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Record-low turnout for municipal elections

by Archives November 9, 2005

Montrealers returned Gerald Tremblay to the mayor’s office for a second term Sunday.

Tremblay received 227,208 votes or 53.89 per cent while former mayor Pierre Bourque drew 152,562 votes or 36.18 per cent. Newcomer Richard Bergeron of Project Montreal came third with 35,889 or 8.51 per cent.

Voter turnout was among the lowest in Montreal’s history with less than 40 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot.

Sunday also saw a victory for Tremblay’s Montreal Island Citizens Union (MICU) with party candidates elected as councilors in 64 of the 73 seats and as mayors in 15 of 19 boroughs. The former provincial Liberal cabinet minister will also be head of the new agglomeration council which controls island wide services such as police, fire, water treatment and public transit. The council, which will get the majority of islanders’ tax dollars, will consist of the mayor, 15 Montreal city councilors picked by Tremblay and the mayors of 14 of the demerging suburbs, plus an additional representative from Dollard-des-Ormeaux because it is the largest suburb. Dorval and L’Ile-Dorval will share one representative. Tremblay and his councilors will control 87 per cent of the vote on the council, in line with the city’s population. Any proposals the mayor plans to bring to the agglomeration council must be approved by Montreal’s city council however, since the MICU has a strong majority, little opposition is expected.

Despite their defeats Bourque and Bergeron will both likely be heading to city council due to the city’s “co-candidate” system which allows party leaders to run both for mayor and for city council, with a running mate. They then have the ability to take the running mate’s spot on city council if they lose themayoral elections. Both Bourque and Bergeron’s running mates, C. Sevigny in the Peter-McGill district of Ville Marie and Carl Boileau in the de Lorimier district of Plateau Mont Royal, respectively, won. Bourque also announced his intention to remain leader of the opposition.

The de Lorimier seat is Project Montreal’s only seat on the council, although they also won the district’s borough council seat by 12 votes.

One of Concordia’s best known neighbours George Pentsos, a.k.a. Souvlaki George, lost his bid for the city council seat in the Loyola district. He was defeated by Warren Allmand of the MICU.

The major issues of the election campaign focused on basic city services, cleanliness and road repairs. At both pre-election debates, without large differences between their positions, Bourque and Tremblay blamed each other for dirty streets and potholes. Both played on French terms for potholes, referring to them as “Trous Tremblay” and “nids-de-Bourque.” Tremblay has promised to spend at least $500 million over the next four years to repair pot-holes and has promised to create a uniformed “cleanliness brigade” of city workers to clean streets.

These were the issues on voters’ minds at an NDG polling station Sunday .

Joan Fenner, 41, said the issues that concerned her were, “the same issues that probably concern everybody, potholes, snow removal. But I don’t think much is going to change there.”

Similar sentiment was echoed by Jacques Biley, 29.

“The holes in the streets, it has to be taken care of,” Biley said.

While he supported Tremblay, Biley questioned how little difference there was between the two front-runners.

Other voters seemed uninterested in the election. Some like, Derek D’Andrea, 35, voted out of “civic duty” rather then concern over issues. Ali Siddiquee, 18, a first time voter said that he had, “no idea” why he was voting.

“I just feel that I have to. I’m given that right, so why not?” Siddiquee asked.

Tremblay has promised to plant 10,000 trees, buy 100,000 books for city libraries, extend library hours and increase staff, develop more bike paths, keep taxes stabile, keep transit fares below inflation, build a light-rail line, extend the Metro’s blue line to the east and orange line to the north, build 15,000 social community and other affordable housing units.

Municipal elections were also held across the province Sunday, including the demerging suburbs, except for Baie d’Urfe where all the candidates were acclaimed.

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