INTERACTIVE: Understanding Montreal’s Municipal Government
As the election placards on the streets of the city indicate, Montrealers will head to the polls on Nov. 3.
Many young voters, including a lot of Concordia students, will be voting at the municipal level for the first time in these upcoming elections.
Montreal’s municipal government is quite complex, with 103 elected officials in the city of Montreal alone.
Add to that 14 other municipalities on the island of Montreal, an off-island town that shares services with the city and a metropolitan community composed of no less than 82 municipalities consisting of 3.8 million people in total, and understanding the region’s governance structures can suddenly become rather daunting.
With that in mind, The Link has compiled some information on how Quebec’s metropolis really works.
Boroughs and Voting Procedure in the City of Montreal
Click on an electoral district to see information about the local borough council and voting procedures.
Montreal’s Governance Structures
The composition of the borough councils varies from borough to borough, though Montreal’s city charter establishes that the borough councils will be made up of a borough mayor, any city councillors elected within the borough and, as required, borough councillors.
In addition to sitting on a borough council, the 46 city councillors throughout the city and the 19 borough mayors also sit on Montreal’s city council, while borough councillors only sit on their local borough councils. In the case of the downtown Ville-Marie borough, the mayor of Montreal acts as borough mayor.
The borough councils have local powers according to the city charter in the following areas: urban planning; fire safety and civil protection; the environment; local economic, community, cultural and social development; culture, recreation and borough parks; and local roads. The borough councils are also responsible for managing the borough budgets allocated to them by city council.
In addition, the city charter allows the borough councils to exercise the city’s jurisdiction in the areas of waste collection, zoning and subdivision.
Law requires each borough council to hold at least 10 regular meetings each year. Each borough is also required to have an office where permits can be issued and citizens can get information about the city and the borough.
Montreal City Council
Under Montreal’s city charter, the city administration and council have jurisdiction over the following areas: land use planning and development; economic promotion and community, cultural, economic, social, environmental and transportation development; recovery and recycling of residual materials; culture, recreation and parks; social housing; the arterial road system; water purification; police services; road service and vehicle towing; and the municipal court.
As per the charter, the borough councils are the ones who actually exercise the city’s powers in the areas of waste collection, zoning and subdivision.
According to the city of Montreal’s website, the city council is ultimately responsible for public safety, intergovernmental agreements, building renovation subsidies, the city’s master plan and its three-year capital works program, among other things. It also “oversees, standardizes and approves decisions made by the borough councils.”
The city’s annual budget, which is drawn up by the executive committee, is submitted to a vote in city council.
Members of the general public can ask questions to city council at the start of each of its meetings. The city council meets every month except for July.
The current executive committee is made up of the mayor and 11 city councillors from all parts of the city and across party lines.
Montreal’s city charter stipulates that the executive committee will draw up the city’s annual budget, along with recommendations on the budget and that of the Société de transport de Montréal, the city’s public transit corporation. The executive committee may also submit draft bylaws and reports to city council for approval.
The city charter also gives the executive committee the power to grant contracts if they are worth less than $100,000.
The meetings of the executive committee are closed to the public except if the city’s bylaws specifically require that certain meetings take place in public or if the executive committee decides to hold all or part of a meeting in public.
There are 14 independent municipalities on the island of Montreal: Baie-D’Urfé, Beaconsfield, Côte-Saint-Luc, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Dorval, Hampstead, Kirkland, Montréal-Est, Montréal-Ouest, Town of Mount-Royal, Pointe-Claire, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Senneville and Westmount.
These towns and the small town of Dorval Island, located on an island in Lac St-Louis, share certain services with the city of Montreal. The agglomeration council has jurisdiction over matters that affect Montreal and all of these municipalities.
Created in 2006, the agglomeration council is made up of the mayor of Montreal, 15 members of Montreal’s city council named by the mayor, 14 mayors from the independent municipalities (Dorval and Dorval Island have one representative), and an additional representative from Dollard-des-Ormeaux due to the size of the city, chosen by the mayor of that city.
The city of Montreal’s representatives hold 87 per cent of the votes on the council, whereas the independent municipalities collectively hold 13 per cent of the votes; these percentages are based on the size of the cities’ populations.
Provincial legislation gives to the agglomeration council powers related to: municipal assessment; passenger transportation; the management of major thoroughfares and streets; police, fire protection and first responder services; the 911 emergency centre; the municipal court; social housing; and certain areas of economic development, such as airports, ports, tourist services and industrial parks.
There is a public question period at the start of the agglomeration council meetings.
Montreal Metropolitan CommunityMMC is a “legal person,” according to provincial legislation.
The 28-member MMC council is made up of the mayor of Montreal and 13 representatives chosen by the agglomeration council from among the agglomeration’s elected officials; the mayor of Laval and two people chosen by Laval’s city council from among its members; the mayor of Longueuil and two representatives chosen by Longueuil’s agglomeration council from among the agglomeration’s elected officials; four mayors from the North Shore suburbs; and four mayors from the South Shore suburbs.
The MMC’s jurisdiction includes economic development; social housing; equipment, infrastructure and services related to the whole metropolitan region; public transportation and the metropolitan road network; waste management and planning; air purification; and water purification. The MMC is also responsible for the metropolitan community’s land use and development plan.
The MMC’s website notes that MMC meetings are public, and each meeting includes a period during which members of the public can ask questions.