November 30, 2012

New Montreal mayor is an anglo


Shortly afterward came Jean Drapeau, a bit of a corruption-fighting Eliott Ness at the outset, but over his 29 years in office, he became known for thinking big. He brought to the city a gleaming subway system, the 1967 Expo World’s Fair and the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. Regarding the latter, he famously declared that the games “can no more have a deficit, than a man can have a baby.” Quebec finally paid off Drapeau’s $1.5 billion Olympic baby in 2006, seven years after Drapeau died.

There’s Wolfred Nelson, who, though brought up thoroughly English, with an American Loyalist mother, became one of the most prominent leaders of the French-Canadian Rebellion against British rule in 1837. He was captured and packed off to Bermuda for a brief exile. He then practiced medicine in Plattsburgh for a few years before returning to Montreal, where he eventually ran for mayor in 1954 and served one term.

The last truly English mayor of Montreal was James John Edmund Guerin, who, despite his last name, was Irish to the core. (His sister Bellelle was a famous activist and the author of a book on John Easton Mills, the Massachusetts-born Montreal mayor who died of typhus in 1847, tending to the sick). Guerin served one term before moving on to federal politics.

Of the 15 anglos who served as mayor, only one served more than a two-year term. A few died in office or left for health reasons; others simply lost support and were not re-elected.

Two of them were tainted by scandal. John C. Abbott had been a federal minister under Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister. He was involved in a railway kickback scandal that drove Macdonald from office. Abbott served a term as Montreal mayor then returned to Ottawa as a senator, succeeding Macdonald as prime minister when he died in 1891.

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