This was originally posted to Forget the Box as part of a series I’m doing: you can find the original here.
Nairi Khandjian is a friend, a young woman looking to represent the people of Norman-McLaren district in Saint Laurent borough for Projet Montréal. The district is roughly bounded by Highway 15 in the west, Décarie in the east, Henri-Bourassa boulevard to the north and highway 40 in the south.
Named after a prolific and well-respected NFB animator, Norman-McLaren district is a relatively recent addition to the cityscape. Saint Laurent was its own incorporated city prior to the forced mergers of 2002 and the citizens decided to remain a part of Montreal during the de-merger process.
As such it still has a unique local style and character, one in keeping with a community that grew up in the wake of the Second World War and has seen multiple waves of first generation middle class Montrealers pass through it. The community is diverse, with a strong Lebanese, Armenian and Haitian presence in the area. Norman-McLaren includes the major STM terminus at Cote-Vertu Métro station, the Décarie Village and the side-by-side CEGEPs Saint Laurent and Vanier.
Tell me a bit about your district; what’s your connexion to it and what do you like about it?
Well, I went to the Armenian school here, and there’s a large Armenian population living in Saint-Laurent, so I feel pretty at home here. It’s not my quartier, but it’s still a part of me. It’s my home away from home let’s say.
I like this place, it’s like the United Nations – another large expanse of middle-class residential living, people from all over the world living and loving together. What’s not to like? I love all the small ‘mom and pop’ stores on Décarie, it really completes the notion of community.
And why run with Projet Montréal?
PM is the party that truly represents the people who live here, who truly love this city. PM is the diversity party, the inclusivity party. It has volunteers, candidates and employees from all walks of life, all parts of the city and every conceivable political orientation. We all want the best for our city and for that reason we can see past our trivial differences to the greater good. I wouldn’t even consider running for any other party, not that we really have any other parties to speak of.
How did the city of Montreal end up in its current political situation?
Citizens weren’t being listened to and as a consequence have become jaded. This is a tactic employed by many political parties – make politics as distasteful as possible and lower the operating margins in consequence. Fewer voters are easier to control and less than 40% of eligible voters cast votes in the 2009 election.
Complicating the issue is that once elected a lot of local politicians become comfortable doing a job with little to no actual oversight. They treat it as a four year long series of perks and not a civic responsibility.
What would you do for your constituents if elected?
We should prioritize a Métro extension of the Orange Line by two or three stations northwest towards Gouin Boulevard, with an intermodal station at Bois-Franc to alleviate congestion on our roadways, highways and the AMT’s Deux-Montagnes line. Then we should implement measures to better engage the citizenry.
The people need to have a say on how money gets spent locally, not to mention itemized monthly budgets of where and how local funds are spent. We need full financial transparency and enhanced civic engagement in the borough’s finances. Do this across the city and there won’t be any future Charbonneau Commissions, that’s for sure.
What do you love the most about Montreal?
Where to start? I love the diversity of our city. I love our natural cosmopolitanism. We are incredibly lucky to be so diverse and get along as well as we do.
Also, I love how easy and cheap it is to have fun in this city. We live in a place where the simple act of taking a walk can be exciting and memorable. It costs nothing to go walk around the Old Port or hike up Mount Royal. That’s something pretty special right there.
And what do you hate about this city?
The unproductive and completely bogus ethno-liguistic tension in our city. It’s manufactured, fake. People are open and inclusive, we’re not the way our politicians portray us, and we don’t have the actual tension the media and nationalist organizations push.
And fuck it, the potholes suck too. We need better roads.
What would you like to see removed from the local landscape?
The Grevin wax museum. I couldn’t believe it when I saw all those ridiculous ads in the Métro – are we living in Niagara Falls?
Are we not a major global city, are we not the cultural capital of Canada? What the hell are we doing with a wax museum? It’s so cheap, contrived.
Obviously Montrealers won’t be flocking to a wax museum, it’s $17 to get it. It occupies the fifth floor of the Eaton’s Centre, where they had the Titanic exhibit a few years back. It’s entertainment for others, but what about us?
The citizens need centres of culture, not cheap distractions and tourist traps. People study culture here and then split because we don’t develop the infrastructure for a culture-driven economy.
Well, I’d prefer and we’d all benefit from a culture and creation-driven economy in lieu of a tourism-driven economy. We could do a lot better than mere wax museums.
Montrealers go to the polls November 3rd 2013. For the love of all that’s good and holy, please go vote.