Michael Fainstat and Mayor Jean Doré upon the RCM’s victory in 1986 (photo links to La Press obituary).
The passing of 2010 also saw the passing of a great Montrealer. Michael Fainstat, a former Montreal city councillor and chair of the Executive Committee, passed away on December 29th as a result of complications from Parkinsons. First elected as an NDG city councillor in 1974 as part of the RCM’s breakthrough year, he would go on to become a fixture of city politics. He was the only RCM candidate to be reelected in 1978 and for the next four years he led what is widely considered an exemplary one-man opposition to the Drapeau regime. When the RCM finally won the 1986 elections with Jean Doré, Fainstat was appointed chair of the Executive Committee making him Doré’s right-hand man. He stepped down from Council and active political life in 1991.
When Fainstat was first elected to City Council, it was a very different institution, serving as a hand-picked group of Drapeau supporters that rubber stamped his plans with little debate. The arrival of the RCM on Council, the first real opposition, meant that Drapeau’s projects will be finally scrutinised and criticised, a task in which Fainstat played a key role. He is most remembered for his commitment to bringing democratic reforms to City Council, such as the creation of a question period for the general public. Later, when his was in power, he lead the push to create a Code of ethics for city councillors, a reform that would later fall by the wayside during following administrations. While there is still much work to be done improving local democracy, Fainstat’s contributions were an important step in the progressive democratisation of City Hall.