Tag Archives: Vision Montreal

Vision’s Boulos goes independent

The fallout from the switcheroo at Vision Montreal is continuing. Less than a week after the party’s vice-president quit because she couldn’t support a sovereignist anti-borough leader, token anglo Karim Boulos has quit the party and decided to sit as an independent, leaving Ville-Marie borough mayor Benoît Labonté in a minority position on the borough council.

The move comes a couple of days after Boulos posted an item on his blog about how destructive party politics can be, based on a column from The Gazette’s Henry Aubin he read. Though he asked for comments, the post only got one, from me, asking if this means he’ll be sitting as an independent. I didn’t actually thin he’d just make the jump right there.

As important in his decision is that Boulos represents the Peter-McGill district (PDF), which includes all of the Ville-Marie borough west of University (in other words, both anglo universities, though not the McGill ghetto). With the splitting of the borough into a third electoral district, his turf becomes even more anglo than it was (it used to extend to St. Denis). And having a sovereignist former PQ minister leading your party isn’t sitting well with those constituents on Pine and Dr. Penfield.

His move also comes just over a week after he defended Vision leader Louise Harel on his blog, saying he’s still a federalist Liberal but they can work together on municipal matters.

Boulos defends Harel

Karim Boulos, the anglo at Vision Montreal, wants us to know Louise Harel is not to be feared by our people. As a Liberal and federalist, even he can find a way to support her, because she believes in the same things Benoît Labonté believes in: centralization and improving services and bring more environmentally friendly and cookies and puppies and happy children and such.

He promises to highlight electoral platforms “as soon as the parties render them public”.

I’m waiting too.

Vision Montreal: [Insert leader here]

Better pull these ads quick

Better pull these ads quick. There's a minor update to them.

Well, it’s official. Benoît Labonté is stepping aside as leader of Vision Montreal so that former PQ minister Louise Harel can run in his place for mayor of Montreal.

I must say I’m surprised by this move. Not only does Labonté have a lot of ambition, but he’s made his campaign for mayor all about him. The Vision Montreal website still links to his blog, which has his face plastered all over it and is now useless as a campaign website (which makes his assertion that his cause “isn’t personal” absurd to the point of late-night comedy). They’ll replace it by one from Louise Harel (who will hopefully hire Labonté’s web designers instead of sticking with her current blog).

I could criticize Harel on many points. She was the person who gave us the whole megacity disaster (fortunately for her, residents of Hampstead and Beaconsfield don’t vote for Montreal’s mayor), and she wants us to just forget all that, saying “there’s no question of rekindling the debate.” She’s an evil sovereignist who spent most of her political career in Quebec City and can barely string three words together in English. And she shares Labonté’s habit of using lots of words that say nothing, not to mention his lack of humility.

But what gets me most is how matter-of-fact this all is. Five months before an election that Labonté has been preparing for more than a year, they have a meeting and just replace the leader.

The ease by which this happened reflects something I wrote about with Labonté in April: He and his party have no platform.

You can see it in Harel’s press release, just like in Vision Montreal’s “Manifesto”. There’s lots of talk of “true political and administrative leadership and attention to priorities,” but no discussion of what those priorities actually are. The only thing that ties Labonté, Harel and Vision Montreal together seems to be the only point of the platform so far: A dislike of Gérald Tremblay.

Actually, to be fair, there’s one other platform point hidden among the empty calories of text about “visionary leadership” and “bold vision”: a desire for a radical change to the borough system and more centralized power at City Hall. It’s something Labonté has supported and something Harel instituted with municipal mergers (though her bill created the mess in the first place).

But that still leaves a lot of blank that can be filled in by almost anything (provided it can be sold as bold and audacious) before November. They could fill it with Projet Montréal’s trams and greenery if they go through with a merger, as Harel hinted at. But I’d like to think that Richard Bergeron is smart enough not to tie his reputation to this sinking ship.

In the end, this probably says more about Vision Montreal and our city’s politics than it does any individual player. The parties can’t be pigeonholed like they can on the provincial and federal levels (Conservatives/ADQ xenophobic conservatives who want to dismantle the government piece by piece, NDP/Québec solidaire crazy leftists who want to pour even more tax money into inefficient black holes, BQ/PQ left-wing separatists who talk radical to get elected and then soften up when they get into power, Greens the environment nuts, and the Liberals the centre-left lesser of many evils who have the experience to run government and the experience to exploit their offices). We don’t really know what separates Union Montreal and Vision Montreal other than who’s leading them.

Like with Labonté, I’m willing to give Harel the benefit of the doubt, and look forward to reading her platform if eventually it comes out.

But right now it’s hard not to see the party of Pierre Bourque as a blank cheque to be cashed in by naive, ambitious politicians who want to parachute in and carpetbag their way into power based solely on their personal, vastly overestimated popularity combined with a lot of empty words from rejected Obama speechwriters.

UPDATE: Le Devoir agrees with me, asking why the left-wing Harel is uniting with the pro-business Labonté.

What did Benoît Labonté really say to me?

This week’s Justify Your Existence is Benoît Labonté, the mayor of Ville-Marie who quit Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montreal party in September and last week joined the Vision Montreal party (which is so dormant that knowing the name of its current leader would win you a prize at a trivia contest).

The interview is actually a composite of two interviews, and for a very good reason.

I first spoke to Labonté about two weeks ago, asking him about being an independent now that he’s had two months of it. His answers were surprisingly candid: explaining that to be part of a party you have to accept certain compromises, but that he’s OK with that as long as you agree on the fundamentals.

A week later, while the article was still in the bank waiting to be published, Labonté announced he was joining Vision Montreal, making about half the article moot. So I had to talk to him again. (This time trying to squeeze in between the dozens of Montreal journalists trying to get a few words.)

I asked him how long he’d been talking with Vision Montreal, and he said a couple of weeks, though he later clarified that there’s no “official beginning to talks”.

I mention this because I asked him during the first interview whether he had discussions with Vision Montreal, and this is what he said:

No talks with Vision Montreal?

No, since I left I have talked to so many people, elected officials or not, and leaders in the economic sector, cultural, social, environmental sectors, you know, I have had many many discussions with many different people about their views of Montreal, the future of Montreal just to help me reflect on the situation of Montreal and consequently of what I want to do regarding that, so yes I have had many contacts with many people. I’m not staying at home at night watching TV.

(listen to audio of this exchange)

So my question to you is: Was this a denial?

(Apologies for sound quality. This was to check my quotes, not for broadcast. Certain parts of the audio have been amplified for easier listening, so if you hear what sound like cuts that’s what they are. It’s my first uploaded audio clip of an interview.)

Finally, I’m glad to see Labonté kept his promise to me, not to change parties again before the article was published.