Valérie Plante has big plans for downtown Montreal if she's reelected mayor and has outlined her party's ideas for the city's economic and social recovery after the pandemic.
From free parking to planting hundreds of thousands of trees, here's what her vision for the future of downtown Montreal looks like.
Her plan, self-described as "ambitious," aims to boost what she already says has been the "best economic recovery" in Canada post-pandemic.
But while the economic aspect of downtown is looking positive, "there is still work to be done to enhance our downtown area and make it more attractive to workers, businesses, tourists, and Montrealers from all over the island," according to her party.
If reelected mayor, Plante promises to:
"support the Palais des Congrès expansion project, and consequently the covering of a part of the Ville-Marie highway;"
"offer free parking downtown on evenings and weekends in December to support our merchants during the holiday season;"
"[accelerate] construction sites and [limit] potential nuisances;"
"support the redevelopment of large offices into adequate spaces to accommodate [small and medium enterprises] and start-ups;"
make "a $1 billion investment by 2030 to develop beautiful, large public plazas in downtown, redevelop key commercial arteries and create vibrant living environments;"
"green" downtown by planting 500,000 trees in four years;
and "facilitate the transformation of vacant office space into housing."
The Montreal municipal election is on November 6 and 7.*
As officials figure out what to do with much of the former hospital campus (some buildings will become part of McGill University), non-profit groups Héritage Montréal and Les amis de la montagne say the site presents an opportunity to reconnect the downtown core with the mountain and expand the public realm.
Pour une requalification exemplaire de l'ancien hôpital Royal Victoria
The groups released a video in September calling for "visionary," "courageous," and "bold" planning for the site, including new public green and gathering spaces.
Under their proposal, the groups say the old Royal Victoria Hospital would become a "gateway to Mount Royal park from downtown [...] connected, open to all, and equipped with a reception area, local services, meeting places and community spaces."
Héritage Montréal and Les amis de la montage specifically call for:
"the urgent restoration of the buildings in order to avoid any further deterioration due to the vacancy of the place;
"landscaping and greening actions that allow better access to the mountain as an extension of Mount Royal park towards downtown;
"the maintenance of public ownership of the land in order to avoid the fragmentation of the site and to ensure its coherence in the short, medium and long term, in a context of multiple occupants;"
and the implementation of modern urban planning, governance and financing tools to preserve the integrity of the site, its heritage character and its civic and community vocation."
True Montrealers know the city is home to two Chinatowns: the official, traditional Chinatown around rue de la Gauchetière and the unofficial, more contemporary Chinatown in Shaughnessy Village. Now, after seeing the success of the annual Asian night market in Montreal's original Chinatown, Shaughnessy Village is finally getting one of its own: Shoni Market.
From September 10 to 12, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest will close off between rue Lambert Closse and rue de Bleury as pedestrians sample delicious Asian street fare from around 30 different kiosks.
"We thought Shaughnessy is like a hidden pearl downtown [...] and we wanted to make people know [it] better," said Cristina D'Arienzo, director of operations for the Montréal centre-ville business development corporation (SDC). The SDC is organizing the event with help from Yatai MTL, which put on Montreal's Japan Week, and Pocha MTL, a local Korean event producer.
"This is like the second Chinatown," D'Arienzo told MTL Blog. "There's a lot of Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese [restaurant owners] especially. [...] Chinatown's like your original traditional neighbourhood, but on Sainte-Catherine is where we can find the new owners and new stores that opened their doors."
The name Shoni, D'Arienzo said, is an insider nickname for Shaughnessy Village and all the participating vendors for the event's inaugural year have restaurants located in the neighbourhood.
Here's a list of eateries you can expect to see:
Hot Star Large Fried Chicken
A Beverage Store
Petit Poisson Dumpling
Ichifuku & Kametsuru Shoten
Épicerie Du Bazaar
Café Desserts ETC.
Lakshana's Chettinad Indian Restaurant
Capitaine Québec (comic books)
Marché Oriental Jang Teu
Mai Xiang Yuan Dumpling
Sammi & Soupe Dumpling
La Belle & La Boeuf
Yin ji Chang Fen (Rouleaux de riz)
Le Coq Frit
In addition to tasting amazing food, D'Arienzo said there will be DJs, performances, a K-pop dance battle by 2KSQUAD, and a corgi party with more than 100 dogs.
Prices will be different at each stand, but you can budget about $5 to $25 for each dish.
Price: Around $5 to $25 per dish
When: September 10 to 12 (Friday and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.)
Address: Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest (between rue Lambert Closse and rue de Bleury)
"We live in a francophone province in a francophone city from a legislative perspective, but the reality of Montreal is far different," the leader of Mouvement Montréal said in an interview with MTL Blog.
"So, for us, it was important to re-establish the identity of Montreal, which is one that is inclusive."
"We want to make clear that we want companies on the Island of Montreal to be able to operate in both languages without interference from the provincial government," Holness said.
And it calls for a review of the city's hiring processes to allow anglophones with "functional-level, but not high-level, French" to land municipal jobs.
He would also amend article 13 of the city charter to change Montreal from "a French-speaking city that, according to the law, also provides services to its citizens in English," to a bilingual one.
A lot of people agree, Holness says
"This is not a contested question," Holness said, citing a survey showing most Montrealers believe the city is bilingual. "We all know Montreal is bilingual and multicultural and it is something that we should embrace and recognize."
"Moreover, Montreal beyond that is even trilingual," he continued. "There are people from all over the world who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian. And all of these languages make up the diversity of Montreal, and it enriches us all."
Rather than contributing to the decline of French in Montreal, Holness said his language policies would help preserve it by offering non-francophones incentives to learn.
"The fact that we are going to incentivize and ameliorate the chances of anglophones to work in the City of Montreal means they'll be able to learn French through their employment activity," he said. "We're going to be increasing la francisation des anglophones."
"Right now, what's happening is that we're excluding anglophones," he continued. "They're moving to demerged cities such as Westmount, such as Côte Saint-Luc, such as Kirkland. They're not being incorporated into the reality and to the economic life of Montreal, and we're just pushing them all away."
Holness wants more jobs for people with spotty French
If elected, Mouvement Montréal would work to create a more inclusive municipal workforce because it's currently falling short in terms of ethnic and linguistic diversity, he said.
Of the city's roughly 25,000 municipal employees, "only about 2% of those in management positions are visible minorities and even less of those are anglophone," Holness claimed.
To change that he plans to lower the French language requirements for municipal jobs.
"Right now, when you go in for a [municipal] job, there is an evaluation based on your capacity to speak French," he said.
"So, we want to create assessments and evaluations of language that are less severe to allow individuals to get into the workforce. And then they can learn French, once they are on the job, through their interactions with their coworkers and with the public."
"The idea is that anglophones, especially those that are visible minorities, should have an easier time getting into the workforce," he continued.
'They don't want to be inclusive'
On November 7 people will vote to elect a mayor as well as 46 members of Montreal's City Council.
The current mayor, Projet Montréal's Valérie Plante, is seeking re-election and her main challenger is the previous mayor, Ensemble Montréal's Denis Coderre.
As Plante recently introduced an "action plan" to promote the French language in Montreal and Coderre is reportedly open to provincial government-led language reform, Holness accused his opponents of trying to impose provincial ideas on the metropolis.
"Valérie Plante is from Rouyn-Noranda, Denis Coderre is from Joliette," he continued. "And there's this whole idea that the regions are imposing on Montreal their vision for Montreal. And the question is, what do Montrealers want for their city?"
"Many people across the region say Montreal is the only francophone city in North America, and they're right, but Montreal also has a bilingual multicultural reality," he said. "So you have Quebec City trying to impose an identity on Montreal does not meet reality, which is multilingual and multicultural."
"We need a multilingual and multicultural policy and beyond that, a political party that reflects that diversity through and through," he added.
Projet Montréal does not reflect that diversity, he concluded, explaining how he helped organize a grassroots anti-racism movement, which he says prompted the city's public consultation agency to hold a series of hearings on systemic discrimination in 2019.
As a result, Plante created a commissioner on systemic discrimination and promised to hire more minorities for municipal jobs. But Holness had sharp words for the mayor, saying she only took those steps out of "obligation."
"The reason why there was a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination is because the administration had an all-white French executive committee when they were elected in 2017. Period. That's their vision of Montreal," he said.
"They don't want to be inclusive," he said. "Mouvement Montréal, my political party, is by its very nature, authentically diverse. We've done in two months what it took them nearly two decades to do, which is have a diverse team."