Civic election campaigns can be a bit boring, especially when an incumbent mayor is running. Voter turnout tends to be low and we generally let mayors leave on their own terms. The 2009 Montréal civic election, which takes place today (November 1), can't come soon enough for many. Not only did a lot of candidates get roughed up but the city herself comes away from it with a huge black eye.
It was expected to be a campaign about 'the usual': budget shortfalls; tax rates; crumbling infrastructure with maybe a dash of ethics tossed in after an April '09 Auditor General report found irregularities and sweetheart deals in the privatization of a city housing agency. Rumours and speculation about 'ethics malfunctions' have dogged Gérald Tremblay, mayor since 1991, throughout his time in office.
The ethics issue exploded over the summer with allegations of bribery, extortion and organized crime involvement in city construction bids and just got worse as autumn rolled around. (A good outline of the assorted allegations is in LaPresse's "How Did it Come to This ?").
You would expect Tremblay to be dead in the water but that's not the case thanks to baggage that each candidate and their respective party brings to the table. The race, instead, is a dead heat. Angus Reid / La Presse on Friday put Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel at 34%, Projet Montreal's Richard Bergeron at 32% and Union Montréal's incumbent Gérald Tremblay at 30%.
Even the media isn't picking a white knight. La Presse's editorial board refused to endorse any of the candidates. The Gazette barely endorsed Tremblay as "the least distressing candidate in an unprepossessing field". One of their columnists ventured that the election should just be called off as there will be no winner - just a loser, and that loser is Montréal.
Regardless of who wins today there is going to be a lot of pain ahead. Serious allegations have been made back and forth. There are a number of Sûreté du Québec investigations underway and, in the last few days, the province appointed a 60 member corruption task force to dig into the issues. Put all of that aside and someone will have to find the time to deal with 'the usual': budget shortfalls; tax rates; crumbling infrastructure.
The 2009 election campaign has not been kind to Montréal.
Montreal is a Disaster Maclean's
Race for Montreal mayor a three-way toss-up Globe and Mail
Montréal Election Campaign fagstein.com blog (numerous entries)
Montreal's civic election leaves mess for next mayor CBC
Montreal Election '09: Questioning the mayoral candidates Hour.ca
Québec Civic Vote 2009 CBC Coverage