Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau has issued a statement of apology to Quebecers and other francophone Canadians who were offended by his remarks about not speaking the language of Molière despite living in Montreal for over a decade.
"I want to make it clear that in no way did I mean to show disrespect for Quebecers and francophones across the country," Rousseau said. "I apologize to those who were offended by my remarks."
D\u00e9claration de Michael Rousseau, pr\u00e9sident et chef de la direction d\u2019Air Canada :pic.twitter.com/MvG16PLFfi
In response to a journalist's question at a conference on Wednesday, Rousseau said that he's "been able to live in Montreal without speaking French." He called that ability "a testament to the City of Montreal."
Unsurprisingly, the comment drew swift and fiery reactions from pretty much every name-brand politician in the National Assembly, from Premier François Legault to Liberal leader Dominique Anglade.
In his apology, Rousseau pledged "to improve [his] French, an official language of Canada and the common language of Québec, while tackling the serious commercial challenges facing Air Canada as we move from surviving the pandemic to rebuilding to normalcy."
"The fact that this iconic company is headquartered in Montreal is a source of pride for me and our entire executive team," he concluded. "I reiterate Air Canada's commitment to show respect for French and, as a leader, I will set the tone."
Quebec Premier François Legault wasn't looking for a negative reaction when he announced his hockey plan, which plays directly to one of the province's passions, but that's exactly what he got.
Late Thursday afternoon, Legault announced the creation of the Comité québécois sur le développement du hockey, a committee that will aim to "restore our national sport to its former glory, to instil a love of hockey in young people and to properly develop Quebec talent in a positive and safe environment," according to the premier.
But Legault is being dragged over his plan that some have called a "populist" distraction from more important issues.
Aujourd\u2019hui, j\u2019\u00e9tais au Centre Bell avec la ministre d\u00e9l\u00e9gu\u00e9e \u00e0 l\u2019\u00c9ducation, @IsabelleCharest, pour faire une annonce importante pour nos jeunes et notre sport national, le hockey.\n\nPour en savoir plushttps://www.facebook.com/FrancoisLegaultPremierMinistre/posts/4687617071295286\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/XmgHaRALbA
Allan Walsh, a well-regarded hockey agent who represents several Quebec-born players like Jonathan Drouin and Marc-André Fleury, took to Twitter to comment that growing hockey in Quebec is "not rocket science."
"Start with developing players at the QMJHL level instead of exploiting them. There [are] a few teams that do a great job, the majority will do anything to maximize profits to the detriment of players' futures."
Somebody may want to tell Legault and Plante that Belzile and Ouellet are in the lineup tonight, so a provincewide cataclysm as been averted and they can get back to that pesky little pandemic that's killed thousands of the same people they want to see on the hockey team so badly
The committee is tasked with addressing several major issues — including athlete development, the development of women's hockey, coaching, accessibility, safety and integrity — with a final report due on March 31, 2022.
For now, though, it's mostly rhetoric. In a statement, Legault exclaimed that hockey "is part of our identity, our pride and also part of the pleasures of life."
"This is how we are going to become a breeding ground for talent again. This is how Quebec will once again become a powerhouse in hockey."
Legault qui s\u2019occupe du hockey pr\u00e9sentement , cet homme est une honte pour le Qu\u00e9bec , alors que 6700 vies fauch\u00e9es par la COVID-19 dans les CHSLD \u00e0 cause d'une gestion de merde , le gouvernement a d\u00e9truit des rapports d\u2019inspection,a emp\u00each\u00e9 des a\u00een\u00e9s de dire un dernier adieu
Several more people criticized Legault for announcing this plan while his administration is in the middle of an inquest into the number of deaths during the peak of the pandemic at the province's CHSLDs. Over 4,000 elderly people died in CHSLDs during the first wave of COVID-19.
"When will you have a conference to explain your catastrophic management of CHSLDs?" inquired one Twitter user.
The premier was mum on that issue during his hockey press conference.
Kuei , je ne comprends pas pourquoi qu\u2019il n\u2019y a pas une personne issue des 1ers nations au comite . Il y a des experts autochtones qui ont jou\u00e9s dans la LHJMQ et LNH et vous savez qu\u2019il y a eu du racisme au hockey dans les arenas au Qc.
The results are in and Montreal has decided who the mayor will be for the next four years. Like it or not, Valérie Plante is here to stay and like her first run as mayor, she has big plans for the future of our metropolis.
Here's some of the major things Plante promised to do if she were re-elected.
Ce deuxi\u00e8me mandat, je l\u2019accueille avec la plus grande fiert\u00e9 du monde, et avec une humilit\u00e9 sinc\u00e8re.\n\nMerci Montr\u00e9al #polmtlpic.twitter.com/U6ZKpukoLU
In the first days of her campaign, Mayor Plante promised an "ambitious" project for downtown Montreal that would promote its economic recovery and make it "attractive to workers, businesses, tourists, and Montrealers from all over the island."
The mayor presented a plan 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."
Downtown will also be getting a new all-seasons public square called the Esplanade Tranquille. In the winter, the square will transform into a giant skating rink.
Affordable Housing & Rent
In her official party platform, Plante promised to promote the creation of 60,000 social affordable housing units and move to install a "fair taxation" policy to prevent real-estate speculation and flipping. In August, Plante unveiled plans to "stimulate" the creation of 2,000 affordable student units in Montreal.
Perhaps one of the biggest promises she made was to create a "responsible landlord" certification and a rent registry program in Montreal. The city would apply the certification to landlords of buildings with eight units or more.
Plante said it would allow Montreal to "monitor the state of the housing offered in the rental market [...] but also the price of rent."
The mayor plans to implement the registry by the "end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023."
It seems Montreal is a never-ending construction zone and sorry to tell you that probably won't change any time soon.
But it's all for the improvement of the city, according to the administration. First and foremost, Plante promised that no new buildings would be higher than Mount Royal on her watch.
In May, Plante announced that Montreal would invest $1.8 billion over the next 10 years to implement a "green recovery plan," including the creation of a 110-kilometre "green corridor" network between the city's largest parks.
The plan also calls for 500,000 more trees in the city by 2030, a new "nature centre" in the East End and enhancements to Mount Royal.
Finally, one of the biggest projects proposed by Plante is the partial coverage of the Décarie Expressway between rues Jean-Talon and des Jockeys. This mayor aims to "decongest" a stretch of the Décarie that's an absolute traffic nightmare "in order to have a huge place for pedestrians and cyclists" that need to use Namur metro station, according to the mayor.
In August, Plante unveiled an investment strategy for electrifying Montreal. With an $885 million dollar investment, the plan will "prioritize measures that promote the increase and diversification of the supply of sustainable, integrated, affordable and accessible transport."
This includes the creation of more than 1,000 new electric vehicle charging stations, the further electrification of the STM's bus fleet, and 2,100 more electric BIXI bikes.
Additionally, Projet Montréal's 2021 platform calls for the creation of a "zero carbon emition zone in the city centre" by 2030.
Bill 96 & The Language Debate
As a supporter of Bill 96, Plante maintains that Montreal will remain a "francophone metropolis" with the promotion of the French language at the core of its values.
With a 24-point action plan in hand and a new French-language watchdog in former PQ minister Louise Harel, the city will make "a coherent commitment to promoting the French language, while preserving the cultural and linguistic rights of the English-speaking community and Indigenous nations," according to the mayor.
Plante has asked the government to keep the 311 service bilingual, however.
The race for Montreal mayor was shaping up to be an encore performance of the Plante-Coderre rivalry until Balarama Holness crashed the political stage.
With bold proposals and a promise to put "people before politics," the community organizer and former CFL star is looking to bring his Mouvement Montréal party into city hall.
MTL Blog sat down with Holness for a wide-ranging interview about his life, his politics, the language debate, bagels and so much more.
MTL Blog interviewed Valérie Plante and Balarama Holness in the run-up to the 2021 municipal election. Denis Coderre did not respond to an interview request.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Who is Balarama Holness and what qualifies him to be mayor of Montreal?
'I'm More Than Qualified To Be Mayor:' Balarama Holness On His Shot For Montreal's Top Job
First and foremost, I'm a father. Also, I'm the son of an immigrant from Jamaica. My mother is a French kid from Montreal. I represent what it means to be a Montrealer. I'm both francophone and anglophone, someone who's Black and white, someone who studied here, who lives here.
I love my city. And I think it's important for us to engage ourselves in order to create a city that's going to thrive, economically, socially and culturally.
That's why I'm running for mayor of Montreal. I think that this city should be someplace where we feel at home, where you can come as you are, speak the language that you want. And also whether it's your different sexual orientation, your skin colour, your ethnicity, your nationality, you can really feel comfortable at home in a city and thrive in all ways of life.
Your opponents have criticized you for proposals they say are unattainable. How do you respond?
I once said I am a dreamer, just like my mother. I'm extremely ambitious. I'm adventurous. I'm someone who works hard. But I have a track record to prove it. My track record over the last four years is founding a nonprofit organization that forces the city to have a consultation.
My background in law prepares me to actually create bylaws that are powerful, and a great example of this is this 20/20/20 housing bylaw. What the mayor did is she left a gaping hole in the bylaw that allows promoters to buy themselves out of it. That's just one example of many.
It's not just about being prepared as a politician but being prepared with a judicial understanding of how laws and rules are created and how to implement them in order to get what you want.
The housing crisis is upon us right now with 24,000 people waiting for social housing. Valérie Plante actually failed to create a bylaw that actually equalled what she wanted, which was affordable homes for Montrealers.
My background as a community organizer, my legal background, also my education background, and my working with people make me more than qualified to be mayor of Montreal.
But what makes you different from other Montreal politicians?
We are not politicians and we're putting people before politics. What that means is that I am going to put the interests of Montrealers first.
A great example is the cones. We all said that we want to remove the cones. Once the politicians get to city hall, they don't remove the cones. And what we're telling you is that we're going to actually do what we say.
Whether it's removing cones, whether it's putting green spaces throughout Montreal, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods, whether it's helping small businesses, or whether it's getting Montreal more autonomy, more power, more independence, more taxation powers to allow us to actually thrive from a $200 billion GDP.
The current business model of the mayor is tax Montrealers as much as you can, to give you the levels of tickets to put bike lanes everywhere and to block off roads, so you get out of your car. That's a poor business model and a poor vision for the city of Montreal.
How would your administration reassure English-speaking students, international students, that Montreal is still a good place to study, despite polarizing and constant language debates?
We're a party that has been very clear. We can value the French language, we can value French culture, all while recognizing that Montreal is a bilingual city. That is simply the nature of Montreal.
What we're proposing is to have a public consultation on the issue of language right here in Montreal. So we can hear Montrealers and what they have to say about this issue.
Rest assured a Holness administration is going to do everything in our power to uphold the rights of all Montrealers, particularly those who can be minorities or anglophone. Moreover, do you want a government that tells you what you can and can't say when you walk into a store? Whether you can say "hi" or "bonjour?"
I think that we are legislating far too much into the daily lives of regular people, and we should not be legislating on what languages you can speak.
We have proposed that the official languages in Canada are English and French. Last time I checked Montreal is in Canada. Therefore Montreal should have official languages in English and in French.
The majority of Quebecers might be against it, but the majority of Montrealers aren't. And that's the difference here, as I'm running for mayor of Montreal.
Montreal has over 200 cultural communities. There are people in Montreal, growing populations, that speak Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, and we can go down the list of languages.
I believe that Montreal is a multicultural, multilingual city with an international economic presence, and the business language of the world is English. We have to be realistic about the role of language in Montreal and that duality being English and French. All while protecting the French culture and language, we can still recognize our roots.
And also, I'll remind people was that the British Empire when they formed it and when Montreal was part of this, there was a historic English community in Montreal that built Montreal. And we have to recognize the historic roots of both anglophones, francophones and our Indigenous brothers and sisters.
To act like this is one homogenous group of francophones that live in Montreal is simply a fallacy. We have to recognize the diversity that is Montreal.
You've said in your platform that you would move to reallocate police funds. What do you hope to accomplish by doing that?
In regards to the budget of the SPVM, we are very clear. The budget went from $400 million to $500 million to $600 million to $700 million. Now it's $800 million. 40% of all tickets go to the most vulnerable, particularly homeless people.
So what we are asking is "how are you going to really solve those issues?"
It's by providing homes, having leisure sports, recreation infrastructure, having interveners, social workers, to actually have the SPVM do their job, which is to fight criminals, fight the proliferation of firearms. That is how we're going to stop the rise and violence in the city of Montreal.
So when we talk about the SPVM and their budget, it's a question of reallocating. Why do we use that word? It's because we have the same objective, which is to have social cohesion, to have peace in the city of Montreal. It's not just through policing that you have peace, it's through having a home, to having a park, to having leisure and recreation infrastructure. You need a fine balance.
And what we're establishing is that $800 million for police, when 40% of all the activity and all the tickets go to homeless people, well, maybe we don't need $800 million to give 40% of tickets to homeless people.
Maybe we can cut that budget and provide them with the help that they need, to actually have a home to stay at. And we can actually create a more just, fruitful, and inclusive society.
What we're proposing, and how we're going to reduce the budget, is to eliminate some of those in management and create more connections between police officers on the ground and the chief of police.
A study showed that right here in the City of Montreal, 84% of police officers do not live on the Island of Montreal. What that means is that they are not actually living in the neighbourhoods of the people that they're serving. So we need more community policing, more connections, more social adhesion.
That's why we're saying that the city would be more violent under Denis Coderre or Valérie Plante because they do not understand communities, do not understand police, and do not understand how we can create a more prosperous and peaceful society.
How specifically would you reform the SPVM?
One of the great ways that we could do that is what we call citizen-based policing, whereby you would have an individual who is not armed. This individual would simply be intervening in a situation where someone, for example, has schizophrenia is going through psychosis and needs an intervention.
This person does not need to have a police officer show up. They need to have a citizen who understands mental health, who understands drug abuse, who understands homelessness. They intervene in a situation to help someone who's vulnerable and at risk of really dying in that circumstance.
The other way — and this is very clear — is that we need to change the culture in the SPVM. You do that by providing more sensitivity training. More training on the realities of individuals who are from different ethnicities, different backgrounds, different socioeconomic statuses, to ensure they understand the people who they're serving.
Hopefully, that could build some more compassion, some more trust, and more connections between the police officers and the people that they're supposed to be serving.
What do you have to say to those people who are cynical about politicians' grand proposals?
‘We Are People Just Like You:’ Montreal Mayoral Candidate Balarama Holness On Political Cynicism
Well, I would say, "I understand you."
We've seen politicians time and time again make promises and don't fulfill them. Whether it's the mayor talking about a Pink Line and the mayor talking about not raising taxes, and the first year, the first thing she does is raise taxes.
We understand that the trust has been broken. And what we are saying is "give Mouvement Montréal a chance."
We are not politicians. We are people who branch all different backgrounds from urban planners, to teachers, to lawyers, to people helping people get back into the workforce off of welfare, people in the arts and culture — everyday Montrealers that have different backgrounds, who understand what it means to live in the city.
So why could you trust us? Because we are not your typical politicians. We are people just like you, community individuals, who are change-makers who want to improve our society because really we love Montreal.
We got some reader-submitted questions on social media.
1. The city's always under construction. Will it be better if you're mayor?
We're going to remove the cones in the first mandate.
2. How would you make Montreal more pet-friendly?
By not putting a ban on [pit bulls].
3. Saint-Viateur or Fairmount?
4. And finally, what's your favourite restaurant in Montreal?
In case you just woke up from a coma, the language debate in Montreal has reached a fever pitch — again. With a contentious new language bill in the books, the linguistic character of Montreal has become a focal point in the city's mayoral election.
You're right, nothing really has changed since you fell into a coma in the 1970s!
The city's main three mayoral hopefuls have had a lot to say about Bill 96 and the language debate during this campaign, so no matter where you stand on the issue, you should know what the candidates are fighting for.
Valérie Plante & Project Montréal
Incumbent mayor Valérie Plante has been clear that she supports defining Montreal as a francophone metropolis and would fight for the promotion of the French language throughout her mandate.
Project Montréal's official platform says Montreal's population is "united by the French language, proud of its history and roots." The platform goes further to pledge that her administration would "defend Montréal's francophone identity by implementing the first action plan for the promotion of the French language in Montréal."
During her tenure as mayor, Plante appointed former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Louise Harel to chair a committee to implement this action plan.
However, the mayor also asked the government to allow the city to continue to offer services in English through the 311 phone line.
Balarama Holness & Mouvement Montréal
In what's been a change of pace for a politician in Quebec, let alone in Montreal, Balarama Holness has advocated for official bilingualism, is adamantly against Bill 96, and rejects the idea that Montreal is an exclusively francophone metropolis.
His party, Mouvement Montréal is running on a platform of what they call "inclusive language rights."
In addition to instituting official bilingualism, Mouvement Montréal has pledged to "immediately" translate all official documents in both languages and update all official websites to be accessible in both languages.
During the English debate, Holness said that if he's elected, he would outright reject Bill 96 and refuse to implement it in Montreal.
Denis Coderre & Ensemble Montréal
Like Plante, Denis Coderre has voiced his support for Bill 96 and considers Montreal to be a francophone city.
The Ensemble Montréal official platform says that Montreal's role as Quebec's largest city must be to "serve virtuously for the progress of both the metropolis and Quebec."
Coderre notably dropped English Montreal School Board chairman Joe Ortona — who had been an Ensemble candidate in the Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough — because of the EMSB's opposition to Bill 96.
Coderre has said, however, that he would advocate for "linguistic peace" and explained that his "duty as mayor of Montreal is to ensure that the Quebec government understands our need to serve our English community."
Reports also indicate that while Coderre is a proponent of Bill 96, his administration would request changes to the bill in order to keep some city services bilingual.
The Montreal mayoral election takes place on November 6 and 7.