Throughout my first foray into politics as a candidate for the Coalition Avenir Québec in this spring’s provincial election, one subject kept coming up: How do we make Montreal stronger?

Everyone outside of the PQ agrees that a stronger Montreal = a stronger Quebec = a stronger Canada. In effect, if Montreal can improve its situation, everyone is better off on all sides of the political spectrum and from all walks of life.

So how to we get there?

I’ve been close with a group called Notre Montreal for the last several weeks, having started speaking with them during the campaign. Notre Montreal is a branch of a group I have large reservations about called CRITIQ, but both groups believe in the key issue of getting special status for our city. The details of special status will be coming out soon, but generally speaking, it’s about getting more power at the municipal level and changing the concept that Montreal is a “creation of the province” and therefore basically a subsidiary of Quebec City.

Notre Montreal has some great ideas, a lot of them highlighted in today’s Gazette editorial by CRITIQ founder Gary Shapiro (co-authored by student Kyle Gregor-Pearse):

Even Mayor Denis Coderre is on board — although he needs to support this concept more deeply and forcefully. He’s been quoted as saying that Montreal needs more powers to diversify its sources of revenue, so that it isn’t so heavily reliant on property tax. He says that “Toronto gets 32 per cent of revenues from property taxes. In Montreal, it’s 70 per cent,” and that “as a true metropolis, Montreal should have the autonomy to decide where it should spend its money.” Being able to offer a stable political environment for investment is also crucial to the success of a city; a Montreal with special status would be able to do just that, protected as it would be from political uncertainty.

That pullout scratches the surface of what Notre Montreal is trying to accomplish. I’ve been to some meetings and found that those involved are good people who really just want the best for our city, province and country.

But I’ve remained hesitant to become an active member, not because of the values of Notre Montreal, but because of its parent organization. “CRITIQ” stands for “Canadian Rights in Quebec” which gives it a little too much of an Angyphone flavour for people like me who believe the fights of the 1970s, 80s and 90s are not the battleground of today’s Quebec.

Among CRITIQ’s founding principles, you’ll find the following:

As such, CRITIQ views The Quebec Charter of the French Language (Bill 101)—and the proposed Bill 14—as socially oppressive, economically damaging and fundamentally in breach of the basic right and freedom of Francophones and non-Francophones alike, to live, study and work in the language of their choice.

As a child of Bill 101 who lives, works and plays in both English and French effortlessly (save for a thick Anglo accent I wish I didn’t have when I speak French), I simply can’t wrap my head around an organization that seems to want to move backwards on 101.

But when you get closer and scratch beneath the surface, it becomes evident that Shapiro’s group is about much more than that, which is why I’m getting close even if I’m still at an arm’s length.

I think it’s important Montrealers work on making our city stronger. The more moderate, but passionate voices we can unite, the better. Time will tell if special status will happen and what it will accomplish, but the political will is there. If Notre Montreal can expand its reach to include all Montrealers, regardless of their position on Bill 101 or any other issues that tend to stoke emotion over pragmatism, we really have a shot at starting the move towards a better, stronger city.

Can Notre Montreal be the movement that brings our city into a modern, positive future?
Can Notre Montreal be the movement that brings our city into a modern, positive future?