In addition to it being Canada's 150th anniversary, 2017 is also the 375th anniversary of the city of Montreal. On Sunday night, the city capped off an exciting year of parties and events by rewriting their own history. For the first time, they have elected a female mayor. Her name is Valérie Plante.
With the victory, Montreal also becomes the largest North American city with a female mayor. Meanwhile, only last month, Calgary re-elected Naheed Nenshi, continuing his stand as the only Muslim mayor of a major North American city. Hey, not too bad, Canada!
This leads us to ask...
Who is Valérie Plante?
Valérie Plante is the leader of Projet Montréal, a left-wing political group. (Left wing politics focus on being progressive — looking for new ways to change how a government serves the public — as well as issues such as improving the rights of minorities.) However, Plante has only been the party's leader since last December. As recently as this summer, polls suggested that two-thirds of Montrealers didn't even really know who she was. So how did she pull off this massive upset?
Her main opponent, current mayor Denis Coderre, was definitely vulnerable. When he became mayor in 2013, he promised to improve the economy and get rid of corruption. Yet by election time, he was seen by many as arrogant. He was accused of wasting millions of dollars on various projects (including this summer's Formula E electric car race and celebrations for Montreal's 375th) without proper explanation. But despite these problems, the experienced and well-known Coderre led polls for much of the campaign.
Promises to make the city more family friendly
In the end, Plante didn't win because her opponent was weak. She won because her progressive policies appealed to voters. She pledged to make Montreal easier to get around in and cheaper to live in. To do this, her proposed changes include more affordable public housing, more bike paths, less traffic congestion, cheaper public transit, and no tax increases.
Her most eye-catching idea was the Pink Line or La Ligne Rose. If built, this brand new 29-stop subway line will connect some of the city's most heavily populated neighbourhoods to downtown Montreal. Plante also suggested that the stations could be named after some of the most important women in Montreal's history. Great idea!
Can she do it all?
This is the question every new leader faces. Suggesting changes is relatively easy. And she at least knows that many in the city want to see her deliver these changes. They voted her in!
But the Pink Line alone will cost billions of dollars. And even something as simple as adding bike lanes to roads can be a challenge.
For now though, Plante is enjoying a thrilling victory. Watch her celebrate and talk about her new role in the video below.