Borough of Ville Marie has no say on electing Mayor of Montreal

Borough of Ville Marie

It is one of the strange anomalies in our city: in the Borough of Ville Marie that comprises the downtown area and its eastern and western extensions, its main authority—the Mayor—is not elected by its citizens. This democratic deficit that goes back to an amendment to the city charter puts indeed the borough in a sort of “colonial status” with respect to the rest of the city. The city Mayor is also the borough Mayor. To add insult to injury, the charter allows the Mayor to appoint two other councillors, from other boroughs, to sit as full members of the borough council. The purpose of this legal tactic is basically to give the mayor an eventual veto in case that he/she is in a minority situation since Ville Marie actually elects three councillors. A cynic manoeuvre to ensure political control of the borough? A measure to facilitate governance of the central district?

Mayor Valerie Plante has been non-committal on this issue,
although her party had campaigned for an elected mayor for Ville Marie

The reason for the city mayor to double as borough mayor has also been rationalized. It has been suggested that the central district of any metropolis is not only the concern of its local citizens but of the whole city inhabitants. However, this is an argument that the current municipal party in power, Projet Montréal, had rejected when it was campaigning for election. That previous stance has changed though. Neither Projet Montréal nor Mayor Valerie Plante seem very interested in pressing the provincial government to change the law and allow Ville Marie citizens to vote for their own mayor. “It is not a priority” replied Mayor Plante when I asked the question during a borough council last year. I contacted her again on this occasion, and I only got a reply from her press secretary, Catherine Cadotte: “A mandate was given to the departments to document the issue of representativeness in the Ville-Marie borough, identify different possible scenarios for legislative and governance changes, and then submit them to the local population for public consultation. To develop these scenarios, city and borough departments will need to be accompanied by experts. A working committee comprising various City departments and experts will be appointed by the end of the year.”

Citizens of Ville Marie borough don’t elect their Mayor

According to a release made by the Peter McGill Community Council, “Bernard Sanchez, a resident and President of the Shaughnessy Village Association, and Jennifer Maccarone, our provincial representative for Westmount–Saint-Louis, recently worked together to submit a petition to the Quebec government. The petition asks the government to remove paragraph 2 of article 17 of the City of Montreal Charter, which would allow our borough to elect its own mayor.”

Mr. Sanchez, who launched the petition, explains: “Although Ville Marie represents between 25 and 30% of the Quebec GDP, it is since 2009 the only borough in Montreal and in Canada not to be able to elect its mayor. In fact, we have 6 representatives, including the mayor, but only 3 are actually elected. Furthermore, businesses and stores are suffering from a lack of attention, and many are facing closing. Mayor Plante admitted in many interviews that she is overloaded and does not really have the time to do a quality job for Ville Marie. Nothing against her but it is a fact with all the functions she has, and even more during this pandemic.”

He then adds: “Out of the last three Mayors, she is the only one that made the promise to stop this injustice within 100 days of her mandate. We are in more than 1070 days in her mandate.”

The petition has gathered a great deal of support among residents of the borough, Mayor Plante however, remains non-committal on the issue. With municipal elections scheduled for next year, the citizens of Ville Marie expect that by then, some action had been taken to restore their democratic right to choose their own mayor. And, also, get rid of the two “guest” councillors who most likely, are seen as intruders by most Ville Marie residents.

By: Sergio Martinez – [email protected]

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