- David Boudeweel-Lefebvre
Wind of change in Québec municipalities
Yesterday was election day in every municipality in Québec. Although hundreds of candidates for both mayor and councillor positions were acclaimed, there were still interesting battles going on across the province. More importantly, it was a good opportunity to validate the anticipated trend of municipal renewal. Several mayors of major cities were not seeking re-election, and a new wave of candidacies suggested major changes were on the horizon.
This wave materialized from the first moments of the election night. Apart from the “Montreal exception”, which easily re-elected Mayor Valérie Plante, more than 15 of the 25 most populous cities elected a new mayor and, in some cases, a completely new council.
There were also many women, mostly under 45, elected to the top position in major municipalities such as Longueuil, Sherbrooke, Gatineau and Saguenay. The new mayor of Laval, a man, is less than 35 years old. It is a tidal wave of youth and a real changing of the guard that has occurred.
Of course, such an observation brings more questions than answers. A wave of youth and renewal is all very well, but we still need to know what it will be made of.
The question of experience and the ability to get results for citizens is at the forefront of concerns. How long will the newly elected officials need to be able to really make their mark? How many of them will pass the test and be able to bring a new vision to their city? I believe that we should give the runner a chance, and hope that the newly young elected officials will be able to surround themselves with experienced collaborators.
On the substance, it’s obvious that environmental-related issues, urban development management and housing will be at the forefront. These priorities were already emerging and will be even more present now. Issues of taxation and city autonomy may be the subject of a tug-of-war with the provincial government that will be interesting to watch. Finally, will some cities be attracted to federal infrastructure funding? Will they want to impose their priorities directly on other levels of government?
There has also been a slight shift away during many campaigns from more traditional city functions such as garbage collection, snow removal and land management to issues of culture and regional or international outreach. Will this appeal to citizens in the long run?
These are all issues we will keep you posted on.