montreal has links to show Labonté’s inconsistencies when it comes to his policies.
Labonté needs to figure out what he’s about. Perhaps my view is tainted by the fact that he lied to me the one time I interviewed him, but I don’t think I’m the only one whose first impression of him is of a self-obsessed politician who will pander to whoever is necessary to win an election.
Fortunately, he has seven months to fix that image and present a vision that has more ideas and fewer vague political clichés.
Oh, and since I criticized Tremblay’s party website for having too many photos of him on it, I should probably point out that Labonté’s website has half a dozen photos of him on it too.