Shake-up at council will result in more democracy for voters
It began like a small wave Wednesday afternoon, and by Thursday at lunch hour, the Union Montreal control of Montreal's city council was officially over, through the departure of Marvin Rotrand (who used to sit next to Gerald Tremblay when the latter was in control), and others, including Pierrefonds-Roxboro city councillor Christian Dubois. Dubois' departure from the Union Montreal caucus marks the first time a sitting Pierrefonds-Roxboro councillor was not a member of the Union Montreal caucus, voluntarily, anyway. Fellow city councillor Bert Ward left the caucus after it was revealed he is under investigation for violation of campaign-financing laws.
Even when the borough consisted of Pierrefonds and Senneville, all three councillors were Tremblay party loyalists. However, it's not as though Union Montreal members (those that are left) will have lost their majority at borough hall. Three councillors out of five still remain in the party – but you can't say the same for Montreal city hall. When six Union Montreal councillors left the party Wednesday followed by two more, including Dubois, the party lost its majority at Montreal city hall – and more defections may follow, which could spell the death knell for the party.
In fact, it seems largely inconceivable that many of its current councillors will get re-relected, given the vitriol coming from the public and directed almost exclusively at Tremblay's party. It also complicated the question of who would become the interim mayor – a question that was answered when Michael Applebaum was elected to take the reins for the next 12 months.
What is encouraging is the potential for actual democracy at Montreal city-council meetings; just think. Councillors no longer beholden to party lines – and voting the way their hearts and minds (and hopefully, their constituents' hearts and minds) guide them. It could revolutionize the way business is done at city hall. Further, Applebaum has no designs on the job after next November, which might make him someone who governs for the greater good rather than someone. Some critics say Applebaum has been less than transparent on some issues in the past, but in this case, he has no option but to be transparent, given the fractured nature of Montreal's city hall.
Other observers rejoiced in an anglophone getting elected to the mayoralty – if only for a year – is a great step forward. We like to think that he was picked for the job because council members were able to look past the age-old language issue and pick the person that is right for this job, at this time.
Indeed, time will tell. But for now, let's take solace that one party is no longer in power and running things in Montreal according to their whims – or those of Mafiosi and contractors.