A Look at Mélanie Joly’s Team in Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce
From left to right: borough mayor candidate Andrew Ross, mayoral candidate Mélanie Joly, Loyola city councillor candidate Kashmir Randhawa, Côte-des-Neiges city councillor candidate Raphael Assor, Darlington city councillor candidate Kamala Jegatheeswaran, and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce city councillor candidate Marie-Claude Johnson. Photo Leslie Schachter
Montreal mayoral candidate Mélanie Joly has managed to rally an eclectic mix of candidates behind her ahead of the Nov. 3 municipal election.
In the city’s Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, the candidates running under the banner of her party, Le vrai changement pour Montréal—Groupe Mélanie Joly, include a graduate of Concordia’s journalism diploma program, the daughter of a former Quebec premier and the owner of a bagel shop.
In their campaign material, the five candidates representing Joly’s party in the borough promise to improve public transit, repair streets and sidewalks and create a tourist-friendly zone around Saint Joseph’s Oratory, among other projects.
The Concordia Graduate
Andrew Ross is Groupe Mélanie Joly’s candidate for borough mayor of C.D.N.—N.D.G. He completed a graduate diploma in journalism at Concordia in 2001, as well as a bachelor’s degree in history and political science at McGill University.
The 35-year-old father of four, who has lived in N.D.G. for 14 years, said sweeping away the corruption and collusion taking place in the city’s administration is a priority. He said he believes it’s not a systemic problem, but rather a problem with the officials currently governing Montreal.
“By bringing in new faces, new ideas—people who are new to the political process—we’ll be able to make real change at city hall,” he said.
Rival political party Projet Montréal is in favour of the construction of a tramway network, which would include a line along Côte-des-Neiges Rd. Ross said his party doesn’t consider the tramway a realistic solution.
He said his party believes in “public transit projects that are cost-effective, realistic, practical and that can be done immediately.”
“A tramway project would cost billions of dollars that the city does not have,” he said. “What we suggest instead [is] a bus-rapid-transit system, and that is something that we would deploy across the city.
“It costs a fraction of the price tag of a tramway system and we’d be able to get much more [out of it] using the technology that we already have,” he continued.
Ross said that a BRT network wouldn’t sacrifice “the future of our children and grandchildren” to build “someone’s vanity project,” a reference to Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron’s longtime support for the tramway and his political party’s view that it can lead to urban development and neighbourhood renewal.
Ross said his party would push for articulated buses to be introduced onto the 105 route along Sherbrooke St. to provide greater capacity and better service “so that Concordia students coming from Vendôme [metro station] and coming from anywhere else in the city using the metro system can actually get to Loyola [campus] without getting caught in traffic or crammed into buses like sardines.”
Ross said the bus terminus at the end of the route near the Montreal-West train station would need to be rebuilt to accommodate articulated buses, as the “turning radius is too tight” at the current bus terminus. He also said that the city would need to use a vacant property next to the bus terminus to enlarge it.
As for the planned development of the former Montreal Hippodrome raceway into a new residential neighbourhood, Ross said it can’t be done in a “cookie-cutter style.”
“You don’t want to ghettoize a new development,” he said, promising to make sure that there would be a diversity of housing options suitable for single people, families and seniors and that the area would be built into the party’s proposed BRT system.
“It’s not just about building housing; it’s about building the services that come along with it, to make it a place that people want to live in,” he continued.
“That means the parks and the green space; that means encouraging business to move into the sector too, so that when you live there, you feel that the services that you need are available at your fingertips.”
From a Family of Politicians
Marie-Claude Johnson is Groupe Mélanie Joly’s candidate in the borough’s Notre-Dame-de-Grâce electoral district.
Her family has long been involved in politics. The 34-year-old’s grandfather, Daniel Johnson Sr., served as Quebec’s premier as the leader of the Union Nationale party from 1966 until his sudden death in 1968. Her uncle, Daniel Johnson Jr., served as premier under the Quebec Liberal Party banner for most of 1994.
Her father, Pierre-Marc, was also premier for approximately three months in late 1985, having been the leader of the Parti Québécois.
Johnson has worked as a political advisor to Quebec Liberal Party politicians Raymond Bachand and Monique Jérôme-Forget, according to La Presse. More recently, she co-founded a strategic consulting firm.
In an interview with The Link, Johnson said she’s now “very excited” about entering politics herself at the municipal level.
“I’ve always been interested in municipal affairs,” she said, adding that she is an urban planner by training. “I never quite practiced, but of course, I’m interested in all these issues; I understand them.”
She noted the challenges facing the borough, including those arising from the reconstruction of the Turcot Interchange and the McGill University Health Centre’s new Glen Campus superhospital.
“The local community needs to be represented in [discussing] the effects that these projects have on them, which are mostly positive, but there needs to be decent coordination and a strong enough voice—whether it’s mine or Mélanie’s voice—to carry [their concerns to] city hall,” she said, adding that the construction could result in more traffic, which can bring more consumers into the area’s commercial areas but could also hurt residents’ quality of life.
Johnson also mentioned the millions of visitors entering the borough every year to visit the St. Joseph’s Oratory as a possible source of challenges.
“When you bring three million people into the streets and the services are calculated in [terms] of the number of residents, then we have a problem,” she said. One of the party’s campaign commitments is to create a new tourism zone around the oratory.
Additionally, Johnson said her party would change Montreal’s current practice of awarding construction contracts for infrastructure projects to the lowest bidder.
“It’s already in the law that you can use the quality bidder […] and factor in sustainable development and quality of infrastructures,” she said. “It’s already there, we just don’t use it. So, we don’t have the intention of reinventing the wheel, we are just going to use the tools differently.”
The Bagel Shop Owner
Kashmir Randhawa might be a recognizable face if you occasionally drop by Dad’s Bagel, a Sherbrooke St. staple which has been selling bagels and Indian food since 1994.
The owner of the bagel shop, who used to be a financial controller and director in the Indian Army, is Groupe Mélanie Joly’s candidate in the Loyola electoral district, which is home to Concordia’s Loyola campus.
“Traffic in the morning is very congested,” Randhawa said. “My question is, why don’t [city officials] open up Cavendish Blvd. all the way to Highway 40 and ease some traffic problems over there?
“And now they want to reserve the bus lanes on Sherbrooke [St.], which will be a disaster without opening Cavendish and taking some traffic from there [in] another direction,” he continued.
Linking the two separate segments of Cavendish Blvd. has been in the works for 50 years. Currently, one segment ends in St-Laurent and the other begins on the other side of a rail yard in the independent municipality of Côte-Saint-Luc.
According to a TVA report, Joly said that connecting the two sections could be done within four years.
Randhawa also said a combination of subsidies and lower taxes could help to ensure that there are more affordable apartments for students in the area around the university.