By Georges Dupras, Director
Over the past few months, question period at Montréal City Hall has had all the transparency of an oil spill. Frayed nerves over the carriage horse trade, pit bull regulations and now a scheduled rodeo have taken center stage.
Madame Anie Samson, Vice President of the Montréal Executive Committee and President of Team Coderre, has been assigned the dubious task of defending some of Mayor Denis Coderre’s unfortunate ”shoot-from-the-hip” decisions. On more than one occasion, Madame Samson has been called on to help free the Mayor from the various corners he has painted himself into.
Wanting to know more about the NomadFest rodeo, scheduled for August this year at the Old Port, I watched the question periods for both March 27 and 28. As with most soap operas it wasn’t difficult to identify the players. The questions asked by members of the public were clear and, as expected, the answers from the designated city officials, politically pragmatic.
They included: Why the lack of public consultation? Why the lack of transparency? Why are some opinions valued more than others? In the case of pit bulls, who determines who is a species specific specialist? What justified the Mayor’s 360 degree spin-a-bout on the carriage horse industry? Is the City’s decision on the Nomadfest rodeo final? Why did the officials choose a rodeo, why not an event rooted in Québec/Montréal culture; something along the lines of Le Cirque du Soleil?
Dr. Jean-Jacques Konaboun, (DVM), submitted a document with some 600 signatures of veterinarians and animal technicians who do not support the rodeo.
Sterling Downing of Projet Montréal has said he failed to see how a rodeo reflects Montréal’s culture.
Madame Anie Samson defended the City’s position on carriage horses as best she could, citing their historic contribution to Montréal. As for the rodeo, it seems that Madame Samson, and the Coderre Team, are counting on this relic of times past to increase tourism. We’re bound, said Madame Samson, to represent all views, including those of rodeo supporters. It is to be noted that during the question period of the 27th, Madame Samson stated that she personally was not a rodeo woman (“Je ne suis pas une femme de rodeo”) but others are. In response to the concerns about injuries to rodeo animals, Madame Samson produced figures from the Professional Rodeo Association stating that they have the support of some 300 veterinarians, and that the injury rate among rodeo animals was a low .0046%. In response, Madame Samson was reminded that there are medical Doctors representing the tobacco industry who will still argue that tobacco doesn’t necessarily equate to cancer. Madame Samson was asked for a second time; why do some opinions matter more than others?
In response to a question on the rodeo, Madame Plante (Leader, Projet Montréal), stated that she did not support the rodeo. Madame Plante and her Party will oppose Denis Coderre in this fall’s municipal election.
The inclusion of a rodeo in Montréal’s 375th celebrations brings to mind several questions. Mayor Coderre once opposed the carriage horse industry and promised to invest in a new municipal pound. The carriage horses are still around and Mr. Coderre has now decided to invest $500,000, in the carriage trade. The money, we are told, is taken from a municipal surplus and is for new uniforms as well as for training the drivers. It is not made clear if the training includes the care and welfare of the horses or simply training drivers as tour guides. The city has revised the framework, governance and bylaws of the industry and plans to:
1. Upgrade the street stations for the approximately 24 horses that can be on the street at one time.
2. Microchip the horses (not sure if this means some sort of GPS system or something similar to what we presently use for cats and dogs).
3. Repair or replace the hitching stands and water fountains as well as install a temporary infrastructure for the horses (??).
My sources were unable to clarify the type or purpose of microchips and the precise meaning of ‘’temporary shelter’’.
Does Mayor Coderre have an ulterior motive? Could he be planning to build a stable down at the old port? The current facility is an embarrassment to the city and to his administration. This is likely the primary reason why he needs $500k. Could a second reason be that, if successful, Mr. Coderre plans to make the rodeo an annual event? After all, the rodeo has to house their animals somewhere when they are in town. This possibility, dare I say probability, would be more in keeping with the amount we’ve been told that has been earmarked for the carriage industry. In the interim, the construction of the new municipal pound has been on hold for a couple of years now.
Québec vehicle license plates are inscribed with the saying; “Je me souviens”. Remembering the past is one thing, trying to live it is another, particularly if it’s done at the expense of the innocent.
My two cents worth,