Owner of Dollar Cinema Makes Surprise Run for Mayor

Bernie Gurberg Determined He Can Win This Popularity Contest

  • “I don’t even want to win,” says Bernie Gurberg. “There’s going to be threats against my life after I end the F1.” Photo Daren Zomerman.

If you’re a regular at the Dollar Cinema, then you’ll surely know Bernie Gurberg. Whether it’s a holiday or not, Gurberg is behind the counter 365 days of the year.

After 13 years of selling movie tickets and bags of popcorn, the owner of the Decarie Square theatre is stepping out of his routine to do something out of the ordinary: running for mayor of Montreal.

Appalled by the rate of poverty in the city, Gurberg is moving into the political arena to devote himself to a higher cause, and he’s not taking any donations.

“34 per cent of the city is living below the poverty line. When I read that in The Suburban newspaper I was more than surprised,” said Gurberg. “I won’t stop until I fix it.”

The cinema itself is a big source of inspiration for him. Tickets sell for $2.50 each, and the affordable atmosphere in Côte-des-Neiges tends to attract some of Montreal’s most precarious.

That’s why he’s running as an independent candidate with a platform that’s entirely focused on reducing the rate of poverty within the city. After seeing all the money that was spent on Montreal’s 375th celebration, which totalled $1 billion, with another estimated $24 million spent on the Formula E-Prix electric car race, he decided the over-spending needs to stop.

“How can that be done when people are going hungry?” asked Gurberg. “It’s like sending your kids to school, and telling them there’s no food, saying ‘we don’t have enough money,’ then going out and champagne partying all night. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

To help lower the rate of poverty, he says he’ll focus on fundraising events. He’s also set on cutting spending. The first on his list is the Formula One Grand Prix race.

“I don’t even want to win,” he said. “There’s going to be threats against my life after I end the F1.”

Right now his platform is vague, but he wants to emphasize that most platforms are made up of empty promises either way. That’s why it’s the best plan in the moment, he says. Once he gets into office, he says he’ll start to widen up the platform so he can take a look at the other issues that need fixing. He’s also constantly listening to the suggestions of his patrons.

“I’ll look at each thing and try to do what’s best–not for me, but for the city,” he said. “Life is life, common sense is common sense.”

Gurberg is confident. He knows he’ll win because he has his “Dollar Cinema army” to back him up. He’s not busying himself by running around the city in a flashy attempt to catch people’s attention, and says he won’t be knocking on anyone’s door.

“I’m not running out in the streets. I’ve already done my campaign for 13 years,” he says. “I’ve been here sitting in that stupid chair enjoying every minute of it, without realizing that this day was coming.”

And if you’re worried about him leaving that chair behind the popcorn machine, don’t be. Gurberg promises he’ll still be here for his patrons and behind the counter every day of the year, just as long as it’s after 5 p.m.

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