Municipal election races I’ll be watching on Sunday

It’s election day tomorrow. That’s always fun for a newsroom. All hands on deck, breathlessly following the results well into the night, coordinating stories from dozens of journalists, not knowing what the big headline will be at the end. Free dinner, and often drinks among colleagues afterwards.

I’ll be among many in the Montreal Gazette newsroom during the evening, handling two or three stories about individual races or a collection of them. But whenever I have a free second I’ll be following the results from across Quebec.

For most of the province’s municipalities, the results won’t be surprising. Incumbent mayors and city councillors are running again and will be easily re-elected. In some cases they’ve already won by acclamation, like every position in tiny Île-Dorval, or the mayors of Kirkland, Mount Royal and Hampstead, or the city council in Senneville.

Though they are facing opposition, the mayor’s races in cities like Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Gatineau and Trois-Rivières should easily go to the incumbents.

But other races, including mayor of Montreal, are going down to the wire. Here are the ones that will get my attention tomorrow:

Mayor of Montreal: Denis Coderre vs. Valérie Plante

The big one. The headline one. The one all the media has hyper-focused on. I don’t need to go over this campaign because if you haven’t heard about it you must really not care. Coderre, the authoritarian but well-meaning incumbent, trying to get a second term leading an experienced team. Plante, the cheerful and energetic challenger, hoping to succeed where her predecessor Richard Bergeron failed.

The polls have them neck and neck, but those numbers need to be taken with a big grain of salt. Coderre has the advantages of name recognition, on-the-ground political experience, an improving economy and residual resistance to some of Projet Montréal’s more radical platform points. Plante is the candidate of change, faces fewer major opponents than there were four years ago, and has run a virtually flawless campaign, rallying those Coderre has alienated, from dog lovers to those opposed to big government spending on art projects and sports venues.

Turnout will probably be the big difference, and advance polling has shown about the same level as four years ago. That makes a Coderre win more likely, though expect Projet Montréal to make gains on city council.

Projet’s potential borough control gains: Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Verdun, Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension

These four boroughs all have a mayor and a majority of the borough council with Coderre’s party, but one or more Projet Montréal councillors. Assuming the Plateau, Rosemont and Sud-Ouest boroughs are safe for the party, these would be the next likely pickups. Ahuntsic’s mayor’s race is between Coderre’s Harout Chitilian, former council speaker and Coderre’s pick to lead his executive committee, versus Projet councillor Émilie Thuillier. Mercier and Verdun are one seat away from switching majorities, and Villeray is next travelling up the leftist axis of St-Laurent Blvd.

The party switchers

It’s pretty crazy how many of Montreal’s 103 elected officials have switched parties since 2013. More than one in 10 candidates are incumbents running for a different party than they won for four years ago. As Vrai changement pour Montréal stumbled forward after the departure of founder Mélanie Joly, Coalition Montréal disintegrated following its loss and the death of its leader Marcel Côté, and some borough parties have lost their popularity, many have jumped ship for the safer confines of Projet Montréal and particularly Coderre’s party:

  • Benoit Dorais (Sud-Ouest mayor) from Coalition leader to Projet
  • Richard Bergeron (Ville-Marie councillor) from Projet to Coderre
  • Michelle Di Genova Zammit (Anjou borough councillor) from Équipe Anjou to Coderre
  • Éric Dugas (Ste-Geneviève borough councillor) from Équipe Richard Bélanger to Coderre
  • Marc-André Gadoury (Rosemont city councillor) from Projet to Coderre
  • Érika Duchesne (Rosemont city councillor) from Projet to Coderre (now running in Villeray)
  • Jean-François Cloutier (Lachine city councillor) from Équipe Dauphin to Coderre
  • Lorraine Pagé (Ahuntsic city councillor) from Vrai changement to Coderre
  • Russell Copeman (CDN-NDG borough mayor) from Coalition to Coderre
  • Maja Vodanovic (Lachine city councillor) from Équipe Dauphin to Projet
  • Réal Ménard (Mercier mayor) from Coalition to Coderre
  • Kymberley Simonyik (Lachine borough councillor) from Équipe Dauphin to Coderre
  • Elsie Lefebvre (Villeray city councillor) from Coalition to Coderre
  • Normand Marinacci (Île-Bizard mayor) from Vrai changement to Projet
  • Christian Larocque (Île-Bizard borough councillor) from Vrai changement to Projet
  • Jean-Dominic Lévesque-René (Île-Bizard borough councillor) from Vrai changement to Projet (not running again)
  • Gilles Beaudry (Anjou borough councillor) from Équipe Anjou to independent (running as independent)

The borough parties: Anjou, Lachine, LaSalle

Let’s not forget that before 2002, many of what are now Montreal’s boroughs were their own municipalities, and despite failing to meet the 2006 demerger criteria, they still have a strong connection to their local officials and long memories. Amid the corruption fiasco in 2013, several boroughs presented independent borough-level parties led by incumbent officials. Anjou and Lachine swept the table with their borough parties, and LaSalle and Outremont took borough mayors and majorities on their borough councils.

Four years later, Anjou and Lachine borough parties lost councillors to party switches, but are still in the game. As is LaSalle’s, which has all but one seat. Will voters in those boroughs stick with their local teams? Anjou’s and LaSalle’s are still pretty strong, but Lachine is anyone’s game.

Outremont: The shit show

Elected in 2013 as a split between the borough-level Équipe conservons Outremont (which held the mayor and two borough council seats), Projet borough councillor Mindy Pollak and independent Céline Forget, the borough council descended into chaos, being regularly mocked on Infoman. Within a year and a bit, the two ECO borough councillors left the party, one borough councillor resigned, and the council was split 2 vs 2 on just about everything, becoming entirely dysfunctional.

Borough mayor Marie Cinq-Mars isn’t running again, and the party doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, there’s a full slate of independent candidates, including two incumbent borough councillors. Will a new team bring some calm to the council, or will the petty political shenanigans continue?

Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce: Still room for independents?

Of the six seats on this borough council, there are three parties and an independent. It’s the only borough where Coalition Montréal is running a complete slate, and the only one with a Coalition incumbent — Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand.

The mayor’s race is between incumbent Russell Copeman, a former Liberal MNA with lots of name recognition and personal popularity, who defected from Coalition to join Coderre’s team, against Projet’s Sue Montgomery, a former Montreal Gazette justice reporter who failed to get the NDP nomination in NDG-Westmount for the last federal election. Are the borough’s Projet-friendly demographics going to be enough to counter Copeman’s popularity?

I don’t hold much hope for Coalition Montréal generally, but Rotrand is a survivor, known for being a hard worker for his constituents, and is running against two unknowns. Expect him to get re-elected, but his caucus meetings to be very lonely.

And then there’s Jeremy Searle. He ran as an independent for the Loyola seat in 2013 and won with 23% of the vote in a seven-candidate field. He then proceeded to make himself a complete embarrassment, failing to show up to meetings, making inappropriate comments and blaming an alcohol problem for his behaviour. Rather than get help, he’s up for re-election, with posters across the district. You might think there’s no way he gets re-elected, but this is the most contested race in the city (besides mayor) with six candidates — Coderre, Projet, Coalition and three independents. That could be enough for him to squeak through.

L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève: The old boss vs. the older boss

This borough had a borough-level party in 2013, Équipe Richard Bélanger, which held all the seats, but it was beat by a de facto borough-level party led by Normand Marinacci, a former mayor of an independent Île-Bizard. He took the mayor’s race and all but one of the council seats for Vrai changement, which became that party’s only borough mayor and borough majority. That had a lot more to do with the candidates than the party.

Since then, Marinacci and two councillors have jumped to Projet. Éric Dugas, the sole remnant of the Bélanger party, joined Coderre, and Stéphane Côté is Vrai changement’s only incumbent. Dugas and Côté are both running for mayor against Marinacci. Bélanger himself is running for Coderre as a councillor, as is Diane Gibb, a former Bélanger councillor.

Will this borough stick with Marinacci and vote Projet, will they switch back to the Bélanger/Dugas side and vote Coderre, or will they stay with Vrai changement even though its leader is long gone and its incumbents have switched parties?

Pierrefonds-Roxboro: Vrai changement’s last stand

The other West Island borough is also the only other place with a significant presence for Vrai changement. Rather than try for city mayor, party leader Justine McIntyre is running for borough mayor here against Coderre incumbent Dimitrios Jim Beis. Will an increased split of the vote between Coderre and Projet help McIntyre come up the middle, or will her party finally be wiped out here like it almost was in Île-Bizard?

Plateau Mont-Royal

Just kidding. Congratulations on your re-election, Luc.

Ville-Marie

The fewest names on the ballot, with only three city councillors and no borough mayor, but each of the three races is noteworthy:

  • Peter-McGill: Incumbent Steve Shanahan has Vrai changement’s only seat outside the West Island. Can he hold on? Coderre has star Cathy Wong on his team here, and the Coalition candidate is Jean Fortier, who has abandoned his run for mayor (though he’s still on the ballot).
  • Saint-Jacques: Former Projet leader Richard Bergeron won this easily four years ago, but now he’s on Coderre’s team running against the party he founded for the first time. Do the voters support Mr. Tramway or the Pink Line Party?
  • Sainte-Marie: This is the seat Valérie Plante will take if she’s not elected mayor. But Coderre has former councillor Pierre Mainville running here (Mainville had the privilege of being at different times a member of Vision Montreal, Coalition Montreal, Projet Montréal and Coderre’s team).

Côte-Saint-Luc: Brownstein vs. Libman

I honestly couldn’t tell you the political differences between these two guys. Their arguments, beyond personal insults and Brownstein’s attempt to tie Libman to a conflict of interest, seem to be about who can more strongly push for the Cavendish extension project to finally get done while also ensuring it’s a convenience to CSL residents and nobody else. Expect Brownstein to ride his incumbency to victory, but it won’t be easy.

Westmount: Smith vs. Wajsman

Peter Trent has stepped down, which opens up this race. His replacement, Christina Smith, has the incumbency advantage, but is facing competition from Beryl Wajsman, editor of The Suburban. Amazingly, Wajsman is allowed to remain editor of The Suburban during the campaign, and has even said he wants to keep the job after he’s elected. The Suburban’s solution to this obvious conflict of interest has been to simply not cover the Westmount election at all.

Will Smith prevail with Trent’s blessing? Or will Wajsman be forced to choose between media and politics? And regardless of who wins, how does The Suburban regain any credibility in covering Westmount?

Pointe-Claire: Time for the runner-up?

Mayor Morris Trudeau isn’t running again. Instead, we have the man he narrowly beat, John Belvedere, against three other candidates, including city councillor Aldo Iermieri. Who has the advantage here?

Senneville: McLeish again?

Jane Guest isn’t running for re-election as Senneville mayor, so instead we have a three-way race. The front-runner surely has to be former Senneville mayor George McLeish, 74. But his opponents are both two-term sitting councillors: Julie Brisebois and Charles Mickie. Will long memories prevail in this quiet town?

Montréal-Est: Two-way races

Incumbent Robert Coutu is running again with a full team, but his opponent is Jonathan Dauphinais-Fortin, and his Équipe du citoyen has two incumbent city councillors on board. Will their complaints about wasteful spending lead to a movement for change?

Longueuil: Three options

Caroline St-Hilaire isn’t running again, so there’s an opening for city mayor. And three parties are contesting every seat here: Action Longueuil, St-Hilaire’s party, now led by city councillor Sylvie Parent; Longueuil citoyen, led by city councillor Josée Latendresse; and Option Longueuil, led by Sadia Groguhé, which has picked up the Option Greenfield Park incumbents. All three have incumbent city councillors on their teams and have a shot in a city where demerger sentiment was high and borough independence is still an issue.

Laval: Partypalooza

Incumbent mayor Marc Demers has the advantage, especially in a large field of six challengers , but there are four parties with full slates — Action Laval, Avenir Laval, Parti Laval and Mouvement Lavallois — plus an association of independent candidates. Action’s Jean Claude Gobé, who came in second in 2013, is running again. The makeup of council could be far more split than in the past.

Hudson: Councillor Duff?

Ed Prévost decided not to run again, and died less than a month before the vote. Three candidates are vying to replace him — Joseph H. Eletr, William Nash and Jamie Nicholls, none of whom lead official parties. But my eye will be on the Heights East district race, which features former print and radio personality Jim Duff.

Lac-Mégantic

 

Three candidates are vying for mayor of the small town that put itself on the map in the most tragic ways in 2013. This will be its first regular election since the disaster. Colette Roy-Laroche is long gone and incumbent Jean-Guy Cloutier isn’t running again, so the field is wide open.

Saguenay: Néron vs. Blackburn

With foot-swallowing populist mayor Jean Tremblay stepping down, four candidates are vying to replace him, two of whom have parties behind them. The race seems to be between councillor Josée Néron of Équipe du renouveau démocratique, the only party that dates back to 2013, and independent Jean-Pierre Blackburn, a former federal minister under the Harper government (who until recently led the other party but left it at the last minute). A poll before the race put them neck and neck, but with a lot of undecideds. Néron’s party had a long runway to get going, but had to deal with the scandal of a candidate having an arson conviction.

Any others I should be looking at?

4 thoughts on “Municipal election races I’ll be watching on Sunday

  1. Michel

    Just to set the record straight, Ahuntsic-Cartierville’s Harout Chitilian hasn’t been council speaker for a few years now. He was named vice-president of the executive committee and was replaced as speaker by Franz Benjamin.

    Reply
  2. Michael Black

    I don’t think The Suburban covers Westmount much at the best of times. Maybe The Independent does it so much better that the Suburban doesn’t bother or maybe The Suburban compares badly, or maybe The Suburban has never really expanded beyond it’s traditional coverage.

    One letter to The Independent weeks ago brought up another issue, aside from conflict of interest. He wondered whether being mayor of Westmount could be a part time job. Former mayor Trent wrote and said no, it really is a full time job.

    John Sancton would never have run. I think he was very interested in local politics, but he believed in that whole thing where democracy needs a free press. So the Westmount Examiner would cover the council meetings, and Sancton would encourage participation in various ways. And the letters in the Examiner were at times an extension of the council meetings.

    The Westmount Independent continues that, recent issues have been chock full of letters about the election, the paper influences without the publisher needing to run for city council.

    I think Beryl Wajsman is too different. Mayors of Westmount have been “nobodies”, they weren’t really known before they ran. That contrasts with some recent instances of provincial or federal politicians deciding to do municipal politics. Coderre and Russell Copeman comes to mind, but Robert Libman did his time in provincial politics too. There are others.

    Of course, there’s the Third Guy running in Westmount for mayor, who has been on council for quite some time, he seems as viable as the other two.

    And one candidate, I didn’t notice who, has a dog campaigning for him. It’s a St Bernard or some type like that, he was out on Greene Ave yesterday with a poster tied to his side. No word if he was promising better dog runs and other things to the dogs that passed by. He did let me scratch him behind his ear. Though this isn’t too odd, Curious George was on the street a few Saturdays go, for some reason.

    Michael

    Reply

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