Today is election day in Toronto. Residents of Canada's largest city will today choose a new city council and mayor.
While municipal elections may seem like isolated political events, their effects are long term and far reaching, especially when they concern major urban centres.
TL;DR Municipal election in Toronto will have definite consequences for Montreal. Listed below are four possible ways how.
Montreal and Toronto have little poltical connection, but exchange of ideas, political strategies, and themes still persists between them.
Moreover, the two cities currently find themselves in similar political circumstances.
Here are four ways the election in Toronto will have major consequences for Montreal:
Both cities are isolated in provinces controlled by right-wing governments
Montreal is the only party of Quebec that voted overwhelmingly against the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), the right-wing party that now commands a majority in the National Assembly.
But the enmity between the CAQ and city of Montreal is not just political, it's personal. Premier François Legault has appointed as minister for Montreal a former political foe to current mayor Valérie Plante. Chantal Rousseau is one of only two "caquists" representing the island.
Ontario Conservative premier Doug Ford has also staged himself in opposition to the city of Toronto, which often dominates provincial and national discussions of economy and culture.
Ford seems to view the city of Toronto with absolute contempt. His decision to gut the Toronto city council for no justifiable reason provoked national outcry. Meanwhile in Quebec, Legault has expressed interest in similar cuts to the Montreal city council in the name of fiscal responsibility.
All that to show how Canada's two largest cities find themselves in similar political situations. While they may not expressly collaborate in this conflict between municipal and provincial governments, city administrations in Ontario and Quebec will certainy take cues from each other.
The election in Toronto today will determine just how residents plan to respond to unjust action by Ford. Montrealers will be taking note.
Jennifer Keesmaat and Valérie Plante are very similar
The strongest opponent to current Toronto mayor John Tory is Jennifer Keesmaat, former city chief planner.
Keesmaat is running on a platform of expanded public transit and higher taxes for wealthy residents. Among those plans is a call to expedite plans to construct a new line of the TTC.
To residents of Montreal, such promises will sound familiar. The cornerstone of mayor Valérie Plante's campaign was her proposed Pink metro line of the STM. She has also raised taxes, most dramatically in the city's wealthiest neighbourhoods.
If elected, Keesmaat will find herself in a position similar to Plante's: with a large pile of promises to fulfill and little to no provincial support.
They may have no choice but to work together to court federal transportation authorities for the resources that their respective provincial governments refuse to give. Isolated, they may have to rely on each other's political weight.
Toronto and Montreal will have to come up with their own plans to address migration
Both Ontario and Quebec now have governments that promise to take a hard line on immigration.
In Quebec, the CAQ plans to reduce immigration and more strictly scrutinize immigrants already living in the province.
Doug Ford has repeatedly and publicly comdemned the flow of asylum-seekers to the province, and especially to Toronto.
Such hardline stances on immigration are antithetical to cultural values and economic needs in both cities. Both Toronto and Montreal need immigration to meet their labour demand. The cities have both also expressed openess to refugees and asylum-seekers.
While Montreal and Toronto will have little power to control immigration, they do have organizing strength and significant politial leverage.
This election, Toronto residents will determine how to best oppose Ford's xenophobia. Because immigration has different connotations in Quebec, it's unlikely Toronto and Montreal will "join forces."
The next Toronto municipal administration will determine the action plans of pro-immigrant organizations, whether they get support from the municipal government or not. Those strategies will likely spread among Montreal activists and officials. The exchange of ideas and rhetoric may become more explicit.
The rise of the far right and white supremacists
White supremacist Faith Goldy is running in Toronto's mayoral election.
While it is unlikely she will win, she has given a platform to some pretty disgusting ideas. Such vocal racism will only propagate further racism. These groups are going to become louder.
While the far-right in Quebec is distinct from the far-right in the rest of Canada, it will only stand to benefit from the rise of its anglophone counterpart. Growth among far-right groups in Ontario will provoke greater media attention to such groups everywhere, including Quebec.
Nationalism, wherever it is and whatever its brand, is unfortunately infectious.