Labonté Promises Audacity


Ville-Marie borough mayor Benoit Labonté has announced his intent to run for mayor next November and promises voters audacity. Perhaps the slogan has a better connotation in French but my dictionary suggests “recklessly bold”, “arrogant disregard for normal constraints” and “impudent” among definitions for the term.

Which may be appropriate for a guy who was elected as a member of Tremblay’s party in 2005 only to split two years later and start his own to take the reins of the opposition party, Vision Montréal. As leader of the opposition, Labonté has bashed the current administration for everything from their lack of financial transparency, to their failure to bow to Devimco‘s demands for assistance on the Griffintown project, to their inability to find $175 million to save the F1.

I have delayed writing about this because I felt I didn’t know enough about Labonté to present a founded opinion. I probably should have taken a tip from Fagstein who pointed out that Labonté really doesn’t seem to stand for much at this point. (I also apologize for using the same Atwater metro ad as Fagstein to illustrate this post. That poster is what tipped me off.)

That said, here are a few things I associate him with:

As mayor of Ville-Marie, Labonté has pushed for more pedestrian streets downtown (as long as the opposition can’t take credit for it), and cheap parking, which was ultimately nixed by his council.

He’s contributed to the MSO and Equiterre, and he launched the Société de développement social de Ville-Marie, to tackle social issues including homelessness, poverty, and drug and alcohol addiction. However, his cleanliness policy has displaced the homeless out of the downtown centre where most of the resources for homeless and marginalized people are located.

He has promised to cover the Ville Marie expressway, without mentioning that the projected cost is over $100 million. Yet, as far as I can tell, he hasn’t voiced an opinion the controversial Notre-Dame and Turcot highway projects.

The Gazette published his Manifesto for Montreal last month and he as also launched a blog,, on which he posts rather vague, sugar-coated articles relating to his vision for the city (green, culturally vibrant, diverse, well-governed). So far theyhave been met so far with a smattering of flattering comments.

For some equally biased but less flattering comments, check out how an ex-party member describes Labonté (Over the past year, Vision Montreal’s key party members have dropped off in twos and threes.)

His one concrete proposal so far is to organize an Expo-67 style world fair in 2020 in order to catalyze development projects and fuzzy feelings within the city. The current administration has dismissed the idea in favour of focusing on more immediate priorities. I won’t be surprised if this becomes a pivotal election issue with Labonté accusing Tremblay and Co. of willfully preventing the city from recapturing its 1960s glory days.


  1. I somewhat shamefully admit that I long for a modern era 1960’s glory days for Montreal. I love this city and I think it deserves big projects in its near future. That said, I think these projects should be done with its citizens’ opinions and social issues being taken into consideration. It shouldn’t be ALL about money, but also about welfare of the citizens.

    Sure, some of the decisions made in the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s weren’t necessarily thought through in a thorough and transparent way. We payed for some of these mistakes for decades and I’d hate to have this kind of thing happen now (Laval Metro, anyone?).

    If we can get big projects off the ground through a transparent and inclusive decision process, then hand me a shovel and I’ll be the first to break ground. But stuff like Griffintown makes me weary of voting for anyone right now. Is it so hard to get city officials that have BOTH vision and undeniable integrity?

  2. I can’t believe this whole post is premised on Labonte promising audacity and yet the word Obama wasn’t once written.

    Maybe it’s as simple as he’s just trying to piggy-back on someone’s success?

  3. Labonté didn’t start Vision Montreal. That was Pierre Bourque’s old party. He simply joined it in the middle of a leadership vacuum and quickly became its leader.

    The term “audacity” I think is more associated with Barack Obama (The Audacity of Hope) than anything else these days. And it doesn’t hurt for a politician to be associated with Obama.

    Oh, and my picture is actually from Cremazie.

    Good job on finding all those links.

  4. It’s quite possible (mais je ne connais pas exactement, mon français est rudimentaire) that audacity doesn’t have the connotation of recklessness in French which it may have in English – look no further than the demand/ask difference. Demand in English and you’re being pushy and insistent, even angry, demandez au français and you’re merely asking or requesting. C. !000 years since the Norman Conquest is a long time for divergence in shades of meaning of words with common roots. (One wonders if the English connotation derives from the reaction of Anglo-Saxon peasants to the use of the verb by their French-speaking Norman overlords: “You’re “asking” for half my crop?!” One can sometimes forget that a substantial portion of the half-million words in the OED are of medieval French origin. )

    That said, “prudence” would probably be a better choice for a slogan, given the wastefulness, corruption, etc.

    It is depressing to see this void in municipal politics…

  5. I would suggest that “audace” is best translated by “boldness” and not necessarily “audacity” which has a hint of the shocking.

  6. From what I can tell, “audace” in French has a more positive connotation – bold and daring without the element of disrespect that it has in English.

    I noticed that the 2-22 Ste-Catherine building is also being described as “audace” by the developer. And one of the first places i saw the word used in French was in a Hydro Quebec document in reference to the LG-2 dam (again, fitting).

    Note that Labonté uses Audacity in his English language “Manifesto” repeatedly as well.

  7. Labonte would be just another version of Tremblay. I always say never trust a politician who tries to switches horses in mid stream cause if he ever gets to the other side he surely isn’t going to look back.

    It s a shame that there isn’t much opposition to Tremblay. Bergeron is a well intended man who I have seen at community functions mixing with ordinary folks but am not sure he has much “star” power. In any case we may be on the verge of a huge scandal coming down on Tremblay vis a vis the water contract and some highly questionable real estate deals so who knows, Tremblay may even have to resign before the election?

  8. I dont know… really i feel that fray has a point: actions must be taken, projects need to be started, money needs to be spent so moneys can be brought back to Montreal. In the last say 10 years, unless i’m dead blind nothing happened here, the city merely floated on past success and now it’s stalled. I’d say shame on Tremblay for his absent leadership. A mayor has to be a risk taker (not a dumb, power hungry one mind you), he has to make things happen, put ideas on the table and study them (and not for 5 years please…)

    Bah i’m just really saddened by the spineless leader of our province. No will whatsoever to make things better and grand. And for one single egoist reason: those so-called leaders are afraid of taking risk because it would mean to assume the good as well as the bad and if there is any bad, it might backfire somehow and ruin their reelection. Those power hungry egoists care nothing for the people they “lead”.

    Shame shame shame.


  9. Ah yes the subject of the day: labonté. He definitely cant be as bad a the current joke we have as a mayor.

    Let’s try him unless anyone more suitable arises.

  10. Does no one remember the ‘barren’ years of the Bourque administration? Montreal is not an easy city to govern for many reasons – all things considered, I would say that Tremblay has done a reasonable job. He certainly has made efforts to re-introduce some sort of ‘vision’ and long-term planning into the city’s agenda, and he has engaged with the public far more than what was done in the past.

    Things can always be better, of course, but they could be worse too. Richard Bergeron and his Project Montreal have by far the most ‘visionary’ attitude and approach but sadly Montreal voters seem to be lacking interest….

  11. Why is Tremblay such a terrible mayor? I don’t see him plastering his mug everywhere à la Bourque or Doré or Drapeau. He works behind the scenes and gets things done. Who else would have taken on the blvd St Laurent infrastructure work and submitted to the wrath it incurred? No one. But he persisted and got the needed job done.

    I agree that Griffintown was a mistake. And Park Avenue name change, another mistake. But Pine/Park interchange was long overdue. As was the de Maisonneuve bike path. And alot of other, smaller, unsexy things. I like Tremblay.

  12. Leila, I tend to agree with you. Tremblay isn’t awful but perhaps after 2 terms we’re ready for a new face. I’m secretly hoping that Union Montreal’s Urbanism and Transportation guy, André Lavallée runs…
    That said, the Tremblay administration could take a cue from Labonté when it comes to communications and public outreach.

  13. Je ne suis pas certain si ceci est le bon site pour faire valoir mes pensées mais les voici. Je demeure a une heure et demi de Montréal. Mardi, le 21 avril,2009 j’ai du me rendre a l’hopital Sainte-Justine avec mon petit fils de deux mois qui était malade. A 9:00 le matin, apres un attente devant le statinment visiteur a coté de l’hopital, le monsieur a veste verte nous dit qu’il n’y a plus de stationment. A 9:010 du matin, ZERO stationment (zero c’est le chiffre en dessous de un). Il faut donc tourner pendant plus d’une demi-heure pour finallement prendre place d’un auto qui quitte. Aucune enseignes interdites en vue.
    Apres sept longues heures, un docteur examine non petit fils. A notre sortie, un belle facture nous attend de $42.00.
    Je ne sais pas quel sorte de personne (conseiller, maire) peuve dormir le soir en pensant qu’ils profitent des GENS MALADES pour remplir les coffres et se payer toutes sortes de belles choses. Dans ma tete c’est de l’hameceonage légalisé par les lois que VOUS aver accepteé.
    Vous etes des sal…. qui ont aucune conscience en profitant des personnes qui de un, ne connaissent pas votre systeme de transport et de deux qui n’on pas le choix de payer
    Sur ce, je souhaite qu’un jour vous tous soyez dans cette situation et de payer de VOS poches.

    Un grand-papa frustré

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