Mayor Valérie Plante urges new CAQ government to protect environment, boost public transit
'We need to think out of the box,' says mayor while vowing to welcome immigrants, protect city's autonomy
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says she is prepared to work with Quebec's newly elected government, despite a number of key differences with premier-designate François Legault.
Plante said Tuesday that she has already spoken with Legault and, she said, "I assured him that he will have our full collaboration to push Montreal issues forward."
The Coalition Avenir Québec's victory was powered by gains in areas outside Montreal, but the party won only two seats in the province's largest city.
Despite the power shift, economic development remains at the heart of Plante's list of priorities, she said, but "let's not forget about mobility, public transit, housing and the fight against climate change."
These are issues, she added, that are dear not just to her administration, but to all Montrealers.
Protecting the environment will be an area she will focus on. The city has taken a "big step forward" with its environmental objectives and many of those objectives need to be done in collaboration with the province.
She said she will be working with the new government to help provincial officials understand local issues.
"We need to think out of the box," she said. "That's really what I will be doing with the new government."
Looking ahead after rocky start
Plante's relationship with the CAQ got off to a rocky start this summer when it became apparent they didn't see eye-to-eye on some of her priorities.
For example, Legault has said he will consider cutting the size of Montreal's city council.
This is something, Plante made clear Tuesday, that she is not open to discussing unless Montreal residents — not the provincial government — make it a priority.
Otherwise, she said, being a local government means Quebec doesn't impose itself on the operations of the city and those sentiments are shared across the province.
"All municipalities have been saying, on that front, 'We don't want to be told what to do.'"
Although Legault has promised to cut immigration by more than 20 per cent, Plante said Montreal will remain a welcoming city. Immigration, she said, is good for society, culture and the city's workforce.
"[Immigration is] good on so many levels," she said. "I will continue to protect the welcoming side of Montreal."
While the CAQ has promised to extend the Metro's blue line and build a new tramway in the east end, Legault has declined to fully support Plante's proposed Pink Metro line.
Much of the party's transit plans instead favour the suburbs, but Plante has argued against plans that, she said, would encourage sprawl and create more congestion.
Investments in public transportation must be made, she said. Montreal will be studying project ideas and presenting proposals as it searches for transportation solutions that take into account the entire city's needs.
In a later press conference, Legault said he has plans for the city, especially for its east end, and he is committed to working with Plante, alongside his two newly elected on-island MNAs.
"We have to work for Montreal," he said. "If we want to have a strong Quebec economy, we need to have our metropolis stronger."
CAQ ready to work for Montreal, MNA says
Chantal Rouleau, one of the CAQ's on-island winners, said the new government will work with Plante and all of the city's elected officials of Montreal to see "what are the real needs and how we can address those needs."
"I heard the people. I listened to the people," Rouleau, who won in Pointe-aux-Trembles, long a Parti Québécois stronghold in Montreal's east end, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Tuesday.
"They were saying they wanted a change. It's not only outside Montreal that they wanted that change. They want it in Montreal also."
She said she plans to continue defending the city's interests, particularly those of the east end, alongside her colleague, Richard Campeau, who won in the neighbouring riding of Bourget.
Rouleau skirted around questions about the party's plan to cut the number of immigrants, saying the focus should be Montreal's public transportation needs.
Concerns about Montreal's economy
The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal offered Legault congratulations in a statement laced with its own concerns for the Montreal region's economy.
As the province's new premier, it is vital that Legault takes into account the need to expand the province's pool of skilled labour, restore competitive taxation and improve public transit infrastructure to maintain the city's vitality, the chamber says in a statement.
"The new government will have to navigate an international environment that remains uncertain," says president and CEO Michel Leblanc in the statement.
"Our economic success will depend on our ability to provide our businesses and workers with a competitive business environment during this time."