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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Transit and the Election: 1 step forward, 2 steps back

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So Projet Montréal, the party who put transit at the top of the agenda  -at least before cries of corruption drowned out any other issue- earned 10 seats on the municipal council. Their support rose from 9% in 2005 to 25% across the island. The fact that sustainable development and alternative transportation preoccupy even a quarter of Montrealers is the sign of a rapidly rising tide of ideas.

There’s just one problem: Projet Montréal didn’t win the top spot. So who is actually going to be in charge of transportation?

Not André Lavallée, who was behind Montreal’s innovative transportation plan and who brought us BIXI. He came in dead last in his riding. And not Michel Labrecque, who was a founding member of Vélo Québec and president of the Comité Régional de l’Environnement before Tremblay appointed president of the STM. He was beaten by the Projet Montréal candidate in the Plateau.

Tremblay has said that he’s not looking at forming coalitions, which means that these guys are likely to be replaced with less competent folks.

Not good.

Oh, and who’s going to update the urban plan next year, another one of Lavallée’s jobs?

The problem isn’t that Tremblay got re-elected, the problem is which of his cronies made the cut. And who did get in? Let’s see, the guy in charge of road construction. We all know how smoothly that’s going. Then there was the one under investigation for being in cahoots with local contractors… and the list goes on.

I didn’t think it was possible, but city hall may have just gotten worse.


Finally, since I haven’t seen it anywhere else, here’s the list of elected Projet Montréal representatives and their ridings. Five Projet Montréal borough councillors were also elected.

  • Pierre Gagnier (Ahuntsic-Cartierville Borough Mayor)
  • Émilie Thuillier (Ahuntsic-Cartierville City councillor)
  • Peter Mcqueen (NDG City Councillor)
  • Luc Ferrandez (Plateau Borough Mayor)
  • Josée Duplessis (Plateau Councillor)
  • Richard Ryan Alex Norris (Plateau Councillor)
  • Nimâ Valérie Machouf (Plateau Councillor) – to be replaced by Richard Bergeron.
  • François Limoges (Rosemont-Petite-Patrie Councillor)
  • Marc-André Gadoury (Rosemont-Petite-Patrie Councillor)
  • Pierre Mainville (Ville Marie Councillor)



  1. Correction:

    14 seats were won by PM.

    2 borough mayors, 8 city councillors and 4 borough councillors.

    You have Richard Ryan listed above who is the borough councillor for the Mile-End. Alex Norris won the city council seat.

    And I think it’s of note to spacing readers that Sophie Thiébaut won her borough council seat in St. Henri–Petite-Bourgogne–Pointe-St-Charles: Shopie was one of the founders of Mobilisation Turcot and has been an outspoken critic of the Turcot project since day one.

  2. “The fact that sustainable development and alternative transportation preoccupy even a quarter of Montrealers is the sign of a rapidly rising tide of ideas.”

    Are you dreaming in technicolor? This party would still be in fringe status had it not been for the the corruption scandal, it has absolutely nothing to do with their far fetched policy agenda. The ADQ got this same big headedness thinking they were in the game, and look at them now. Many people vote against something rather then for something. Clearly, that is the case here.

  3. Craig – thanks for the correction about Alex Norris / Richard Ryan. PM won 10 seats on the city council (Borough mayors and city councillors). By my count they got 5 seats on borough councils: 3 in the Plateau, 1 in the Sud-Ouest that you mentioned, and 1 in NDG.

    GDS – don’t you think Vision Montréal would have been the strategic vote if you just wanted to oust Tremblay: their whole campaign was about cleaning up city hall and they were doing better in the polls as well. The Projet Montreal votes were concentrated in areas with more reliance on public and active transportation like the Plateau, Rosemont, Ville Marie, the Sud-Ouest and NDG, (less in the west island, Saint-Larent etc) so I get the impression that these voters were taking the party’s platform into account as well.

    Map of active transportation stats:

  4. For those of us who get around by bicycle, walking and public transport, there is nothing at all “far-fetched” about quality public transport (such as trams) and improving walkability and cyclability of our city. Moreover, it is absolutely imperative given the ecological crisis.

    And I know people who lived in Laval and took their car to work in Montréal who now commute by métro. People aren’t wedded to their cars if there is a better alternative.

  5. “You’ve got to plant the seed in good earth if you expect the flower to grow and bloom.”

  6. well said GDS.

    In Montreal proper, 1% take the bicycle ( i suppose that number is greatly exagerated because of our bad weather throught the year), 50% take the car, the rest is devided between walking, bus, taxi, ride share, and metro… to get to work, cars are even stronger during off-peak hours.

    In the latest polls before the election, more people said that having streets well maintained as being more important than having good public transit and an environmentaly friendly city combined…

    This blog is not representative of Montreal-city center as a whole, even less of Greater Montreal.

    Actually the opinions posted on this blog are on the fringe as Projet Montreal’s plans.

  7. I find it funny when something like Spacing gets labelled “fringe”. Kind of makes you wonder how “fringe” it is when it has won Canadian Small Magazine of the Year in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Or how it was nominated for Magazine of the Year in 2009, beating out MacLeans, Walrus, etc. Or how it continues to get nominations like Best Blog at the Cdn Online Publishing Awards or Cdn Newsstand Awards. Or how Spacing’s ideals were used as a platform for Mayor Miller in Toronto in 2006 (he got 57% of the vote and a majority of councillors with similar urban-centric views were elected).

    To say that they audience of this blog and its parent magazine are fringe just shows a lack of knowledge about these topics.

    I never thought that 25% of a vote was fringe, so I would not put transit of Project Montreal in the fringe category. Congrats to PM and to Spacing for being a reasonable voice in this election.

  8. It’s sad but not unexpected to hear that Tremblay won’t be appointing people outside of his party. I too am a little worried about transport now that Labreque is no longer available. To make it even worse Foutopolous (sp?) is still around across town.

    I think that fewer people would choose to drive if the commuter trains were working properly. Apparently service has been abysmal, and is getting worse. The city needs to overhaul this, then tell us about it so we can give it another try.

    Of course people say they want to use their cars, that is what they know. But pretty soon now being “sustainable” won’t just be for the “fringe”, it will become a hard economic reality for the majority.

    I’m not sure where Ali got the figure of “1% take the bicycle” but I’ve seen figures for Montreal that were north of that. Made me think though that will all the bike theft in this town maybe he meant that 1% literally take the bicycles by stealing them :).

  9. Some people don’t want change, they fear it for a multitude of reasons. But one thing became very clear during this election – Projet Montreal is very real and is growing by leaps and bounds not just because it has the most relevant program, but because it also has the people who are ready to put it into action! Keep an eye on the Plateau for a preview of the future of Montreal. (Haven’t we done something like that before? :P)

    Will the city be worse with Tremblay back? One would have to think so, but remember that 60% + voted for someone else. A lot of places were quite close. The press and those elected are going to be more vigilante and effective than in the past. And as far as all the scandals go, be prepared that that we ain’t seen nothing yet. Tremblay resigning before this term is up is hardly far fetched. The levels of corruption in the construction industry alone are institutional and mind boggling in their reach, It might be harder to find totally legit companies than otherwise. Most people in the city do not have a clue how deep and wide this goes. We put our heads in the sand a long time ago.
    One of the reasons I am vehemently against whole neighborhood projects like Griffintown is that you are turning an entire part of the city over to questionable players who are capable of running the costs into the heavens and delaying indefinitely. And remember that Griffintown was a project that Gerald Tremblay really, really wanted to do! Think of the Olympic games and remember that that can happen again as easily as you can prefer to believe it couldn’t.

    Going to be interesting.

  10. Sure Michel Labrecque is Mr. Vélo & Mr. STM, but seriously, he talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk.

    15 years to implement the PDU? Are you kidding?

    We’re talking about changing the orientation of some one-way streets, adding a few speed bumps, lowering the speed limit to 40km/h, widening some sidewalks at intersections and changing some parking regulations.

    15 years? For that?

    As for people voting for Projet’s platform or against the other 2 is irrelevant at this stage in the game. Now is the time to prove themselves in Plateau and Ahuntsic. If they deliver the goods, people will notice and they won’t be a flash in the pan.


  11. Isn’t Labrecque staying on as president of the MTC? If so, then he should have a good deal of input?

    cheese: You’re right about the train service being the pits. I know about a dozen people who ditched their AMT passes and leased a car – just couldn’t take it anymore. But it’s much more the AMT’s (which answers to the provincial gov’t) problem than city hall’s to fix. When the trains were the responsibility of the then STCUM, they were rock-solid reliable through even the worst winter could throw at us.

  12. I just hope that Tremblay takes Richard Bergeron up on his offer to borrow from Projet Montréal’s platform… In fact, if he’s smart, he’ll give Lavallée’s dossiers to Bergeron … Now that would be a good show of faith and of his commitment to working in the best interests of Montréal.

  13. Alanah> Interesting point, but I think the main reason that the vote was more a 3 way race in the core is because those people consider themselves Montrealer’s while those in St.Laurent or Pierrefonds etc still see themselves seperate from teh core despite the amalgamation and thus seperated from the scandals.

    Maria> Let’s be clear that my real world idea of what far fetched is and your fantasy island ideas are not the same. But in any world, transforming the decarie expressway into a segmented tunnel with gardens on top should be far fetched just because of the costs involved. Also, is there some inside joke where you have to use the word TRAM in every message you post. The TRAMs where part of all 3 parties platforms. If I had a dollar for the word TRAM, I could have built it.

    Julia> Bravo. We must look so small to you from way up there. Spacing must have invented TOD and sustainable development. Nobody thought of it before this blog. I love how you defend the magazine and the blog when we are talking about some of those that comment and not those writing to spark debate. Heaven forbid there is debate.

    Let’s be clear that I am not saying that there aren’t some merits to PM, but had the election campaign been “usual”, then those “fringe” elements would have been even more focused upon then the word “fringe” has been in the comments here. The fact that they didn’t have to defend their ideas with any rigor is a clear reason they scored well. Nobody cared about the policies, otherwise more questions would have been asked that would have then been answered (if they could) with elaboration, budgeting and feasability. The ADQ had the same opportunity, but decided not to be populist (i.e school boards) and that caused their demise. PM has the same opportunity, unless they stick to the tangible and become populist, they are doomed.

  14. I’ve got mixed feelings about Projet Montreal. I’m happy that their candidate, Sophie Thiébaut, pulled off a victory in my Borough (the SouthWest) – it does, I hope, send a message to the provincial government about the Turcot project. But what is dangerous in there is that all these important local issues become instrumentalized by a political party to increase their political capital, and that the energies of citizens concerned by these issues become monopolized by the need to “prepare the next campaign.” If there is no citizen mobilisation, independent of political party agenda, it doesn’t really matter, it seems to me, who is in office. No politician, no matter how well intentioned, can get things done without popular mobilization behind him to push the issue. Look at Obama.

    I am wary of power, in all its manifestations. The fact that your Turcot event has been turned into a Projet Montreal victory party is enough to keep me away…

  15. Er, I do live on an island, GDS. As far as I know it isn’t a fantasy though.

    I never mentioned the Décarie, but it has to be eliminated somehow. It destroyed whole neighbourhoods. Rectifying that error may not be a priority now, and indeed it depends on funds available; the main priority is not making the same error in the east end on Notre-Dame.

    Indeed I’m a tram booster – you have a problem with that? Surely you don’t think we believe people of all ages and abilities can ride our bicycles in January. But you probably do believe we think that. Like the guy who talked about our bad weather “throught” the year preventing people from cycling. Only our wintertime has such problematic weather – guess he thinks people can’t cycle in the rain or something. The cure for that is a trip to rainy Amsterdam.

    I mostly work at home now, and from my home office observe a steady stream of cyclists commuting to work (or to school) morning and afternoon, even now in November. Cycling has greatly increased, and the Bixi has played a part in that. Labreque may not have done as much as anticipated, but Lavallée has certainly taken on the bicycle and other transport and environmental dossiers and delivered. He also had a hand in a new housing development near métro Rosemont with good design and a mixture of co-ops, OBNL (non-profit corporation) housing for seniors and affordable condos, with many green features. It is a big improvement in that part of the arrondissement and will boost that end of rue St-Hubert. It is sad that he paid the price for the sins of other members of his party.

    I’m rather amused by these worshippers of the established order who think it is impossible to create an environmentally-sustainable society and end car dependency. They would have said the same about slavery and child labour, and certainly would have known women would never, ever get the vote, much less become Prime Ministers, Presidents or Chancellors.

    St-Edouard where I live went Projet Montréal, by the way.

  16. Lots of car addicts showing their fear with the Projet Montreal victory. People are starting to see how successful public transportation options improve a city and make life better for people in the city and for those in the suburbs. Look at the SkyTrain going to the airport in Montreal. That alone will allay a lot of the post-Olympics fallout that is sure to hit that town. Vancouverites are truly proud of it and they should be. Montreal used to be leading the charge and now we are falling way behind and I think voters want real public transportation options. That’s the source of PM’s victory. Maybe a tiny percentage were protest votes, but I think even without the scandals, they would have had a huge boost. We’ve also seen the huge success of the Bixi here, an envy of cities across North America and the world.

    But keep your lips stuck around that gas nuzzle, car addicts! The fumes will help you maintain your state of defensive ignorance.

  17. GDS:

    I agree with you that actual policies were occluded by all the scandals and the debates around political integrity.

    You seem to imply that if this had been a “regular” campaign where PM’s policies had more visibility, voters would have realised they were a fringe party with crazy ideas and would have been shy to vote for them.

    I believe the opposite. Had PM had a better chance to talk about their program (instead of 9/11, Bergeron’s smoking and Accurso’s yacht) I believe their numbers would be higher than they are today.

    Unfortunately, it’s impossible to tell how many people voted for PM’s platform vs. how many voted for them as a protest vote.

    I know I voted for them first and foremost. (The fact that I loath the other 2 options was just icing on the cake).


  18. “I am wary of power, in all its manifestations. The fact that your Turcot event has been turned into a Projet Montreal victory party is enough to keep me away…”

    That’s a pretty negative spin, Manuel. I know you know just how hard people like Sophie and Peter worked, so is it such a crime to celebrate their victories considering that activists usually never get much in the way of rewards for their efforts? I think it is very uplifting and inspiring to actually see positive results for a change!

  19. I didn’t say it was a crime, neath, it’s that the blurring of lines between social movements and political parties makes me nervous.

    I agree with Marcel Sevigny, when he says, “the well-known tendency of political militantism (parties, right and left-wind movements) is to establish and consolidate its’ control on social movements, for its’ exclusive political ends.”

    What I don’t like about political parties is exactly that, the particular cause very frequently becomes subordinate to the parties’ need to take or consolidate power.

    Will Projet Montreal be different? It would be a first. Anything is possible, but of course I have my doubts.

    Didn’t mean to rain on your parade though, don’t take it so personal. Just wanted to express my doubts…I hope you continue your political action – I guess its’ obvious that you won’t have me as a cheerleader, that’s all. Nonetheless, I hope my criticism helps you to define further your own positions.

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