A year ago this month, Mayor GÃ©rald Tremblay mixed things up a bit.
The embattled mayor was just re-elected for a second term, despite allegations of a city hall rife with corruption and municipal contract brokering.
Under pressure to clean up a dirty house, Tremblay broke with tradition by naming opposition members to his executive committee, a powerful body in Montreal municipal politics. The decision was seen as a conciliatory move to get beyond petty politics.
One member from the second- and third-place parties, Vision MontrÃ©al and Projet MontrÃ©al, made the cut for the new executive committee.
Richard Bergeron was Projet’s candidate for the committee and he was handed the position of urban planning. The portfolio assigned the him was right up his alley. The Projet MontrÃ©al party leader and city councillor for the de Lorimier district, a riding in Plateau-Mont-Royal, is an urban planning consultant with degrees in architecture, and urban and regional planning.
But almost one year later, how times have changed.
Tremblay has roundly kicked out Bergeron for opposing a decision that falls under his portfolio and for refusing to endorse a plan he didn’t agree with in the first place.
Last Friday, Bergeron confirmed that Tremblay asked him to leave the executive committee. The reason being that Berferon refused to support a provincial plan to rebuild the Turcot interchange.
Aging, crotchety infrastructure is an ongoing hazard and challenge for the Quebec government and its taxpayers. For its part, the Turcot interchange is a crumbling, elevated mass of various arteries located just outside of the heart of the city.
The new plan will affect millions of people, whether you cross the Turcot every day on the shuttle bus or in your car, only use it when you’re headed out of the city or, even worse, if you live under its crumbling auspices. The planning stages have been long and arduous; the city and the provincial government have been back and forth on the plans for awhile now.
But, seriously, how can someone tasked with urban planning be given the boot from an urban planning committee?
A city hall spokesperson explained Tremblay’s actions as a move to maintain “solidarity’ within the executive committee.
But if someone with the experience and credentials that Bergeron has, who isn’t afraid to speak up because he doesn’t fear retribution from being within the same party, doesn’t agree with your plan, don’t you think you might want to sleep on it a little while longer? Tremblay’s government has been known for its secrecy; is this an attempt to add a veil over executive committee work?
Of course, the Turcot feels like a television show that’s long jumped the shark in terms of dragging on. We wouldn’t want to prolong the agonizing season finale. But with a project of this magnitude, let’s take a little while longer to review the plans and draw up something everyone in the executive committee can get behind.
When facing criticism from within a group, the answer isn’t to cut out the objecting party. You should try to arrive at a decision everyone can agree on. Of course, not everyone is going to agree or be happy, but Bergeron is one opinion you’d think Tremblay would want to win over.
Bergeron, for one, thinks that he will now be better able to defend opposition interests from outside the executive committee. We suppose it’s easier to fight the man if you’re not meeting with him and posing for numerous photos a few times a week.
But when he was on the committee, Bergeron had an “in’ of sorts. He was privy to its business and could have attempted to sway decisions before they went public.
The reason he has objected to the current plans is for the lack of capacity for public transit on the Turcot and the demolishing of 160 homes. We’re being told time and time again by a slick advertising campaign that public transit is a priority for Montreal. If this is true, then why isn’t a major thoroughfare getting the public transit capacity it should merit, and is instead boosting vehicle traffic?
Fight the good fight, Bergeron. Maybe having one less committee to sit on will give you a better vantage point from which to criticize city hall. Because, if it needs anything, it needs criticism.