Ah, Montreal. We might have a difficult relationship sometimes, but overall, we love you to the moon and back. Despite your cratered streets, your bone-breaking sidewalks, your corruption scandals, your endless traffic delays, and brutal winters, yours is a love like no other. For 375 years, you’ve experienced it all.
Though it's easy to blame you directly, we know that it isn’t always your fault. Sometimes, dear Montreal, our mayors are anywhere between inept and corrupt. Sometimes they’re both those things and sometimes they’re just plain stupid. Come to think of it, each one has left a lifetime impression on the city, usually for worse.
TL;DR MTL Blog brings you a short history of Montreal's most infamous mayors from best to worst.
Today, we’re looking back into history and providing you with a definitive ranking of Montreal’s mayors from just okay to the worst.
7) Valérie Plante [In office 2017 – present]
Current Montreal mayor Valérie Plante is a daily trending topic here on MTL Blog. As the first woman to ever be mayor of Montreal, Plante has gained a reputation as being a fair, if stubborn mayor. With only 1.3 years as mayor of Montreal, she comes in at number seven on our list.
Highlights: 300 new buses, numerous improvements to public transit, upgraded biking network.
Lowlights: hiking property taxes, cancelling a heated sidewalks initiative, the slow end to those horrible calèches in the Old Port.
MTL Blog will keep you posted on whatever news comes out of the Plante administration throughout the year. Stay tuned!
6) Camillien Houde [In office on and off from 1928 – 1954]
A common trend with many of Montreal’s mayors, as we’ll see on in this article, is an on again, off again relationship with city hall and Camillien Houde is no exception. Houde held the office of mayor four separate times over the course of two decades. The mayor whose nickname was "l'imprévisible" (the unpredictable) comes in at number six.
Highlights: Bringing Parc La Fontaine and the Botanical Gardens to Montreal, made Sainte-Catherine street the hub it is today (with the help of countless brothels and pubs), the first mayor to support huge tourism for the city.
Lowlights: Rigging his first election, thrown in jail by the RCMP for charges of sedition against the Crown during WW2, kind of down with Mussolini.
5) Jean Doré [In office 1986 – 1994]
Jean Doré was Montreal’s mayor during a time of transition. After Jean Drapeau finally retired after over 20 years in office, Doré picked up the mantle at a time when Montrealers were starved for something different. Often criticized for not doing much, he comes in at number five.
Highlights: Renewed the Old Port and Ile-St. Helene to modern standards, inaugurated Place Emilie-Gamelin, brought the Pointe-à-Callière archeology museum to Montreal, constructed the first network of bike paths (over 150km worth).
Lowlights: Outright refused to pay off any part of Jean Drapeau’s immense $1 billion municipal debt, constantly fighting with city workers and unions over contracts, chiefly responsible for the Overdale scandal that left 87 Montrealers homeless after destroying their neighbourhood to build a parking lot.
4) Denis Coderre [In office 2013 – 2017]
I’m sure you all remember Denis Coderre and his famous showmanship. Say what you will about the man, but he certainly knew how to sell Montreal a fantasy. From attempting to bring the Expos back to taking a jackhammer to a mailbox, Coderre made plenty of headlines during his tenure as mayor. He comes in at number four.
Très heureux d'avoir participé à la #Journeemondialecontrelecancer et faire la promotion de notre événement 6,7 juillet 2019 @RideToConquer 200km entre Repentigny et St-Augustin-des-Maures Bravo Karine Limage, Victoria Esposito et toute équipe Fondation Hopital Général Juif Mtl pic.twitter.com/VIVCQC0L7F— DenisCoderre (@DenisCoderre) February 4, 2019
Highlights: Huge investments in infrastructure, bringing in thousands of new blue-collar jobs to the city, finally balancing the debt left over from previous administrations.
Lowlights: That infamous pit-bull ban, dumping 8-billion litres of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River, the Formula E botched job, the MTL375 botched job, often called egotistical by critics.
3) Michael Applebaum [In office for 7 months in 2012-2013]
Montreal’s only Anglophone mayor since the early 1900s had quite the short stint and kind of ruined it for every potential Anglophone candidate. Applebaum became Montreal’s mayor after Gerard Tremblay was ousted for corruption.
Shortly after, he was arrested for his own corruption scandal. You go, Montreal! He comes in at number three.
Highlights: There’s nothing to see here.
Lowlights: Arrested on 14 charges of fraud, conspiracy, corruption, and breach of trust. Extorted over $60,000 in bribe money from local real-estate developers.
2) Gérald Tremblay [In office from 2002 – 2012]
Gerard Tremblay came into Montreal’s mayoralty with big dreams and high hopes. At first, the public loved his can-do attitude. Eventually, it was revealed that he was one of the most corrupt mayors to ever grace our city. Not the most corrupt, though! He comes in at number two.
Highlights: Merged Montreal’s municipalities into one urban agglomeration.
Lowlights: Wanted to change Ave du Parc’s name to Ave Robert-Bourassa without consultation, awarded countless construction contracts to his dubious supporters, conspired to delay construction for more money, funded his political party with mafia money.
1) Jean Drapeau [In office 1954 – 1986]
Okay, it's true that Jean Drapeau basically made the city what it is today. Without him and his vision, the city might’ve still been a floundering port town with little identity. In fact, he was once described as a cross between Walt Disney and Al Capone. However, his rampant spending and corrupt policies set a precedent for everyone that came after him.
As much as he made Montreal better, he equally made it worse by allowing extraordinary levels of corruption to run amuck in Montreal. He’s the number one worst mayor in history.
Highlights: Gave us the metro system, public transit, highway networks, and a thriving metropolis. Brought the Olympics to Canada for the first time ever. Put Montreal on the map with Expo ’67.
Lowlights: Indebted Montreal with over $1-billion dollars for over 30 years because of various construction projects including the Olympic stadium and the Decarie Expressway. Accused members of his opposition of being terrorists during the October Crisis and arbitrarily jailed them all. Allowed the mob to basically run the city during the economic boom of the 80s.