Montreal's new mayor has plans for `model' city and government
Montreal — City Councilor Th'er`ese Daviau tells a story that illustrates the major change in style of government now facing Montreal. In 1973, she recalls, the council met under then-Mayor Jean Drapeau to consider this island city's $700 million budget. The president of the executive committee read the necessary documents. There was no discussion, and the entire budget was passed in 20 minutes. ``Mayor Drapeau's councilors didn't say a word!'' she exclaims.
Mr. Drapeau, recently retired, ran perhaps the last ``boss government'' in a major North American city. ``You would think it was his own business,'' adds Miss Daviau, who was one of 55 reform-minded councilors swept into office in city elections along with mayoral candidate Jean Dor'e on Nov. 9. Mr. Dor'e got 67 percent of the vote. All but three of the elected councilors belong to his Montreal Citizen's Movement (MCM).
Mayor Dor'e and the MCM benefited not only from a general feeling that it was ``time for a change'' but also were able to appeal a modern generation of Montrealers. Drapeau had governed Montreal for the past 32 years, except between 1957 and 1960.
The MCM emphasizes more citizen participation in city affairs, male-female equality in the municipal work force, more urban planning and spending on environmental issues, a network of bicycle paths, etc.
Dor'e recently spoke of Montreal becoming an international metropolis. Montreal expects to soon obtain approval from provincial and federal governments to turn it into an international financial and banking center with special tax privileges.
Drapeau saw the democratic process as a once-in-four-years election, says Dor'e. Between elections, press access to information was strictly limited. Councilors of the Civic Party, created by Drapeau in 1960, could speak briefly, but not critically, at meetings. Almost all decisions were centralized in the mayor and his executive committee. Dor'e promises a more open and participatory government.
Significantly, a good majority of the sizable English-speaking community in this largest of French-speaking cities outside Paris supported the young, bilingual Dor'e.
Michael Goldbloom, head of Alliance Quebec, an organization of English-speaking Quebeckers, sees this as a sign of the greater participation of anglophones in Quebec politics and civic activities which has come with the partial healing of the rift between the language groups.
Despite the grim defeat given Drapeau's personally-chosen successor as head of the Civic Party, Montrealers hold an affection for their former mayor. Though running a patronage-ridden political machine, Drapeau was considered personally honest. He was in one way a populist, and daily tackled citizens' mail and complaints.
``If it was not for Jean Drapeau and his vision, Montreal would not be the world-class city it is,'' says Manon Vennat, chairman of Montreal's Board of Trade. It was Drapeau who brought Expo 67 and the 1976 Summer Olympics here. Both projects had huge cost overruns, which Quebeckers are still paying off. But, Mrs. Vennat says, ``they opened Montreal to the world.'' Also under Drapeau, Montreal got a subway, modern office towers, and underground shopping centers.
Mayor Dor'e describes how Drapeau approved many projects: ``The business community was happy with the way things [worked], because essentially what they had to do was go into the mayor's office, present [their] project behind closed doors.... And the mayor would say, `... I'll get it through.''' Dor'e promises to introduce a modern city plan and open zoning procedures.
During the campaign, Drapeau attacked Dor'e as anti-business, leftist, and separatist - wanting to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada. As a long-haired youth in 1973, Dor'e served with the Parti Qu'eb'ecois when it was leftist and separatist. But a year later, he left to help form the MCM. In the early days, he admits, the MCM had ``a granola-type of approach to the economy,'' with the aim of having the city provide jobs and encourage housing cooperatives. ``Now we have a better understanding of the way the economy works,'' he says. ``The role of the city is to sustain, to support the initiative and entrepreneurship that we have....''
As he moved toward the center politically, Dor'e has attempted to make friends with the business community, with some success. Through more urban planning and a revival of business in the city, Dor'e hopes to turn Montreal into ``a model city'' by the year 2000.