Some commentators are griping that the only issues in this fall’s Montreal election campaign are potholes and untidy streets. They want meatier issues. Here, in no special order, are nine.
Casino. If the province gives it the green light, Loto-Quebec’s plan to move the casino closer to downtown could truly alter the city’s character. Loto wants to make Montreal an international mecca for gambling and glitzy shows a la Las Vegas. The project would also affect the residential area of Point St. Charles, four minutes away by foot.
The Montreal Island Citizens Union’s Gerald Tremblay has not endorsed the idea, wanting more studies, but he seems sympathetic. Vision Montreal’s Pierre Bourque will only say the project is “not a priority” – a backhand way of denoting approval. Projet Montreal’s Richard Bergeron is only mayoral candidate against it: He cites gambling’s social impact and favours housing on the site.
Fluoridation. Bourque has called for adding fluoride to the water supply to reduce children’s tooth decay. The idea is as controversial as ever: To wit, only last month, 11 unions representing 7,000 workers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urged a moratorium on fluoridation in the United States because of a reported link to bone cancer.
Tremblay’s party urges prudence: It would pore over the evidence before taking a stance. Bergeron is against fluoridation: “There are already enough chemical additives in our lives.”
Decentralization. Tremblay would take back some of the autonomy he has given boroughs: Instead of setting their own standards for road maintenance and library hours, for example, boroughs would have to submit to city-wide rules.
Bourque and Bergeron would claw back more autonomy. They’d centralize power to ensure what they call “coherence.”
Public transit. Everyone is for better bus and metro service as well as for some kind of light rail line to the east end and on Park Ave. However, Bergeron would go beyond this, most notably by building numerous tram lines. His goal: Reduce cars by 10 per cent over four years.
Urban sprawl. Any mayor of Montreal is in a good position to act against this trend that drains the city’s tax base. That’s because, by law, the mayor heads the region’s planning body, the Montreal Metropolitan Council.
All three candidates say they want to stem the exodus of Montrealers, but the handiest test of sincerity is their view on a proposed bridge that would extend Highway 25 to eastern Laval. Only Bergeron opposes it.
Team. Tremblay’s slate has numerous proven heavy hitters, including Frank Zampino and Alan DeSousa, and such high-profile recruits as Benoit Labonte and Pierre Belanger. Bourque’s team includes veterans Noushig Eloyan and Pierre-Yves Melancon. Bergeron has few familiar names besides Andre Cardinal. On paper at least, Tremblay’s team is the strongest of the three.
Party financing. A Gazette investigation showed that of 302 companies whose owner or director contributed to Tremblay’s party, 284 got city hall contracts for everything from paving to consulting. This 94-per-cent overlap suggests a legal but eyebrow-raising overlap between giving and receiving. Tremblay sees no reason to change.
Bourque, presenting himself as a new man since his party’s 1990s’ financing illegalities, says he’d set up an independent ethics panel to vet such matters. He’d also outsource less work, so there’d be fewer contracts. Bergeron says Tremblay has violated the electoral law’s spirit.
Democracy. Tremblay favours an omnipotent, secretive executive committee: He would continue to prevent city council from examining most contracts or doing other useful work.
Bourque would allow council to review more contracts. Bergeron would follow the prevailing North American model, abolishing the executive committee and empowering committees of city council make recommendations to the council as a whole.
Vision. Tremblay has produced a pamphlet showing how the city should evolve until 2025. He sees the city as happily progressing along its current path.
Bourque chided Tremblay for thinking too far ahead. Bergeron questions Tremblay’s current energy-intensive path and wants Kyoto-friendly development.
Yes, there’s a lot to debate besides potholes.
Henry Aubin is The Gazette’s regional-affairs columnist. haubin@ thegazette.canwest.com