Since 1940, Montréal had been living under a regime that was far from democratic, since one third of its 99 city councillors had not been elected and patronage was still a central feature of municipal politics.
At the beginning of the 1950s, a morality investigation shed light on police and politicians’ tolerance towards illegal activities that turned Montréal into a “wide open city.”
The subsequent outcries of corruption led to a thorough housecleaning in munipal politics. Lawyer Jean Drapeau led a political coalition and was elected mayor in 1954. His opponents then joined forces to oust him in 1957. As neither of these two groups held a majority in Council, municipal administration was paralysed.
The structure of representation was modified following a referendum in 1960: the Council would now be composed of 66 elected councillors, half elected by homeowners alone and the other half by landlords and tenants combined. The citizens of Montréal chose Drapeau as Mayor in the next election, and two-thirds of council seats went to his new political party, the Civic Party.
This was a significant change. With a clear majority in Council, six members of Drapeau’s party were elected to the Executive Committee. The City would now benefit from a hitherto unknown efficiency and unity of action.
A number of issues monopolized public opinion. One such issue, the management of public services by private enterprise, was resolved when the Québec government nationalized Montréal’s electricity in 1944. The Montréal Transportation Commission, a public organization, took over the tramway companies in 1951.
Inter-municipal coordination on the Island remained a thorny issue, despite the creation of the Montréal Metropolitan Corporation in 1959.
The persistence of slums in Montréal’s older neighbourhoods was denounced regularly, but consensus on a solution could not be reached. A large renovation project near the downtown core elicited interminable debates. Despite opposition, the Habitations Jeanne Mance project was completed.
During the post-war period, economic prosperity generated new aspirations and a hunger for change that would be answered after 1960.
Comité de moralité publique
House slated for demolition