Bergeron out of the Executive Committee

Almost a year after it started, Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron’s participation in Montreal’s Executive Committee has come to an end. The issue that caused the break was a major disagreement between Bergeron and Mayor Tremblay in the latest instalment of the Turcot saga. Earlier this week Bergeron publicly threatened to resign if the mayor didn’t commit to opposing any Turcot Interchange project that didn’t meet the city’s demands. The MTQ (provincial ministry of transport) is set to unveil the modified version of its project next week, and word is it falls far short of the City of Montreal’s vision.

While Bergeron admits that he hasn’t seen the actual plans, he maintains that Tremblay has and that he verbally explained what it will include. Bergeron qualified the changes in the project as cosmetic, and believes that it doesn’t meet the conditions that all parties on city council have set forth. Tremblay says that the improvements are real, that this is the best the city will be able to get, and that we should accept the project and work with the MTQ to improve the details. All members of the Executive Committee will be required to support this position.

According to Bergeron he was originally planning on stepping down next week after the MTQ’s “improved” plan was publicly revealed. But seeing the writing on the wall, Tremblay blinked first and this week demanded that Bergeron commit to supporting the administration in its decision to accept the MTQ proposal. When Bergeron refused, his participation in the Executive Committee was over. Some say he was fired, others say he resigned. It seems like the decision was made by mutual agreement by both players that Bergeron couldn’t continue if he didn’t support the project. Projet Montréal explains Bergeron’s decision here, on its website.

This sort of break up was inevitable. Bergeron’s presence on the Executive Committee has always created tensions. He was often forced to tacitly endorse policies that his party was opposed to because he couldn’t vote against proposals coming from the Union Montreal-majority Executive Committee. Moreover, the parameters were never set. Unlike in a coalition context there was no commonly agreed upon administration program written up before hand. Policies had to be negotiated on an issue by issue basis, and at the end of the day Tremblay was always guaranteed to have his way since he controls the majority of seats on council. As a result Bergeron had only as much influence as Tremblay let him. He did manage to leave his mark on a number of projects, but it was only a matter of time before a hot button issue came up on which no agreement was possible.

It’s important to point out that for the time being the multi-party Executive Committee hasn’t ended yet, though its ideological diversity has been greatly reduced. Vision Montreal’s Lyn Thériault is still there as the responsible for social development. Her presence has created less waves mainly because she’s just a Vision councillor and not the party leader. She’s also a better fit with Union given that she’s a PLQ supporter and one of the few right-wing Vision veterans to continue on under Harel’s leadership. She keeps a low profile and for the time being it seems that her position on the Executive Committee is secure.

While it’s unfortunate that Bergeron is leaving the committee, it’s probably the best thing that could happen at this point. We’ll be stuck with the new Turcot for decades to come so we need to get it right. There is a broad consensus across Montreal about what sort of project the city needs, and this coalition risks being derailed by a mayor who’s not willing to stick to his guns. If the project is as bad as Bergeron says it is (we’ll find out next Tuesday) he had no choice but to leave and not be complicit in supporting it. He’ll be better able to lead an effective opposition on city council and support mobilisations in broader civil society. As for the dream of a more collaborative, less confrontational city council, it was bound to fail as soon as a contentious issue emerged. It was a gesture that Tremblay likely made in good faith, but one that just couldn’t be sustainable in the political system that Montreal has.

8 comments

  1. Please remember that Projet Montreal members/ politicians alone are not going to be able the turn this around without EVERYONE ‘s active support (regardless of your political affiliation)…

    If you care about the health impacts upon seniors, children, pregnant women who live along high traffic roads;

    if you care about the environmental toll caused by car emissions;

    if you are disgusted by the narrow, (some might say complete lack of ) vision and coordination within the MTQ;

    if you believe that the transportation infrastructure in the entire Greater Montreal area needs to include an electric light train /tram network to allow for reduced car dependance;

    if you are offended at the idea of 100+ rental units in an historic loft building, home to over 200 people, be destroyed just to build another highway inside the city perimeter…

    Make sure that your voice is heard! Write to your MNA, to the Editor of your paper, to the Ministry of Environment, of Health, etc.

    Join us on November 11th at 1:30pm; we meet at the CÉDA, 2515 rue Délisle near Lionel Groulx .
    (To reserve your seat or for more details call POPIR 514-935-4649 )

  2. Very right, Jody! It will definitely help having strong opposition on city council, but that won’t be enough. People need to get organised and show that the population is strongly opposed. Keep up the good work, and hopefully Tremblay’s capitulation won’t be too much of a set back to people working on the ground on this issue.

  3. FInally this projetct will get underway. It was long overdue.

    Bergeron stick to removing lanes and parking spaces in your puppet plateau neighbour. Highways are out of your jurisdiction.

  4. @Claude: Um…I guess you haven’t been following the news, because it isn’t just Bergeron who has a problem with the MTQ’s plan. There has been a broad mobilisation against the project from local groups in the Sud-Ouest, Montreal-wide organisations, le Réseau des ingénieurs du Québec, the City of Westmount, and up until last week all three parties with seats on Montreal city council, to name just a few groups.

    And yes, highways are a provincial jurisdiction, but that doesn’t mean that the provincial government should ram through a project that the large majority of Montrealers clearly don’t want. Moreover, this project will have a major impact on many dossiers which are purely of municipal responsibility (local traffic, lost land for redevelopment, lost public transit opportunities, etc.). Even though it’s the province’s project the City of Montreal will have to deal with many of the consequences.

  5. This whole debate is 100% about jurisdictional issues: suburbs -vs- city and Quebec -vs- Montreal. Commuters coming into Montreal from the suburbs want a faster and more convenient ride into the city, whereas Montreal residents want fewer cars circulating on their streets – especially cars coming from outside of the city. The municipal agglomeration further weakened the central city relative to the province. To further complicate matters, the provincial political parties are fighting for votes in the suburbs – not so much in Montreal where most ridings are secure one way or another.

    This is really a question of who has the money for infrastructure investments, and unfortunately that is the province. Montrealers can scream all they want, but they have very little impact on the way things are done in the provincial government. If there was a Projet Montreal equivalent at the provincial level, perhaps some headway could be made. That is the role of Quebec Solidaire, but they basically have the same support base as Projet Montreal, which on a provincial scale that does not translate into much….

    It looks more likely that Quebec will have their own version of the tea-party movement before they will have a provincial sustainable development party.

  6. @Zvi: In the case of Turcot, it has always been clear that this is a provincial jurisdiction. In theory the provincial government could have, from day one, done whatever it wanted regardless of the opinion of the city. The big question was whether the province would work collaboratively, or ram though a project that the local population doesn’t want.

    As for the fact that electoral geography creates a big lack of incentive for making Montreal happy, I completely agree with you. When Amir Khadir was elected I was really happy, in part because it meant that there could be a shake-up in terms of party strengths on the Island of Montreal. If Québec Solidaire keeps up its polling numbers through to the next election, it could likely wrest two more seats from the PQ, and make a number of interesting races in previously safe seats. This is good news for all Montrealers, even those who aren’t QS supporters.

  7. Devin: since it’s clear you are a Projet Montreal apartchik, you will defend your party “bec et ongle”… even if they are the biggest looser in this whole useless debate.

    What do you define as a local population? Does the hundred or so renters weigh more than the 300k+ daily commuters in that area, or the 3M+ citizens that benefit from a fluid and vital highway interconnection?

    Are we back to the dark ages of tribalism where my piece of land is more important than anything else around?

  8. @Claude, your suburb could not exist without the City of Montreal. The residents of the city pay, both literally and figuratively, for your cars pounding OUR pavement. Why do only suburban residents deserve peace, tranquility and clean air?

    I hate to break it to you, but one of the reasons why the suburbs are so “affordable” is that you are not paying the costs of your infrastructure. Sure it is far less complicated and less expensive to develop empty space (“green-field development”), than it is to refurbish existing places (“brown-field development), but this leads to unsustainable development patterns. Then again, our entire economy is presently based on unsustainable consumption and waste, so why fight it right?

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