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100 days of Valérie Plante: Time for a reckoning

Valérie Plante rode an ambitious, promise-filled campaign into Montreal City Hall. At the 100-day mark of her administration, CBC's Jonathan Montpetit examines how much progress she's made.

Montreal's mayor rode an ambitious, promise-filled campaign into city hall. How much progress has she made?

Mayor Valérie Plante, the first woman to win a mayoral election in Montreal, has broken one major promise but kept others, including her commitment to dump the Formula E race if it couldn't be fixed. (Christophe Morin/Getty Images)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante's administration crossed the 100-day threshold this weekend, the traditional first checkpoint for measuring the success of a new government.

Received political wisdom suggests that's the point that an administration should already be crossing items off its to-do list.

Plante entered Montreal City Hall last November with a fairly long list. Her upset victory, after all, was the product of an ambitious, promise-filled campaign. 

But time has come for a reckoning. Here is a look at what progress Plante has made on some of her biggest election promises.

Promises kept

Formula E:

Last summer's Formula E race played an outsized role in the campaign. Plante was unambiguous about not wanting to see the race in downtown Montreal again.

She was in power barely a month when she cancelled the city's contract with Formula E's governing body. 

"Montrealers have made it clear that we can't waste their money on poorly planned projects that don't serve them," said the mayor when she announced her decision.

Public transit:

​Plante campaigned on a promise to boost public transit options for Montrealers, vowing that her first order of business would be to buy 300 new buses for the city. 

While it wasn't quite accomplished on her first day, Plante announced in January that with help from the provincial government, that purchase was going ahead.

Plante, seen here at her inauguration ceremony, has made progress on a number of files since then, including scrapping the Formula E race. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)
 

Animal control:

Another central plank of the Projet Montréal platform was the promise to revisit the previous administration's animal control bylaw, which infuriated dog owners across the city because of its anti-pit bull provisions.   

Plante revoked those clauses in the bylaw soon after taking power and will hold further consultations in order to draw up new animal control regulations.

The administration has ruled out the breed-specific approach favoured by former mayor Denis Coderre. 

Promise broken

Property taxes:

Both front-runners in the mayoral race vowed they would not raise property taxes beyond the rate of inflation, which is pegged at 2.1 per cent for 2018.

Strictly speaking, Plante kept that promise. In her first budget, property taxes were raised by only 1.9 per cent. But she also raised the water tax by 1.1 per cent, and borough taxes increased by a further .3 per cent.

That means Montreal homeowners will see their municipal tax bill jump by an average of 3.3 per cent this year, well above the inflation rate.  

Plante justified the increase by pointing out the water tax hasn't been increased since 2013, despite aging city sewers and water mains in dire need of repair. 

In January, Plante announced that with the help of the Quebec government, the city is proceeding with the purchase of 300 new buses. (CBC)

"There are big problems with everything related to the water infrastructure. That is why I made that decision," the mayor said earlier this month.

​"I know it's not a popular one. I know it's not going to make me win political points."

Indeed, the decision was so unpopular that it prompted one of the most prominent figures in her administration, Plateau-Mont-Royal borough Mayor Luc Ferrandez, to muse that it was a "mistake" to promise a tax freeze in the first place. 

"I think we regret it," he told CBC News. 

Promise pending

Pink Metro line

It was the Pink Line, more than any other campaign promise, that made voters sit up and take notice of Plante.

Proposing to build a new Metro line cutting diagonally across the city could have doomed her mayoral hopes, but she made her pitch with enough conviction that it helped, rather than hindered, her campaign. 

Since November there has been nary a mention of the Pink Line from the administration. No money was allotted for it in the annual budget or in city hall's three-year planning document.

That, though, need not alarm backers of the project, which would connect Montreal North to Lachine.

Plante has always been counting on financial support from the provincial and federal governments to make the Pink line a reality.

Plante has faced backlash for breaking her promise not to raise taxes beyond the cost of living increase. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The Quebec Liberals, up for re-election this year, have so far sent encouraging signals. Most recently, the project was described as a "priority" in a regional planning document released by the provincial government.

In Plante's favour: there remain roughly 1,360 days in her mandate to demonstrate that progress is being made on her signature project. 

On the other hand, that is not a lot of time to find $6 billion, design a colossal expansion of the existing subway network and start digging — which is what she persuaded voters was reasonable to expect from her.

They say a week is a long time in politics. Four years, though, is not — not when you've promised to change a city.

About the Author

Jonathan Montpetit

Journalist

Jonathan Montpetit is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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