Third-time mayoral candidate and leader of Projet Montréal, Richard Bergeron, says he has big dreams for the city's future. But priority one is still ensuring Montrealers' faith in city hall is restored.
Bergeron sat down with CBC Daybreak's Mike Finnerty to talk about tramways, Plateau politics and the size of the public service.
Q: What is, in your mind, the most pressing issue in Montreal and what would you do to fix it?
A: "For sure it’s what we saw in the last year at the Commission Charbonneau and, in previous years, the topic of corruption. This is the biggest problem that has to be solved and definitely solved for the future.
"We built this party, Projet Montréal, with such rigorous rules of integrity and just saying that our (financing provisions) were drafted with John Gomery in 2009 and we still apply these rules of financing.
"The fact that we have managed two boroughs in the last four years – Plateau Mont-Royal and Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie — and we did it so well, this should reassure the population that honest people still exist in politics and this is the main problem that has to be solved definitely."
Q: What’s your opinion on the level of property taxation in Montreal?
'The problem is not the level of taxes itself; it is the services and projects that are done with this money. They don’t receive enough for what they pay.' - Projet Montréal leader, Richard Bergeron
A: "The problem is not the bills themselves but the impact that it has on elderly people that are forced (out of) their houses because taxes are growing too fast.
"I propose a measure to reassure them that they can live in their house as long as they want and it’s a transfer of taxes to the time they will sell the house. It will be in my first budget. The problem is not the level of taxes itself; it is the services and projects that are done with this money. They don’t receive enough for what they pay."
"Montreal is not a poor city. The budget right now is $4.7 billion and it will be almost $5 billion at the next budget. We don’t lack money at the City of Montreal, it is the way that it is spent. It is the way it is invested and big change will happen on this side. The population will receive better services and we’ll see new projects with the same money."
Q: A huge part of the Montreal budget is taken up by the salaries and pensions of city workers. We have a situation here where the average blue collar worker retires at 55 and the average city manager retires at 59. Can we afford that?
A: "That’s very young. I am myself 58 and my impression is that I did not yet begin my career. I have to work for the next 20 years and I’m really surprised when I hear that someone retired at 55 or 52. For the moment, if you look at the high-ranking managers at the City of Montreal, we have too much of them.
"The level of (these managers) is one for nine employees. . . and (cutting some of those positions) is a way to save, more or less $60 million. To hire engineers, to hire technicians that will cut the very sad relationship between the city and the business board and rebuild the expertise of the city. All of these changes will be made during my first mandate. It will take four years to achieve that. "
Do you own a car?
Would you ever own a car in the future?
Have you ever had your bicycle stolen?
No, never. I was lucky.
Do you think Montrealers complain too much about snow removal?
Q: You are often called a big dreamer, and you've called your opponents "petits penseurs," so tell us about some of your big dreams.
A: "It’s not that I have big dreams, it’s that they have no dreams. They think that Montreal is just a big Milwaukee or something like that – a city that has no future. And the only thing that we should do in the next 20 years is repair potholes. This is important to fill potholes, but that cannot be the future of a great city like Montreal. We’re not Milwaukee. We’re far more than that."
"I've announced my legacies for the 375th anniversary in Montreal in 2017. These two legacies will be the first step of the tram network in Montreal and the Maritime Gateway, a very wide window open to the St-Lawrence River.
"It will be a new neighbourhood hosting, more or less, 20,000 people that will live in one of the most spectacular sites in the world.. . If you count the surrounding lands like here in Radio-Canada with all these parking spaces and the connection with the rest of Ville-Marie, we’re talking about 40,000 people that will live in this area. That’s the future of Montreal."
Q: Projet Montréal, has been in power for four years on the Plateau. Is the way you’ve been managing things there the model for Montreal?
'I’m not in that life anymore. I’m a candidate to run Montreal for the third time. That was in my previous life and I was a bit stupid at that time.' - Bergeron on his 9/11 theory in his 2005 book, Les Quebecois auvolant, c’est mortel
No, it’s not a model. Our inspiration is in our program and we will adapt our program to each borough of Montreal. We’ve already managed, during the last four years, Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie and policies that we implemented there were not the same that we implemented in the Plateau and for sure it will not be the same that we implement in Pierrefonds and Verdun.
Do you still believe, as you have written, that the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington were a macabre farce to allow the U.S. to get its hands on gulf oil?
A: No. I was stupid. No. I never believed that. I wanted to shock people. I was a writer. I was writing an essay and our objective when we do that is to shock people just for fun. I’m not in that life anymore. I’m a candidate to run Montreal for the third time. That was in my previous life and I was a bit stupid at that time, I think so.
CBC's Daybreak will host one-on-one chats with the four main mayoral candidates in Montreal throughout October and invite you to put your questions to them directly in a live chat immediately following the interview.
- Oct. 15- Marcel Côté
- Oct.16 - Mélanie Joly
- Oct.25 - Denis Coderre
Follow Daybreak on Twitter @cbcdaybreak.