Tag Archives: 2013 Montreal Municipal Election

Meet Your Candidates, Meet Your City No.1

The Filipino Chess Club of Montreal, at its former home, a Tim Horton's
The Filipino Chess Club of Montreal, at its former home, a Tim Horton’s

I’m going to try and interview a few local candidates in the run-up to election-palooza this November.

First up is an extended version of an article I wrote for Forget the Box on Sujata Dey, Projet Montreal city councillor candidate for the Darlington district of Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace-de-Loyola-de-Snowdon-sur-Décarie-et-Upper-Lachine-Road-Next-to-the-Superhospital-and-the-Poorer-Little-Italy-de-l’Oratoire-de-l’Université-de-Montréal-Westmount-Adjacent. The photo above is taken from an article written by the candidate on community planning in her borough for a website called Montreal Serai.

Okay, it’s not really called that, but to the point, CDN-NDG is, in my opinion, a borough too big. Though we’re a big city, we’re a city of neighbourhoods, and I think we’ll benefit from smaller-scale representation. The borough system always seemed a bit odd to me – in CDN-NDG’s case too big to really cater to local needs, awkwardly gathering up a lot of the city’s diversity (cultural, social, aesthetic, historic etc.) into something that doesn’t quite work for residents while being big enough to become bloated with corruption. Remember, Michael Applebaum was once the paranoid borough mayor of CDN-NDG.

Now this isn’t to say that the borough system is structurally corrupt (I hope), but I think I’d prefer a ‘renovated’ system that devolved the power of the borough mayors and empowered the role of councillor as a member of a stronger, ‘more executive’ municipal legislative body, such as a congress of councillors. Ideally we’d have more councillors so that there’s a better representation of the city’s many communities, and neighbourhoods. I’d like a city where I actually knew my councillor and she or he knew me.

In any event, the article is part interview with the candidate and part ruminations on the city and its political reality. I hope you enjoy.


I find myself in front of a community centre/library in a converted office block on a muggy summer Sunday afternoon. High up on Cote-des-Neiges Road the mountain still forms the backdrop looking towards the city, with the road crawling out from the gap between Mount Royal and Westmount like a river pouring forth from a waterfall. Cote-des-Neiges Road is a never-ending torrent of humanity, the eponymous borough well represented by its main thoroughfare. The borough, Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace, is the most populous of Montreal’s many boroughs, and is arguably one of the most cosmopolitan and integrated neighbourhoods in all of Canada. The Cote-des-Neiges component is itself more heavily and densely populated and has served, nearly consistently since the end of the Second World War, as the ‘first neighbourhood’ for many generations of immigrants. This is as true today as it was more than sixty years ago.

I’m here to cover the nomination of Ms. Sujata Dey, a businesswoman with deep roots in the community, as Projet Montreal city councillor candidate for the Darlington district of the aforementioned borough. Darlington, the northernmost part of Cote-des-Neiges, is also one of the poorest and most ignored parts of the city. Sitting there I realized this is where my father’s people come from, this is exactly where he spent his formative years.

They would tell you it’s changed dramatically, but all that I see is pretty much exactly the way they described it. Ours is a subtle timelessness.

The conventional thinking amongst establishment politicians in Montreal is that the poorest neighbourhoods are generally where immigrants reside and that, simply put, immigrants don’t vote in municipal elections. Therefore, the establishment parties don’t pay much attention to the needs of residents living in these areas and do almost no campaigning or reaching-out. This may explain why only about 39% of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2009 election, totalling just over 400,000 votes split between three main parties. A low turnout by anyone’s standards, but also in keeping with the ‘focus on your base’ mentality that so pervades Montreal municipal politics. That base, even in 2013, is all too often Caucasian, French-speaking and (at the very least) lapsed Catholic – the very same people who’ve been leaving the City of Montreal for adjoining suburbs at a near constant rate for the last forty years.

There are a lot of people who exert undue influence over Montreal, yet who also do not pay any taxes to the city and can’t vote in our elections. Keep this in mind when (if) the parties begin discussing their plans for the city – see how much is actually focused on the citizens who live here versus the interests of those whose time spent in the city is framed by their work schedules. Makes me wonder if ‘One Island, One City’ was really that bad of an idea in the first place.

In any event, Ms. Dey did not mince words.

“This is Montreal’s Enron moment.” I agree, though I wonder how fresh Enron is in people’s minds. Inasmuch as Enron was a great reminder for why we need strict government oversight to prevent fraud on an epic scale, so too does Montreal require a more invested citizenry. When we fall asleep at the wheel, when we resign ourselves to not being able to do anything to change the status quo, we lose. Enron foreshadowed the economic collapse of 2008-2009; it’s my hope that a prolonged era of darkness in Montreal city politics is coming to an end, rather than about to peak. I don’t know how much more the people can take. If the fall brings a whole new onslaught of fresh arrests and implications, we may lose our faith altogether.

Those gathered responded very well to this statement. The room was packed with some seventy people who, historically, have been all but ignored by the city’s former political machines. Sure, some of the people here may be paid lip service in the immediate run-up to the election – a photo-op, a promise to encourage diversity or something along those lines. It doesn’t tend to go much farther than that. Regardless, the room is full, the people attentive. I’ve been to a lot of nomination meetings; few have had this kind of turnout. I would assume these people would be the most disinterested – not for lack of understanding or being able to devote the necessary time, but simply because they’ve been ignored for so long. It goes to show the conventional thinking – much like conventional politics in general – isn’t worth much. The people gathered here care – they’re willing to sacrifice a precious day off to do their civic duty and implicate themselves in the process by which we might actually turn things around in our city.

Ms. Dey makes a fully bilingual presentation; two languages are required to cover all bases, so to speak, with children translating into other languages in whispers for their grandparents. She mentions she wants an ethics code, greater operational transparency, a system of checks and balances – some people’s eyes light up, incredulous – why doesn’t this exist already?

Why does it always seem that Montreal is missing the bare minimum requirements for a sustainable democracy?

Ms. Dey pushes on into new territory, a point made by several Projet Montreal candidates – she wants an audit. Audit the borough, audit the city, audit the departments, audit everything to see precisely where and how we’re wasting so much of our tax revenue. The idea of an audit is wise, though it would be a hard sell. That said, it could result in a cheaper government to run. Again, makes me wonder why we’re not already doing it on a yearly basis – cries of corruption in municipal politics and local construction firms dates back to before the war. Despite its historical precedence, I would argue strongly that we not consider inherent corruption as an element of our culture.

Ms. Dey continues, pointing out the lack of vital community space for such a diverse, growing population. As an example, she points out that the Filipino Chess Club was thrown out of their former informal home – a Tim Horton’s. In communities such as these, the demand for community space far outweighs what’s available, another victim of ‘traditional’ thinking (which stipulates, ignorantly, that recent arrivals don’t have time for trivial social gatherings). The reality is quite different – recent arrivals not only need a lot of community space, but they actually make good use of it. Every room in this office block turned community centre was occupied; once we were done we were hurried out so the room could be converted for a reception.

The lack of available space is itself not too far removed from another point underlined by the candidate – most people who live in Darlington don’t know who their representatives are, simply because they haven’t bothered to introduce themselves to the locals. It’s hard to mobilize for a higher quality of life when you have not only never met your municipal representative, but further still, that the individual in question spends half the year golfing in Florida, or otherwise ‘too busy’ to meet with his or her constituents. This is on purpose – our governments have been of the ‘laissez-faire’ variety that tends to shun civic engagement of any kind, largely because that gets in the way of private real estate interests, which, as we’re now becoming aware, seems to have been what Montreal City Hall was largely used for about two decades.

The people of Darlington are committed citizens, engaged and neighbourly – they have no interest in private real estate deals. They need jobs, they need a housing plan, they need community-focused politicians to take on the slum lords who’ve rendered so much of the area’s so-called ‘affordable housing’ roach infested, leaky, mouldy etc.

What a sick city we live in – I would’ve expected nonsense like this back before the war, but today? In 2013? Ça n’a pas d’allure!

The speech wraps and Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron steps up to make some closing remarks in surprisingly good English. I say surprising only because friends and associates had told me he was shy and didn’t consider himself very good. I think he’s being a little too hard on himself.

He praises the party for bringing people like Ms. Dey into the spotlight, for facilitating real community involvement in civic affairs. He derides the gimmicks and corporate marketing strategies of the pop-star candidates who’ve largely turned this forthcoming election into more of a popularity contest than anyone dared dream possible. Bergeron points out that Projet Montreal is the only party ‘without a Mafia expense account’ and, true to form, not currently being investigated by the SQ’s permanent anti-corruption unit (UPAC).

The only party left, the only party at all, the only party that will continue to exist after Mr. Bergeron retires. All of the other groups contesting this election are leader-driven that they’ll simply cease to exist after the election is over.

As you might imagine, this is less than ideal for a city trying, desperately, to re-establish its democratic credibility. There should be many citizen-driven municipal political parties, not just one, but Projet Montreal is the only party still standing. And for good reason – it conducts itself properly. Ms. Dey was the only candidate the party nominated for the district but the party took a vote anyways. It left an impression. Whereas other groups would do this by acclamation, Projet Montreal actually went to the trouble of recording the vote. In that sense, Ms. Dey was elected to represent the party, a small yet nonetheless telling detail. The fact that there was a vote actually attaches the candidate to the people she aims to represent. I’m sure some would deride this as mere pageantry, but I see it otherwise. At the very least it’s thorough; it doesn’t cut corners.

We should expect nothing less from our elected representatives; we go to the polls November 3rd.

Montreal Mayors: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Michael Applebaum & Laurent Blanchard - photo credit to The Gazette
Michael Applebaum & Laurent Blanchard – photo credit to The Gazette

Meet Laurent Blanchard, Montreal’s latest mayor.

By my count he’s number 43 in a list that stretches back to our city’s first mayor, Jacques Viger, in 1832, the year the city was incorporated.

Jacques Viger
Jacques Viger

To date Montreal’s mayors have been predominantly of the (at least publicly heterosexual) French Canadian male variety, though we once had a tradition of switching the lingua franca of our mayors with each election (i.e. from 1832 to 1908 mayors here alternated from Francophone to Anglophone).

Henry Archer Ekers
Henry Archer Ekers

The last ‘traditionally Anglophone’ mayor of Montreal, from 1906-1908, was Henry Archer Ekers, one of the founders of The National Brewery (also known as the Dow Brewery), which brewed Dawes, Dow, Ekers, Boswell and Fox Head ales, and whose siege sociale still stands at 990 Notre-Dame Ouest, a prime example of Northern Art Deco industrial architecture).

Jane Cowell-Poitras

Rounding out the necessary nod to diversity in the workplace, we’ve had several Irish and Scottish mayors, at least one born in Massachusetts (John Easton Mills) and more recently both our first woman mayor (Mairesse? Mayoratrix? Mayoress?) Jane Cowell-Poitras and our first ‘minority’ mayor, the effortlessly bilingual and arguably multi-cultural Michael Applebaum, culturally exotic only by the standards of the most militant variety of separatist Québécois supremacists.

Michael Applebaum
Michael Applebaum

Monsieur Blanchard is third in our year of four mayors, replacing the disgraced Michael Applebaum for a four month period until the next regularly scheduled election. I really hope he manages to somehow last that long without fucking up by getting named at the Charbonneau Commission, in which case it would be as a result of stuff he did several years ago but either way, yet another black eye for our fair city and further proof that the political establishment here is as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

Gerald Tremblay

So there’s your défi Monsieur Blanchard – don’t fuck up. Keep your head down, kill people with kindness (but don’t lay it on too thick) and for the love of God – stay away from Italian restaurants.


Some assorted thoughts for our new mayor:

Point number one, unlike his predecessor, Mr. Blanchard should not propose to ‘clean up city hall’ or state, dramatically as had his predecessor, that a new leaf had been turned. Applebaum is up on 14 counts of fraud, conspiracy, accepting bribes etc. He’s retained former Tory MP Marcel Danis as legal counsel, and resigned the mayoralty ‘to focus on the case’.

Innocent people don’t typically tend to have a case to focus on. They’re innocent, after all. If the allegations against him are as spurious as he claims, why hire a top-shelf lawyer?

Put it this way – he might believe he’s innocent and that there’s a vast conspiracy against him. Word from the grapevine is that Applebaum was a jumpy character back when he was the borough mayor for Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace, several times indicating he thought various concerned citizens trying to jump-start the Empress Theatre as a community cultural centre were his ‘political enemies’.

I must have forgotten about all the political intrigue and conspiracy coursing through the halls of power in Cote-des-Neiges.

Point two would be to resist the awesome temptation of being bribed or otherwise caught up in shady real estate transactions, something I think is genetically programmed into nearly all politicians – criminals in sheep’s clothing for the most part, and this city, province and rather obviously the federal government have provided so many fantastic examples of late its difficult to imagine any other reason to get into politics in the first place.

It’s good to know all these ‘pillars’ of various communities are so concerned about the message they send to the ‘most precious resource’ they all seem to work into their photo-ops. Children? they could give a damn – kids don’t vote after all.

So there’s point three – no photo ops with old people, minorities, children or the handicapped. In fact, try not to have any photo ops at all – we want you to sit at your desk and do your job, and we don’t need a photograph to prove this point. A small video camera with a live feed is what I want, so all citizens could tune in and watch the mayor working.

Because we’ll no doubt need to keep our eyes on him.

I don’t know much about Mayor Blanchard other than that he’s a career local politician, was formerly of the former Vision Montreal (Louise Harel stepped aside so that a coalition government could be formed, though it looks like that just means supporting Marcel Coté as leader of something called cityhallmtl but I’ll talk more about this later), had worked as a political attaché in the latter years of the Doré administration, and had previously worked in publishing. More recently he’s been the head of the city’s executive council, part of Applebaum’s ‘coalition government’ initiative.

Personally, he’s old guard, but I won’t judge him too harshly. If he makes it through four months and I enjoy living here while he’s in power, I guess I’ll have little to complain about.

Mr. Applebaum and his predecessor’s story are already well-known. Applebaum has been implicated by the SQ and CEIC in shady real-estate deals while he was borough mayor of Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace. You’ll be delighted to know he’s allowed to vacation abroad despite the 14 charges hanging over his head.

Our last elected mayor is Gerald Tremblay (who received a whopping 159,000 votes in 2009, with less than 40% of citizens participating), who as you may remember stepped aside in November of last year after the heat from so much damning testimony from the Charbonneau Commission became unbearable. Keep in mind that Tremblay hasn’t been charged, just named. Perhaps he was truly not implicated, but just turned a blind eye. Maybe he had been threatened, or really naive. Who knows. The Commish has recessed for summer break.

Crime needs a holiday.

Since I started writing this the interim mayor of Laval resigned because of his apparent involvement with escorts. He started his day by saying he’d never resign and that it was a blackmail attempt. Four hours later he hung up his hat. That was six days ago.

I love the dedication and their ability to flat out do the opposite of what they earlier said they wouldn’t do, without any attempt to justify their switch. They don’t think they owe us an explanation. They never do.

Personally I don’t get it – an escort is just someone you pay to have sex with, hardly scandalous especially given it was the mayor’s money, and not that of the taxpayers of Laval.

Oh, wait… I think I see the problem now.

Back to the shit show in Montreal.

Pierre Bourque (at left)
Pierre Bourque (at left)

It seems that nearly all of our mayors in recent memory started with high hopes and ended their careers in one kind of scandal or another. Tremblay advocated an end to forced mergers and promised local small government and commonsense solutions. Prior to him, Pierre Bourque promised to actually deliver on civic improvement initiatives his predecessor didn’t deliver on and cut ‘big government’ waste. He committed political suicide by pushing through forced mergers with the help of the PQ, a measure which literally blew up in his face and sunk his political career. Bourque’s predecessor, Jean Doré, won in a landslide against Jean Drapeau in 1986 (along with the Montreal Citizen’s Movement) by promising to be a more people-focused and less dictatorial mayor than the former Grand Chief Drapeau.

Jean Doré
Jean Doré

He further promised not to get mixed up in the costly mega-projects characteristic of the Drapeau Era, instead preferring to cut waste at City Hall while developing grassroots initiatives to improve city living. He ended his two terms in office caught up in a failed real-estate mega-project (the Overdale Debacle) and was deemed an unfit leader because of an apparently lax attitude to running a tight ship. It didn’t help that he had a $300,000 window installed in his office, nor that he razed a low-rent but viable neighbourhood for condo projects that were never built and had a police force running wild beating up gays and viciously murdering minorities while turning a blind eye to the biker gangs.

Jean Drapeau

Prior to Doré we have Jean Drapeau, a comparatively ‘good’ mayor in that he presided over the city’s last prolonged period of sustained development and growth. Drapeau began his thirty year career as mayor first in the mid-1950s, when he was a crusading urban reformer who won on a platform of eliminating corruption and vice (sound familiar?), largely by tearing down slums. Drapeau greenlighted expropriations for mega projects throughout his tenure, leading to the elimination of the Quartier de Mélasses (where Radio-Canada is today), Griffintown, Goose Village, a sizeable chunk of what was once Chinatown’s northern extension (where Complexe Guy-Favreau and Complexe Desjardins stand today) and what would eventually be converted into an arguably still working 1950s social housiong project, the Habitations Jeanne-Mance. He’d be defeated by Sarto Fournier in 1957 (Fournier was very well connected to Union Nationale boss and Banana Republic dictator Maurice Duplessis, the super-villain who ruled Québec before the Quiet Revolution) but would be returned to power three years later as part of the well-tempered societal modernization of Quebec and Montreal in the 1960s. Drapeau changed his campaign tone too – from now on it would be about putting Montreal on the map. He’d be greatly assisted by Liberal premier Jean Lesage and later premiers Bourassa and Lévesque, in addition to Prime Ministers Pearson and Trudeau, all of whom were very, shall we say, Montreal-focused. It’s good to have friends in high places – makes me wonder what goodies might float our way with a Montrealer as Prime Minister in less than two years…

From 1960 to 1986 Jean Drapeau was mayor and not universally liked (though, somehow, he managed to cultivate over 80% of the popular vote and faced no serious opposition during his time in office). Under his tenure the city grew and changed dramatically. Drapeau was instrumental in delivering the Métro, the modern city centre we enjoy today, Expo 67, Place des Arts, the Olympics and even the Montreal Expos baseball club. No mayor has done as much for our city before or since his reign (and at thirty years, what a reign it was).

Camillien Houde
Camillien Houde

But for all the good he did it is weighed down by his own corrupt practices. Mafia involvement in the construction of Olympic facilities and corruption within the unions were primary factors contributing to the massive cost overruns associated with the games. There are a number of apartment towers throughout this city built with concrete originally intended and ‘delivered’ to the Olympic park construction site, yet re-directed by those in the know. Drapeau was responsible for the nearly-criminal act of destroying Corrid’Art and his slash and burn style of urban redevelopment was not only inelegant but often antagonistic to the people’s interest.

Drapeau may have even ‘cooked the books’ during an election in which his opposition was eliminated after being infiltrated and broken up by the Montreal Police, rendering votes for his opponents ineligible and giving Drapeau a victory with over 90% popular support. Those were the days…

As a city, we need to decide what we want in a mayor, so that we don’t get sucked up into a pointless popularity contest that delivers nothing but more of the same. We need to establish our own metrics for judging a mayoral candidate’s chances of winning, and not fall prey to sophisticated marketing techniques that sell us yet another hands-off mayor. Perhaps most importantly, we need a mayor who fundamentally understands this city, its people, and what makes it great. We need to decide what kind of mayor our city needs, now and for the next ten years. Do we want a builder? Do we want a reformer? Do we want an architect? Do we want someone who’s politically well-connected? Do we want a renovator, a renewer or a redeveloper?

I think we all should spend a moment a think about what we want in a mayor – not just the qualities of the person but most importantly their plan for this city, whether it be growth or renewal – before we head to the polls in November. Otherwise the best we can hope for is another Drapeau, and his breed are rare these days.

But if we ask ourselves first what we want in a mayoral candidate, and define the context of the election before the candidates or media has a chance, the people ultimately manage to wrestle a bit of control over the rhetoric and could maybe make this election about something, rather than simply being the inconvenient selection of our next underwhelming mayor.

Sainte Louise Harel РLes m̻mes causes produisent les m̻mes effets

That's the most relaxing smile I've ever seen...
That’s the most relaxing smile I’ve ever seen…

Well, the first post on this site from someone other than myself. My first contributor!

And he’d prefer to remain anonymous…

Perhaps it’s best. He’s been working for the city for a while now, and has the pulse of the city like few people I know (though, given his job, it’s not surprising he’s so knowledgeable, few would care to ask his opinion. There are many people invisible to politicians). We got into a conversation about the merits of Louise Harel as mayor, and he lent me an earful about her and Vision Montreal.

I asked if he’d write an article to express himself and he obliged under the condition of anonymity.

So without further adieu, may I present you l’Heptade du Sainte Louise Harel…

1. Benoît Labonté et l’aveuglement volontaire de Louise Harel

Suite à un différent avec Gérald Tremblay, Benoît Labonté, maire de l’arrondissement Ville-Marie, a quitté la formation politique Union Montréal en septembre 2007. Il est devenu chef de Vision Montréal en 2008, au terme d’une campagne à la chefferie à l’évidence très coûteuse : lancement en grande pompe en mars au SAT, conclusion sur une scène circulaire entourée d’écrans géants au plasma en mai à la TOHU. À l’hiver 2009, il s’est lancé en pré-campagne à la mairie de Montréal, à nouveau en dépensant à l’évidence beaucoup d’argent, notamment pour la location de panneaux publicitaires géants dispersés un peu partout dans les stations du métro. Le 3 juin 2009, il a cédé la chefferie de Vision Montréal à Louise Harel, dont il devint le président pré-désigné de son futur comité exécutif.

Vision Montréal était à l’époque un parti politique sans le sou. Mais alors, d’où tout cet argent dépensé lors de la campagne à la chefferie puis de la pré-campagne à la mairie pouvait-il provenir ? En octobre 2009, en pleine campagne électorale, on allait apprendre que l’entrepreneur aujourd’hui tristement célèbre Tony Accurso avait été le principal financier de Benoît Labonté. Plus tard, on apprendrait qu’un autre entrepreneur, Lino Zambito, a pour sa part financé la campagne électorale de Benoît Labonté. Si à ce jour ces deux noms, Tony Accurso et Lino Zambito, sont les seuls à être sortis publiquement, on a toutes les raisons de suspecter qu’ils ne furent pas les seuls à avoir financé Benoît Labonté.

Louise Harel n’a jamais raté une occasion de faire état de l’aveuglement volontaire dont a fait montre durant tant d’années Gérald Tremblay, soulignant qu’en contrepartie de son titre de maire, il avait ni plus ni moins que remis les clefs de la Ville à un groupe de personnages douteux, Frank Zampino, Bernard Trépanier, Martial Fillion, Robert Cassius de Linval, Robert Dutil et autres. Or, c’est exactement ce que Louise Harel comptait elle même faire avec Benoît Labonté. Ainsi, les tandems Tremblay-Zampino et Harel-Labonté paraissent parfaitement interchangeables.

Le 14 octobre 2009, le scandale Labonté éclatait. Louise Harel soutint alors « ne pas avoir de doutes sur l’intégrité de son second » (Rue Frontenac, 16 octobre 2009). Le 18 octobre, désormais convaincue de sa culpabilité, elle lui demandait de se retirer de la campagne et l’expulsait de Vision Montréal.

L’aveuglement volontaire dont a fait montre Louise Harel vis à vis de Benoît Labonté jette un doute suffisant autant sur son jugement que sur ses mœurs politiques pour la disqualifier en tant que candidate à la mairie de Montréal.

2. Louise Harel doit rembourser 180 000 $ en lien avec l’élection de 2009

L’artile 447,1 de la Loi sur les élections et les référendums dans les municipalités (LERM) stipule qu’un électeur ne peut consentir un prêt supérieur à 10 000 $ à un parti politique, non plus que se porter caution d’un prêt supérieur à ce montant contracté auprès d’une institution financière. L’article 475 stipule pour sa part qu’une municipalité rembourse 50 % de leurs dépenses électorales aux partis politiques ayant obtenu le minimum de 15 % du vote.

Peu après la campagne électorale de 2009, Louise Harel a personnellement cautionné un emprunt bancaire de 230 000 $ et a convaincu 14 élus de Vision Montréal de cautionner chacun un emprunt de 20 000 $, pour un total de 280 000 $. Vision Montréal a ainsi disposé de 510 000 $ à injecter dans la campagne. Or, la loi ne permettait qu’un cautionnement de 10 000 $ par individu, soit 150 000 $ pour Louise Harel et les 14 autres élus concernés chez Vision Montréal. La différence entre 510 000 $ et 150 000 $ est 360 000 $ : ce dernier montant a constitué un financement illégal de la campagne électorale de 2009.

Se prévalant de l’article 475 de la loi, Vision Montréal s’est fait rembourser 50 % de ses dépenses électorales, incluant pour les 360 000 $ de financement illégal. Les contribuables montréalais ont ainsi payé 180 000 $ en trop à Vision Montréal.

Avant de prétendre concourir à la mairie de Montréal en 2013, Louise Harel doit commencer par rembourser à la Ville ces 180 000 $ payés en trop à Vision Montréal par les contribuables montréalais suite à l’élection de 2009.

3. Louise Harel doit rembourser 108 165,27 $ en lien avec l’élection de 2009

Vision Montréal a investi 1,2 M$ dans la campagne électorale 2009. Ne disposant pas de tant d’argent, le parti a contracté une dette auprès d’une institution financière. Suite à l’élection, les contribuables montréalais ont versé à Vision 50 % de ses dépenses électorales, dont les 180 000 $ vus plus tôt. Ce versement fermait la comptabilité de l’élection de 2009, c’est-à-dire que les contribuables montréalais ne devaient plus rien à Vision Montréal en lien avec cette élection.

Vision Montréal ayant vu ses financements autonomes diminuer drastiquement suite à tous les scandales dans lesquels baigne la politique montréalaise depuis 2009, ce parti fut incapable d’assumer les charges de sa dette électorale de 2009. Louise Harel a alors pris la décision d’utiliser à cette fin l’Allocation aux partis et les fonds de Recherche et secrétariat alloués par la Ville à Vision Montréal. Les contribuables montréalais ont de cette façon continué de payer pour l’élection de 2009, ce qui est contraire à l’esprit de la loi. En 2010 et 2011, Vision Montréal a ainsi versé à son institution financière 108 165,27$ au titre des paiements d’intérêts sur sa dette électorale de 2009.

Avant de prétendre concourir à la mairie de Montréal en 2013, Louise Harel doit commencer par rembourser à la Ville ces 108 165,27$ payés en trop par les contribuables montréalais en lien avec l’élection de 2009.

4. Louise Harel doit rembourser les 25 000 $ à 30 000 $ reçus de Lino Zambito

Le 15 octobre 2012, comparaissant devant la Commission Charbonneau, le promoteur Lino Zambito a reconnu que lors de la campagne 2009, il avait remis à Benoît Labonté une enveloppe contenant entre 25 000 $ et 30 000 $ d’argent comptant. Louise Harel s’est toujours montrée fière d’avoir expulsé son bras droit de Vision Montréal aussitôt qu’elle a su ses liens avec Tony Accurso : Benoît Labonté a certes été expulsé, mais Vision Montréal a conservé l’argent qui lui avait été remis illégalement.

Avant de prétendre concourir à la mairie de Montréal en 2013, Louise Harel doit commencer par rembourser à la Ville ces 25 000 $ à 30 000 $ versés par Lino Zambito à Benoît Labonté au cours de la campagne électorale de 2009.

5. Louise Harel se reconnaît coupable de 18 fraudes et paie une amende de 8 500 $

Le DGEQ (Directeur général des élections du Québec) a poursuivi Louise Harel et Vision Montréal relativement aux 510 000 $ de cautionnements illégaux de la campagne électorale de 2009.

Durant deux années et demie, Louise Harel a soutenu qu’il s’agissait d’une « erreur de bonne foi », alléguant qu’elle ne connaissait pas les dispositions en cause de la LERM. Chacun sait que nul ne peut prétendre ignorer la loi. L’argument de la méconnaissance de la loi est d’autant plus irrecevable de la part de Louise Harel qu’elle est avocate de formation et qu’elle a 35 années d’expérience politique.

Le 20 juin 2012, Louise Harel s’est rendue à l’évidence et a résolu de plaider coupable à 18 constats d’infraction à la LERM. En conséquence, elle a été condamnée à payer une amende totalisant 8 500 $. Michael Applebaum, alors président du comité exécutif de Gérald Tremblay, a immédiatement évoqué sa démission : « C’est inacceptable qu’une ancienne ministre des Affaires municipales, aussi chef de l’opposition à l’hôtel de ville, n’ait pas respecté la loi électorale. Je crois que Mme Harel devrait commencer à questionner sa présence au conseil municipal » (TVA Nouvelles, 21 juin 2012).

Toute personne de bonne foi admettra que s’étant avouée coupable de nombreuses fraudes électorales, Louise Harel s’est disqualifiée en tant que candidate à la mairie de Montréal.

6. Louise Harel continue de faire du «financement sectoriel»

L’article 431 de la LERM fixe une limite de 1 000 $ par année aux contributions d’un électeur à un parti politique municipal. Seules les personnes physiques ayant statut d’électeur sont autorisés à financer un candidat ou un parti politique.

Dans l’esprit de la LERM, la limite de 1 000 $ a été fixée dans le but de permettre à un candidat, à ses proches désireux de l’encourager, ou encore à un militant vraiment convaincu de la valeur du message véhiculé par le candidat et/ou par le parti politique auquel il appartient, de contribuer significativement à une campagne électorale. Les trois années de scandales qui culminent présentement avec les audiences publiques de la Commission Charbonneau ont mis en lumière divers stratagèmes couramment utilisés pour contourner la loi. L’un d’eux consiste pour les partis politiques à tenir des activités de financement ciblant les entrepreneurs, firmes de génie-conseil, bureaux d’architectes, firmes de communication ou cabinets d’avocats dont l’admission est fixée entre 500 $ et 1 000 $ par individu. Dans le jargon politique, on parle alors de « financement sectoriel ». Les entreprises privées qui dépêchent une ou plusieurs personnes à de telles activités de financement s’attendent à un retour d’ascenseur sous forme de contrats publics une fois le parti politique en cause arrivé au pouvoir.

Le financement sectoriel est aujourd’hui dénoncé par l’ensemble de la population montréalaise autant que québécoise. Louise Harel n’a de cesse d’assurer avoir assaini les mœurs financières historiquement douteuses de Vision Montréal. Pourtant, elle continue de tenir des activités de financement sectoriel, grossièrement maquillées en « rencontres thématiques » et autres « déjeuners-causeries ».

En juin 2011, Louise Harel a tenu une telle activité ciblée sur les promoteurs actifs dans le secteur Griffintown de l’arrondissement Sud-Ouest, contrôlé par Vision Montréal. Elle a récidivé en janvier 2012, en ciblant le même groupe de promoteurs. Ces deux activités ont rapporté 14 500 $ à Vision Montréal.

Quand La Presse a publié cette information, le 12 novembre 2012, Louise Harel a admis que ces activités contrevenaient à la Loi sur le lobbyisme, puisqu’aucune des personnes présentes n’était inscrite au registre des lobbyistes. Soraya Martinez, directrice générale de Vision Montréal, a pour sa part soutenu que les individus présents « sont venus comme citoyens et non comme promoteurs ». Quant à Benoît Dorais, maire de l’arrondissement Sud-Ouest, il a soutenu avoir simplement « échangé avec des entrepreneurs. Ce sont des citoyens comme les autres, au même titre que la coiffeuse qui m’interpelle au IGA » (Le Devoir, 13 novembre 2012).

Toute personne de bonne foi admettra que par sa persistance à tenir des activités de financement sectoriel, a fortiori dans le climat actuel de perte de confiance du public à l’endroit de la classe politique, Louise Harel s’est disqualifiée en tant que candidate à la mairie de Montréal.

7. La double rémunération publique de Louise Harel

Dans le contexte des scandales à répétition des dernières années et de la tenue des audiences publiques de la Commission Charbonneau, la classe politique municipale toute entière fait l’objet d’un lourd discrédit. Le 12 décembre 2012, Louise Harel a choisi d’en rajouter en dénonçant la faible contribution des élus montréalais à leur régime de retraite : Finir de briser le lien de confiance entre la population et leurs élus municipaux, que ne voilà un bon moyen de se faire du capital politique ! s’est-elle dite.

Les élus montréalais cotisent 25 % à leur régime de retraite, la Ville 75 %. Louise Harel propose que ce soit 50 % – 50 %. Tout le monde est d’accord avec cette proposition. Le problème ne se situe pas au niveau du message, mais de la messagère.

Le régime de retraite des élus municipaux montréalais correspond à 2 % de leur salaire annuel pour chaque année de service. Ainsi, un simple conseiller qui siège huit ans au conseil municipal aura droit, à partir de 65 ans, à une rente représentant 16 % de son salaire, soit environ 9 000 $ par année.

Considérons maintenant le cas de Louise Harel. Elle touche 120 000 $ de retraite de l’Assemblée nationale (Canal Argent, 4 mai 2011), en plus des 107 000 $, allocation de dépense incluse, que la Ville de Montréal lui verse à titre de chef de l’Opposition officielle. Cette double rémunération publique lui assure un revenu de 227 000 $ pour l’année 2012. Mieux, ses quatre années passées à l’Hôtel de Ville lui procureront un supplément de retraite de 7 500 $ par année. Si donc elle devait quitter la politique municipale au terme du présent mandat, elle toucherait une retraite totalisant autour de 130 000 $ par année.

Qui encaisse une rémunération annuelle de 227 000 $ et est assurée de toucher 130 000 $ par an après un mandat à la Ville est drôlement culotée de dénoncer ceux et celles qui devront se contenter de 9 000 $ par année au terme de deux mandats.

Louise Harel soutient qu’elle n’est pas en situation de double rémunération publique puisque sa retraite de Québec « proviendrait plutôt des cotisations qu’elle a payées durant sa carrière » (TVA Nouvelles, 13 décembre 2012). Cette affirmation est fausse dans une proportion de 78 %, puisque les élus de l’Assemblée nationale ne cotisent que 22 % à leur régime de retraite (Le Journal de Québec, 15 janvier 2011).

Rappelons que Pierre Bourque, fondateur de Vision Montréal, le parti que dirige Louise Harel, a renoncé à son salaire d’élu lorsqu’il est devenu maire, en 1994. Se disant satisfait de la retraite de 72 500 $ qu’il recevait de la Ville, il a créé la Fondation du maire de Montréal pour la jeunesse, à laquelle il a remis 700 000 $ au cours de ses deux mandats (La Presse, 13 décembre 2012). De Pierre Bourque à Louise Harel, c’est une certaine éthique du service public qui a été liquidée à Vision Montréal.

En estimant acceptable de toucher deux revenus publics, l’un versé par l’ensemble des contribuables québécois, l’autre par les seuls contribuables montréalais, Louise Harel a fait montre d’une avidité qui trahit l’héritage de Pierre Bourque et la disqualifie en tant que candidate à la mairie de Montréal.