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.