‘I’m Disappointed,’ Plante Says as Executive Committee Falls Short on Diversity

Jason Magder, Montreal Gazette, November 20, 2017

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante unveiled her 12-member executive committee, and it is devoid of religious or cultural minorities, despite an electoral promise Plante made that her administration would better reflect the city’s diversity.

Plante said she was disappointed about the lack of diversity and said she had to pick from the people who were elected. She admitted it was a weakness on the part of her party.

“I’m disappointed we weren’t able to elect many of the candidates from different backgrounds, and we had many,” Plante said. “And some of the people that I reached out to with the opposition, it didn’t work out, at least so far. But I’m not sending a message that it’s not a priority. Actually it is.”

Plante added that even though her committee is all white, the members still come from diverse backgrounds.

“Even though there are no racialized people on this committee, there are people coming from cultural backgrounds. There’s Rosannie Filato (whose paternal grandparents were born in Italy). I don’t want to tokenize anyone, but I have people within my team who come from diverse backgrounds, also.”

The executive committee is the city’s top decision-making body, akin to the cabinet in provincial and federal politics.

Plante had already unveiled the name of her choice for executive committee chairperson during the election campaign, but on Monday, she confirmed Sud-Ouest borough mayor Benoit Dorais would be the head of the committee. She announced he would also be in charge of the city’s finances and its valuation roll.

The executive committee has two vice-presidents. One is Sylvain Ouellet. He’ll also be in charge of water, waterworks and electric infrastructure. The other vice-president is Magda Popeanu, who will also be in charge of housing, housing development and diversity.

Plante said it was important for her to choose an equal number of men and women, and a balance of borough mayors and city councillors.

Lionel Perez, the opposition leader at city hall, said at least six members of his political party, some from minority communities, were approached to sit on the committee. However, he said they were asked to first resign from their parties. In the end, only Jean-François Parenteau accepted the invitation to join the executive committee, and he resigned from Équipe Denis Coderre prior to being named. He declined to name the people who were approached, saying it could jeopardize future nominations.

“What’s clear is that gender parity is very important, but it’s equally important to have diversity and to have people who are visible minorities and come from immigrant backgrounds,” Perez said. “That’s clearly not the case.”

Plante said members of the opposition were not asked to resign from their parties, but only not to attend meetings of the party caucus to discuss strategy, to protect confidentiality.

Perez countered that members of the opposition sat on the executive committee in the last four years under then-mayor Denis Coderre and they were never asked to resign from their parties, nor were they asked to skip party caucus meetings.

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