Tremblay perpetuates STM’s giant “fuck you” to users

Michel Labrecque

Michel Labrecque

Back in August, during the municipal election campaign, I opined about the fact that Brenda Paris, a candidate for the Vision Montreal party, sat on the board of directors of the Société de transport de Montréal, in a seat reserved for transit users. Of the nine seats on the board, six are filled by city councillors, one by a politician from on-island suburbs, one by a representative of transit users and one by a representative of paratransit users.

I suggested that, since Paris has essentially become a politician, she should give up her seat so that the board could have a representative who wasn’t a politician. It’s nothing against Paris, and if she was elected to city council I would have welcomed her appointment to the board, but filling a seat designed specifically not to be filled by a politician seemed improper.

Brenda Paris lost her bid for election to city council. She came in third in the race for Côte-des-Neiges/NDG borough mayor, behind Union Montreal’s Michael Applebaum and Projet’s Carole Dupuis. Since she was no longer part of the party in power (she was president of the Union Montreal party when reappointed last year, before jumping to the opposition), her days on the board were clearly limited.

Today, Mayor Gérald Tremblay announced the new makeup on the board of the STM. And the new person to fill the seat reserved for transit users? Michel Labrecque, another politician. Labrecque lost his bid for mayor of the Plateau, coming in third (notice a pattern here?) behind Projet’s Luc Ferrandez and Vision’s Guillaume Vaillancourt.

Among the other changes, two new faces are being added: Jocelyn-Ann Campbell, city councillor in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, and Monica Ricourt, borough councillor in Montreal North. They replace Marcel Tremblay (the mayor’s brother, who lost the race for Villeray mayor) and Monique Worth, borough mayor for Pierrefonds-Roxboro (cutting down West Island representation on the board). Remaining incumbents are Marvin Rotrand (STM vice-president, city councillor for CDN/NDG), Dominic Perri (city councillor for St. Leonard), Bernard Blanchet (city councillor for Lachine) and Marie Turcotte, representative for paratransit users. A final seat will be filled by the suburbs, and since Westmount Mayor Karin Marks has retired, it will probably be a new face.

It goes without saying that all of the politicians on the STM board are Union Montreal members. Vision Montreal even sent out a press release complaining that Paris was being replaced by Labrecque, and saying it would “leave transit users without an independent and fair representation”. Apparently, they believe that it’s more important to have an “independent and fair” representative of the opposition party than of transit users.

Like with Paris, I have nothing against Michel Labrecque personally. In fact, I think he’ll be a very good chair for the STM. But, like Paris, he’s a politician (one who failed spectacularly at a run for office), one loyal to the mayor’s party, taking a seat reserved, at least in spirit, for non-politicians. Unlike Nathalie Collard, I don’t think this is a “justified” exception.

This is the kind of stuff I expect (and have seen) from student politicians: reserving seats on committees for the general public and then filling them with their politician friends (or failed politician friends) under the argument that politicians are people too.

Mayor Tremblay found a loophole to appoint one of his friends on the STM’s board. It’s good for Labrecque, and may even improve the functioning of the transit agency. But it comes at the expense of democracy and silences the voices of humdreds of thousands of transit users.

It’s time to either change how this seat is appointed (so that transit users choose their own representative) or end this farce of democracy and admit the city and the STM don’t give a rat’s ass about hearing from the public.

7 thoughts on “Tremblay perpetuates STM’s giant “fuck you” to users

  1. Shawn

    Agreed, except to add that this sort of thing happens at all levels of government, with chair/president and trustee appointments at crown corporations and agencies.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I would argue that the STM has a more direct impact on people’s lives than most government agencies. Or, at least, there are more complaints, and more of a need for public input here. Not to mention its large budget.

      Reply
  2. wkh

    To be honest, I think it should be someone who at least knows the game on there. Why? Because otherwise the “public” seat is going to get left out of all the backroom shenanigans going on and nodded at politely and then ignored. Sort of like students on the BoG. If they’re someone politicians actually care about and need to work with, then they might listen to them and work with them.

    The trick is to get the public seat holder to understand the public is watching. In other words if you act like Tremblay’s tool on this board, GFL getting my vote come election. Alas, let’s face it, no one is watching.

    Related to that… Another problem with “public” seats is in general outside of media and people you would declare “politicos” the public is largely uninterested in these seats. They don’t have time. They have jobs, shit to do, and know their presence will make little difference. This is why Junior Pol Wannabes start with school and health boards and work up.

    Reply
  3. TC

    WKH (above) has a good point about public interest. Even if the public representatives are not a rubber stamp, they end up ignored if they are not savvy.

    So, my suggestions are:

    The public reps should not own a car. It ensures they really rely on public transit. They should arrive at meetings cranky when their bus didn’t show up, ready to hammer the STM. Second, require that they be nominated by the leading opposition party. That takes care of the savvy part. Yes, there might be maneuvering and political posturing. Good! That is how to get the press, and public, to pay attention.

    Reply
  4. James Lawlor

    Shouldn’t the ‘users’ spot on the board of directors actually be a user? Who was it in the Doré years?

    Perhaps if STM users were organized then that group could push to get their candidate on the board?
    In New York there is the straphangers (www.straphangers.org) that push for better service. Why not here?

    Reply
  5. Pingback: The real problem with Philippe Schnobb and the STM board | Fagstein

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