Corps de l’article
This important collection of essays provides us with more information about municipal elections in Quebec (or any other part of Canada) than we have ever had before. Readers receive detailed analyses of the 2009 elections in Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Montréal, Lévis, Québec, Longueuil, Saguenay, Laval, and Gatineau.
Quite rightly, much emphasis is placed on the role of municipal political parties. Although some contributors are quick to point out that many of the parties are not very stable and sometimes are merely the personal creations of particular mayor candidates, no one emphasizes how unusual such parties are in western democracies, including Canada. We need more comprehensive explanations of how they came to be and why they survive.
Readers are similarly presented with the existence of de-amalgamated municipalities and directly-elected mayors within amalgamated municipalities as though they too were perfectly normal and understood by everybody. In fact, of course, these are phenomena that, in North America at least, are quite unique to Québec. More explanation would have been welcome. Especially interesting would have been some comparison of voting behaviour in boroughs and de-amalgamated municipalities. Were citizens of de-amalgamated municipalities more likely to turn out to vote ? Were they anxious to continue to celebrate restored municipal autonomy or were they content to retreat to the more comfortable patterns of passivity that many displayed prior to the amalgamations?
Perhaps the greatest strength of this collection is that it includes Québec’s large suburban municipalities (“boomburbs” as they have been described in the United States).
Laval and Longueuil are the obvious examples; perhaps Lévis qualifies as well. We need much more understanding of what goes on in such places, but they receive little coverage in the metropolitan media, and many downtown university professors – even urbanists – know nothing about them. Bravo to the book’s editors ; not only did they decide to include the big suburbs, but they took on the task themselves, Sandra Breux for Longueuil and Lawrence Bherer for Laval.
Once again, however, the book could have benefited from some comparative context. Bherer marvels at the six consecutive mandates of Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt in Laval. But in Toronto’s equivalent of Laval, Mississauga, Mayor Hazel McCallion (born in Gaspé in 1921) has been in office since 1978. In his 2009 biography (Her worship: Hazel McCallion and the development of Mississauga), Tom Urbaniak goes a long way to explain how this has been possible. A similar analysis likely applies to the electoral success of Mayor Vaillancourt.
This collection contains remarkable detail about hard-fought and close mayoral elections (Sherbrooke) and runaway victories by a populist incumbent (Saguenay). Anyone wanting to better understand municipal electoral politics in Québec will learn a great deal from this well researched, well organized, and comprehensive collection. Unusually, the editors did not write the conclusion. They were fortunate indeed to prevail on Jean-Pierre Collin to provide a thoughtful summary which, among other things, questions the ongoing significance of Québec’s municipal political parties.