From the shortage of affordable housing to the failing budget of the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) and the resurgence of armed violence, the mayor of Quebec’s largest city, Valérie Plante, will have several crises to manage in 2022 , not to mention the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I try to keep my spirits up, but it’s not easy. It’s kind of groundhog day”, drops Ms. Plante in an interview at the Duty on December 30, a few minutes before the Legault government announced the return of the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and the closure of restaurant dining rooms in a last-ditch effort to tackle yet another wave of COVID cases – 19. The mayoress, who has recovered from her infection with this virus, will however have several other crises to manage this year, beyond the health situation.
“Definitely, housing is an issue in Montreal, but not only in Montreal. It becomes a municipal issue, but also a national one. We must find ways to house all Quebec households, in all cities […] For me, that’s a big subject, ”Ms. Plante immediately launched, when prices were soaring in the real estate market, in Montreal as elsewhere in the province.
The mayor also confides that her expectations “are high” in relation to the By-law for a mixed metropolis of the City. In effect since April 1, this regulation, which is not unanimous, increases the requirements for the inclusion of social and affordable housing in real estate projects launched in the metropolis.
“On the other hand, the fear we have is when we see that there are developers who apply the regulation in good faith and that there is no money for the social housing units that are paid by the government of Quebec. There, we have a problem, ”adds Ms. Plante, who thus urges the Legault government to deploy more funds for the construction of social housing in the province.
The press revealed in particular in December that major real estate developers had proposed to add more than 300 low-rent apartments to some of their projects in various sectors of the metropolis in recent years, but that these units could not see the light of day, for lack of a sufficient government funding. “The government of Quebec really has to follow demand, follow the tangent, because first of all, housing is not a municipal competence,” insists the re-elected mayor.
The police force, a thorn in the side
Ms. Plante started her second consecutive term with a thorn in the side. After having promised during the election campaign a net addition of 250 police officers in the metropolis by the end of 2022, she had to recognize that this number will take into account hiring related to retirements. The City’s 2022 budget therefore provides for the addition of 103 more police officers than in 2021, which will inflate the workforce to 4,784 police officers.
“I can tell you that if it has been misunderstood [cet engagement], it was really a mistake in good faith because we, in the figures we presented at the start of the campaign, it was always clear that it was 250 police officers, including the replacements. But that still includes more than a hundred police officers who are added, ”argues Ms. Plante.
The latter also ensures that it wants to focus on crime prevention by continuing to fund community groups. Various avenues for solutions to the gun violence raging in Montreal will also be discussed at a summit scheduled for the end of January in the presence of representatives of the Montreal Police Department and community groups.
“Funding challenges” at the STM
Sometimes one crisis leads to another. This is particularly the case at the STM, which begins the year 2022 with a shortfall of $ 43 million in its 2022 budget, mainly due to the drop in traffic in its network linked to the COVID pandemic. -19. The frequency of buses and the metro network will thus remain at a reduced level compared to what it was before the pandemic.
“We don’t want to have major impacts on the service offering, but we still want to find solutions to ensure that the financial impact does not fall on Montrealers because our public transport, at Montreal, the entire metropolitan region also uses it, ”notes Ms. Plante. The latter thus calls out to Quebec and Ottawa by asking them to increase the funding related to public transit and its operation.
Finally, the mayoress does not intend to neglect another crisis, which has been eclipsed by the pandemic, that of climate change. “Even though we are in the midst of COVID, climate change continues and we are seeing more and more clear manifestations of the impact on temperatures and on our lifestyles,” recalls Ms. Plante. The City therefore intends to continue its efforts in 2022 to add green spaces, “plant trees” and improve its management of residual materials, in particular.
As for the pandemic, which drags on, Ms. Plante retains her unfailing optimism. “We’re going to get through it; we are made strong, ”she laughs.