Former CSU Executive Running for Montreal City Council
Sameer Zuberi Enters Election Race in Pierrefonds-Roxboro Borough
A former executive in Concordia’s undergraduate student union will seek to be elected to Montreal’s city council on Nov. 3.
Sameer Zuberi entered student politics in January 2002 by becoming the Concordia Student Union’s VP Services. He was later elected VP Finance for the following 2002-2003 academic year.
Now, 10 years later, he is looking to become a city councillor in the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough’s Bois-de-Liesse district, running in the upcoming election with political party Projet Montréal.
In an interview with The Link last Friday, the first official day of the campaign period, Zuberi said it was his experience at Concordia that sparked in him an interest in civic engagement and politics.
“Concordia actually shaped me [into] who I am today, and is the main reason why today I’m running [for city council] instead of working in a profession,” he said. “It’s why I’m still involved publicly.”
Zuberi said that he originally thought he would study mathematics, complete some actuarial exams, go on to work in a profession and focus on himself and his family, without getting involved much in wider society.
“But it was my Concordia experience that actually led to a trajectory where I made a personal promise to myself that I would be publicly involved for the betterment of society,” he said.
A married 34-year-old with two young daughters, Zuberi has followed a diverse career path. During his CEGEP and university studies, he was a reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces. After completing his bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Concordia in 2004, he worked as an English teacher in Kuwait for a year, between 2005 and 2006.
Upon his return to Canada, Zuberi worked as a human rights advocate at the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada, now renamed the National Council of Canadian Muslims, a group that advocates for civil liberties and mutual understanding between Canadian Muslims and their fellow citizens.
Zuberi began working as a legal researcher in 2010, and is currently working towards a law degree at the Université du Québec à Montréal.
“It’s a natural trajectory in terms of what I was doing with respect to human rights,” he said. “[A law degree] increases your credentials so that you can be more effective in advocating for the dignity and respect of people. That’s why I entered [legal studies].”
Zuberi said the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough, located in the western suburbs of the island of Montreal, is in need of revitalization.
“There are some areas that are currently being developed, like the West [of the borough],” he said. “The district I’m looking to represent is the East. It’s an older district; it’s been developed. […] There’s some attention and care that needs to be given to the area.
“There are a lot of storefronts that could be revitalized, businesses that could be brought in,” he continued. “There are pockets of poverty that need attention and amelioration.”
Christian Dubois, who is currently the city councillor for the Bois-de-Liesse district, is running for mayor of the borough with Montreal mayoral hopeful Marcel Côté’s coalition. The incumbent borough councillor for the district, Dimitrios Beis, is running with Montreal mayoral candidate Denis Coderre’s party.
Zuberi said the incumbents were elected to represent the Bois-de-Liesse district, but focused on the more affluent, western district of Cap-Saint-Jacques once voted in.
“The current people who are representing the East are trying to be involved in both the East and the West,” he said. “I think that they, as representatives of the East, should be focusing squarely on the East, instead of giving [their focus] to the West as well.”
In order to revitalize the district, Zuberi said a borough administration led by Projet Montréal would attract knowledge-based industries into the area so that residents have jobs in their own part of the city, instead of having to commute downtown.
That task may be easier said than done. Most of the high-tech companies in the western part of the island are currently located along Highway 40 in St-Laurent’s Technoparc and in independent municipalities like Pointe-Claire and Kirkland.
“We will be inviting not huge companies, but mid-sized, small-sized companies to come and bring their industries into the area,” Zuberi said, adding that there are indeed some larger streets in the borough, like Pierrefonds Boulevard.
“We’re not looking to dwarf the residential housing, but bring in businesses that will complement what’s already there,” he said.
The Environment and Public Transit
Development also doesn’t have to come at the expense of the environment, according to Zuberi. He says that Projet Montréal’s team in Pierrefonds-Roxboro wants to protect green spaces.
When asked how best to balance economic and residential development with the desire to protect nature, he said that “it makes complete sense to develop upon existing land” by redeveloping older, dilapidated buildings as opposed to building upon natural spaces.
“It’s in our platform, in writing, that we’re looking to protect green space, the reason being that Pierrefonds has been developed over the decades consistently,” he said. “[Development] is a good thing for the area, but also it means that at some point, we must protect the green spaces that [remain].”
If he is elected as a city councillor, Zuberi said he would also make sure that every resident has access to sports and recreational facilities, and those who live below the poverty line be “given attention and not ignored.”
As for public transit, the Projet Montréal team in Pierrefonds-Roxboro is “evaluating the possibility of creating a second storey of parking” within the existing parking lots at the borough’s two train stations, both of which are on the Agence métropolitaine de transport’s Deux-Montagnes commuter line.
“It’s obviously not a unilateral decision on the part of the municipality,” said Zuberi. “It’s something that must be done in partnership with other levels of government and other stakeholders.”