Montreal

Plante administration ousts Marvin Rotrand from STM board of directors

Westmount’s former mayor, Peter Trent, and Polytechnique Montréal engineering Prof. Catherine Morency have been tapped to join the board in his stead.

Former Westmount mayor Peter Trent and Catherine Morency, an engineering professor, have been appointed

Coun. Marvin Rotrand, seen here in 2014, says his ejection from the STM board of directors came as a surprise and will cost him a third of his income. (CBC)

After nearly two decades on the board of Montreal's public transit agency, longtime Coun. Marvin Rotrand has again been removed by the city's administration.

"I leave with a sense that the STM is one of the best operators in North America, but that there are still challenges to face," Rotrand told CBC News.

Outremont Coun. Valérie Patreau was also removed from the board. City spokesperson Youssef Amane said it was time to bring new experts to the table.

Amane confirmed that former Westmount mayor Peter Trent and Catherine Morency, an engineering professor at Polytechnique Montréal, were tapped to join the board in their stead — a board that strategizes and manages the budget of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM).

The board positions are appointed by the city's administration and require approval from city council.

Rotrand was first appointed in November 2001. He briefly lost his position when he was removed by former mayor Denis Coderre in June 2017.

Rotrand endorsed Valérie Plante during the 2017 campaign, and her administration put him back on the board soon after Plante won the November 2017 election.

Unexpected ejection 

Rotrand said he got a surprise call last Wednesday from Plante's office telling him he would no longer be on the board.

He was told the administration had "decided to go in another direction," and no other reason was given.

The councillor says the executive director of the sTM had not been consulted. Neither had the sitting chair, he said.

Rotrand said this raises concerns about the independence of the board — a board, he explained, that is supposed to be an autonomous body in place to serve the public and not a political party.

"While I am personally disappointed, I also don't think it is in the public interest to micro-manage the STM which is more and more getting its orders from city hall," said Rotrand. "It disappoints me in the sense that Valérie Plante had promised to do politics differently."

Rotrand acknowledged he has been critical of Plante since the election, but he does not know if those criticisms played a role in the ousting.

Plante replied to those comments, saying the move isn't personal.

"One of our colleagues from Projet Montréal isn't staying as well," she said, referring to Patreau.

She said the new appointees are being welcomed to the STM board for what they have "to bring to the table."

Looking ahead, Rotrand said he will continue advocating for improved public transit in Montreal.

On Monday, Rotrand was in Toronto representing the STM at the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA). 

His attendance at the annual conference was planned before his removal.

Just last year, CUTA awarded Rotrand the prize for distinguished service to transit in Canada.

According to that association's website, the STM's annual ridership increased from 356 million to 416 million and the general level of customer satisfaction grew from 77 per cent to 89 per cent during Rotrand's 2001-2017 tenure.

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