If this were 2002 rather than 2009, Louise Harel might be spending this week looking more like the photo above (she’d be smiling). Why? Well, because in 2002, the geography of Montreal was much different than it is now. Before 2002, Montreal was a much smaller city surrounded by a number of independent municipalities on all sides as can be seen on this map:
In 2002, all across Quebec, small municipalities were merged together to create large, centralised cities. In Montreal, this meant merging all the towns on the island into the city of Montreal in an attempt to create “une île, une ville”. After the merger, this is what the city of Montreal looked like:
One would think this would be a good idea, but for various reasons, many of the former towns on the island (and, indeed, across Quebec) were not happy with the reorganisation and wanted to demerge to their former separate municipalities. In 2006, referendums were held across the province and a handful of the merged municipalities were able to demerge. After the demergers, Montreal looked as it does today:
So, how would the election have turned out had the mergers and subsequent demergers never happened. To find out, I crunched some numbers. I isolated the total number of votes for the three major parties for the areas of the city that were part of pre-2002 Montreal (what are now the boroughs of Ahuntsic-Cartierville, CDN-NDG, Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles, Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie, Le Sud-Ouest, Ville-Marie, and, Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension) and added them up. These are the results:
Gérald Tremblay – 88 854 – 34%
Louise Harel – 101 773 – 38%
Richard Bergeron – 78 138 – 30%
Note that the percentage is taken from total number of votes for those three candidates, not total number of votes cast.
As we can see, had the election only been in the original 9 boroughs, last Sunday would have been much more interesting. In the old city, all three parties were in the 30% range and all were within 4% of their closest rival. Harel would have won by a mere 4% and Bergerone would have lost by only 8%. Tremblay’s second place would have sent him to the Opposition side of City Hall.
The most interesting part of all of this is the irony of the fact that Louise Harel is the one responsible for the mergers. Back when she sat as a PQ member in the National Assembly, she served as Minister of Municipal Affairs. As an MNA, it can be argued that the most important thing she did was to table the bill that led to the municipal reorganisations across Quebec. The whole mess caused by the mergers played a large role in the ousting of her party from power in the provincial election that followed. Had she left everything well enough alone, she might be mayor today. However, had she left everything alone, she might still be in the National Assembly.
Photo via Louise Harel’s Facebook. Maps via Wikipedia.