This Monday the Montreal City Council met for its annual marathon budget meeting. Concillors were convened at 9:30 on Monday morning and it wasn’t until midnight that the Budget was finally put to the vote. As predicted, the committee process resulted in no changes to the proposed budget. Throughout the course of the meeting opposition councillors presented various amendments which were all rejected by the majority pro-Tremblay council. In the end, it was approved with 38 votes for and 22 against.
All of this occured more or less as expected. Tremblay attempted to convince the opposition that it was a good budget, and they attempted to amend it, but it was all more or less for show since the outcome had already been decided. Given that Tremblay’s Union Montreal controls a majority of seats on the Council, the support of the opposition parties was not needed.
The one major surprise of the night were the votes (or lack thereof) of the oppositions members of the executive committe, Lyn Thériault of Vision Montréal and Richard Bergeron of Projet Montréal. Thériault took the expected course of action and simply didn’t show up for the Council meeting, thus avoiding having to vote (it is impossible for a councillor to abstain if they’re present).
However, Bergeron decided to vote for the budget, contradicting Projet Montréal’s party line. In doing so he became the only non-Union councillor to vote in favour, with the 9 other Projet Montréal councillors voting against. This was an unexpected decision that has garnered both praise and sharp criticism. Bergeron defended this position by stressing the need to maintain cabinet solidarity. He went on to say that while he disagrees with certain parts of the budget he believes that it is a step the right direction with greater investments in public transit, in-house technical expertise in the civil service, and extra transfers to the boroughs. The decisions of Bergeron and Thériault mean that for the time being the multi-party Executive Committee will continue.
Also of note, slowly but surely social medias are starting to make their way into municipal politics. Certain city councillors have taken to using twitter to give real time updates of Council debates. Rosemont-Petite-Patrie mayor François Croteau went so far as to live-blog the proceedings of today’s Agglomeration Council meeting (even for political junkies it’s about as entertaining as watching paint dry), complete with grainy blackberry photos of suburban mayors ranting in the Council Chambers.