Montreal elects environmentalist and left of centre Valerie Plante as its next mayor

Montreal where I have lived ever since 1982 when I moved here from Toronto has once again turned to the left and to bicycle riding environmentalists and community activists for its new mayor and governing party. The election turnout was an unimpressive  42.5 % but the result was nonetheless spectacular.

Ms. Valérie Plante represents a fairly radical but highly creative force in Quebec politics. She defeated Denis Coderre decisively capturing 243,242 votes to Coderre’s 216,104 votes. Projet Montreal also won the majority of the seats on council -34 of the 65 available.This will enable them to implement their platform but also makes them vulnerable to arrogance in the exercise of power.

Ms. Plante is the first woman to win elected power as mayor in Montreal’s long history as a First Nations community and then European colonial outpost linked to the fur trade and later  entrepôt to the interior for the development of the Canadian  staple economy, head quarters  of the Grand Trunk Railway and then commercial capital of Canada rivalling New York  for control of trade to the hinterland and now second largest metropolis in Canada. Her party Projet Montréal originally established by an idealistic urban planner Richard Bergeron and outspoken advocate of much improved and ecological public transportation has previously been the major opposition force to more conservative centrist parties who governed Montreal during the difficult decade that included the economic slump and the corruption scandal.Mr. Bergeron had switched sides and joined the Coderre administration. He lost his seat on council in this election. Politics is often cruel and lots of very good people fall victim to the fickle electorate because of the allure of illusory fame or simply because they sincerely believe they can change things for the better.

Montreal is a particularly beguiling case.It is the only great metropolis in the world where two of the world’s great languages and cultures ,English and French, co-exist albeit uneasily. It has a dynamic multicultural personality where many languages are spoken and cultural influences from many parts of the world are encountered daily. Both Plante and Coderre were very open to this diversity. It also not unlike metropolises like Chicago and  New York has had larger than life personalities as mayors. In Montreal we have had several boss politicians like Camille Houde and Jean Drapeau who between them governed Montreal for close to 50 years !

I have explored Montreal’s diversity and the effect of linguistic duality in my research on cities , my writing on urban politics and the quest for community and the issue of class consciousness.(see my books City of Dreams :Social Theory and the Urban experience Toronto :1992&2002; Toward a Humanist Political Economy co-authored with Phillip Hansen Black Rose Books, Montreal: 1992) I have also written at length on the critical role infrastructure investment needs to play in our cities.I focus on this in  my numerous writings on Keynes, public finance, infrastructure investment and quantitative easing as a necessary policy to recover from severe business cycle downturns and restore lower unemployment.(See for example The Deficit and Debt Management:An Alternative to Monetarism, Ottawa, 1984:Canadian Centre for Policy alternatives; Revisiting Deficit Hysteria, Labour Le travail, No.54 Fall 2004; After the Crash, Rediscovering Keynes and the Origins of Quantitative Easing available on my  website paper presented to the annual meetings of the Canadian economics association, June 2011, University of Ottawa; John Maynard Keynes and the General theory after 75 years , preface to a presentation to the Canadian Economics Association special panel reconsidering Keynes in a time of crisis, June 3, 2011, University of Ottawa.See also Tim Thomas, ed. The Politics of the City Toronto:ITP Nelson, 1997 )

Mr Denis Coderre got elected to the job of mayor four years ago on a platform of restoring the city , rebuilding its infrastructure and metropolitan status and cleaning up corruption. In many respects he succeeded but he fell victim to some of the frustration felt by people over the  chaotic landscape that has emerged while Montreal rebuilds its autoroutes and replaces antiquated infrastructure in many districts of the metropolis.To be fair this is a problem that will be faced by by many  North American metropolises as they seek to repair their infrastructure and rebuild and expand public transportation. Along with the pressure of rising land values and inflating house  and condo prices and exorbitant rents these problems are increasing.

One has to go back to the regime of the late Jean Doré and the Montreal Citizens Movement which defeated the legendary conservative nationalist politician Jean Drapeau in 1986 to find as left wing and progressive a mayor as Plante aspires to be. Doré governed for 8 years and eventually  became more of a reforming technocrat than a left wing idealist. We shall see how political power and the challenge of meeting Montreal’s growing public transportation  and infrastructure needs transforms Ms. Plante and her party. In the meantime bonne chance !


About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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