Monthly Recap & Readings – June 1st

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Every month we’re going to round-up important news or conversations you might have missed from around the internet.  We put together a synopsis for quick skimming, followed by a list of relevant readings and videos from the past month. Our focus is on stories that impact Montreal and those that are relevant to our broader political lives. We try our best to include both English- and French-language media. 

This round-up covers the last two months, April and May 2021, and has a special focus on the housing crisis. 

This list is a collaborative effort by volunteers in our network. If you would like to suggest articles for next month’s round-up, please write to us on Facebook or email us at gaucheurbainedemontreal@gmail.com 

Please note that the articles linked here do not necessarily represent the views of the Montreal Urban Left. An article’s inclusion on this list is not an endorsement of its ideas.

MONTHLY RECAP

Housing crisis 

  • Montreal-North Housing Committee has received five times more calls from tenants fearing eviction than in previous years. The Quebec Solidaire party warns that the tight housing market is only about to get worse, as foreign students and workers can come back to Montreal after the pandemic. The CMM (Montreal Metropolitan Community, agglomeration of the Greater Montreal area) has adopted a resolution asking the provincial government to adopt emergency and long-term measures to deal with the growing housing crisis and has asked its municipalities to adopt a similar resolution.  The resolution cites a government report finding the average rent for available apartments in Greater Montreal has increased 30% since last year and calls on Quebec to revive the eviction moratorium, provide more resources to help tenants find housing, rapidly expand and repair the social and community housing which Quebec has long promised but lagged on, and establish a rent registry. However, the CAQ’s new budget provides no funding for the construction of additional affordable housing units until 2024. Premier Legault also continues to refuse to use the word ‘crisis’ to describe the housing situation in Quebec. Quebec has also rejected the proposal of creating a rent registry as too expensive (at $5 million), although this cost is likely both highly outdated and far outweighed by the long-term benefits — a rent registry would be an essential step towards maintaining housing affordability and would prevent tax avoidance by landlords who don’t claim rental income. 

  • A warming shelter in Cabot square, which saved lives during a time when many shelters and other homeless resources had to shut down because of Covid, ended May 1, because emergency funding ran out. The warmer weather will mean less risk of more people freezing to death, but this will once again leave a service vacuum in west downtown, all while it’s estimated that the number of people experiencing homelessness has doubled in Montreal since the beginning of the pandemic. And echoing the eviction of the Notre-Dame tent city last fall, another encampment of Montreal’s growing homeless population on a patch of unused public land in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve was evicted by the MTQ. The city claims it has resources for those kicked out, but many people don’t want to stay in emergency beds which are often far away from community or services and have strict rules that are often either ill-suited or prohibitive for those with families, those with pets, for Indigenous people, LBGTQI2S+ people, and those facing addiction challenges or mental health issues. Emergency shelters, which kick people out each morning with nowhere to go during the day and nowhere to store their belongings, are not a reasonable alternative to relative stability, humanity, and the possibility for social distancing provided by encampments. The residents have expressed that they will be forced to just set up an encampment elsewhere

  • The Liberal government’s proposed 2021 budget includes a Canada-wide tax on vacant real estate owned by foreigners, which helps them politically justify the $3.8 billion earmarked for building and repairing $35k affordable housing units.

  • After calls from Mayor Valerie Plante to designate Montreal’s Chinatown as a heritage district, the province has established a working group on preserving the area. This could help protect the city’s second-oldest neighbourhood after developers with a reputation for renoviction recently bought up most of Chinatown’s most historic block. Unlike Old Montreal, whose buildings are well documented and protected from demolition and alteration, Chinatown’s architectural heritage has received little attention. Research by the Gazette shows that municipal records vastly underestimate the age of buildings in the area acquired by the developers, which includes bourgeois houses from the 1840s and the 1826 British and Canadian School (now the Wing’s Noodles building), the city’s oldest purpose-built school.

  • Legislation passed that year that requires registration with the province of Quebec to rent out housing units as Airbnbs or other short-term rentals seems effective in much of the province except Montreal, where compliance is still exceedingly low. While more inspections are occurring, the average fines are inconsequential compared to the potential profits for corporate short term rental operators. The mostly illegal conversion of units to Airbnbs has taken a significant bite out of Montreal’s rental housing stock in the last decade while providing big profits to large-scale operators. The city of Montreal has called for a dedicated team of inspectors

Police

  • Several recent videos of SPVM officers violently apprehending unarmed people of colour have provoked outrage across Montreal. The Plante administration’s primary response is to support police body cams, yet studies have shown body cams have no effect on police violence or increase the chance that police are held accountable. They are also very expensive and used to justify massive budget increases for the police, and ignore that 73% of Montrealers responded to her survey in support of defunding the police.

Workers rights

  • Montreal dockworkers announced an unlimited general strike, and within a week the federal government unconstitutionally forced them back to work, ironically on May 1, International Workers’ Day.
  • Law 21 was upheld by Quebec Supreme Court for francophone schools but exempts anglophone school boards from its application. The law bans all religious symbols from public workplaces, disproportionately impacting the careers of Muslim women. 
  • A new paper on a way out of the pandemic without poverty places the minimum living salary in Montreal at least $29k, or $18 an hour at full-time employment. 

Mayoral race

  • Mayoral candidate Denis Coderre wants to fill downtown MTL with skyscrapers (under the banner of Make Montreal great again), and incumbent Valerie Plante has countered with her own declaration calling for the densification of downtown in a planned way that respects the city’s character and quality of life. Coderre also proposes transforming hotels and other buildings into rooming houses for people experiencing homelessness. The Plante administration says they have adopted regulations to protect rooming houses and is funding the renovation of rooming housing through AccesLogis, neither of which Coderre bothered to do when he was formerly Mayor.

Electoral reform

  • The provincial government is also indefinitely postponing its promise to hold a referendum on electoral reform in 2022, which would allow the possibility of moving Quebec from its current first-past-the-post system to a mixed-member proportional representation system. 

Radical Municipalism 

  • The Paris Commune had its 150th anniversary in May. In Montreal, the event was marked by a series of articles published by Alternatives International. The Transnational Institute of Social Ecology (TRISE) hosted “Paris Commune 150: From the 1871 Commune to Contemporary Communalism” with Dimitri Roussopoulos of the Montreal Urban Left and other scholars. If you’re not familiar with the history of the Paris Commune then Yavor Tarinski of TRISE sums it up neatly: “The Paris Commune is an extraordinary example of a grassroots democratic re-organisation of society and the creation of new institutions of citizen power and radical social transformations.”

MORE TO READ & WATCH 

  • Si les propriétaires étaient plus riches. Martin Gallié, Le devoir, 22 mai 2021. Les expulsions sont prononcées indépendamment de la situation sociale des locataires, sans s’assurer d’une possibilité de relogement, et sans égard aux conséquences de ces expulsions sur la société dans son ensemble.

  • This metro Vancouver city cracked the renoviction code. Can it work elsewhere? Jeremy Nuttall, The Star, May 13, 2021. A BC bylaw meant to target renovictions has seen such cases drop to zero since being implemented in 2019.  Among the regulations, the bylaw compels landlords to provide alternate accommodation for tenants if they need to leave their unit so it can be renovated. Owners must also give renters a written offer to return to the rental unit or another rental unit at the same rate.

  • « Construire l’utopie », la conférence 2021 du Collectif La Grande transition,, peut être visionnée sur Youtube.  Cela comprend plus de vingt panels sur des thèmes tels que l’internationalisme radical, les alternatives au capitalisme numérique, l’économie politique du handicap et la démocratisation des syndicats. // “Building utopia”, the 2021 conference organized by The Great Transition Collective, is now available to watch on Youtube. This includes twenty panels on themes such as radical internationalism, alternatives to digital capitalism, the political economy of disability and the democratization of unions.

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