I volunteer once a week at the Jeanne-Mance composting center. It's a little plot of land in Jeanne-Mance park that has been separated by a short chain-link fence. Inside are two giant tubes sitting on machinery that allows them to turn slowly, a big pile of compost separated by a fence of pallets tied together with innertubes and a bunch of garbage bins. People from the neighbourhood come by 3 times a week and drop off their organic waste (onion peels, apple cores, clippings, etc.) which gets mixed with straw pellets in the big tubes. It sits there for a few weeks until the heat, oxygen and bacteria have broken it down at which point it is moved to the pile. This goes on all summer. The pile sits there over the winter and next spring the members can use the compost for their gardens.
That process is elementary to anyone who is familiar with compost (except perhaps for the big tubes, which are the brainchild of the McGill Environmental Engineering department and speed up the process significantly but require a lot more planning and care). The composting center is a project of the Jeanne-Mance Mile-End Éco-Quartier, an environmental community center serving the needs of the arrondisement. They provide many other services, such as collecting batteries, providing les bacs verts (the green recycling boxes), cleaning up the alleys, distributing bulbs, etc. There is an éco-quartier in every quartier in Montréal.
They were created 10 years ago, when Borque was the mayor of Montreal. Their initial raison d'être was to be the distribution points of the bacs verts when Montreal first started its recycling program. They were overseen by an office in City Hall, but were basically left to develop other programs on their own. The bacs verts program was a big success. They got them to something like 98% of households in Montreal in their first year.
Since then, each éco-quartier has developed on their own. They receive their funding from the city, but they are run by a local board and the people who work there. So different éco-quartiers have different agendas. Some tend to lean more towards beautification while others have a stronger environmental bent.
Recently, their funding was decentralized, going to the arrondisement (district, basically). I don't know how this affected the other éco-quartiers, but it forced the three under the arrondisement of Plateau/Mont-Royal to compete for funds and only one remains. The other two became smaller, semi-private organizations under different names and there is some bitterness there. The relationship between the remaining éco-quartier and the administration of the arrondisement is not very good anymore either. I haven't heard anything from the politician's side, so recognize that my position is biased, but what I hear is that the current mayor of Plateau Mont-Royal, Helen Fotopolous is really not very interested in environmental issues. The only time she communicates with the éco-quartier is when there is a chance the media will be involved. This is all hearsay, but there has been little recognition of the fact that the composting centre took in 5 tonnes of organic waste that otherwise would have gone into the dump and planted a beautiful, producing garden that made the bike route to McGill significantly more appealling.
I present you this information because it is the only way I could think of to make interesting what is generally agreed to be a very boring mayoral race. The voting will be this Saturday and the candidates are Gerald Tremblay, the current mayor, Pierre Borque, two-time mayor before him, Richard Bergeron, the head of Projet Montreal who are a platform for pushing public transportation and Michel Bédard who represents the Parti éléphant blanc of Montréal (intriguing, but the first time I heard of him was when I looked at the sample ballot). I was quite liking Tremblay, though I have no real reason other than that Montreal seems on a general upswing and a bunch of new bike paths have been created. But I think I'll be voting for Projet Montreal, as they are the most overtly environmental. As a matter of fact, the most environmental the two front-runners got was arguing about who was going to plant more flowers.
I apologize if I don't have a more general overview of the mayoral race here in Montreal. I do think it is a city on the rise that still has a lot of problems (the famous potholes, litter, bad development, gradual racial segregation), but is generally working to fix them. It is traditionally the case that most mayors of Montreal win a second term and if I didn't have such a strong environmental agenda, I'd probably vote for him as well.
There is one extremely obnoxious thing about the mayoral race and it is all the placards that are put up all over the streets. It's a waste of money and an eyesore. They did this during the federal election as well and they didn't take the signs down until months after it was over. Fortunately, at least in the Plateau, many got creatively defaced quite quickly. Mayor Tremblay's campaign slogan is "Go!" and somebody wrote "fuck yourself" after it on a bunch of signs on the Main. Good stuff.