Tag Archives: Richard Bergeron

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.

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.