The past weeks have been tumultuous for Montreal politics, as charges of corruption inundated the Tremblay administration and Vision Montréal, its traditional competition, on the eve of the election. Though Tremblay will soon begin his third term as mayor, and his party, Union Montréal, won key positions throughout the City, the up-and-coming third party Projet Montréal saw a considerable growth in popularity.
Headed by Richard Bergeron and espousing a policy of “sustainable urbanism,” Projet Montréal increased their share of the vote for mayor from 8.5 per cent in 2005 to over 25 per cent this year. On City Council, its presence increased from one to 10 seats, while it gained four additional borough council positions.
When asked about Projet Montréal’s electoral gains, Militza Jean, political attaché of Bergeron, felt there were many reasons her party did well. “Projet Montréal seems to be more in touch; it is the party of the future,” she said.
Jean also noted that recent corruption scandals within Union and Vision may have played in improving her party’s popularity, as well as some practical measures it took to remain accountable – which included the high profile involvement of the Honourable Justice John Gomery, who headed an investigation into Quebec’s sponsorship scandal in the nineties.
“Along with Gomery, [the chair] of fundraising, we put in place five principles regarding funding. We were different from the others because we financed through the people,” Jean said.
Though the party gained seats in six of Montreal’s boroughs, its biggest sweep was in Plateau-Mont Royal, where it held two incumbent positions and wrested the five remaining ones from ruling Union.
A popular component of Projet Montréal’s platform was a push toward more sustainable transportation. In early 2007, founder and party leader Bergeron, who holds a doctorate in planning from Université de Montréal, unveiled an ambitious plan to introduce a wide-reaching system of tramways across the island.
Alex Norris, a recently elected city councillor from the Mile-End, said that while elected officials could not discuss specific plans until they were sworn in, transportation would be a likely priority.
“We have a mandate to clamp down on traffic in residential areas and will be more aggressive than previous administrations. More than 80 per cent of cars in the Plateau are just passing through and don’t stop, using our main commercial streets as freeways,” Norris said.
He cited small and concrete steps his party hoped to take, such as installing stop signs on some streets, which the previous administration resisted until “citizens finally put their foot down,” according to Norris.
Norris also spoke about his party’s goal of creating a more transparent administration. “The previous administration had, for example, eliminated the televised proceedings of the council online. That is something we want to restore very quickly. As a grassroots party, we have to be true to our principles in a way that isn’t costly,” he said.
Devin Alfaro, former SSMU VP External and current Projet Montréal volunteer, who also sits in the Borough Coordinating Committee Association, said other planned actions include “pedestrianizing streets, creating more walkable public spaces, and reducing the amount of traffic” around the Plateau.
But Alfaro also pointed out that despite the increased presence of the party in City Council, “The powers of the borough are very limited, so the scale of action will be very local.”