Benoit Dorais, mayor of the Sud-Ouest borough, announced on Wednesday he would be joining Projet Montréal and running for his third term as mayor. Dario Ayala / Montreal Gazette
Five months before Montrealers elect their next mayor and councillors, the jockeying for power has already begun.
The last four days have been busy. Both leading municipal parties have announced prominent councillors who have opted to join their teams. In addition, opposition party Projet Montréal presented its new platform priorities, which focus on public transit and affordable housing for families. Also, a former Montreal Gazette journalist has expressed interest in becoming the new mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
The most recent proclamation came Wednesday as Benoit Dorais, mayor of the Sud-Ouest borough that includes the neighbourhoods of St-Henri, Point-St-Charles, Griffintown and Little Burgundy, announced he would be joining Projet Montréal and running for his third term as mayor. Dorais, who was courted by mayor Denis Coderre’s party as well as Vrai changement pour Montréal, said he opted for Projet because it mirrored many of the progressive viewpoints he shares, particularly on housing, and because it actively encourages citizen engagement.
“For me, housing has been a main priority since I was elected in 2009,” he said. “I feel a city must be able to provide decent lodging, in the context of social housing, but also in terms of having housing that is of a decent quality, and clean.”
Originally elected in 2009 under the Vision Montreal banner, Dorais was re-elected in 2013 with Coalition Montreal. He became leader of the party when founder Marcel Côté died, but stepped down in December to sit as an independent because he said he felt the party was going nowhere.
Meanwhile, two other prominent members of Coalition Montreal, Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough mayor Russell Copeman and Réal Ménard, mayor of Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, jumped to Coderre’s party recently. They had been chosen by Coderre soon after he was elected to sit on the executive committee, the city’s chief decision-making body.
On Monday, city councillor Lorraine Pagé, formerly of Vrai changement pour Montréal, announced she would be joining Coderre’s party, along with two borough councillors from Lachine, Jean-François Cloutier and Kymberley Siminyik.
Pagé was the first woman to head a major labour union, was elected to head the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) in 1988. She was elected under the Vrai changement banner founded by 2013 mayoral candidate Mélanie Joly, who left to join the federal Liberals and went on to be named Heritage Minister by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The moves bring the numbers of city councillors in Coderre’s party to 35, giving it a majority on the city’s 65-seat city council. The councillors include 10 borough mayors from among the city’s 19 boroughs.
Projet Montréal has three borough mayors, and 18 city councillors in total.
Former Montreal Gazette journalist Sue Montgomery has been considering running as borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce for Projet Montréal, and is scheduled to make an announcement about her political future Thursday at 10 a.m.
Montgomery, a former justice reporter who also covered the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide as well as Haitian political upheavals and the devastation wrought by its earthquake, also co-founded the #BeenRapedNeverReported social media hashtag that earned global exposure in the wake of sexual assault allegations against former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi. Montgomery sought the NDP nomination for the federal riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount in 2015, losing narrowly to James Hughes.
At their convention this weekend, Projet Montréal revealed the broad strokes of their platform priorities, adopted by party delegates. Chief among them was a new métro line linking downtown to Montreal North, reducing bureaucracy for small businesses, and finding ways to entice young families to resist the temptation to move to the suburbs.
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