Posted in Montreal, Opinion

Time to have an adult conversation about municipal corruption

Before a week ago, Benoit Labonté liked the attention.

But then, journalists started to discover things about him.

The timing wasn’t a coincidence. According to anonymous sources that came forward, Labonté’s constant criticism of Mayor Gérald Tremblay and his Union Montreal party as being corrupt was a hypocrisy too outrageous not to be challenged.

When reports by Rue Frontenac’s Fabrice de Pierrebourg (confirmed by Radio-Canada but ignored by TVA) and TVA’s Paul Laroque came out that Labonté asked for and received large cash contributions from city contractors (including the water-meter-infamous Tony Accurso) while he was running for the leadership of Vision Montreal in 2008, Labonté’s first reaction was from the standard politician playbook: deny, deny, deny.

It’s a no-brainer. Either he’s telling the truth that this is a smear campaign against him, or he’s lying. But if he’s lying, then the crime will destroy his political career and nobody will care about the coverup.

When Labonté said he would step down, supposedly to prevent being a distraction to his party, it was pretty obvious to everyone he was guilty. Innocent people don’t resign during an election campaign because of false charges.

But the media had to play along. Without absolute proof of his guilt, they couldn’t report what they were all thinking privately.

When Louise Harel accused Rue Frontenac and others of outright lying, as if these news organizations would all risk their reputations on such a serious accusation without conclusive evidence, nobody could say that was bullshit. When she blamed Union Montreal for making up a story, the media had to assume that was a possibility. (Of course, Union Montreal could very well have had a hand in this story, but they certainly didn’t make it up.)

And so everyone had to act surprised when, a day later, Harel announced she asked Labonté to resign as a candidate for Vision Montreal. (Because the nomination period has ended, Harel could not replace Labonté on the ballot. So the Ste. Marie district of Ville-Marie will have no Vision Montreal city councillor to vote for.)

No apologies

During her press conference, Harel made it a point to “saluer” the work of investigative journalists, supposedly the same ones she had called liars the day before. She offered no apology for attacking their reputations the day before.

Neither did Labonté, who went tell-all in an interview with Radio-Canada television four days later.

I’m sure Rue Frontenac, TVA and Radio-Canada won’t lose any sleep over it. But Harel and Labonté called them liars. They threatened to sue. They attacked the integrity of these organizations. Even though Labonté still denies taking money, it’s clear he attacked them to save his own skin. Don’t they deserve an apology?

They didn’t get one that I could see, even though Labonté did his interview ostensibly to save his reputation.

Only a politician would think he could save his reputation while at the same time admitting he outright lied to people about his integrity.

And yet, journalists are treating his two-hour interview (which Radio-Canada has decided to show excerpts of but not air or put online in its entirety yet) as if he’s come clean and can be trusted. Even though this interview contains such hard-to-believe statements as he lied to protect his party. So all the accusations he’s levelled against Gérald Tremblay suddenly have a new air of trustworthiness to them.

I certainly wouldn’t take Labonté’s accusations against Tremblay at face value, even now that he really has nothing to lose by finally being honest with us. Nor do I take the statements of disgruntled former Vision Montrealers that they warned Harel about Labonté with anything other than a giant grain of salt. But Labonté’s statement (supposedly quoting Tremblay) that this kind of corruption is what municipal politics is all about, that makes a lot of sense.

A poster plastered on the Champ de Mars metro window

A poster plastered on the Champ de Mars metro window

What now?

So now that we know the problem, what do we do? Gérald Tremblay thinks he can clean up city hall, an absurd statement if I’ve ever heard one. Louise Harel still thinks she can sweep up the corruption, even though she was clueless about her right-hand man.

And Richard Bergeron, whose party hasn’t been touched by a corruption scandal yet (notably because he’s the only member of that party who’s ever been elected) sees his numbers slowly climb in the polls.

I don’t think Gérald Tremblay is corrupt. Nor Louise Harel. Nor Richard Bergeron. But if the past few weeks and months have shown us anything, it’s that leaders can’t always account for the actions of members of their parties.

Both Tremblay and Harel were let down by high-ranking politicians. If they can’t trust them, how can they trust all 102 people running as city and borough councillors? Can any of the three parties really vouch for the integrity of that many people?

In Quebec City, the grandstanding is just as theatrical. Pauline Marois is calling for a public inquiry with a kind of urgency that suggests it can’t wait until after the elections. Jean Charest wants to wait for police investigations to end first, and hasn’t committed to anything.

The Everything Inquiry

We need a public inquiry. But it needs to be about more than municipal corruption, and it needs to be about more than Montreal. We need an inquiry into the whole system of municipal politics.

It’s clear from the actions of politicians of late that they simply can’t be trusted. We need to, from now on, work under a system that simply assumes that they are corrupt. Rather than punish people when the truth eventually comes out (because in many cases it doesn’t), we need a system that has roadblocks in place to stop every step of this.

I was under the impression such a system was already in place. There’s a reason that donations to politicians can’t be made by giving that politician money. Instead, all funds must go through the “agent officiel”, who keeps track of it. If such a system isn’t in place for leadership campaigns, or for parties in general outside of election periods, then it needs to be.

According to Vision Montreal’s website, the party has raised $300,000 from 1,180 donors. Union Montreal has raised about $105,000 from 297 donors (though that list hasn’t been updated in two weeks). I don’t know if that’s enough to run an election in a city this size (even if you’re not putting up posters). It’s $1,000-$3,000 per candidate.

Not only do I not know if I can trust that this represents all the money going into party coffers, I can’t trust that all this money really originates from the people named in those lists. And I don’t know who those people are. I don’t have time to call 1,000 people and ask if they have any connections with the construction industry.

This inquiry also needs to look to the other side of the equation. If politicians are getting money off the books, how can they spend this money without arising suspicion? Is the money being laundered somehow? Are they buying things outside the official party structure? If so, measures need to be in place to stop it.

We also need to take a step back and ask ourselves if the party system in general makes sense in municipal politics. We need to ask if political parties should be able to accept donations or if they should be entirely funded by the government (presumably based on how many votes they got the last time). We need to look at the way construction contracts are assigned. We need to ask if the contracting of construction work (rather than doing things in-house) makes sense.

In short, we need to look at everything.

Nine days before the election, it’s too late to start now. But starting Nov. 2, the file needs to be opened. The problem is too systemic for whoever is elected mayor to fix it from the inside, no matter their honourable intentions. And you can bet it’s in a lot more places than Montreal.

Of course, there’s no need to take my word for it. The Gazette’s City Eye blog is developing a top 10 list of things to do to combat corruption, taking suggestions from the audience and talking to experts. #1 on the list is the public inquiry, but other items are worthy of note.

56 thoughts on “Time to have an adult conversation about municipal corruption

  1. Craig

    Union’s 105,000$ is a far shade away from the millions with which it has been loading its coffers for the past four years. Last year, Union MTL managed to raise and put away 900,000$+ (found in the party’s annual report -publically accessible and the city hall financial office); and this, in a non-electoral year, when not a hell of a lot was going on.

    Moreover, there is the matter of all the fundraisers thrown by the party with huge amounts of anonymous donations (sometimes topping 50,000$ per event -that’s a helluva hat to pass around the room).

    And C’mon, Teflon Gerry not knowing what’s going on is his own party? If you’ve ever been involved enough in a political party, you know that the leader, for the sake of his political life, must know what everybody’s doing around him. If he doesn’t, he’s toast (think Stéphane Dion), and consequently, a bad leader. So if Tremblay is Mr. McGoo or if he’s Don Corleone, he’s still needs to be turfed.

    Resumé of campaign dosh:
    Union, with its 4 years of pocketing bucks for favours, has probably about 3,5 to 4 million dollars for this campaign.

    Vision probably has more than they’re letting on because they only started tallying on their website a few weeks before the election got going. How about the money before?

    Bergeron says his party’s only raised 150,000$ which is a remarkable boost from the pitiable 50K it had in 2005.

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  2. patrick

    i’m a bit confused by labonté’s comments and can help but wonder if something was lost in translation in the cbc article. is he saying that the Mafia is running construction deals, etc. in Montreal or that a mafia-like system of corruption and bribes is commonplace? i know that the Mob/Mafia/Nostra Cosa has a history in Montreal (i’ve heard they run the Pepsi Forum).

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    1. Jean Naimard

      i’m a bit confused by labonté’s comments and can help but wonder if something was lost in translation in the cbc article. is he saying that the Mafia is running construction deals, etc. in Montreal or that a mafia-like system of corruption and bribes is commonplace? i know that the Mob/Mafia/Nostra Cosa has a history in Montreal (i’ve heard they run the Pepsi Forum).

      It’s more like a mafia-style system than the mafia per se. The mafia has long deserted Montréal and moved to the ’burbs.
      As of the Pepsi Forum, well try $SMALL_CINEMA_CHAIN_WITH_ITALIAN_NAME instead… They only accept cash payment… Hmmm, what a nice way for laundering money: a service business that does not have a moving inventory… Like dry cleaners… Like parking lots… Hmmmm…

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  3. Jean Naimard

    I don’t think Gérald Tremblay is corrupt. Nor Louise Harel. Nor Richard Bergeron. But if the past few weeks and months have shown us anything, it’s that leaders can’t always account for the actions of members of their parties.

    Charles de Gaulle’s whole political carreer had a single theme: denouncing the political parties, whom he saw bear the responsibility of the 1940 defeat (thanks to the Maginot Line). When he wrote the current french constitution 50 years ago, he stripped a lot of political power from the parties, concentrating it in the council of ministers.
    Political parties are the rot of politics; for a good example, just look at the partisan bickering south of the border.
    Political parties have absolutely no place in the legislatures.
    The Charter of the City of Montréal does not really account for political parties, and in fact, Montréal didn’t really have political parties until about 55 years ago. Before that, councillors were all independant; that fact still shows in the Charter; remember, some years ago, the mayor wanted to throw out from the executive committee a councillor who had just left his party? Not so fast, said the courts, he cannot be thrown out just because he “walked accross the room”.

    In Quebec City, the grandstanding is just as theatrical. Pauline Marois is calling for a public inquiry with a kind of urgency that suggests it can’t wait until after the elections. Jean Charest wants to wait for police investigations to end first, and hasn’t committed to anything.

    Charest has to look after the interests of those who own him first and foremost. The liberal party is the party of the entrepreneurs for whom political contributions are investments. Remember back in the mid-70’s how the liberals were mired in scandals? Then again in the early 90’s?
    The liberal party is full of arrivists who only see politics as a mean to fill their own pockets; for those people, politics is an investment that reaps benefits at the taxpayer’s expense.

    It’s clear from the actions of politicians of late that they simply can’t be trusted. We need to, from now on, work under a system that simply assumes that they are corrupt. Rather than punish people when the truth eventually comes out (because in many cases it doesn’t), we need a system that has roadblocks in place to stop every step of this.

    Back in 1976, when the Parti-Québécois first came to power, they saw how the liberal patronage machine was used to give government contracts. So they instituted a register of suppliers who were then automatically chosen according to their competence without political interference, so every supplier had a really fair chance of being considered.

    I was under the impression such a system was already in place. There’s a reason that donations to politicians can’t be made by giving that politician money. Instead, all funds must go through the "agent officiel", who keeps track of it. If such a system isn’t in place for leadership campaigns, or for parties in general outside of election periods, then it needs to be.

    Political parties have no place in politics beyond gathering like-minded people. They should absolutely be barred from entering council chambers.
    Money is the “nerf de la guerre” in politics. Well, without parties to funnel and channel money, elections oughta become really cheaper for the taxpayers…

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    1. Anonymous

      Naimard, do you really think the PQ is a squeaky clean party that doesn’t have any careerist politicians like the Libs do? Puh-leeze. Take off your rose coloured glasses. The PQ is a capitalist party as much as the PLQ is.

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      1. Jim J.

        When Quebec is sovereign, these problems will be cease to exist.

        (One should also point out that Quebec is, essentially, already sovereign when it comes to regulating municipal affairs, and the PQ has formed the government, oh, approximately 20 out of the last 33 years.)

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        1. Jim J.

          Whoops. My bad. Since November ’76, the PQ has been in government for, as I re-calculate it, about 17 1/2 years. Slightly more than half of the intervening 33 years.

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        2. Jean Naimard

          (One should also point out that Quebec is, essentially, already sovereign when it comes to regulating municipal affairs, and the PQ has formed the government, oh, approximately [17½] out of the last 33 years.)

          Funny though that currently, as the scandals erupt, it’s the liberals who have been in power for a while, though…

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          1. Jim J.

            Your assertion ignores that the PQ, taking power after elections in ’76, and ’94, chose not to exercise Quebec’s existing sovereignty in regulating municipal affairs and make changes to “the system,” despite scandals that have taken place “while the Liberals are in power.” Why would this be?

            Shouldn’t the PQ have been eager, willing and, with a majority government, able to make all these changes so that, when the Liberals did back in in ’85 and ’03, these corruptions scandals would never happen again?

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          2. Jean Naimard

            Shouldn’t the PQ have been eager, willing and, with a majority government, able to make all these changes so that, when the Liberals did back in in ’85 and ’03, these corruptions scandals would never happen again?

            But they did. The PQ passed the political financing law that prohibits croporate donations; the law applies to municipal elections as well.

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        3. Jean Naimard

          When Quebec is sovereign, these problems will be cease to exist.

          When Québec will be sovereign, we will no longer be mired in an alien political system that is riddled with all the loopholes that allow the current corruption to exist. We will be able to have a legal system more suited to our national character (no, I’m not talking about “guilty until proven innocent”, as clueless anglo-saxon always like to tar the french), and who will be able to address those issues in an effective way.

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          1. Jim J.

            There are no “loopholes.” Quebec is already completely sovereign when it comes to regulating municipal affairs. There is no big, bad, federal government impeding Quebec’s ability to, for example, (a) make changes to how municipal contracts are tendered; (b) regulate how municipal campaigns are financed, or (c) alter the rules regarding conflicts of interest by elected local officials.

            I’ll concede that Quebec doesn’t have the ability to change the criminal code, but one could easily make the argument that, with sufficient and proper regulation of municipal affairs (which, apparently, have been neglected by both the PQ and the Liberals), changes to the criminal code would be unnecessary, because no one could commit any crimes.

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  4. Maria Gatti

    Thanks Steve for an interesting and well thought-out blog entry. I’d heard such stories off-the-record about Labonté at least a year or two ago, but am not interested in repeating unfounded rumours. The consensus that Labonté was all about himself, made utterly contradictory statements about urbanistic policy, and had no “vision” for Montréal beyond lining his own pockets.

    Jean, I don’t agree with De Gaulle about parties – the 5e République had more than a whiff of the authoritarian coup about it. In France at the time there were political parties with very different outlooks, even representing the interests of different social classes. I don’t think it is at all democratic to sweep such differences under the rug.

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    1. Jean Naimard

      Jean, I don’t agree with De Gaulle about parties – the 5e République had more than a whiff of the authoritarian coup about it. In France at the time there were political parties with very different outlooks, even representing the interests of different social classes. I don’t think it is at all democratic to sweep such differences under the rug.

      Political parties have absolutely no place in legislatures. Once someone is elected to represent his constituents, he should represent his constituents, not his political party.
      The british rule that the group who has the most guys in the legislature runs the show has to go. The leader of the government should be chosen by the people (like mayors are in Québec right now).
      Political parties may be needed to get the ressources needed for elections. Fine. Let’s change the electoral process to make sure that elections need less ressources. For example, outlawing posting on light/electric poles and public land should be prohibited.
      Anytime anyone musters the number of signatures needed to become a candidate, he gets exacly one (1) slice of the electoral pie taken from the public electoral budget.
      Let everyone compete on a level footing and be judged by their ideas, not the glitziness of their campaign.

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    1. Fagstein Post author

      I think The Gazette (and media in general) have more than enough people commenting about the municipal election already. And I don’t think I’m saying anything new here. Tremblay made the same point today on CTV: we need to look at everything.

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    1. Shawn

      I was going to vote for Bergeron was put off when I found out about his 9/11 conspiracy theories. Sorry, but in my experience these people are nutters. I’m voting for Trembay, as in the devil you know.

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      1. Marc

        He also believes Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin never landed on the moon, which has been debunked more times than I care to count. This and his 9/11 nonsense demonstrate a big lack of critical thinking which is why he doesn’t have my support.

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        1. Shawn

          OMG, you’re right. Or so it seems. I just googled Bergeron/moon and found the press release from Union Montreal, which cites an interview from just 3 years ago that casts doubt on whether the Apollo moon landings actually happened! If true, this guy is batshit wacko. I cannot believe other posters are saying these kind of bizarre beliefs don’t matter. The very notion of him running a major city is terrifying. Now I’m SURE to vote for Tremblay.

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          1. Jean Naimard

            OMG, you’re right. Or so it seems. I just googled Bergeron/moon and found the press release from Union Montreal, which cites an interview from just 3 years ago that casts doubt on whether the Apollo moon landings actually happened! If true, this guy is batshit wacko.

            OH SHIT! And to think that the mayor of Montréal is **ALSO** responsible for the United States space exploration policy!!!!
            Holy shit, we better get our ducks lined properly on this one!!!! If we vote for Bergeron, we can be sure the US will never prepare a mission to Mars!!!

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          2. Yan

            It’s really sad to see that people are eating up Tremblay’s republican-style fabrication.

            Bergeron doesn’t think the moon landing was faked, c’mon…

            how on earth could he build a party of thousands of members, get himself elected in a corner of the city with the highest rate of university completion and convince 102 candidates as well as John Gomery to come aboard if he were a nutbar?

            All Tremblay’s dirty campaign tricks.

            Hello! Tremblay has been stealing our money for 8 years!!!! Most people go to jail for this.

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            1. Fagstein Post author

              Not that I necessarily agree that Bergeron is a “nut bar”, but the argument that people wouldn’t follow him if he was crazy doesn’t hold up. Do you know how many Raelians there are? Or Scientologists? Or 9/11 conspiracy theorists?

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              1. Shawn

                I’d say that people are willing to overlook the crazy stuff with Bergeron because they like some of his plans and dislike his opponents so strongly. But running a major city doesn’t take a PhD and it isn’t academia. I have some letters after my name, too; many of us do. But I wouldn’t expect anyone to vote for me based on that. I think I’d need, at the very least, to demonstrate that I was mentally sound and stable. Seems to me that Bergeron has gone out of his way to assert the opposite.

              2. Shawn

                Admittedly, I haven’t read his books. And I accept the fact that he has a body of academic work that people here find impressive and persuasive. But feet-on-your-ground common sense is also needed at city hall.

              3. Marc

                If he truly didn’t believe in conspiracy theories, he would stand up and outright deny it – but he hasn’t. He downplays it, but that’s all. A PhD is certainly a welcome asset but doesn’t automatically qualify you. Henry Aubin had an interesting idea yesterday in that none of the candidates are worth our votes (something I mentioned earlier) and that the election should be cancelled and the city placed under trusteeship. The system is rotten to the core and part of me agreed when I read it.

              4. Shawn

                Oh, I agree there. I’m not enthused about voting for Tremblay, either.
                As for downplaying the nutter conspiracy theory stuff, he doesn’t even seem to be doing that, according to the Union Montreal press release, anyway:
                http://www.cnw.ca/en/releases/archive/October2009/06/c4507.html
                The most damaging paragraph was translated as Bergeron saying:
                “Regarding the two other planes that crashed, one at the Pentagon in Washington and the other in a field near Pittsburgh, Pensylvania, we enter into what I refer to as a macabre farce. Everyone knows that that in the event of a plane crash, regardless of the circumstance in which it occurs, there is an abundance of debris that is produced. I personally don’t believe that airplanes weighing 60 tonnes could simply vanish. It might be that what we witnessed on September 11th 2001 was a simple act of state banditry of titanic proportions.”
                When given a chance to back off this by La Presse, he is quoted as stating:
                “I am damn proud of that paragraph”
                Really, he’s damn proud of that? It’s a statement bordering on the obscene, given the enormous loss of life, and the fact that the entire city of New York — and the world — watched it unfold, before our eyes.
                I ask his supporters, what is he trying to prove? Why won’t he back off such bizarre statements? Is it simply his own hubris that he cannot be wrong?
                Or if you think that he has been misquoted in the above example, please provide your own.

              5. Jean Naimard

                Indeed, it is quite concerning, because the Mayor of Montréal plays an extremely crucial role in preventing future terror attacks against the heartland of America.

                If some nutter would land the job, this would seriously jeoparize the stability of our civilization, and endanger the equilibrium of the spatio-temporal continuum.

                Yeah, better vote for the better man, and George W. Bush is the man for the job.

              6. Chris

                Shawn and Marc: you seem almost obsessed with this whole Bergeron-9/11 thing. I think there are a few problems with your reasoning though:

                1. Believing a conspiracy theory doesn’t automatically make someone a nutjob. Conspiracy theories aren’t always cooked up by tin-foil hat wearing nerds in their parent’s basements. Sometimes conspiracy theories, even outlandish ones, actually end up being proven true or at least partially true many years later (usually after secret documents have been declassified) making what once seemed impossible or crazy at one time true. Many of the claims made by the “9/11 truthers” aren’t so ridiculous if you look at what other government administrations and organisations have done in the past (MKULTRA for a local example).

                2. Marc says that Bergeron’s beliefs concerning 9/11 and the moon landing reveal a lack of critical thinking. I might be inclined to believe that it would suggest MORE critical thinking. At the very least, he’s willing to look beyond the official story and question what we’re told is true by those in authority (media, government, etc.). If he believes that these conspiracy theories are absolutely true, that would put him pretty much down to the level of those who believe that the official story is always absolutely true.

                3. Elected officials have believed much crazier things, for example, that some sort of omnipotent power created the universe in 7 days, flooded the earth in 40, and had one man and his family collect every animal on earth and put them on a boat for the duration of the flood. People who believe this also believe that this god’s son was born to a virgin and went around turning water into wine, stones into bread, and could heal the blind and handicapped by simply touching their foreheads. Indeed Shawn admitted earlier that he plans on voting for someone who not only believes this, but for someone who built a church where these beliefs can be further propagated in St-Hyppolite 13 years ago (http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Tremblay+mission+serve/2053034/story.html). If you don’t think believing that is crazier than the conspiracy theories, keep in mind that the Bergeron’s conspiracy theories are based on at least a bit of scientific research (however dubious it may be), whereas Tremblay’s beliefs are based on a single book, written 2000 years ago.

                Perhaps they’re all nutjobs. Actually, if you’re not at least a bit crazy, you wouldn’t be running for mayor of Montreal.

      2. Yan

        There’s no way in hell, I’m voting for Tremblay. I can’t give him something as precious as my vote after what has gone on for 8 years.

        We need a CHANGE!

        Bergeron’s proved himself to me: a PhD in urban planning and a degree in Architecture, 20 years as a professor in local universities and also having worked for the AMT.

        So he WROTE something stupid, big deal, at least he ain’t a crook.

        I’m hoping we cast the devil we know down to hell where he belongs.

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        1. Marc

          a PhD in urban planning and a degree in Architecture, 20 years as a professor in local universities and also having worked for the AMT.

          Having a PhD doesn’t qualify him to be mayor. There’s a lot more to it than that. NONE of the candidates are truly worth it.

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      3. Chris

        Shawn: Bergeron’s comments regarding 9/11 had no relation to the so called “9/11 Truth Movement”. He merely suggested that the official story might not be entirely true and that some of the conspiracy theories might have a certain amount of weight behind them. The media had been playing this up much more than it needed to be. Anyway, Bergeron’s views on 9/11 have absolutely nothing to do with municipal politics and shouldn’t overshadow the good that could come from his being mayor.

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        1. Yan

          Watch this and then tell me if you don’t think Bergeron is reasonable:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjpiJrQUE-g

          There are 102 other candidates in Projet Montréal who’ve backed Bergeron, numerous environmentalists, politicians, community groups. I agree with Fagstein, “time to have an adult conversation.”

          Away with the cheap, cynical ad hominem attacks by Tremblay and Alan Allnutt.

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        2. Jim J.

          Oddly enough, I haven’t seen very much in the English-language media that has “played up” Bergeron’s belief in so-called conspiracy theories. A few passing mentions here and there, but no page 1 stories in the Gazette or lead-off stories on CBC.

          There isn’t a shred of difference between the people who believe in 9/11 conspiracy, the people who believe that the moon landings were staged, or who believe that the U.N. is responsible for the black helicopters, or who believe a secret Jewish cabal runs the world banking system, or Obama was born in Kenya (that last group’s semi-official leader has a law degree, thus evidencing that post-secondary education, whether it’s a law degree or a Ph.D. in urban planning, doesn’t necessarily make one immune from stupid ideas).

          Marc is absolutely on point: belief in conspiracy theories evidences (a) a failure to take responsibility for one’s own life; and (b) a willingness to believe fanciful and elaborate narratives instead of provable, concrete and self-evident facts.

          Bergeron may have – in fact, I think he does have – some excellent ideas about urban planning, changing the role of the automobile in urban culture, and sustainability. And he appears to be untainted, up to this point, by the very messy system of municipal election financing. But to say that those good ideas completely nullify his…well, his espousing of certain ideas that are pretty much relegated to the nutjob fringe, isn’t a realistic appraisal for a candidate.

          Hypothetical: What if Bergeron said he thought the Holocaust was a hoax? Or the Holodomor? Or that the CIA deliberately created and released the AIDS virus? How are these conspiracy theories any different than the examples I cited above?

          You may examine his ideas and policies, and balance them against his belief in conspiracy theories, and still decide to vote for him. That’s fine. But if you reflexively dismiss it out of hand, and those ideas and beliefs don’t give you any pause whatsoever, well….

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          1. Jean Naimard

            Hypothetical: What if Bergeron said he thought the Holocaust was a hoax? Or the Holodomor? Or that the CIA deliberately created and released the AIDS virus? How are these conspiracy theories any different than the examples I cited above?

            Yes, we better be careful here, because the mayor of Montréal also runs the CIA, the Shin-Bet, the Mossad and the Ukraine agricultural allocation system!!!
            That Bergeron believes 9/11 is an inside job is as just relevant to the job of mayor as if Harel believes in the Very Holy Trinity.

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        3. Yan

          Agreed.

          Besides there are more people involved in Projet Montreal than Bergeron.

          They’ve got a pretty impressive team. Political rookies, to be sure, but respectable citizens with a helluva lot of competence.

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      4. Jean Naimard

        I was going to vote for Bergeron was put off when I found out about his 9/11 conspiracy theories. Sorry, but in my experience these people are nutters. I’m voting for Trembay, as in the devil you know.

        (Note: for the sarcasm impaired, the following post is dripping so much with sarcasm that I have had to mobilize three mops and four buckets to cope.)
        OMFG! You’re right!!! I totally forgot that the Mayor of Montréal is going to decide what is done with regards to preventing future terror attacks on the Heart of America!!!
        Better vote for Gérald “deuce” Tremblay, to make sure there is no other 9/11…

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  5. Soranar

    Well I know I’m not voting for Tremblay, that’s for sure. Either the guy is a crook or he’s incompetent.

    I am a separatist though so I’m tempted to vote for Harel, if only for that. But I don’t like her last minute arrival to save a party made up of angry Tremblay leftovers. And I don’t like the idea of voting for someone just because he/she is a separatist. She is also quite old which will seriously impair her capacity to adapt. And even if her team compensates I don’t trust it.

    So as usual I’m not voting for someone but against someone. That’s Quebec politics of the last 20 years.

    At least Bergeron has Gomery (maybe only through her daughter but he’s still there). So I’m going with Bergeron. As other mentioned he may have his quirks but good mayors are usually a bit weird (Drapeau and Labeaume comes to mind).

    Reply
    1. Jean Naimard

      I am a separatist though so I’m tempted to vote for Harel, if only for that.

      It is pretty silly to vote (or not) for her for this reason. As mayor of Montréal, she certainly won’t be able to “separate” Québec any more than anyone who’ll vote “yes” in the next referendum.
      You should only vote for her if you think she’ll be doing a good job.
      (I won’t, because I don’t think she’ll be able to do a good job with the bunch of morons she inherited from Géranium Pommier).

      Reply
    2. Maria Gatti

      Louise Harel was born in 1946. She is 63 – hardly terribly old for a mayor. Gérald Tremblay was born in 1942 and Richard Bergeron in 1955. I’m of around Bergeron’s vintage and think he looks very old for some reason.

      Harel has snow-white hair now which she no longer colours, but also has beautiful skin. I’m not voting for her party, though it has nothing to do with her age or her poor command of spoken English.

      Fagstein, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, agreed , not the best example of critical reasoning (Robert Fisk, no worshipper of any established order, did a great number on them) but neither were all the leaders who fell in with the line about Saddam Hussein having “weapons of mass destruction”. And unlike the truther conspiracy theories, which didn’t really hurt anyone, those lies were the pretext for unleashing war that has killed countless thousands of people, whether Iraqis or US and British troops.

      None of the leaders or pundits who fell for that pile of bullshit have had to retract it as of yet.

      Reply
  6. Marc

    Anyway, Bergeron’s views on 9/11 have absolutely nothing to do with municipal politics and shouldn’t overshadow the good that could come from his being mayor.

    It has a great deal to do with him because as I said, it reveals his critical thinking skills. And for me, that’s a big deal.

    Reply
  7. Jean Naimard

    Naimard, do you really think the PQ is a squeaky clean party that doesn’t have any careerist politicians like the Libs do? Puh-leeze. Take off your rose coloured glasses. The PQ is a capitalist party as much as the PLQ is.

    Of course, the Parti-Québécois is squeaky clean. The liberals are anglo-saxons or people of strict anglo-saxon obedience, thus they are failed businessmen (because for the anglo-saxons, government is bad, so no one in his right mind would seek being in government, except when there is no other possibility). And businessmen (failed or not) have and see only one purpose in life: to put as much money in their pockets as possible.
    No so with the Parti-Québécois, who are for the most part well-educated intellectuals who, by being french, see government as something worthy to work for.
    Therefore, the liberals are, by their very own volition, corrupt, and the Parti-Québécois is not.
    Libéral fins de règnes in Québec have always been characterized by numerous scandals.

    Reply
  8. Neath

    The corruption here is institutional and so well ingrained that it has been completely forgotten by most people until the recent “scandals” started coming out. I knew someone in the early to mid 70′s who was pouring foundations in Chateauguay with Olympic Stadium concrete. It was a total free for all and there was probably enough cement mixed to build 20 stadiums and it all got paid for at least twice. The rest of us paid it off over the next 30 years following the games. Anyone who believes that everything has somehow become all on the up and up here is just ignoring history.
    I like to joke that the reason our roads are so horrible compared to Ontario or New York is because our contractors water down the asphalt. But seriously, it might just turn out that that is more or less the answer. We bitch about the roads but we never demand investigations. We should be asking for our money back like we do with most other consumer products.
    And the investigations we do get seem to have no desire to accomplish anything near to accountability or responsibility. The Johnson Commission into highway overpasses collapsing concluded that we are all to blame so no one is to blame…. so I sure hope The Everything Inquiry is going to have some teeth! And it is also going to have to have some courage!

    Reply
  9. James Lawlor

    I’m definitely voting for Bergeron and the whole slate of Projet Montréal candidates. Their candidate for the district of NDG, Peter McQueen, is extremely involved in local issues in the district and is a regular attendee at council meetings. Both of them really know their stuff!

    I’ve read both of Mr. Bergeron’s books “Les Quebecois au volant – c’est mortel” and “Le livre noir d’automobile” and I was very impressed. They are both available from Montreal’s public library system by the way.

    To me the choice is clear: two lawyers who are also former provincial politicians or an intellectual with a doctorate degree in urban planning. It’s a no-brainer!

    A quick primer:
    http://www.ledevoir.com/2002/08/31/8073.html

    Reply
  10. Neath

    The over analyzing of Bergeron means he is a man who has arrived. Obama went through it and still is. Everyone that brings change is looked upon with great suspicion. The situation in this Montreal election is classic – there is a new and very relevant party with nothing but good contemporary ideas that probably should win the election easily, but fear and loathing circulating around the old guard will keep people playing out old rituals, such as voting for the “non’seperatist” as though there is somehow something noble in that. Perhaps we are just beginning to process the end of an era in Montreal, and maybe that is healthy in some ways, because change is coming for sure.

    Reply
  11. Aaron

    Great post, and comments. Can anyone help clarify the election process for me? As a new-comer to Montreal (3 years ago) the system here is still confusing… I’ve been reading the City of Montreal’s election website, I know who I’m voting for (In my case, I live in Mile End and vote for – city mayor, borough mayor, city councillor of your electoral district, borough councillor of your electoral district).

    But how does this all work with the party system? Can, for example, the city mayor be elected from party A, but all other elected positions be from party B? (ie, since we vote directly for the mayor, he/she doesn’t need a majority of council seats or borough mayors or something like that?)

    Why do we have both borough and city councillor’s for every district? Shouldn’t we have borough councillors for more local issues, who are under the borough mayor, and all the borough mayors from across Montreal represent their boroughs in the context of the city mayor?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      But how does this all work with the party system? Can, for example, the city mayor be elected from party A, but all other elected positions be from party B? (ie, since we vote directly for the mayor, he/she doesn’t need a majority of council seats or borough mayors or something like that?)

      Yes. Think of it like the U.S. government, where the president and Congress are elected separately. They can be from the same party or from different ones. It doesn’t usually happen in municipal elections (people tend to vote for the same party for mayor and for council), but it could, particularly in an environment such as this one.

      Reply
  12. Maria Gatti

    Shawn, I will reiterate. I strongly disagree with 9/11 Truther stuff (à la Fisk – you can look up Fisk’s retort to that easily). His statement may have been callous to the New Yorkers who lost loved ones – a good friend of mine went to the WTC several times a week for his work, and I was heartsick until I discovered he was alive and well. But it didn’t use the enormous loss of life as a flimsy pretext for waging war on people in Iraq who had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks or Al Qaeda (Saddam Hussein was a dictator, but a secular one, and an enemy of the Muslim type of fundies).

    Not one leader, journalist or other pundit has had to backtrack or apologise for insinuating that there was some link between Saddam and Osama, or that Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction”, thereby supporting the slaughter of far more innocent people than those murdered in NYC. I do hope you don’t think the lives of New Yorkers are worth more than the lives of Baghdadis.

    I dunno. I think there is some hubris involved. But I voted Projet Montréal despite that, as there are far more important issues such as bringing in more public and active transport and reducing the place of the car. We really have to stop destroying the world, eh?

    Reply
  13. Marc

    Actually, if you’re not at least a bit crazy, you wouldn’t be running for mayor of Montreal.

    There we go. Something we agree on. :)

    Reply
  14. Shawn

    Chris, great points. I’m still not voting for Bergeron but yes: the conspiracy theorists are just Johnny-come-latelies in the loopy belief department. I kind of hope Bergeron does win, just to see what would happen. I fear the worst but who knows?

    I DO think the high advance polling is an indication that something’s in the offing. Kate in her always excellent mtlweblog wondered what these figures could portent. Anyone care to hazard a guess? Perhaps it was just that we had nice weather yesterday…

    Reply
    1. Jean Naimard

      Chris, great points. I’m still not voting for Bergeron

      I kind of hope Bergeron does win, just to see what would happen. I fear the worst but who knows?

      Well, if you “kinda”HOPE he wins, why don’t you do your little bit and vote for him?
      What would happen? Well, a big shake-up on the order of when Jean Doré came to power 25 years ago. And what would be worse? Wall-to-wall streetcars or wall-to-wall cars (if O’Sullivan would win)???

      Reply

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