Confused about voting in Montreal? Here's what you need to know

Montreal's municipal structure can be confusing, so we try to break it down for you and explain why it is the way it is.

Who am I voting for? How many people am I voting for? It's all covered right here

The election signs are up and decisions have to be made, but for who and what position? (Radio-Canada)

Am I voting for the mayor of Montreal or a borough mayor? What's the difference between a city councillor and a borough councillor, and why do we have to vote for both in some boroughs?

Montreal is a complicated city when it comes to municipal politics. With an election coming up in November, we break it down for you in a comprehensive and clear way.

The structure

Let's start from the top and move down the ladder.

Leading the City of Montreal is the mayor. Every Montrealer eligible to vote will have to decide on who they want to run the city.

Below the mayor is city council — which includes both borough mayors and city councillors.

"First of all, the city council is made up of the mayor of Montreal as well as all the mayors of the city's 18 boroughs," explains Danielle Pilette, a professor who specializes in municipal affairs in the urban studies department at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

Eighteen you say? But doesn't Montreal have 19 boroughs? Yes, but the Ville-Marie borough mayor is actually filled by the mayor of Montreal.

That means every Montrealer — except those in the Ville-Marie borough — are voting for both a Montreal mayor and a borough mayor.

City versus borough councillors

Now it gets a bit more complicated.

Some Montreal boroughs just have city councillors, others have only borough councillors and some have both. So what's the difference?

City councillors represent their borough on Montreal city council and they also represent their citizens on borough council.

The more populated a borough, the more representation it will have on city council.

Take Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce for example. It is Montreal's most-populated borough with more than 160,000 residents. It has a borough mayor as well as five city councillors, but no borough councillors.

Côte-des-Neiges Notre-Dame-de-Grâce is Montreal's most populated borough, therefore it has five city councillors and no borough councillors. (Hélène Simard/CBC)

But what about borough councillors?

Each borough council has to have at least five members. 

So if the size of the population only warrants one city councillor, who also sits on borough council, that borough has to make up the difference in members by electing borough councillors.

"When we are looking at smaller-populated boroughs, like for example, Verdun, there, there are only two city councillors. So in order to have at least five representatives on the borough council, borough councillors need to be elected," says Pilette.

Verdun is one of two more complicated boroughs (LaSalle being the other one). It is not as populated as Côte-des-Neiges NDG, so citizens there vote for one city councillor and two borough councillors. (Hélène Simard/CBC)

So how many people am I voting for then?

Every Montrealer who shows up to their polling station votes for:

  • Mayor of Montreal
  • Borough mayor (unless in Ville-Marie)
  • City councillor of their district (except for in Outremont and L'Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève, where the mayor serves as representative on city council)

And in boroughs with less city representation:

  • Borough councillor(s)
Every Montrealer votes for the person they want to see as mayor of the city. From there, things depend on which borough you live in and its population. (Hélène Simard/CBC)

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Sarah Leavitt


Sarah Leavitt is a multimedia journalist with CBC who loves hearing people's stories. Tell her yours: or on Twitter @SarahLeavittCBC.