Mayor-elect Plante proves underdog can beat incumbent

Valerie Plante defied the odds to become the first woman elected as Mayor of Montreal this week

Less than a week ago I publicly announced my decision to take on the role as Chair of a new political organization known as the New Westminster Progressive Electors Coalition. The Coalition intends to transform into a formal registered elector organization in 2018 then field a slate of candidates in the fall civic election.

What’s surprised me the most since the launch? It’s the number of people who were unaware that all seven of the elected officials at City Hall are part of the same political party. For some reason, I naively thought people just knew about this.

Even one of my politically astute neighbours came up to me after reading the front page of the Record newspaper and said to me “What? All those folks on council are part of the same political party. I never knew that!”

“…the election of Valerie Plante last evening as the first woman Mayor of Montreal offers hope that change is possible – and that the underdog can win if they put forward new ideas, commit to putting the city first and provide an inspirational platform.”

It’s hard to blame Royal City residents if they believe the current District Labour Council (DLC) slate of politicians are not affiliated in any way. That’s because every effort has been made by these civic politicians to try to convince you – and the media – that they are all “independent”. After all, it’s just coincidence they all had similar coloured lawn signs & ran joint advertisements in the last election.

Yet anyone who follows civic politics closely knows that our Mayor and the six members of his council are part of a political caucus – even if this has never been formally acknowledged by way of the establishment of an official Elections BC registered elector organization.

By establishing the Progressives Electors Coalition, our team can be upfront, transparent and open with voters about who we are and what we intend to accomplish. This includes making public – via our website – our vision, mission and key set of principles.

I’m confident based on the reaction over the last few days that we’ll be able to attract candidates that are committed to putting the interests of the city first – ahead of any provincial or federal political obligations.

We are a fast growing city with major traffic, infrastructure, housing and zoning issues that desperately need our attention. That’s why we don’t need to be fighting partisan provincial and federal political battles. Nor should we be voluntarily accepting the downloading of responsibilities for issues that clearly fall under the jurisdiction of senior levels of government – who have more funding, statutory obligations and the legal authority to solve them.

While the Coalition has made a commitment to staying positive and keeping the lead up to the election focused on new ideas versus sinking to the level of personal attacks and name calling – sadly, not everyone got the memo. There has been a predictable negative response from a handful of local politicos who support the status quo and the current power-base at city hall.

One person on Twitter compared the Coalition to a “pig”. Others went negative and heavily criticized us for not being progressive enough – or not meeting their definition as progressive. Some even attacked us because we didn’t already release our platform. Really? Release a platform only three days after you launch a new political organization? Isn’t a better approach to listen to the public first then build a platform on shared community values and priorities?

I’m open to and am fully expecting criticism about our platform and our candidates not being progressive enough…that’s called an open democracy and engaging in civic politics. But one assumes one would actually have to release a platform and attract candidates before this got underway.

What we’ve done by launching the Coalition is kickstart a twelve month process that will lead to voters having a positive alternative in October 2018. If you don’t like the fact there isn’t a single opposition voice on council…you will now have the option to vote for the New West Progressives slate and provide more balance and a greater level of public scrutiny.

I’m under no illusion that defeating a well-oiled and funded political machine that has a firm grip on every seat on council will be an uphill battle. However, the election of Valerie Plante last evening as the first woman Mayor of Montreal offers hope that change is possible – and that the underdog can win if they put forward new ideas, commit to putting the city first and provide an inspirational platform.

Thanks to all of you for your many generous offers of support – both financially  and as volunteers. The easy part was the announcement – the hard part is yet to come. That said, I’m feeling good about our chances of making a breakthrough given the reaction we’ve had this week!