Municipal Elections: Reflection or Rejection of Diversity

By Yvonne Sam

On November 5, 2017 Quebec municipal elections will be held in the city of Montreal. The voting populace will elect 65 positions on the Montreal City Council, including the mayor, borough mayors and city councillors, as well as 38 borough councillors.
Projet Montreal’s team of candidates for Notre-Dame-des-Neiges and Cote-des-Neiges are Sue Montgomery (Mayor), Magda Popeanu (CDN), Irina Maria Grecu (Snowdon), Graham Carpenter(Darlington), Christian Arseneault (Loyola) and Peter McQueen (NDG).
There’s not a single person of colour on the team running in Montreal’s most populous borough, which has a more than 30% non-white population. No obvious displayed recognition or respect for diversity.
Running in the same borough on the slate of Team Coderre are two qualified and experienced Black candidates — Tiffany Callender and Gabriel Retta.
Is the picture clear enough? It is imperative that the Black community snap out of their seeming reverie, keeping front and foremost the fact that this is 2017, the era of stark reality. Unlike in earlier times, when political exclusion drove us to protest, Blacks today are behaving in a very nonchalant manner, almost as if they have fallen asleep at the wheel, or no longer possess the drive and energy to keep the car in motion.
In January 2016, Marvin Rotrand, city councillor for Snowdon, gave notice of his intention to present a motion calling for a commitment from all political parties to recruit solid candidates from the various ethnic groups in Montreal.
In more recent times under direct questioning, Mayor Denis Coderre assured Montrealers that if re-elected he would rectify the obvious disconnect between City Hall and the Black community.
Visible minorities remain scarce at all levels of government, but are especially underrepresented in municipal politics. If we think of local governments as the most grassroots and closest to the people, they are by far the worst in terms of having diverse representation. A city council that is more reflective of the people it represents makes for a more effective city council.
The Black community, especially in the borough of NDG-CDN, cannot afford to sit back and wait for events to unfold. We must speak now or forever live with the pieces.