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Know your island: Montreal politics

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As one of the few cities in North America with political parties at the municipal level, Montreal’s political field has recently been dominated by Gérald Tremblay and his party Union Montreal. When the provincial government merged all the cities on Montreal Island in 2001, Tremblay swept to power over former mayor Pierre Bourque, leader of Vision Montreal, by promising the smaller merged cities an opportunity to demerge at a later date. After Tremblay failed to live up to his promise, Quebec Premier Jean Charest, declaring a similar revision, partially delivered on Tremblay’s unkept word. Yet despite losing a chunk of his constituency through Charest’s de-amalgamation actions, Tremblay defeated Bourque in a rematch in 2005, leaving the latter’s party in shambles. But as most of the smaller demerged cities still lacked political leverage, Tremblay was able to directly appoint members of the Executive Committee, the body that makes most municipal decisions.

The only opposing force in the city seemed to be the unions, until Richard Bergeron, fed up with the two rival parties, emerged in 2005 with a progressive platform to drastically increase public transit, reduce private automobile use, and generally make the city environmentally sustainable. With nine per cent of the vote, Bergeron and his party, Project Montreal, laid the foundations for a more competitive run in 2009. Expect to hear much more in the upcoming year.