With an emerging theme that dwells on the uneven distribution of budgets among Montreal’s poorer and more affluent boroughs, a growing slate of candidates with Quebec sovereignist roots, and a new leader whose popularity appears to be concentrated in the east end, Vision Montreal is presenting some potentially divisive campaign arguments, which could have a polarizing effect on the city’s voters come election day.
The law changed
“The last eight years have not been easy for Montreal nor for the borough since the merger of the city — a merger which should have been interesting for the majority of Montrealers,” Villeray/St-Michel/Park Extension Borough Mayor Anie Samson, a founding VM member, said during a press conference held by the party last week to announce a slate of local election candidates.
Montrealers should have been the winners in the merger, she insisted, but instead “there’s been fusion, defusion, confusion, and then a law which changed back what the fusions should have been. And now for the time being the citizens of Montreal, in any case those of my borough, aren’t entitled to the same services as those in other boroughs in Montreal.”
Samson maintains that Villeray/St-Michel/Park Extension has remained second-last for budget and capital works funding received from the centre city for the past eight years that Union Montreal has been in power at Montreal city hall. She says the borough receives $400 on average per resident, compared to the neighbouring Borough of Saint-Laurent to the west which gets close to $1,000.
“What we were told then in 2001 when Mr. Tremblay was elected was that they needed a year or two to see how the city functioned so that they could figure out how to divide up services evenly,” said Samson. “Eight years later we are still in the same position — nothing has changed. Of course our budgets have gone up, but those of all the others have too, so the difference remains the same.”
‘Two classes’: Harel
“There should not be two classes of citizens in Montreal,” said VM leader Louise Harel, whose attempt as the PQ Municipal Affairs Minister to create one Montreal megacity was cut short when the Liberals were elected and altered a substantial part of the plan. “If people are satisfied with the status quo, they can then choose the Tremblay administration and that’s what they’ll have,” she said last week. “But if they want real change and to come back to the norm which is a city in which there’s a feeling of belonging and in which there is also a feeling of pride, we have a team such as the one presented here today.”
One of Vision Montreal’s latest additions to its candidates slate is former PQ MNA for Laurier-Dorion Elsie Lefebvre, who in 2004 at the age of 25 became the youngest woman to be elected to Quebec’s National Assembly when she won a by-election. Lefebvre lost the seat to Quebec Liberal Gerry Sklavounos in the 2007 general election. In Park Extension, Costa Zafiropoulos, who ran for the NDP against the Liberals’ Justin Trudeau in the riding of Papineau in the last federal election, is now running for Vision.
Zafiropoulos and Lefebvre
On the political spectrum, Lefebvre and Zafiropoulos are both set firmly on the left. “The arrival of Louise Harel as a candidate for the mayoralty of Montreal is extremely exciting,” she said about the woman with whom she attended PQ caucus meetings in Quebec City just a few years ago. “It should be remembered that Montreal is the second-largest francophone metropolis in the world,” added Lefebvre. “All this dynamism will permit it to take its rightful place among the leading nations.” Zafiropoulos will be trying to unseat Mary Deros, who left Vision Montreal to join the Tremblay team.
“In my political experiences, I’ve spoken a lot with young people and they tell me they feel excluded and outside of their community, outside of the political sphere that their communities operate in,” said Zafiropoulos, a musician who lives in Park Extension. “I personally agree. I can see how youth can feel that they’re not part of the process and I want to work with these youths so we can bring in some changes, help them work together so we can help them not only participate, but also bring the positive changes and fresh ideas that people from different communities can bring.”