Concordians in local politics
Meet some of the Concordia alum running in the municipal election
As Montreal’s municipal elections approach in early November, candidates from all districts and boroughs have come out to run for political office in their neighbourhoods.
Among them are Concordia alumni Sam Donald with Mouvement Montréal, Ericka Alneus with Projet Montréal and Lionel Perez representing Ensemble Montréal.
Originally coming from out of province as a student, Donald found a home in Montreal and is running for city councillor in the Saint-Paul—Émard—Saint-Henri-Ouest area.
Donald moved from Ottawa to study environment and development at McGill in 2010, and later fine & studio arts and electroacoustics at Concordia University in 2015.
Having worked in the music industry, the arts scene and the restaurant industry, Donald is a proud Montrealer who was drawn to the area for its culture, bilingualism and the promise of a city full of opportunity.
As a queer and non-binary person, Donald strongly believes in the necessity of their presence in the political realm. They feel that they are there to not only represent the LGBTQA+ community but to do so through an intersectional lens that uplifts all marginalized people.
“I saw the city changing in ways that are troubling,” they said.
They are concerned with growing issues including the housing market, general public security and anti-racism. Prioritizing people rather than business interests is their focus.
Donald believes that the private sector and financial interests have contributed to issues like the housing crisis and must be addressed. While they are an advocate for financial investment in the city, they believe that this should not impede the welfare of the city, its culture and the people that make up its history.
“I like to say they don't win until we give up. And that, to me, speaks to the fact that there will always be forces that are working against the people. But when the people are united and resolute in their organizing, we can stand up to the bigger interest of capital that are always trying to crush us,” they stated.
The 29-year-old understands that students and young adults do not feel properly represented in local government, even when they are often the most involved and passionate about social issues.
“I went from being told my opinion doesn’t matter to asserting that my opinion does and running for local government, saying, ‘This is my city too,’” they stated while speaking on their youth.
Donald believes that it is both the right and responsibility of young people to get involved and speak up on the things that are happening in the city.
Working with Projet Montreal, Ericka Alneus encourages students to voice their opinions but also hopes they get involved with their local communities.
Hailing from a Haitian family in the Eastern Townships, Alneus is running for city councillor in the Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie district.
She came to Montreal to study political science at Concordia in 2006, taking a break from her studies to work in the field to later graduate in philanthropic management at the Université de Montréal in 2019.
Alneus has worked and volunteered for a multitude of non-governmental and community organizations including the Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi, Carrefour d’Aide aux Nouveaux Arrivants, and the Maison des Jeunes de Cartierville. Addressing social inequalities, ensuring equal opportunities, and promoting eco-sustainability in her neighborhood are some of her main areas of focus.
“I’m a person that believes in doing things because [I] have an intention to nourish it. While I was doing my classes at Concordia, I realized that I wanted to work concretely [on] political issues,” Alneus said.
“I have been living in this district for 13 years, so this is home. This is where I live, and it would be such an honor to represent where I live,” Alneus said in regards to her community.
She stresses the impact and importance of participating in local politics to advance progress, being someone who believes in incremental systematic change.
“I understand that some people want to change the system and it’s legitimate, but before changing it, know the system,” she said.
“It’s not perfect but we are privileged to have the right [to] show up and say, ‘I agree with this, or I don’t agree with that,’” she says in reference to the freedom of opinion that democracy allows.
Running for borough mayor in the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce area, Lionel Perez shares similar sentiments when it comes to democratic participation and emphasizing the role of the citizen.
Born and raised in Montreal, Perez grew up in an immigrant family living in CDN-NDG. He went on to study political science at Concordia, J.D. law at York and finally graduated in 1996 with a bachelor's in civil law at UDEM.
Lawyer, entrepreneur, father of four children and grandfather of one, Perez is a strong believer in family and community values. Despite controversy and corruption scandals associated with local politics in the borough, Perez says he is seeking to rectify this image by steering the municipal politics of CDN-NDG towards an approach that prioritizes citizens.
Perez states that his team's values include inclusion, diversity, accountability, fiscal responsibility and transparency in government.
Nothing is free, people pay taxes, there is a cost and sometimes some people forget that, and they just think it’s a blank cheque because it’s not coming out of their pockets,” he said.
Lionel is advocating for a balance between handling the bureaucracy of the “machine that is public service" with the needs of the population.
“You’re never going to necessarily please everybody, you’re not always going to find unanimity. The objective is to find consensus, social acceptability,” he added.
Perez encourages Montreal’s youth and citizens to get involved politically at any level, with particular emphasis on local democracy at the municipal stage.
“Municipal politics, by far, affect every person’s quality of life the most. The fact that there is or isn’t a stop sign on your street is something you’re going to be dealing with every single day. The level of snow removal, the frequency of garbage and composting pickup, the lighting on your street that affects your security and safety; all these things impact you and are decided at the municipal level,” Perez said.
This article has been updated to correct Sam Donald's name and properly reflect Ericka Alneus' professional history. The Link regrets this error.