The Montreal Jewish community as a whole was pleased with the news Sunday night that Valerie Plante and her party, Projet Montreal, won the municipal election. Plante, a 43-year-old former community organizer who was virtually unknown on the Montreal political landscape until four years ago, managed to capture over 51 percent of the vote for Projet Montreal to become the city’s first female mayor. Projet Montreal is a party that has become popular in recent years, as voters became disenchanted with Mayor Denis Coderre and his party, Equipe Denis Coderre. Projet (Project) Montreal stands for more active citizen participation, safer streets and decentralizing power for the borough, though they tend to be left-leaning politically. Valerie Plante managed to build support by promising 12,000 new low-income housing units, improved management of the city’s infrastructure and its construction-induced traffic woes, as well as a new subway line.
Hamodia reached out to different Jewish communities for their reactions to the municipal election results.
Mr. Max Lieberman is an askan from the Satmar community in Outremont, which is home to a large frum population. He says that although the chassidic community supported Denis Coderre when he first came to power, they realized early on in his mandate that he couldn’t be trusted. “We tried to work with him … we begged him to help us defeat the ban on synagogues and the referendum, which we eventually lost, but while he made many empty promises, he didn’t deliver.” On the other hand, he added, Philipe Tomlinson, from the Projet Montreal team, was receptive to the community’s overtures and worked with them on the referendum issue. “He is not a stranger. He and his team have been working with us for the past four years.”
The community eventually lost the referendum, and the ban against building new synagogues anywhere in Outremont went into effect.
In Sunday’s election, Tomlinson won the mayoral seat for the borough of Outremont; three out of the four newly elected Outremont borough councilors are also part of Projet Montreal. One of them is Mindy Pollak, who, herself, made history in 2013 when, at the age of 24, she became the first chassidic woman ever elected to political office in Montreal. (Borough councilors in Montreal are like city councilors in the U.S.) Only Jean-Marc Corbeil remains of the Equipe Denis Coderre, and it is he who will now be the lone voice on the borough council.
What completely alienated the chassidic community from the Equipe Dennis Coderre party was the mayor’s refusal to cut ties with, or even denounce, his own borough councilors Marie Potvin and Jean-Marc Corbeil, both of whom are seen as allies of Pierre Lacerte, an author of anti-Semitic writings, and his followers. Rabbi Mayer Feig, a local chassidic activist, said of Corbeil, “[He] is part of a core group of an extreme minority, and the only agenda that they have is to try and divide people and to try and push anything that they can against the Jewish community. That’s what he’s made a business of.”
The Outremont chassidic community celebrated another victory Sunday night: the fact that Celine Forget lost her seat on the borough council of Outremont by 200 votes. For years, Forget has worked hard to divide the Outremont community and whip up hatred against the Chassidim.
“She has made anti-Semitism her lifelong mission since she arrived in Outremont. She fought to close shuls, she fought the eruv, she fought the Purim buses, she fought to discontinue hachnasas sefer Torah parades, she fought the community’s attempts to modify zoning laws; in short, as a borough councilor of Outremont, she was openly anti-Semitic and proud of it,” Mr. Lieberman explains.
Questioned by Hamodia about whether he thinks Celine Forget could still make a comeback, Mr. Lieberman says that while the chances of that are slim, he wouldn’t write her off completely. He added that her power has been considerably diffused as a result of having lost her seat on the borough council.
Rabbi Saul Emanuel, executive director of the Jewish Community Council (JCC), lives in the De Vimy neighborhood, which is part of the Cotes-des-Neiges/NDG borough and home to a large Jewish Orthodox community. When questioned, he told Hamodia, “Lionel Perez, the city councilor for our neighborhood and a frum Jew, has been a great advocate for our community since he was elected as a city councilor. He’s been our spokesperson on many occasions, at various public events. Practically, he made sure that alternate-side parking rules were suspended during Shabbos and Yom Tov, he facilitated the burning of the chametz and has worked on accommodating our religious needs when necessary.”
However, Rabbi Emanuel added, “There is one issue that community residents are upset about: the roundabout that is being built at the intersection of De Vimy in Ekers. It was done for the safety of pedestrians, as some drivers hardly stop at this busy intersection, which is hazardous. Perez certainly meant well, and he says this, as well as other changes, including the narrowing of street entrances and adding speed bumps, were done to discourage speeding drivers, thereby increasing the safety of pedestrians, especially children. However, residents are concerned that the project will create a complete bottleneck at that intersection, especially during rush hours; they are also upset that there are now many fewer parking spaces on the streets in the area.”
Mrs. Joannie Tansky, who writes a folksy news commentary, resides in Hampstead, an affluent on-island suburb of Montreal with a large Jewish community. “Valerie Plante, Montreal’s new mayor and the first woman to hold this position in Montreal’s history, is a person of the people,” she opines. “Wherever she campaigned, she was met with large crowds and positive vibes. While her victory was definitely an upset, Montreal joined Brexit, Trump and Macron in tossing out the establishment. Dennis Coderre, the politician’s politician, and now former mayor, was clearly out of touch with the citizens of Montreal and people are done with that.”
Mrs. Tansky highlights some of the citizenship’s grievances during the previous mayor’s tenure. “Infrastructure and traffic woes have dogged our city, and he appeared to dismiss the angst of the ‘little people.’ Over a year ago, an escalator broke in a local Metro station, leaving citizens to walk up three huge flights of stairs. Imagine an [expectant mother] dragging herself up all the stairs with her 2-year-old in tow? No doubt she would have called his office to complain. You think he did anything about it? The answer is no — as the escalator is still not working.”
She ventures a guess as to why these issues were not addressed. “Coderre was busy, a la Jean Drapeau, with self-aggrandizing projects, like Montreal’s 375th birthday celebrations, on which he wasted hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Did you hear his concession speech? He didn’t even have the decency to mention Valerie’s name, never mind congratulate her. He resigned, saying that he’s done with politics. Don’t hold your breath. Coderre will lay low for a while and then surface again on the political scene. His ego could not survive without adulation.”
As for Hampstead, the citizens were very happy with their acclaimed mayor, William Steinberg. “He is, by far, the most accessible mayor in North America and the people deeply appreciate his sincere caring as well as his efforts over the years to upgrade their infrastructure.”
Two council seats were up for grabs and were won by Cheryl Weigensberg (Steinberg’s pick) and the incumbent, Leon Elfassy.
Updated Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 11:43 pm