ConU Alum Sets Her Eyes on Council Seat
Yana Lukasheh Looks to Turn Laval into “City of Culture”
Yana Lukasheh, who turns 26 in two weeks, admits her age could be a stumbling block with voters when they head to the ballot box in the Nov. 3 municipal elections.
The Concordia graduate is running for a seat on Laval’s city council in the Ste-Dorothée electoral district, under the banner of mayoral candidate Jean-Claude Gobé’s Action Laval party.
“There is going to be, perhaps, a hurdle in terms of the electorate in Ste-Dorothée, whether they will view me as a serious contender or a serious candidate,” Lukasheh told The Link.
“What I hope to do is bring forth my experience and bring forth what I’ve learned, and make sure that I speak to every possible elector that I can, to let them know what I’ve done, to let them know about what I hope to do, and to convince them.”
When asked what her vision for the future of Laval was, Lukasheh said she hoped the city of 400,000 residents just north of Montreal would continue to prosper economically and also become a “city of culture.”
Safety, Sports and Traffic
Lukasheh told The Link that safety, sports facilities and traffic are among the main concerns of Ste-Dorothée’s residents in this election campaign.
She said an increase in break-ins has left “citizens afraid at night,” and having additional police on regular patrol routes in Western Laval would help to deter crime.
She also noted that “traffic is a horrible issue, every day and every night” on Highway 13, as there are only three access points onto the highway in Ste-Dorothée.
Her experience working in Montreal has given her an idea for how the problem can be solved at the municipal level. She says the city could probably add another entry onto the service road running parallel to the highway.
“I know it’s doable,” she said. “Urban planning-wise, it’s doable […] and financially, it’s doable.”
As for public transit, Lukasheh said her party recognizes that the city’s public transit services are not up to par.
“Frequency is an issue,” she said. “We need more buses passing more frequently through the routes that we have, and we need more routes, especially in Ste-Dorothée, with the new development that’s there.”
She said the party has committed to sitting down with the Société de transport de Laval, the city’s public transit corporation, to look at ways of improving its service.
“Should there be [the] need to invest more money in [public transit], well, we will, because in the long run, it will benefit our citizens,” she said.
She also promised to make sure children have more opportunities to play sports like hockey and soccer in organized leagues in Laval.
“I’ve got to say, as a Lavaler, I’m extremely jealous of the level of culture that Montreal has,” she added. “I’d hope that we [could] revamp, within our administration, the cultural aspect of [Laval]. We can bring in the dance schools. We can bring in the institutions that specialize in culture.”
Experience in Politics
Lukasheh has been involved in the political scene since 2007. It was then that she began working as a secretary to Michelle Courchesne, a former Member of the National Assembly for the Laval riding of Fabre who acted as Quebec’s Minister of Education, Leisure and Sports at the time, while simultaneously working towards a bachelor’s degree in political science that she later completed in 2009.
In June 2011, Lukasheh became a political attaché to Michael Applebaum, then-borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in Montreal.
Shortly before Applebaum became interim mayor of Montreal following Gérald Tremblay’s resignation in November 2012, she started working as a press secretary in the mayor’s office.
Back in the C.D.N.–N.D.G. borough office since May, Lukasheh is currently the chief of staff of interim borough mayor Lionel Perez.
“Despite my young age, I have that experience,” Lukasheh said. “I know how to resolve [municipal] issues when they come up, whereas someone who’s a fresh, new face may not know the ins and outs either of the city or relating with the public servants. That’s what I hope to bring [to city council] and what I hope [residents] will appreciate.”
She said she proved herself to public servants with more seniority than her by closely studying dossiers and doing her research.
When asked whether she ever suspected there might be corruption in the borough’s administration—Applebaum stepped down as mayor of Montreal following his arrest on 14 charges related to two real estate projects in the borough—Lukasheh said she wasn’t privy to information that would have allowed her to detect such wrongdoing, since her work at the borough mostly involved making sure that progress was being made on residents’ dossiers.
“There was absolutely no way for me to see this coming,” she said. “Whatever Mr. Applebaum is going through right now, he’ll have his chance through the court systems to prove his innocence, and I also trust in the legal system to do their job.”
Lukasheh said that, despite what has happened, she will always be thankful to Applebaum for believing in her as a young person and for teaching her the importance of getting out from behind a desk and actually meeting with constituents to listen to their concerns.
She also added that she “won’t be afraid” to come forward and denounce any wrongdoing she might see in Laval if she is elected.
Slowing the Sprawl?
A recent national study has found that Greater Montreal has seen a higher rate of growth in the population of its exurbs—rural areas on the edges of the metropolitan region where low-density housing developments are popping up—than most other metropolitan areas in Canada. Exurbs and more established so-called “auto-dependent suburbs” accounted for 96 per cent of the metropolitan area’s population growth between 2006 and 2011.
The study, titled “Suburban Nation: Estimating the Size of Canada’s Suburban Population,” was headed by Queen’s University professor David Gordon, and will be published in the Journal of Architectural and Planning Research this fall.
Ste-Dorothée has seen considerable growth in recent years, with new houses and shopping centres popping up. But it’s also a district of contrasts, with forests, farms and flower-growers continuing to exist in its northern parts.
When asked what her stance was on striking the right balance between new housing developments and the desire to protect natural spaces, she said that the beauty of Laval and Ste-Dorothée was “that we can have that contrast […] just two or three streets away from each other.”
The administration of former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt—who was charged with gangsterism in May—looked very favourably upon urban development, according to Lukasheh.
She said a municipality led by the Action Laval party will bring about a cooling-off period in housing development, which will be done in order to study where development has already peaked and where developers are looking to build more housing, as well as where natural spaces like wetlands and forests can be better protected.
“To find a balance between [development and ecological conservation] is very important,” she said. “Laval has gone through a boom—we don’t need it to go through another boom.
“Laval has a very healthy budget,” she continued, noting that the city has posted annual budgetary surpluses of around $35-40 million in the past few years.
“We’re not desperate for the profits that [new housing developments] bring.”
CORRECTION: The original version of this article misspelt Yana Lukasheh’s name. The original version also read, “When Applebaum became interim mayor of Montreal following Gérald Tremblay’s resignation in November 2012, she started working as a press secretary in the mayor’s office.” Lukasheh actually started working in the mayor’s office shortly before Tremblay resigned, in October 2012. The article has been updated accordingly. The Link regrets the errors.