Tag Archives: Montreal election

Review: Municipal election night on English-language TV

I was busy last Sunday night, helping the Montreal Gazette put together its coverage of the Montreal municipal election. But my PVR recorded the broadcasts of three English-language television stations in the city to see how they covered the evening. Below, I offer some thoughts on how well they did, based primarily on the actual information they provided.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching an election results show, I’m looking for election results. Analysts are great for filling time, but the more data you can show me, the more races you can announce, the better.

So below, you’ll see me focus less on the in-studio analysts, who were all fine, and more on what someone would have actually learned watching the broadcast.

CBC Montreal

11:00-11:30pm (9:45-11:30pm on Facebook)

Anchor: Debra Arbec

In-studio analysts:

  • Reporter Jonathan Montpetit
  • Social media editor Molly Kohli
  • Reporter Sean Henry with results


  • Simon Nakonechny at Plante HQ
  • Ainslie MacLellan at Coderre HQ
  • Sabrina Marandola in Westmount
  • Kate McKenna in Pointe-Claire (Facebook broadcast only)
  • Marika Wheeler in Quebec City (Facebook broadcast only)

Reported results — ticker (top three candidates, party, vote count, polls reporting):

  • Montreal mayor
  • All Montreal borough mayors
  • All Montreal city councillors

Reported results — graphic (top 2-4 candidates, party, vote count, lead):

  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor
  • Ahuntsic-Cartierville mayor
  • Lachine mayor
  • Sud-Ouest mayor
  • Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension mayor
  • Plateau-Mont-Royal mayor
  • Montreal city council standings (leading, elected, total)
  • Dorval mayor
  • Côte-Saint-Luc mayor
  • Pointe-Claire mayor
  • Westmount mayor

The public broadcaster clearly won in the graphics department, and was the only English-language network with a lower-third ticker with live results. The ticker showed only results from the city of Montreal, but it did not only the city mayor but also borough mayors and all borough councillor races. It took about nine minutes for the top of the ticker to do the rounds of all 64 elected city council seats, so viewers got to see each race about three times.

While CBC was the only station to include Montreal city council results, it failed to include anything off the island of Montreal — no mention of Quebec City, Saguenay, or even Longueuil or Laval.

CBC was also the only one to include a live speech in their broadcast, carrying 10 uninterrupted (and untranslated) minutes of Valérie Plante’s acceptance speech to lead off the half-hour show (which had no commercial interruption).

The broadcast actually started on Facebook, where it went for an hour and 45 minutes, but still didn’t start early enough to get the Plante victory call on live. It did mention the Laval, Longueuil, Quebec City and Sherbrooke races, which didn’t get into the TV broadcast, and had live hits from Kate McKenna in Pointe-Claire and Marika Wheeler in Quebec City. And it carried Denis Coderre’s speech in full. My review here is based mainly on the television broadcast, but I’m adding this for the record.

For an election night broadcast with so many races to deal with, there was a lot of time devoted to analysis. And as much as I like listening to the soothing voice of Jonathan Montpetit, I didn’t learn much from him and Arbec repeating stuff that happened during the campaign, promises that were made and stuff that the candidates said in their speeches. Fortunately, they still managed to get a bunch of results into the broadcast, both on Facebook and TV.

Overall score: B+

CTV Montreal


Anchor: Tarah Schwartz

In-studio analyst:

  • Former Westmount mayor Peter Trent


  • Cindy Sherwin at Plante HQ
  • Rob Lurie at Coderre HQ
  • Kelly Greig in Westmount (also reporting on Côte-St-Luc race)

Reported results (winner only unless otherwise noted):

  • Montreal mayor (with popular vote of top two)
  • Laval mayor
  • Westmount mayor
  • Côte-St-Luc mayor
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor
  • Pointe-Claire mayor
  • Montreal city council makeup by party
  • Beaconsfield mayor
  • Brossard mayor
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor
  • Quebec City mayor
  • Dorval mayor
  • Longueuil mayor

CTV Montreal is the market leader. It has the most journalists, the largest audience, the most history. So it should be expected that they would slay election night coverage.

Which makes it all the more disappointing how little actual data was provided to viewers. Not only was there no ticker, but the individual race graphics didn’t even provide vote totals or party names. Instead, they just had names and photos and a checkmark next to the winner.

Only for the Montreal mayor’s race was any vote total given in an on-screen graphic. For the rest, well you’ll just have to guess.

This is the reason people tune in to election night broadcasts, and CTV’s viewers were left horribly underserved when it came to actual data.

It was the shortest of the three broadcasts, since it had four commercial breaks, and the last to start at 11:30pm. And CTV didn’t even think it was worth bringing in one of the two main anchors on a weekend shift, leaving the duties to regular weekend anchor Tarah Schwartz.

It had the fewest live reporters, which is surprising, and just about everything about this seemed like it was phoned in.

Still, CTV’s prestige meant it got the first live interview with the mayor-elect, right at the beginning at 11:30. And its reporters were more experienced and seemed to provide more useful information.

But overall, it should be embarrassing for CTV how poorly it did compared to its competitors.

Overall score: C-

Global Montreal


Anchor: Jamie Orchard

In-studio analysts:

  • Montreal Gazette columnist Celine Cooper
  • Former city councillor Karim Boulos


  • Amanda Jelowicki at Plante HQ
  • Tim Sargeant at Coderre HQ (also reporting on Pointe-Claire and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue mayor’s races)
  • Elysia Bryan-Baynes in Westmount
  • Felicia Parillo in Côte-St-Luc

Reported results (vote totals for top 2-4 candidates, percentage of vote for each, percentage of polls reporting, and indication of incumbent):

  • Montreal mayor (x4)
  • Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce mayor (x2)
  • Pierrefonds-Roxboro mayor (x2)
  • Westmount mayor (x5)
  • Beaconsfield mayor (x2)
  • Dollard-des-Ormeaux mayor (x2)
  • Côte-St-Luc mayor (x4)
  • Dorval mayor (x2)
  • Pointe-Claire mayor (x2)
  • Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue mayor
  • Senneville mayor (x2)
  • Vaudreuil-Dorion mayor (x2)
  • Montreal-West mayor (x2)
  • Brossard mayor (x2)
  • Longueuil mayor (x2)
  • Saint-Lambert mayor (x2)
  • Saint-Lazare mayor
  • Laval mayor
  • Anjou mayor

There are always two ways to judge Global Montreal when compared to its competitors: judge the quality alone, as a viewer probably would, or judge how well Global did with its limited resources.

By either measure, the station did well on this night. It extended its TV broadcast to a full hour, had informative graphics, and updated results through the night, though like its competitors it focused a lot on the island of Montreal and areas immediately adjacent.

The graphics weren’t as flashy as CBC, and there was no ticker, but you got vote totals, percentages, and an indication of who the incumbent was and the amount of polls reporting. Just missing the party affiliations.

Global also conducted an interview with Plante (just after CTV’s), and made good use of analysts and reporters.

They get extra points for being the longest broadcast, having a special “Decision 2017” opening theme, and putting in the extra effort. But it would have been nice for the only station that still has transmitters in Quebec City and Sherbrooke to actually mention the mayor’s races in those cities. I know it’s not Global Quebec anymore, but I’m sure viewers there would have appreciated it.

Overall score: B+

City Montreal

No election night special. We’ll see if that changes when they start having local newscast next year. They have four years to prepare for the next municipal election (and one year to prepare for the next provincial one).

Overall score: F

Some thoughts about the municipal election

Coderre’s party switchers all lost

The day before voting day I said I’d be watching races involving people who switched parties since the last election. Of the 11 who switched to Coderre’s party (most from Projet but others from borough parties), all 11 lost their bid for re-election, either as a councillor or trying to upgrade to borough mayor:

  • 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
  • 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

Those who switched to Projet and were running again were all re-elected.

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2013 Montreal election night coverage plans: TV prime time stays untouched

Graphics that will be used on Global Montreal's News Final election special.

Graphics that will be used on Global Montreal’s News Final election results special.

When the polls close at 8pm on Sunday, Montrealers will be turning to their televisions to watch the results come in. And many will be disappointed.

Though there are municipal elections happening throughout Quebec, and Montreal’s election in particular has been getting a lot of attention, none of the broadcast television stations in Montreal is carrying election coverage before 10pm. Most are keeping the lucrative Sunday primetime schedule as is, and holding live election coverage until the late evening.

For the all-news networks, meanwhile, it will depend on your preferred language (just like with every other story, Montreal/Quebec news is national news in French but not in English). RDI and LCN will have election coverage starting at 6:30pm (presumably covering cities across Quebec, not just Montreal), while the three English networks have no election specials planned.

Here’s what’s going on for each network:

Local television

  • Radio-Canada: Tout le monde en parle until 10:18pm, followed by Le Téléjournal (presumably leading with election news), then simulcasting RDI’s election special starting at 10:42pm going until about 1am
  • TVA: Regular Sunday night primetime (a special Le Banquier with Céline Dion, On connaît la chanson), followed by TVA Nouvelles at 10pm, then a movie at 11pm
  • V: No live election coverage (the network only airs newscasts in the morning now)
  • Télé-Québec: No live election coverage (Télé-Québec stopped having live news long ago)
  • MAtv Montréal: No live election coverage
  • CBC Television: Local news as usual at 11pm, focused on election results, hosted by Thomas Daigle. Prime time (Battle of the Blades) is untouched. Results throughout the night online.
  • CTV Montreal: Regular late local news at 11:30pm, focused on election results. Five field reporters, plus political panel. Hosted by Paul Karwatsky and Caroline Van Vlaardingen. Prime time remains untouched, but results are promised during “extended news breaks”, with an on-screen crawl when the winner is named, says news director Jed Kahane. Results throughout the night online.
  • Global Montreal: News Final is extended from half an hour to an hour, starting at 11pm. It will also be streamed online. Jamie Orchard hosts, with live reports from Tim Sargeant (Pointe-Claire), Elysia Bryan-Baynes (Beaconsfield) and Billy Shields (CDN/NDG). “We’re also working with the best election graphics in the industry,” says station manager Karen Macdonald. Former city councillor Karim Boulos will be in studio as an analyst. Online, election results and a live blog will be posted as of 8pm. Like its Focus Montreal mini debates, Global plans to focus on demerged on-island suburbs in results and analysis.
  • City Montreal: No live election coverage

Cable TV

On cable, we can expect extensive coverage from the French networks, but not so much from the English networks:

  • RDI: Election special from 6:30pm to at least 1am. Hosted by Patrice Roy, with Véronique Darveau providing results and Carole Aoun following social media. Reporters are promised at the four Montreal party HQs, plus Laval, the South Shore, Quebec City, Gatineau, Trois-Rivières, Estrie, Saguenay, Abitibi and eastern Quebec. Analysts include former mayor Jean Doré, former Quebec municipal affairs minister Rémy Trudel, former Baie St-Paul mayor Jacinthe Simard, and former CBC Montreal anchor Dennis Trudeau.
  • LCN: Election special from 6:30pm to at least midnight. Hosted by Pierre Bruneau, with Jean Lapierre and Mario Dumont as analysts.
  • CBC News Network: Nothing special scheduled. It will run The National from 9 to 10pm as usual, presumably with news from Quebec. Otherwise the primetime schedule is documentaries on Julian Assange, Princess Diana and a chimpanzee.
  • CTV News Channel: No election special, but CTV News Weekend with Scott Laurie is expected to check in regularly with Montreal reporters covering the election here from 6 to 10pm. After 10, it’s the usual plan of simulcasting CTV National News for the first half of each hour.
  • Sun News Network: Schedule lists the usual repeats of opinion shows from earlier in the week. There normally isn’t live programming after 5pm on Sundays.


On radio, things are much better, with news talk stations carrying live election coverage after polls close:

  • CBC Radio One (88.5 FM): Live coverage as of 8pm, hosted by Mike Finnerty, with analyst Bernard St-Laurent and results from Joanne Bayly.
  • CJAD 800: Live coverage as of 8pm (end time will depend on results, but probably at least midnight), hosted by Aaron Rand and Tommy Schnurmacher. “We will have a full complement of newscasters and reporters scattered on and off-island. We will also be providing a live feed of the victory speech of the next Mayor of Montreal,” says program director Chris Bury.
  • ICI Radio-Canada Première (95.1 FM): Live coverage from 8pm to 11pm, hosted by Michel C. Auger, with journalists Frank Desoer, Jean-Sébastien Bernatchez, Benoit Chapdelaine, Francine Plourde, Dominic Brassard and Alexandre Touchette. Bernard Généreux, president of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities and mayor of Saint-Prime, will be an analyst. Coverage is promised from all regions of Quebec with Radio-Canada staff. Quebec City and Gatineau will have their own local election night specials from 8pm to 10pm, the rest of the network will carry Auger’s show.
  • CHMP 98.5 FM: Election special from 8pm to midnight hosted by Paul Houde. Panelists Marie Grégoire, Liza Frulla and Jean Fortier, guests Pierre Curzi, Jean Lapierre and Mario Dumont, and journalists Philippe Bonneville, Chantal Leblond, Catherine Brisson, Any Guillemette, Julie-Christine Gagnon and Geneviève Ruel. Other Cogeco Nouvelles stations will also have election specials from 8pm to midnight:
    • Jean-François Gilbert in Quebec City at 93.3 FM (starts at 8:30pm)
    • Martin Pelletier in Sherbooke at 107.7 FM (starts at 8:30pm)
    • Roch Cholette and Louis-Philippe Brûlé in Gatineau at 104.7 FM (8pm to 11:30pm or midnight, depending on results)
    • Claude Boucher in Trois-Rivières at 106.9 FM, which will also be presented on local community channels Cogeco TV and MaTV.


And of course there’s online, where almost everyone is promising extensive coverage and live results.

I’ll be spending election night on the Gazette news desk, which has all reporting, editing and managing hands on deck, and will be feeding its website throughout the night.

Live blogs:

And, of course, you can just go to see the election results yourself.

The debates

The four main candidates for mayor were in what seemed like different debates every day, as just about everyone organize their own. If you missed them, here they are again (links to videos where I could find them):

In addition, Global Montreal held four short debates among mayoral candidates for demerged suburbs on the island on its weekly Focus Montreal show: Montreal West and Pointe-Claire on Oct. 19, and Beaconsfield and Hampstead on Oct. 26, and a debate among candidates for mayor of the Côte des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grâce borough on Nov. 2.

They’re all good and bad, but Montrealers have choices for mayor

It’s a day before Voting Day, and I still don’t know who to vote for.

I’ve watched the debates, I’ve seen the posters, I know the main talking points of each of the parties’ platforms, but nothing has come out and grabbed me yet. It’s not so much because I think all the choices are bad. It’s that I like each of the four main candidates for mayor, for different reasons, and I’m also keenly aware of their faults.

Denis Coderre

There’s Denis Coderre, the front-runner (though we haven’t seen a poll in two weeks, so who knows, really). He’s a veteran politician who has been criticized for being more about shaking hands than building policy, and for adopting so many former Union Montreal councillors that he’s seen as its de facto successor.

Those are valid concerns. But Coderre hasn’t given any reason to doubt his personal integrity (then again, neither did Gérald Tremblay). Coderre’s point about avoiding guilt by association is a valid one. He was in the Liberal party, but had no connection to the sponsorship scandal. And while he has many people from Union Montreal on his team, it’s because those people are well respected by their local constituents, and I suspect most of them will be re-elected.

I like Coderre. It’s hard to fake the kind of sincerity he has when he meets people. Yes, he’s a politician, but he doesn’t think that alone should condemn him.

On the flip side, there’s his ego. Even while he was just a Liberal MP, he seemed to have an addiction to the media. He’d rarely turn down an interview or media appearance, and it always seemed more about wanting to see his face on TV than wanting to put forth an idea. His party is literally just his name, as if “Denis Coderre” is the only thing it stands for.

I don’t know if his populist, “proche des gens” attitude is fake. I suspect he really believes it, either way.

But my big question is about loyalty. If he finds out about something embarrassing in his administration (whether it’s illegal or not), will he come right out and expose it, or will he do like almost any other politician, and weigh his options first?

In short, where does Coderre’s loyalty lie: In the city, or in his party and his political career? The party carries his name, so for better or for worse he’s married to it.

Marcel Côté

There’s Marcel Côté, the administrator whose poor on-stage presence and ties with Vision Montreal (and Louise Harel in particular) have left him in last place in the latest poll (though that poll is more than two weeks old).

Côté should be the ideal candidate. He’s not a politician. He’s an administrator. He’s not the leader of a party, he’s the leader of a coalition made up of Vision Montreal and some Union Montreal councillors like Marvin Rotrand and Bernard Blanchet and even some former Projet Montréal councillors like Carl Boileau and Piper Huggins. His party has united former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Louise Harel with former Liberal MNA Russell Copeman.

If Montrealers are interested in someone who cares more about getting things working again than being in the political spotlight, Côté will be our next mayor.

But here’s the secret that nobody wants to admit: Style is, in fact, more important than substance to voters. Côté has failed miserably to get his message across. And that’s why he’s doing so poorly, and why his party members are trying to campaign around him now.

And style is important. A mayor isn’t just an administrator. He’s not a guy who sits at a desk all day making decisions. A mayor is a leader, who has to rally the troops, whether it’s the city council, or municipal employees, or the population at large, to make things work. Someone who has to convince other levels of government to go along with ideas. If Côté can’t communicate with us effectively during an election campaign, how can we believe he’ll communicate with anyone well when he’s in office?

I’d love for Côté to be part of the next city administration, in a senior management position. But as mayor, I’m left with the impression that he’d be a lame duck before he even took the oath of office.

Richard Bergeron

There’s Richard Bergeron, the guy who’s perceived as — and let’s not sugar-coat this — the crazy 9/11-truther leader of the party that hates cars and is obsessed with wasting our money on a tramway.

If there’s any election that Projet Montréal should have a chance at actually winning, it’s this one. The alternatives are unappealing, and Bergeron is the only candidate for mayor with actual city council experience (with the advantage that he’s not tainted by the corruption scandal). It’s the only party that hasn’t had a candidate withdraw or be forced out due to a scandal. The party is currently running two boroughs, and despite complaints about reversing the flow of one-way streets or installing parking meters, they actually haven’t been doing that bad a job.

But Projet’s popularity has an upper limit. There are those in the city who are attached to their cars, want highways to be bigger, not smaller, and want downtown turned into a giant parking lot. These people are never going to vote for Projet. And there are those that are scared of what an organization based on ideology will do if handed the keys to the city.

Projet Montréal is the only party with a serious, detailed platform, while the other parties are criticized for having plans that are either obvious or vague. If actual promises were what mattered, the party would be coasting to victory.

But they’re not. Because specific promises don’t make for good politics. People can dislike specific promises. They can’t dislike general, vague ones like making government more transparent or saving money by ending corruption.

Take the tramway. Many people have oversimplified Projet’s platform as being obsessed with this project, that has been highly criticized. It’s more expensive and less flexible than buses, and it’s slower than the metro. My main problem with it, and with a similar project proposed by the Tremblay administration, is inflexibility. Both projects included a route going through Old Montreal, from Peel to Berri, along the route of the 715 bus. But when that bus was put into service (as the 515), it turned out to be way less popular than expected. The buses went around empty, and service was eventually reduced and the route changed. That’s much easier to do with a bus line than with a tramway.

On the flip side, no one can argue that service along roads like Côte des Neiges and Parc Ave. would be unpopular. And while everyone criticizes the tramway, nobody running for office seems to be terribly opposed to the much more expensive metro extension project whose usefulness is far from proven.

Projet could also point to its administration of the Plateau borough as reasons to vote it into office. After the 2009 election, it became clear that this borough would be a testing ground for the party’s ideas, and that people across the city would judge them based on their performance here.

The borough has changed. One-way streets have been reversed as a traffic-calming measure, annoying drivers and (law-abiding) cyclists alike. Areas have been greened, parks have been improved, more bike lanes have been painted, the budget has been brought under control, and the administration is more transparent than its neighbours. Some decisions have hardly been unanimous, but you can’t fault them for lack of creativity.

But Projet’s record in the Plateau isn’t all good. Businesses have complained that measures put forth by the administration have hurt them. Mayor Luc Ferrandez has been criticized as being stubborn, unwilling to consult with people before making a major decision that affects them.

The problem with a party based on ideology is that ideologies don’t change.

Ferrandez, of course, disagrees, as does his party. And I think his critics have exaggerated their positions. But perception is what gets to voters. And the perception is that Projet Montréal is on the radical left, when there are plenty of other alternatives that are more moderate left.

Voters might want to give Projet Montréal another mandate in the Plateau and/or other boroughs before trusting the party with the big chair at city hall.

Mélanie Joly

There’s Mélanie Joly. She’s new, she’s hip, she’s different. She has no experience in politics and she thinks that’s great.

Joly’s candidacy was dismissed at first as non-serious. She wasn’t invited to the first English debate (which preceded the first poll) because it was thought she wouldn’t have a chance. Then the polls showed her support rising rapidly, and everyone started to take notice.

Joly wouldn’t be the first candidate to jump into politics as a fresh face and go right to the top. She’s been compared to Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, whose political career also began with a mayoral campaign that relied a lot on social media, or Régis Labeaume, who became Quebec City mayor in 2007 on a wave of popularity.

But other than being pretty and new, what is Joly? Her platform is short on many details, though it includes some ideas like a bus rapid transit network, open data and amnesty for construction companies that clean up and pay back. Would she even know what to do in office when she gets there?

And there’s her team. (Can you name five of its members? Three? Even one?) When the Bibiane Bovet scandal became all she could talk about, she finally admitted that Bovet’s candidacy was last-minute and she didn’t have time to vet her properly about her bizarre economic views. This hardly inspires confidence, and points toward Joly being more of a politics-as-usual person than a hopey-changey candidate.

But as embarrassing as the Bovet situation was for Joly, this is hardly the first time a party with a sudden surge in popularity has been left with untested candidates. Regime change has been rife with examples, from the Progressive Conservatives in 1984 to the Reformers and Bloc in 1993 to Ruth Ellen Brosseau and the Quebec NDP MPs in 2011. (And Brosseau hasn’t been nearly the kind of embarrassment in office as some had suspected.)

The surge in popularity for Joly (I’ve heard too many anecdotal stories about surprisingly large support for her to believe it’s more than a coincidence) should be both a message that Montrealers want change from the politics of old, and a warning that image is more important than substance in local politics. Joly is basically a “none-of-the-above” candidate, and many would rather take a gamble on a blank slate that could be filled with anything than with parties whose plans are easy to understand.

Michel Brûlé and the independents

Michel Brûlé’s campaign has gotten some coverage, but he isn’t being treated seriously, and with good reason. His “100% français” program based on hatred of anglophones (he refuses to even give interviews in English) is a joke.

The remaining candidates are all independents, and we know nothing about them. That’s unfortunate. I would have liked to see more attention given to each of them, even if it was only a story or two in each media. Most are running on a platform focused on corruption, and while I don’t doubt their sincerity, I can’t imagine administrations so weak could ever take on organized or even disorganized white-collar crime.

Where does my X go?

Having written all that, I still don’t know where my vote for mayor is going to go. I may be making my final decision while standing at the ballot box, pencil in hand. But I know I’ll be voting.

And you should too. For all the criticism against these candidates for mayor, I wouldn’t pack up and leave if any of them won. I could live with an administration by any of them. (And with all the borough-level parties running, it’s unlikely any of them will have a majority on council anyway.)

The only thing that’s clear is that there are choices, and that nothing is predetermined. If you want a strong populist leader who will shake your hand and sit in back rooms with politicians in Quebec and Ottawa, vote for Coderre. If you want an administrator who’s going to shake up the civil service and run it like a business, vote for Côté. If you want a grand vision, a transportation revolution and a leader who isn’t afraid to make decisions that are unpopular that he believes are right, vote for Bergeron. If you want someone young who will use high-tech ideas to try to make Montreal cool, vote for Joly. And if you want to drive anglos into the St. Lawrence, vote for Brûlé.

But vote. I know it’s cliché, but this is your chance to make a difference, and you can’t complain if you sit at home and abdicate that chance.

Polls are open from 10am to 8pm Sunday.

CTV holding Montreal mayor debate on Sunday; CBC to follow

Updated with post-debate comments.

It’s not often that CTV Montreal has special programming anymore, a fact that has left many people who remember the good ol days of CFCF-12 less than impressed.

But Sunday, Oct. 6, saw one of those special programs: A debate between the three leading candidates for mayor of Montreal: Denis Coderre, Marcel Côté and Richard Bergeron.

The debate was one hour, commercial-free from 6pm to 7pm on Sunday, Oct. 6. It will be moderated by anchor Mutsumi Takahashi. It was also livestreamed on its website and simulcast on CJAD, which is now also owned by Bell Media.

The debate did not take the place of the regular CTV Montreal newscast, which instead was moved up by an hour so it ran from 5pm to 6pm.

Where’s Joly?

You might notice that the name of Mélanie Joly is not listed above. She wasn’t invited.

“We made the call, essentially using a similar logic that the consortium applied to Elizabeth May in the last federal debate: The threshold is having elected members,” CTV Montreal news director Jed Kahane explained to me. “She would surely be a dynamic and interesting participant;  but that was not the criteria we used.”

Choosing who will participate in a televised debate is always a controversial issue. Limiting to those parties with elected members is a good way of filtering out the no-chance candidates. But it also rewards incumbency, and this is an election where Montrealers are really looking for change. Only one of the three leaders invited to the debate (Bergeron) currently sits on Montreal city council.

Montreal currently has 12 official candidates for mayor, seven of whom are listed as independents. (Michel Brûlé is the only other one with a party.)

Though the first televised debate included Joly, it looks like the broadcasters are moving toward three-way debates for the rest of the campaign.

Or they did until a poll came out on the morning after the debate showing Joly with 16% support, only one point behind Côté. That prompted Radio-Canada to change its mind and invite Joly to its debate despite previously excluding her.

Even Kahane admits that had this poll come out before the debate, CTV might have acted differently.

“We had decided that if she made a very strong showing in the polls we’d have to reconsider our decision,” he said. “This first major poll came too late for our debate, but I see it’s caused others to take another look, as we surely would have”.

The format

The debate took place at CTV Montreal, and included pre-recorded questions from the public. Beyond that, Kahane wouldn’t give details, such as where exactly the candidates would be. (In the “cozy corner” interview area? Behind the anchor desk? Somewhere else?)

“Tune in to see,” he said.

As it turned out, the candidates stood on the floor near the windows, each with a transparent podium (and a fourth for Takahashi).

CTV Montreal hasn’t hosted that many debates. Federal debates happen in Ottawa, and provincial debates are low-key affairs because the Parti Québécois doesn’t bother trying to appeal to anglophones. During the last provincial election there was a short sit-down debate with members of the three main parties that was done during a noon newscast.

The debate is posted online if you missed it, along with post-debate scrums.

Among those covering the CTV debate:

CBC coming too

CBC Montreal is also working on a debate, set for Oct. 22. McGill will be hosting it, two weeks after their French debate. Joly is being invited to that one.

The debate, which will air live from 5-6pm on television, radio and online, will be moderated by Andrew Chang.

Rotrand: Whiner or critic?

Marvin Rotrand

Marvin Rotrand

Marvin Rotrand, a perennial city councillor from Snowdon who won re-election under the Union Montreal banner on Sunday, gave an interesting quote to audio podcaster Adam Bemma:

“When the media refuses to publicize what a political party says when it holds press conferences to publicize its programs, I don’t think democracy is well served.”

The media hasn’t, of course, “refused” to publicize party platforms. But they did focus more on scandal than vision.

So, is Rotrand’s comment a justified criticism of the media’s coverage of the campaign, or is it whining by a politician annoyed that the party’s carefully-planned manipulation of the media failed because there was a message out there they couldn’t control?


All I want is a list of numbers

On election night, there was whining by journalists, both in my newsroom and in others, that results weren’t coming in fast enough.

In the old days, newspapers would have journalists at individual polling stations reporting vote tallies. They would mark the totals on a piece of paper, attach it to the leg of a carrier pigeon and give it orders to return to the newsroom. From there, a copy boy would take it and deliver it to a data clerk who would take care of compilation and calculations.

Or, at least, that’s how I imagine it used to be. Nevertheless, somehow people got results before the Internet.

Nowadays, unless a wire service like Canadian Press gets direct access to the data (which it can then reformat and electronically distribute to its members, as it does during federal elections), results tabulation consists of hundreds of journalists (and thousands of political junkies) constantly hitting refresh on the website of the director-general of elections, and whining that it’s so slow.

For the municipal elections, it was more complicated than that. This wasn’t one election run by a single chief electoral officer, but hundreds of elections run by individual municipalities under the supervision of the provincial municipal affairs department. The latter had a special website setup with results from all the municipal elections, but throughout election night (and even more than 24 hours later) many municipalities’ results were blank.

In Montreal, another website with results by the borough. But again, many were slow coming in. At the end of the night, results from CDN/NDG were in the single digits.

A handful of seemingly random small cities, including Beaconsfield, Brossard, Victoriaville and Rivière du Loup, reported their results on an entirely separate website.

It sounds silly, but in many cases reporters got results by phoning up the candidates or parties and asking them.

Reporters don’t report

The media weren’t much better than the government as far as reporting the results. During big federal and provincial elections, they fall on big national IT teams to create comprehensive websites with flashy results tables, or they just throw in a CP-supplied Flash program that does all their work for them.

In this election, they didn’t have either, so we saw a lot of hack jobs:

  • Radio-Canada had results from all over Quebec, but limited itself to only the mayor’s races in small towns.
  • CBC Montreal didn’t provide results outside of Montreal and Laval, and those results didn’t include any numbers whatsoever, only declaring a winner by highlighting the candidate.
  • Cyberpresse had all its results on a single page, covering only the city of Montreal.
  • Rue Frontenac had a Flash graphic with results of only the mayor and borough mayor races, and only in Montreal.
  • Canoe had … uhh … this.
  • Many, including my employer, simply pointed to the government-run websites directly, to get rid of the middleman.

If media outlets aren’t going to provide better information than the government, there’s little point in trying.

Isn’t this 2009? Isn’t this the future?

It wasn’t just the journalists and news junkies whining. The night after, as I was waiting for my cheeseburger to be grilled at the Belle Province across the street from work, one of the workers there compared this situation to an election in Greece where all the results came in quickly and accurately.

I pointed out that we had the future in 2005, but the optical-scan machines weren’t used this time, apparently because they caused problems.

This time, the counting went fine. It was the reporting of results to central authorities that was the problem. That clearly needs to be worked on over the next four years. Whether it’s manual or electronic reporting, as long as it works. And there should be a backup in case whatever system is setup fails.

Meanwhile, if the media’s only method of obtaining election results is to check the government website, they shouldn’t whine about it when it gets slow (or doesn’t show results) on election night. They do, after all, have a few days to report the official tallies.

Perennial loser no more

Councillor McQueen

Councillor McQueen

My God, what have you done?

I’m kidding, of course. Peter McQueen is a green nut, but his platform (PDF) is actually relatively sensible (even if it means stop signs and speed bumps every 10 feet).

McQueen is one of 10 Projet Montréal councillors, including the mayor and a councillor in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Pierre Mainville in Ville-Marie’s Sainte-Marie district, two city councillors in Rosemont and a sweep of all the seats in the Plateau (It also has a borough councillor in Sud-Ouest).

At the very least, he should make city and borough council meetings more interesting.

On the other side of town, running the Plateau will give Projet Montréal a chance at real governance, to show the rest of the city if they’re really capable of running a small town or if they’re just crazy cyclists who want to ban cars and drive us into debt. If they do a good job there, it will go far toward convincing Montrealers they’re ready to govern on a larger level.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 59

From Google Maps

From Google Maps

According to Google, it would take an hour to drive this, and 10 hours to walk.

But what are these points?

UPDATE: sco100 gets it right below. These are the residences of the six candidates for Montreal’s mayor (as included in the notice to electors), in the order of their popular vote:

  • A: Gérald Tremblay
  • B: Louise Harel
  • C: Richard Bergeron
  • D: Louise O’Sullivan
  • E: Michel Bédard
  • F: Michel Prairie

Election coverage tonight: “Election? What election?”

It is time.

It is time.

In federal elections, it’s customary for television networks to suspend normal programming and air an election special with the big national anchors sitting at Parliament Hill or at a special “election desk” in an undisclosed (but elaborately decorated) location.

In provincial elections, much the same thing, but on a more local level. The graphics aren’t as cool, and the sets aren’t as elaborate, but still attention is given to the big event.

In municipal elections today, even though they’re happening in cities across Quebec, the amount of coverage depends entirely on what language you speak.

If you’re a francophone, you’re in luck, because Montreal is the centre of your media universe. Both LCN and RDI will have election specials all evening, and the main networks Radio-Canada and TVA will have results specials later.

If you’re an anglophone well, election coverage is expensive, and there are cheap rerun movies or U.S. programming to run instead. Not a single anglo network (not even the all-news networks) has special coverage planned for the election. You’ll have to wait for the regular local newscast.

Here’s how it breaks down, ordered by the amount of coverage:

  • RDI: Live coverage from 6:30pm to 12:30am (anyone thinking RDI is a national network serving all French Canadians – including those outside Quebec – is clearly delusional)
  • LCN: Live coverage from 7:30pm
  • CBFT/Radio-Canada: Because of the ADISQ gala tonight, election coverage will begin once it’s over at about 10pm. They expect to be done by 11:30
  • CFTM/TVA: Occupation Double is more important than the news. After that, there’s Dominic Arpin’s Vlog. They might get to it at 10:30. A movie is scheduled at 11.
  • CKMI/Global: News Final is at 11:30, giving a total of 30 minutes for election and other local news.
  • CFCF/CTV: The Amazing Race and Desperate Housewives tonight. Regular local newscast is at 11:30, which will have up to 15 minutes of coverage before it gives way to SportsNight. UPDATE: CTV says it won’t have SportsNight tonight in favour of election coverage, and will have updates during primetime commercials.
  • CBMT/CBC: Battle of the Blades and The Nature of Things are on for tonight. There’s no local news on weekends, so the best hope is a mention on The National at 10.
  • CTV News Channel: No special coverage is planned, but it’s live from the newsroom all night, so they’ll probably air significant developments live if they’re of national interest.
  • CBC News Network: No special coverage is planned. A documentary on Barack Obama will be airing when election results start coming in. The National is at 9, which will probably mention the results, at least in brief.
  • CFJP/V: Their only news bulletin is at 5:30pm. No election coverage is scheduled.
  • CIVM/Télé-Québec: No news department means no election coverage whatsoever.
  • VOX: Haha, just kidding.

This information is based on published schedules, so it’s possible there might be special coverage on one of these networks that they havn’t told the TV guide (and on-screen digital schedules) people about. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for the conventional TV stations.

Better options on radio, online

So what’s an anglo to do when you can’t get local news before 11?

  • CBC Radio is a solution. Nancy Wood (host of Daybreak, who hopefully isn’t working tomorrow) and Andrew Chang (host of the TV newscast) will be live in the radio studio tonight from 9pm to 11pm, and they will be streaming live video online. They’re also live-blogging the results.
  • CJAD also has live election coverage this evening.
  • And, of course, if you don’t need the voice of gravitas from a radio or television anchor, don’t forget about the print media. The Gazette will have liveblogging from reporter Jim Mennie, and Cyberpresse is all over this.

Montreal City Hall will be hosting a results party tonight, with everyone welcome as of 7:45pm.

And if you don’t want the media filter, you can get the results straight from the source.

I’m heading to work, where I’ll be in the thick of it tonight putting together election pages for a special section of The Gazette tomorrow, which means I won’t have time to liveblog the results (or coverage thereof). Feel free to share what you see and hear below.

Some polling stations were delayed in opening so they’re being kept open later. Expect results no earlier than 9pm.

Candidates to watch tonight (UPDATED)

Well, probably more like “candidates I’ll be watching tonight”. Here are some of the few recognizable names on the ballots. Voting closes at 8 p.m.

UPDATE: Wins/losses below.


  • François Purcell (mayor, Union Montreal): Union Montreal won two of four seats in this borough, plus the borough mayor. Of them, only a single candidate stands for re-election because of local scandals. Can a Purcell-led clean slate convince the voters they’ll be any different? LOST to Projet Montréal’s Pierre Gagnier.


  • Luis Miranda (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): Will a city probe into corruption – with Miranda as the star player – cause a fed up electorate to sweep him out of office? He won with 58% of the vote in 2005, but that was at he head of the independent Équipe Anjou party, before it merged with Union Montreal. WON.

Côte des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grâce

  • Michael Applebaum (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): Everyone seems to dislike him, but they keep voting him back into office. The heavily anglo and allophone borough will stick with his party, right? WON.
  • Brenda Paris (mayor, Vision Montreal): One of Vision’s two token anglophones, Paris (who lives in St. Henri) is best known for sitting on the STM’s board as a representative of its users, even though she’s clearly a politician. She ran for Union Montreal in the Southwest borough in 2005, and lost to Vision’s Line Hamel. LOST to Applebaum.
  • Helen Fotopulos/Gérald Tremblay (city councillor, Côte-des-Neiges district, Union Montreal): Our dear mayor’s colistière, Fotopulos was the borough mayor for the Plateau, but was demoted by Tremblay to make room for Labrecque (who supposedly has more green cred). She isn’t running against any star candidates, but if she loses and he gets edged for the mayor’s seat, Tremblay is out of council entirely. WON.
  • Marvin Rotrand (incumbent city councillor, Snowdon district, Union Montreal): the #2 guy at the STM, Rotrand is a respected politician despite his party (he’s differed with them on some votes). WON.
  • Peter McQueen (city councillor, NDG district, Projet Montréal): The perennial green guy from NDG, McQueen runs in just about every election, and usually gets pretty close for the Green Party, if only because he’s in one of the hippiest places in this part of the country. A municipal election with its low voter turnout might be most likely to get him elected, but will smart greens jump to Hanna? WON.
  • David Hanna (city councillor, NDG district, Vision Montreal): The other token anglo with Vision Montreal, Hanna is a professor and an expert at urban planning. If qualifications were the only consideration, he’d win easily. LOST to McQueen.
  • Jeremy Searle (city councillor, Loyola district, independent): A former city councillor who hasn’t had much luck since 2005, Searle endorsed himself (PDF) in his newspaper column. Can he make a comeback? LOST to Union Montreal’s Susan Clarke.


  • Claude Dauphin (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): The chair of the executive committee, he’s currently Tremblay’s #2 at city hall, and linked to its scandals as much as Tremblay is. Will Lachine voters say they’ve had enough? WON.
  • Lise Poulin (borough councillor, Canal district, Union Montreal): The only non-incumbent running on Union Montreal’s Lachine ticket, Poulin is confined to a wheelchair and her election would bring increased diversity to borough council, if not city council. But without much individual name recognition, she’d need a strong party-line vote to bring her into office. And that’s not likely to happen when your party is Union Montreal. WON.


  • Manon Barbe (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): Another borough almost entirely controlled by Tremblay’s party, will the domination continue now that it’s so tainted with scandal? WON.
  • Oksana Kaluzny (mayor, Parti Ville LaSalle): The head of one of the borough parties in this election, can she and her candidates be swept into office in a protest vote for local independents? LOST to Barbe.

Île Bizard-Ste. Geneviève

  • Richard Bélanger (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): Union holds every seat in this borough, and really, what are the chances rich car-driving West Islanders are going to vote for Louise Harel or Richard Bergeron? WON.


  • Réal Ménard (mayor, Vision Montreal): A long-time Bloc Québécois MP, Ménard was lured by Harel to join Vision and run for the mayoralty in this heavily francophone riding, bumping incumbent mayor Lyn Thériault to a city councillor spot. Considering how many times he was elected under the BQ riding, there’s very little question he’s going to win tonight. WON.
  • Monique Comtois-Blanchet/Louise Harel (city councillor, Maisonneuve-Longue-Pointe district, Vision Montreal): Harel’s seat if she doesn’t become mayor, I don’t think she’s too worried about it. WON (Louise Harel takes the seat).
  • Louis Cléroux (city councillor, Hochelaga district, Union Montreal): One of the young candidates for Tremblay (in what will probably be a no-hope district for his party), Cléroux is a geek entrepreneur with 1,600 friends on Facebook. Even if they all vote for him, it’s going to be tough. LOST to Vision Montreal’s Laurent Blanchard.

Montreal North

  • Gilles Deguire (mayor, Union Montreal): Union swept this borough in 2005, but only two candidates are running again. Fredy Villanueva, and the societal problems connected with that (including the high crime rate in the area) will be a big factor in this vote. WON.



  • Monique Worth (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): Another Union sweep in 2005 (most winning more than 50% of the vote), Worth entered politics to fill the seat of husband Harry Worth after he died. She’s been borough mayor in 2001, and will probably stay that way. WON.
  • Michael Labelle (mayor, Vision Montreal Projet Montréal): Running again after losing to Worth in 2005 as a Vision Montreal candidate, Labelle is now under the banner of the car-hating party in the West Island. Good luck with that. LOST to Worth.
  • Bertrand Ward (city councillor, West district, Union Montreal): He’s been a city councillor for 20 years now. Might as well make it 24. WON.

Plateau Mont-Royal

  • Luc Ferrandez (mayor, Projet Montréal): One of the most visible and outspoken candidates for Projet Montréal, he’s also their best shot at a borough mayor position. Can he pull it off? WON.
  • Michel Labrecque (mayor, Union Montreal): The chair of the STM, Labrecque is among the more respectable members of Tremblay’s party. But will his personal popularity (as much personal popularity as a public transit nerd can have, anyway) be enough to counter the negative perception of his party? LOST to Ferrandez.
  • Alex Norris (city councillor, Mile End district, Projet Montréal): A former journalist (and an anglophone!), he’s racked up individual endorsements from such high-profile Montrealers as Thomas Mulcair and Mike Boone. WON.
  • Nimâ Valérie Machouf/Richard Bergeron (city councillor, Jeanne-Mance district, Projet Montréal): Bergeron’s consolation prize, he takes this seat if she wins and his bid for mayor falls short again. But they have some strong opposition. WON (Bergeron takes the seat).
  • Nathalie Rochefort (city councillor, Jeanne-Mance district, Vision Montreal): One of the MNA-losers-turned-municipal-politicians, Rochefort was elected in a by-election for the Liberals in Mercier, but lost in two subsequent general elections to the PQ’s Daniel Turp. LOST to Machouf/Bergeron.
  • Marc-Boris St-Maurice (city councillor, Jeanne-Mance district, independent): our local pothead and his crazy idea of public urinals. Does he have a chance against Bergeron and, you know, real politicians? LOST to Machouf/Bergeron.

Rivière des Prairies-Pointe-aux-Trembles

This borough, especially in Pointe aux Trembles, was very close in the last election, with the seats about split between Union and Vision. That might mean Harel will pull through this time, but all the seats here are worth watching. (UPDATE: Vision won 2/3 of the city and borough council seats, but Union has the mayoralty.)

Rosemont-La Petite Patrie

  • André Lavallée (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): A VP of Tremblay’s executive committee, Lavallée is a big political figure. But will that work against him? LOST to Vision Montreal’s François Croteau.
  • Pierre Lampron (city councillor, Vieux-Rosemont district, Vision Montreal): Louise Harel’s new right-hand man (you know, after the unfortunateness with Benoit Labonté), Lampron is supposed to be above even the slightest whisper of corruption. Can Rosemont residents trust that? WON.

Saint Laurent

  • Alan De Sousa (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): Well liked (even La Presse endorsed him in their non-endorsement editorial, along with Labrecque and Lavallée), he’s the green guy in Tremblay’s executive committee. Not facing stiff competition for mayor, he’ll probably win re-election easily. WON.
  • Bryce Durafourt (city councillor, Côte de Liesse district, independent): I wrote about Durafourt in 2007 when he ran for a school board position. He’s at it again, and he’s the only independent running in the borough (if you include the Louise O’Sullivan candidate as a member of a party). LOST to Union Montreal’s Laval Demers.


  • Michel Bissonnet (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): Though he was replacing Frank Zampino in a by-election, the former Liberal MNA won with 94% of the vote. He ain’t going anywhere. WON.


This borough has high turnover from the last election, which was also heavily disputed. Union Montreal has only one incumbent, and Vision has none. But can Projet Montréal make a breakthrough here?

  • Line Hamel (mayor, independent): Hamel, the councillor who was dumped by Vision Montreal after her father was charged with fraud. Now she’s running independently for mayor. She’s known, but she also has scandal attached. LOST to Vision Montreal’s Benoit Dorais.
  • Ronald Bossy (city councillor, Saint-Paul-Émard district, independent): Another ejected Vision councillor, Bossy is running by himself. The man he beat last time, Paul-Émile Rioux, has since switched from Union Montreal to Vision Montreal, which just goes to show how revolving-door municipal politics are in Montreal. LOST to Vision Montreal’s Huguette Roy.


  • Claude Trudel (incumbent mayor, Union Montreal): The former chair of the STM, Trudel is mayor of a borough that has hippie working-class voters on one side, and yuppie condo dwellers on Nuns’ Island. Any decision he makes is liked by one half of his electorate and hated by the other, which puts him in a volatile position. WON.
  • Ken McLaughlin (borough councillor, Champlain-Île-des-Soeurs district, Projet Montréal): The formerly anonymous author of the Walking Turcot Yards blog, McLaughlin is as green as they come. But he’s running for the district that comprises Nuns’ Island. Not exactly a lock. LOST to Union Montreal’s Andrée Champoux.


  • Sammy Forcillo (city councillor, Peter-McGill district, Union Montreal): Moved west from the Sainte Marie district, Uncle Sammy is beloved in the Gay Village, but will he be able to convince enough in the McGill and Concordia ghettos to vote for the party instead of Boulos? WON.
  • Karim Boulos (incumbent city councillor, Peter-McGill district, independent): The Union-Montreal-turned-Vision-Montreal-turned-independent candidate whose wife has been nagging me for weeks to get more exposure on my blog, Boulos won with 54% of the vote in 2005, but that was with the party name attached. He’s visible in the area with campaign posters (something Union and Vision has sworn off), and he’s surprisingly honest about politics on his blog. Will that be enough to hold on to the seat? LOST to Forcillo.
  • Fergus Keyes/Louise O’Sullivan (city councillor, Peter-McGill district, Parti Montréal Ville-Marie): The name of the fourth party leader might draw some votes, but against Boulos and Forcillo, her chances are slim. LOST to Forcillo.
  • Benoit Labon… euh, right, the Vision candidate for Sainte-Marie dropped out on orders from Louise Harel (who Labonté brought into the party in the first place, ironically). Because it happened after the deadline, Vision won’t be running a candidate in that district.
  • Frédéric Rappaz (city councillor, Sainte-Marie district, independent): The author of Entendu à Montréal is running his own campaign, but I doubt he has as much name recognition in the general public as he does in the blogosphere. LOST to Projet Montréal’s Pierre Mainville.
  • Milan Mirich/Michel Bédard (city councillor, Sainte-Marie district, Montreal Pride Party): That other guy running for mayor. LOST to Projet Montréal’s Pierre Mainville.

Villeray-Saint-Michel-Park Extension

  • Anie Samson (incumbent mayor, Vision Montreal): Running for Vision as an incumbent in a heavily francophone (and sovereignist) area, Samson shouldn’t have much trouble getting re-elected. WON.
  • Marcel Tremblay (mayor, Union Montreal): Except Samson is up against the mayor’s brother, a parachuted candidate from NDG, for whatever that’s worth. LOST to Samson.
  • Harry Delva (city councillor, François-Perreault district, Vision Montreal): Heavily involved in the local Haitian community, Delva is best known as the host of Noir de Monde on CJNT television. Union’s Frank Venneri is the incumbent, but his victory in 2005 wasn’t a landslide. LOST to Union Montreal’s Frank Venneri.
  • Elsie Lefebvre (city councillor, Villeray district, Vision Montreal): A one-time MNA for the Parti Québécois in Laurier-Dorion, Lefebvre is young and hard-working, one of the few people I’ve actually witnessed campaigning in this area. She’s up against Union incumbent Sylvain Lachance. WON.
  • Mary Deros (city councillor, Park Extension district, Union Montreal): Deros, who left Vision in 2007 to join Union Montreal, is up against people with a lot of hard-to-pronounce names in this small, heavily-ethnic district (there’s even a challenger who’s part of the Ethnic Party of Montreal). Has she done enough for Park Extension to warrant another term, or will opposition split the vote? WON.
Posters adorn lawns in the heated Hampstead race

Posters adorn lawns in the heated Hampstead race

And in the suburbs

  • Hampstead: Incumbent Bill Steinberg is up against a slate of opposing candidates.
  • Beaconsfield: Incumbent (and former CTV reporter) Bob Benedetti has two challengers, and each council seat has between two and four candidates. He LOST to David Pollock.
  • Longueuil (Jacques Goyette LOST to Caroline St-Hilaire) and Laval (Gilles Vaillancourt WON re-election and swept the council) also have heated races this year.

Races not to watch

  • Baie D’Urfé and Dorval Island: All the candidates were acclaimed, so neither city is voting today.

Louise Harel: the English interviews

When Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel refused last month to participate in a CTV-organized English debate, the decision was widely criticized by anglophone leaders as the PQ séparatiss turning her back on the English-speaking community.

Harel made excuses for her troubles in English, saying she speaks English with her inlaws and she just gets nervous when she’s in front of a camera (or microphone) and worries about making political mistakes with her less-than-perfect language. It’s understandable (she really had nothing to win and a lot to lose by participating in an English debate), but she might have defused the situation a bit better if she just admitted “yeah, I suck at English, but I’m working on it, and in the meantime I’d rather not torture the electorate with my feeble attempts” – at least that would have showed she has a sense of humour.

Besides, she wouldn’t be the first Montreal mayor who couldn’t perform in a Shakespeare play, nor would she be the first sovereignist to run the city’s executive committee.

But instead, partly because of the way her party handled the situation and partly because of media reaction to it, she’s left the anglophone community with the impression that she doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them and she can easily get elected without their support. And so her support among anglophones was mired in the single digits in opinion polls.

Still, she reached out. She could have refused questions in English during news conferences, but she took them. She could have limited her longer interviews in English, but she’s made four of them with local English electronic media, by my count.

The first was a disastrous interview with Anne Lagacé-Dowson on CJAD. Disastrous not in that she said anything politically damaging (besides admitting that she’s a sovereignist), but because it allowed the news media to see how she performed in English and understand just how awful her command of the language is. Others (like me) poked fun at her, concentrating on her many stumbles during the interview rather than the points she made. She had to do it, and she had to get it out of her system. Fortunately she did it early. (I asked CJAD a while ago for permission to post the full audio of the interview, but never heard back. Unfortunately it’s not available online.)

In the past two weeks, Harel has had two sit-down interviews with English television stations and one interview with English radio.

Louise Harel with Jamie Orchard on CKMI's Focus Montreal on Oct. 22

Louise Harel with Jamie Orchard on CKMI's Focus Montreal during the week of Oct. 22

Jamie Orchard was the first, getting Harel into a room at Global’s CKMI Montreal (incidentally, on the only non-fake set at the station), and grilling her on her plan to recentralize power in city hall and her views on negotiations with blue collar workers.

Louise Harel with Todd van der Heyden on Wednesday

Louise Harel with Todd van der Heyden on Wednesday

On Wednesday, CFCF’s Todd van der Heyden sat down with Harel for over 11 minutes during the noon newscast, in which he asked all the anglo questions, and got Harel to admit that she doesn’t consider the English colonialists.

Nancy Wood, CBC Daybreak

Nancy Wood, CBC Daybreak

Finally, on Friday morning, Harel was in the studios of CBC Montreal for a radio interview with Daybreak’s Nancy Wood (link goes to podcast MP3 which contains the full interview). Wood asked her about her sagging poll numbers and whether she’s sure everyone working for her party is on the up-and-up. Other than Harel not knowing what “deceived” means (you’d think of all words, that would be one she’d get to know pretty well recently), it went okay.

Maybe it’s because we all know about Harel’s English already, or because the news is too busy covering corruption and horse-race issues, but these other English interviews got very little notice.

Despite legitimate criticisms from the anglophone community, we should at least give her credit for trying. And it’s nice to see that her English is getting at least a little bit better.

Montreal media endorsement tally

Sure, you could go to the party websites, read their platforms, call up your local candidates and decide for yourself who you’re going to vote for. But why do that when the media is ready to just tell you how to mark your X?

Even in this election campaign, where none of the candidates for mayor has prompted Barack-Obama-like enthusiasm, most seem content with endorsing a candidate anyway, and each of the big three is getting a piece of the pie.

In fact, not even do major media outlets not agree on whom to vote for, they can’t even form consensuses within their own newsrooms. Both La Presse and The Gazette have columnists making endorsements for mayor that differ from the main editorial line.

With the candidates neck and neck and neck a day before the election, and no clue how even strategic voting would work, I’m afraid you’re all on your own here.

Still, here’s how the endorsements break down:

For mayor

Gérald Tremblay

Gérald Tremblay, Union Montreal

  • The Gazette: “The least distressing candidate in an unprepossessing field. … Richard Bergeron is clearly not ready to govern. … Harel’s claim to be a unifier is preposterous.”
  • CTV (Executive Producer Barry Wilson): “At this point, it seems not be a case of who is the best, but who is not the worst choice.”
  • The Suburban: “Montreal’s greater good will be served by a mayor who can communicate in English, the lingua franca, to the outside world … by a mayor who does not make war on cars and does not want to make a pedestrian promenade of our busiest commercial artery.”

Louise Harel

Louise Harel, Vision Montreal

  • Le Devoir (Bernard Descôteaux): “Guérir Montréal du cancer de la corruption est un préalable à toute chose. …  L’expérience est ici l’élément déterminant, et entre Louise Harel et Richard Bergeron, il faut donc choisir la première. … Elle possède le sens politique qui lui permettra de créer les nécessaires consensus au sein du prochain conseil municipal.”
  • L’Aut’journal: “L’administration Tremblay a complètement perdu la maîtrise de ses projets au profit de l’entreprise privée. Le candidat Richard Bergeron présente un excellent programme municipal … Cependant, il faut reconnaître qu’il n’a pas réussi au cours des quatre dernières années à s’entourer d’une équipe aguerrie. … Il est nécessaire de restructurer la fonction publique municipale et revoir la répartition des pouvoirs entre la ville-centre et les arrondissements. Pour y arriver, il faudra une grande dextérité politique et seule Louise Harel a l’expérience, le savoir-faire et les années de service pour y arriver.”
  • Lysiane Gagnon, La Presse: “Je crois que Mme Harel fera tout pour réussir la fin d’une carrière gâchée par une fusion mal faite qui s’est terminée par le fiasco des défusions. Et elle est capable de beaucoup. … La souveraineté? De toute façon, le dossier est presque clos. Son anglais boiteux? Elle apprendra. Ses tentations bureaucratiques de péquiste de gauche? La réalité économique de Montréal, qui repose sur l’entreprise privée, la rattrapera vite.”

Richard Bergeron

Richard Bergeron, Projet Montréal

  • Henry Aubin, The Gazette: “There are two approaches for reaching that judgment. One approach – the more common one – is to look at each candidate’s personal record and qualities. It’s this approach that has led to widespread despair. … The other approach for assessing candidates is through the issues. … Bergeron, then, clearly comes out ahead on all matters except sovereignty.”
  • Pierre Foglia, La Presse (I think): “Je souhaite la très improbable victoire de M. Bergeron, même si on me dit que c’est un tata fini et l’homme d’une idée fixe avec lequel cela risquerait d’aller encore plus mal qu’aujourd’hui à la mairie.”
  • Non-media endorsements: John Gomery, Charles Taylor, Québec solidaire, Chris Karidogiannis and Jimmy Zoubris

None of the above

  • La Presse (chief editorialist André Pratte): “Aucun parti, aucun chef n’a donné l’impression de pouvoir fournir à Montréal le leadership dont elle a désespérément besoin. … Lors des élections municipales de 2001 et de 2005, La Presse a accordé son appui à Gérald Tremblay. Depuis, le maire s’est dévoué à sa ville. … Louise Harel n’a pas su offrir une vision claire pour l’avenir de la métropole. … L’aptitude de Mme Harel à manier le balai est devenue beaucoup plus incertaine à la suite des révélations faites au sujet du comportement de Benoit Labonté, son bras droit jusqu’à il y a quelques jours. … Est-il nécessaire que le maire de Montréal parle anglais? Non… mais presque. … À nos yeux, Louise Harel ne satisfait pas aux exigences du poste. … Certains volets de la personnalité de M. Bergeron sont trop inquiétants pour qu’on lui confie la mairie.”

For council

The Gazette did not endorse any specific candidates for city council, but did suggest looking at individual candidates instead of party names, and encouraged people to look at independent candidates and “borough parties”

La Presse’s André Pratte listed several names from each party in his editorial, which makes up most of the list below.

Union Montreal

  • Alan DeSousa (La Presse)
  • Michel Labrecque (La Presse)
  • André Lavallée (La Presse)

Vision Montreal

  • Élaine Ayotte (La Presse)
  • Harry Delva (La Presse)
  • Pierre Lampron (La Presse)
  • Réal Ménard (La Presse)
  • David Hanna (Jeremy Searle, West End Times)

Projet Montréal

  • Étienne Coutu (La Presse)
  • Carole Dupuis (La Presse)
  • Josée Duplessis (La Presse)
  • Alex Norris (Mike Boone, The Gazette)


Alex Norris (a former journalist) also got the endorsement of Thomas Mulcair.

Did I miss any? Be sure to let me know before tomorrow.

Fagstein’s endorsement

Of course, you’re all wondering who I’m endorsing in this election. As if the answer isn’t obvious already, I’ll give the official word in this video:


Don’t forget to vote.

Now it gets interesting

From Friday's La Presse

From Friday's La Presse

The first opinion polling after the Labonté scandal shows the three parties really neck and neck (and neck). Though Harel comes out on top, the real story is Richard Bergeron, whose party is living the wet dream of being a contender.

According to the poll, the number of undecideds has plummeted from 30% to 10%.

Election day is Sunday, and (as a journalist who will spend the night in the newsroom) it’s gonna be fun.

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.