Robert-Baldwin riding at a glance

Anthony Abbondanza
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Language laws, education top issues which could impact diverse and multi-lingual riding

Robert-Baldwin

With a provincial election set for April 7, the West Island ridings will play a key role in in electing a Liberal government, or, the very least, ensure another minority government for the Parti Quebecois (PQ).

Here’s a look at one of the ridings which could play a major role: Robert-Baldwin.

Robert-Baldwin is the smallest in size of all the West Island ridings, comprised of parts of Pierrefonds-Roxboro and all of Dollard des Ormeaux, bounded by the area’s major boulevards such as Pierrefonds, Sources, and Jacques-Bizard.

Yet it boasts a population of 76,965, of which over 53,000 are eligible to vote.  When the PQ won a minority in 2012, voter turnout in Robert-Baldwin was 69 per cent as opposed to the 42 per cent that voted in 2008.

It’s expected that number could reached the 75-80 per cent range with the threat of a PQ majority hanging in the balance –and its impact on anglophones and allophones, which makes up 40 per cent of the riding’s population.

Aside from the Quebec economy, the most pressing issues are the following: Bill 14 and the accessibility of post-secondary education; the ‘Charter of Values’ debate and its impact on language rights; and public transportation.

Since the beginning of the PQ’s mandate, the province has tried to bolster the status of French in relation to English; the result of which has impacted local businesses. The government’s Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise (OQLF), popularly known as the ‘language police,’ has investigated several West Island businesses, such as Pointe Claire pastry shop, Swiss Vienna,  and Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in DDO, over the last year.

Then there’s the ever-popular ‘Charter of Values,’ which would prohibit public service workers from wearing religious garb and symbols.

In addition, like all ridings, education plays a vital role in the future of Quebec.  The ever-controversial Bill 14, which seeks to amend the French language charter known as Bill 101, could change the education landscape.

The proposed bill includes amendments that would prioritize access to English CEGEPS for Anglos at the expense of the French community' ability to send their children to English post-secondary institutions, as well as put English-speaking municipalities at risk of losing bilingual status.

The proposed bill targets 62 per cent of the riding’s population whose mother tongue is a language other than English.

Lastly, transportation has long been a hot topic amongst West Islanders. Not unlike its neighbour ridings, residents of Robert-Baldwin electoral district travel to work (avg. of 25 minutes) mostly by car (70 percent).

With only Highway 40 and 20 as the only routes to the hub of economic activity that is the downtown core of Montreal, all West Islanders are in for traffic nightmares come time to replace the Turcot Interchange by 2016.

So who’s running?

The riding has long been a Liberal stronghold over the years with departing MNA Pierre Marsan making his mark in the community turning Cloverdale around and countering the sovereignty movement in the mid-90s.

As the veteran leaves the world of politics, in comes newcomer Carlos Leitao.

The renowned Canadian economist, part of the Liberals’ economic trio of Martin Coiteux and Jacques Daoust, candidates for Nelligan and Verdun, respectively, brings a wealth of experience in the world of finance and banking.

He told local reporters last week the PQ’s politics of division is hurting an already-stagnating economy which lost 26,000 jobs last month. Leitao said improving the conditions appropriate private investment is the key to spurring the economy.

Running against the heavily-favoured Leitao is Michaël Comtois-Lussier (PQ), Jamie Allen (CAQ), and Ali Faour (Quebec Solidaire).

Lussier is member of the party’s youth association in St. Hyacinthe and a University of Sherbrooke student. He has no known links to the West Island.

Meanwhile Allen is one of the few English-speaking candidates under the CAQ banner. He’s currently the project manager at CAE Montreal, a company that services the civil and military aviation industry.

Statistics from Election Quebec

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Organizations: Parti Quebecois, Office Quebecois de la Langue Francaise, University of Sherbrooke CAE Montreal

Geographic location: West Island, Quebec, Pierrefonds West Islanders Pointe Claire DDO Montreal Cloverdale

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