When Ile Bizard-Ste. Genevieve borough mayor Richard Belanger and his four fellow borough-council members quit the Union Montreal party Friday morning to sit as independents, it dropped the number of West Island representatives on Montreal city council inside the party to one – that being Pierrefonds-Roxboro mayor Monique Worth.
The idea of political parties at the municipal level is an odious one, given that the stranglehold Union Montreal – and its predecessor, the Montreal Island Citizens Union – has had on the two West Island boroughs of Ile Bizard-Ste. Genevieve and Pierrefonds-Roxboro. In the latter borough, Bert Ward has been out of the caucus for more than a month after being accused of illegal campaign financing last month, while Christian Dubois was rewarded for his support of new mayor Michael Applebaum last week by being named to the city's powerful and secretive executive committee. Two borough councillors, Catherine Clement-Talbot and Jim Beis, also remain, but it would appear that many local politicians have soured on the party, much as voters have.
And is that a surprise? Not to us it's not. Especially when you consider that most of those who are leaving are as tired of putting up with the requirements of party membership as voters are. Now, councillors can vote their minds, have little or no party line left to toe in public and can say whatever they like for better or for worse. More candor from our elected officials, not less, serves voters better than secrecy. More variance in opinion, more dialogue and more give-and-take are what spur democracy – not bloc voting along party lines. By that rationale, the only time democracy is even a consideration is during an election campaign – and frankly, West Islanders, Montrealers, Quebecers and Canadians deserve better.
By the time this editorial arrives at your front door, Union Montreal may no longer have the largest number of sitting members on Montreal council, and Michael Applebaum's coalition of independents (who, it must be noted, have no pie-in-the-sky dreams for the city; just an idea of how to go about being a responsible government – which is a step in the right direction) is a great way to build consensus and move the city past this most recent corruption scandal. While that is happening, Applebaum must consider clearing out the rot of entitlement that appears in such great volume among Montreal's senior civil servants – which is how so many unauthorized 'extras' got added to construction projects, the public heard through testimony at the Charbonneau Commission. Ironically, it's Tremblay's 2001 message of 'we'll make it work,' that is central to the coalition's future success.
Make it work. We're counting on you.