Editorial: Mayoral Candidates Ignore Students in Election Campaign

Student-Centric Initiatives Are Great, But At the Polls is Where it Matters Most

  • Graphic Carl Bindman

When the Concordia Student Union announced that they would be a part of the Coalition régionale étudiante de Montréal, we at The Link were hopeful that students would get a space to voice their concerns in the upcoming municipal elections.

The coalition released their eight demands for the city’s future administration, which included:

  • Prioritize the proposed extension of the metro’s blue line
  • Improvement for the Société de transport de Montréal’s night service
  • The city’s commuter train provider keep a 40 per cent student discount across all its regions
  • Student fare for part-time students
  • Student fare for Bixis
  • Affordable housing as a priority
  • Include student homelessness in the city’s next action plan on homelessness
  • At least one seat reserved for someone 35 or younger on all of the city’s Boards

These are all great ideas, and we hope the city’s future administration will actively look at them. They are all things that would improve the quality of life of Montreal’s hundreds of thousands of students. But the majority of these demands are not controlled by the municipal government, so we’re hesitant to say that lobbying the city is the way to go.

Improving the night buses and extending metro hours, and getting a reduced fare for Bixi bikes are controlled by the STM and by Bixi Montréal, respectively. Commuter train prices are determined by the Réseau de transport métropolitain. At best, the municipal government can only pressure the STM and Bixi services to make some changes.

Arguably, if any governing body was going to put pressure on these organizations, the city of Montreal would have the most sway. Of the STM’s 10 Board members, six are from the city of Montreal. But its role, as their website explains, is to “execute the STM’s functions and duties and determines the corporation’s strategic directions.”

As for Bixi, none of its nine members come from the city. The RTM has three Montreal representants on its board, all from private corporations.

Because of that, we at The Link hope that the city’s future elected officials do everything in their power to ensure that these 21 people keep students in mind while making decisions. After all, it’s in their hands.

The municipal government, however can use their influence on tackling student homelessness. In 2014, current Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre published a plan to combat homelessness in the city. Missing in the action plan were homeless students.

CREM cites a study conducted by the Unité de travail pour l’implantation de logement étudiant which found that one of every 20 students at Université de Montréal was homeless at some point in the last year.

Students are often in precarious situations, many having to juggle their studies with paid work, in addition to other extra curricular activities. It’s important that the city recognize this precarity and the risks students face. With the current action plan ending at the end of 2017, it is the perfect time to correct that oversight.

This leads into the systemic issues with this year’s municipal election: the failure to address the youth vote. The youth vote is something that is talked about every election cycle, and that’s because it is important.

Both candidates have advocated for youth councils in each of the city’s 19 boroughs as a means to engage younger Montrealers. Coderre also mentioned a desire to push for more student housing along the yet-to-be-built blue line extension. But we still felt like more could have been done to engage us 35-and-under voters.

As a result, there was a general sense of apathy in our newsroom when discussing the two mayoral front runners. We know their names, we know their faces, but still feel a little lost as to what they’re going to do for us, if elected.

Whoever is elected on Sunday will be in power until 2021, unless another Montreal municipal corruption scandal comes to light. That means our future mayor will likely be the one in charge when we get out of the microcosm that is Concordia and into the “real world.” But the decisions they make won’t wait until our graduation date to affect us. That happens now, in real-time.

We at The Link hope that all who are eligible to vote in this election and are able to make their way to a polling station will. Even though we don’t know exactly how Coderre and Plante’s future policies will impact us, our studies or our lives, we know that if we don’t cast our ballots, the little bit of sway we do have dwindles.

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