Yesterday Rosemont-Petite-Patrie borough mayor announced in a press conference that he is leaving Louise Harel’s Vision Montréal and will be henceforth a member of Projet Montréal. He explained his decision saying that he had come to believe that his former party lacked a coherent vision for the development of the city and that he sees his values and priorities better represented in Projet Montréal. A more detailed explanation from the mayor is available here.
He elaborates saying, “Ma réflexion m’a amené à constater que depuis mon entrée en fonction, les mesures pour lesquelles j’éprouve une fierté particulière sont plus cohérentes avec la philosophie d’action de Projet Montréal qu’avec celle de Vision Montréal. Je suis convaincu que Projet Montréal est un parti qui soutiendra mes initiatives dans l’arrondissement Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie”.
For observers of the municipal political scene this news didn’t come as a huge surprise. Croteau has generally been seen as on the progressive side of Vision and his administration’s priorities, such as traffic calming, urban agriculture projects, and a well intended but poorly handled semi-pedestrianisation scheme for Masson, fit well with Projet Montréal’s outlook. Moreover, he had developed a good working relationship with the Projet councillors in his own borough and had gone out of his way to not burn any bridges.
This is the second floor crossing that has occurred during the life of this city council, after Ahunstic-Cartierville mayor Pierre Gagnier left Projet Montreal almost a year ago to become an independent. The balance of power on council isn’t affected and Vision Montreal remains the official opposition. Nevertheless, it’s good news for Projet as it creates a sense of momentum and also bolsters the party’s argument that it is the natural rallying point for progressives and Tremblay/Union opponents in the next election. What’s more, it helps to further break down the perception that it’s a “Plateau only” party by showing it’s gaining strength in other central-city neighbourhoods.
This announcement is also a sign that we are slowly entering the lead-up to the next municipal elections, still almost two years away. Given the relatively instability of the party system in Montreal, floor crossings and party shake-ups are common as councillors reevaluate the political landscape in preparation for trying to get reelected. It will be interesting to see if any of Croteau’s former caucus colleagues follow his example. His criticisms of Vision as being incoherent are not unfounded; as it currently stands the party’s caucus is a grab bag of personalities with widely different political outlooks, from right-wing Bourque era stalwards, to PQ apparatchiks, to relatively progressive younger recruits. Croteau was the lowest hanging fruit, but there are other councillors with a similar profiles that could be tempted to make the same move as the next election draws closer.