Unapologetically Canadian
Unapologetically Canadian

Episode 23 · 2 years ago

Activist mayor Maja Vodanovic brings public into Lachine’s urban planning process


Unapologetically Canadian Episode 23 features an interview with Lachine Mayor Maja Vodanovic.

We speak about three key questions:

• If you include public participation at the beginning of a development project instead of at the end, will you be able to create a common vision for a space that everyone will buy into?

• How has Vodanovic’s former activism played into her current life as a political leader?

• How does the mayor see herself in terms of Canadian identity?

Read the show notes here:

My name is Pracierio and I am unapologetically Canadian. Today we are speaking with the Mayor of Le Shane, my Vuddha Novitch. Did I say that right, Maya? Yes, you did, yes, but down, I know it can be Danovitch. I did not say it right, but Maya is a wonderful person. We met when she was still an environmental activist and now she's actually the mayor of Le Shane and she's changing how land use is lend use. Consultations are taking place. So our recent discussion was when she led the kickoff to a consultation with the office, with Montreal's a Fuss Atis Office, and Maya, yeah, yeah, exactly. It's their official consultation office and this is something that's very unusual because there is no plan for the territory in question. So I think what we should do is start right away with that question. Why did you go this route and what kinds of problems does it self okay, well, to go we went is what we call the CONSTANTACON and themo. So it's a consultation before we actually have a plan, because usually what we do in Montreal is we planned things out. I mean the promoter has their urban planners the city. They work together for a year, two years, and then submit a plan for public consultation. And once all that is done, of course people have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, sometimes in the millions of you know, making the best possible thing according to how they see things are. No one's ill will and you know, they just they think this is the right way to go. But then it's in public. Then when it comes to a public consultation, people will it's already kind of all decided. So it's very hard for people to change things because, you know, this is something that a product of a lot of time and money and it's not easy to change and it's not always the best plan for the city and for the people. So we in from the from citizens, from residents, point to here, because that's what exactly first that's the first time residents, usually in Montreal, that's the first time that residents see it after people have already spent sometimes more than one plan, because every borrow has its own city planning committee and they actually sometimes have problems with the initial plan that a developer wants to do, and so sometimes they've spent multiple time or Tine years, that is ice. Yeah, yes, exactly, and it and then, after years of this, you know, they submit it and there's issues and even, you know, in Development Angus, with Mr Yakahini, you know he was he was there at a conference that we organize, and he said even they with the best intentions, you know, had made a plan and the citizens were not happy and they had to review it. And you know, even if you know they wanted to do something good and ecological, but it was turned back and they spent over a million dollars on the plants, you know. So he says it's actually, and this is very recently, says it's very good to start at the beginning with the people. So we're gonna do like right now we're just doing the consultations, but once the consultations are over we're going to do like a an Netur lead the Tai. So every week, where every week or every two weeks? I don't know how exactly it's gonna Develop, but I know the promoters are willing to meet every month so that around the table we have the the urban planner, that the developers higher the architects, that we have burrow urban planners, that we have the central city around the table, because of course that's complex and Montreal. There's always two levels of everything.

And we have represent yeah, we have representations from the citizens. So Imagine Le She nest is an organization that's been around for two years. I was part of it before. Now I of course I can't, I have distance myself, but it was a a citizen movement that I very much support because they it's urban planners, engineers, just government workers, but that live in machine and that are very interested in in being a part of the development of their own city and doing something innovative. So they will be around the table and I think, I don't know, but their membership is growing monthly, like they're becoming quite quite important. And there's also the organizations have regrouped into something called lamb under, the LASEDEC society, the development economy. So yeah, and there's about a over ten or twelve important organizations in machine that have come together and that are pushing for the same things. And they also want a green development, because I develop montrable. When you say is actually a development that has inclusion of social housing, that has a mix, it's not just you know, you can't be green if you're just rich and segregated from the others. You don't get the points. It has great a true, a true, durable development is a mixed development where you can actually work and live and we're all, society can be together, and that's actually the best kind of development and it's best for everybody, not just for the rich or the boards. Like the mix. A Mix city is very good for all. So work and play. It's very hard to create. It's very hard to create that, though, because I know that a lot of the social housing projects that I've been covering in the last a few years have been you know, that the people who are with the lowest, with the fewest resources, are the ones that get right next to the train tracks and or they're in one case, the in Lavelle, they were building something that was, you know, no one else wanted to live there, but there were thrilled that they were going to be putting it in a social complex. That was always like must be very careful. Yeah, it's always the case. I mean it's so it's very hard, but you can see. I don't know, brings to mind woody Allen movies. You know, they're always by the railways where their house shakes, you know when you in New York. But yes, that's always it's most often the case that the best the best sites are not for social housing. But right now in Quebec it is so hard to build social housing because the government money that is put into it is insufficient with the with the rise of land in Montreal and with the rise of construction costs. So it's I know a lot of architects who build social housing and it's I know they lose money on our on most of the projects, because they just kept oh yeah, we're so lucky to have some of those people because they're truly contributing. Yes, one, but with their own yes, yes, well, we've I know about that. But it's very hard to in today to create social housing. So I can understand that. You know, it takes years because you have to kind of cut corners and and how can you save money? And at one point you just can't. We need, and I think poshmial value planet, as I've heard her just recently asking for the Quebec government. I think they did in the recent budget give a supplement to social housing, to the the formula. You know that they come about and if we have a better formula than we can buy better land and we can decontaminate the land. You know, the cost of decontamination is huge as well. So it's when you put all the costs together it's very...

...hard to make it viable. So that's a huge issue. So in planning it out, we have to figure out where it's going to be, where the schools are going to be. That's another issue. The the school board doesn't have, doesn't get the money to buy the land. Usually the land is given to them across Quebec, but the land is so expensive and Montreal, so a promoter can't really say, Oh, here's a couple of million dollars to the school board. You know, it's very hard. So we're going to try to deal with all those problems from the beginning with everybody and bring storm together to solve them. Wow, and and is this the first time that this has been done at this scale? Yes, well, I didn't believe so. I'd I was like walk and maybe maybe I'm wrong. You know, that's what I thought. But the people that came to the conference that were very knowledgeable. We're saying, we're saying definitely that on this scale where the first? But I don't know. I haven't done any huge pot off. I can't I can't definitely say, but then I couldn't fight. No, I couldn't find any other case. So they maybe. And as a matter of fact, I I talked to several people who actually thought that it couldn't possibly work either, because they've done this kind of thing for years and they've got that mentality that residents actually purposely go against developers. And I think that that's because the system itself forced that situation. And I think everybody, I think you're going to prove that this is the right way. I think so. I'm very by I think so too. I think the best way to do something is to talk to each other and that everybody finds find something within the project that's good for them. You know, you can't. You can't work with something with a losing if there, if someone has a losing end of the deal, it's not good. We all have to find what the best way to work is and it has to be good for the city and if it's not good for the city while then it should not be built right. Right, and it's fascinating that you have that. You're leading this particular initiative of actually, before we get off a flushing east, we should say how big the territory is. Yes, well, that's right. Now what we're developing is sixty hectors of land, but it's actually bigger than that because it goes all the way from Sixth Avenue all the way to Angerignon interchange along the canal. So it's a much, much bigger piece of land along the tercot yards that's being kind of you know, everybody who's there, that is has an industry is thinking, Hmm, do I stay here, do I sell, do I leave? What are we going to do? So there's a lot of land beyond the sixty acres that is being rethought of and reconsidered. So eventually it's a lot bigger. Yes, right, right, yeah, I know it. I think it's going to change the whole yes, southwest, and I know a lot of people, a lot of residents, are getting involved because they really want to create new kinds of equal living in Montreal. So I think it's going to be really interesting to see how the how the discussion continues and whether or not it can be financial, yesible fair. Let mean it's a charge. There's definite risk. You know, some people are saying, Oh my God, you're getting into this. You know it's such a big risk. Well, you know, my dad always said, if the bigger the risk, the bigger the game. So let's let's risk. Yes. Well, and you did get into politics to do this kind of thing, did you? I mean now let's go into yours, because I know about you from before you were even in politics, when you were still running a local I guess it was an association. You are just you are involved in the no, yes, but maybe we should talk start their excess. Not that long ago. Well, it's I...

...calculated it's a book. Fifteen years ago that I started the fight against pesticides. And you know, on Inurban in urban areas. So I I'm from beconcealed and in Beaconsfield and spring it would smell of, you know, chemicals instead of flowers because everyone was praying their lawn so to kill all the dandelions and it was yeah, and I had neighbors who had had who lost their children to and resist at support horror stories around around my neighborhood. And so I got into this movement to ban pesticides in beaconsfield and and Hudson had banned it and bizarre bandit and then munch and then I was part of the movement. The banded in Montreal and that helped. It was Andre Black clad at the time. He has most most progressive law within North America for Quebec on the use of chemical on how he's gout esthetic pesticides. So that was I was that was yeah, that was a huge gain and that's when I thought wow, like it is within the political system that you can really it's by being involved in the decision making process that you can actually implement change, you know, not just talking. You know, one thing is talking to your neighbors and creating a little group and then, you know, doing a little bit of change within your community, but but then to go on a higher level and try to change it for Montreal, Quebec and maybe Canada. That has a greater impact. And so I was always on as I worked on a small scale and we did pesticides and then I went into water with school children, you know, and I think that's when we met with a Huisul Meadow Brook in in Beaconsfield. We wanted to clean it up and we yeah, we figured out that was wrong. With the stream why it was polluted, but because about a hundred and fifty homes had their toilets connected to it. You know, the sewage was going in directly into the Stream. And so I found I found this out with the kids and as we were doing our little investigation, and then we said, well, you know how we're going to change this, and the kids went and spoke to spoke to me. I invited, you know, the federal government and the provincial government and the municipal government and the kids ask them questions. And at the time the person who was most interested in helping us was actually Chantela Hulu, because she worked the Leman is Lamitropod. She's now yeah, and she right at the time working for Strategy San Lahu for to clean out the St Lawrence River. So she was very, very, very helpful and she helped us with the Stream and later on with other streams. And finally, as a counselor, I worked with her and she developed Le Plant Plan Delu de Lamitropod, which is very ambitious Water Management Plan for Montreal. So, whoops, hello, yea. Well, and that's and yeah, and that's really, really interesting because we've just had a whole bunch of flooding and there's actually a couple of institutions here and for done that are closed at the moment because of flooding. And I think that managing water is I mean there's the waste management, which most borrows don't even have. The auditor general two years ago said most borrows don't even have plans of where they're sewage goes, which I think is shocker, you know. But I mean there's not even that side that. There's also the fact that we don't have a clear idea because the water ways have been so changed in Montreal it's really hard for even the insurance companies to figure out where, where it's actually flowing now, and so there are buildings at risk actually at the C M at. So it's a it's a SIMM level. I'm actually working on that because I'm on the commission, Commisson de Lemnegema,...

...and we're looking at all the flooding zone across the whole like metropolitan area and the greater metropolitan area actually to see to map it out so that we actually see the water flow. Yeah, well, because that was it's that's a good, good, good idea, because level just did it, and I mean mapping. I don't even know when their maps are going to be finished, but mapping it out is is yeah, and then I know they are going to be good now because, because, because people do not know anything else. The average person does not know anything at all. And I mean I remember when I was talking about that Big Lake that's actually below the Turkout Exchange, that that you know could cause problems. A train fell in there when the train tracks were being built. I know that one of my one of my editors, was horrified and then thinking that I was talking about some sort of imaginary thing. Ecology often seems that way to people sometimes. So I think I'm really happy to hear that you're working on that as well. I know that it's got a bunch and I know that so far, not so far. Machine is not at it is not a risk of inundacent area. So I was like, Oh, yeah, it's we're okay. Yeah, yeah, well, for done, just higher we have, I think, because how you're up. That's why. Yeah, let Shene has always the sheet has always been higher. I've I don't know if you've looked at some of the old maps, but that's where the common area was where they took all the animals. Toner, okay, well, Cuz what cuts at the edge of the sheet? Well, because the rapids. Right, there's rapids, because there's an incline, because we are higher than ver done. So the rapids end. Yeah, they start here and they end in ver done. So, yeah, yeah, exactly. So, yeah, so, I'm glad that someone with some I'm sure you're pulling another experts to there's everything. There's about. I think there's a three million dollars was given from the provincial government, from the last provincial government, to do the mapping and to look also how all our other Baraj you know, how how do you say Barajan? The dam's, how the damn the don't help and how they interact with the water ways and what can be done to prevent the floods and how we can be resilient. And it was. It's a huge huhooge issue. And where should be build or not built? You know, should be build on areas that are one to twenty years flood zones or what? There's, you know, in the mapping will be done for twenty years, fifty years and a hundred years. Like the chances of it being flooded and some areas are right the same as every other. Yeah, the same. It's the level. I know that in leave out that caused a big problem because there are properties that have been in territories that have not been flooded since the dams were built, and some of them are quite old. So it is important to increase the infrastructure in the plans because otherwise you're taking property value away from people who are who who already have. Yeah, and there's others are I mean, that's the child's way. Yeah, and there's also ways easier to make, like if you have if you are built somewhere in the flood zone, you can make ways for the water to get in, into the land, but to be redirected into into basins or lakes or so that you can actually kind of eat it's how can I say? You're not stopping the water, you're letting the water come in, but in a kind of controlled way. So that's that. That's what we're looking at the CMM right now. How and you are preserving much advanced in in this in this area, because they deal a lot with flooding. Well, I know that. Well, the new Marion Aufulis school which is in the old they they actually have a gymnasium that has water flowing under it. I mean that there's an entire river that goes on to that property. So there are expertstory all about...

...this too. You know, yeah, who been dealing with it, but it's fascinating, I'm said. And what else has surpris eyes you about your I think what surprised me is that I'm still able to be the activists that I am within a structure. That's my biggest surprise. Is, you know, usually you say when you you go into politics and you you'll change, you you will have to compromise, you will have to but I don't feel that, not yet. So far I've been able to push things and speak my mind and do things and in ever since I was elected, there's been over a hundred and sixty articles about machine and things I've said and done and I've never really briefed anyone, or you know that I've never I'm I'm still alive. You know, I'm still in I'm still in politics. So that surprises that surprises me that I have this freedom. I have freedom and I have the capacity to do things. So it's like when win win win. So it and I just don't want it to to stop. You know, like how and at one point it gets you know, I can tell I can give you an image. At the beginning, when I was an activist and working with a whole bunch of volunteers and we're trying to find solutions for things, I felt like a locomotive. I felt like a red locomotive, but I was going real slow and I was like, you know, working real hard to just move a couple of inches with all the wagons that were very heavy. And now the train is going very fast and I'm trying to keep on real you know, not to derail and and it just to keep going and there's like more and more wagons and where are we going to go? Where are we going? It's very exciting because there's the potential of great change. But well, that's cool. With with the speed comes responsibility and comes more I don't know. How can I it's it definitely more responsibility, more responsibility with the position I have, and a chance to do greater things, but also a chance to for error. You know, again the risk. You know, so how to maneuver everything well in order to have the greatest gain for the environment and for all of us. And then my second last question is the how do you balance all of this, both your activism and now your politics, with family life and and and and just being healthy? Are Interesting bibors. Yesterday I had so much work to do for today because today's count the Council at town hall and I have to speak about some things and I wanted to spend the day preparing for it. And my niece came from Edmonton, you know, and my kids are working, and so I took care of my knees and I want to see my daughter and I did not work. I took time for them and I think it's it's good, you know. And I went to bed and I said, Oh God, I didn't you know, my speech today is not going to be the best. Right to compromise. I think we have to make. Yeah, yeah, wow, that's fabulous. And then yet, you know, my last question is, do you consider yourself a Canadio? I most definitely do consider myself a Canadian, especially now that I'm working on the Canadian Council for zero waste and I get to work with Canadians. You know, I was...

...mainly in Montreal and I worked up with, you know, people from Quebec City, but now it's people from Vancouver and people from Alberta and from Ontario, and I love them. I realize, like they're so nice. You know, they hug. We Kiss in Quebec, but they hug and it's a very genuine hug and it's a very genuine like, I don't know, there's a kindness. I think Canadians are very kind people and and peaceful and but we're very far apart. You know, we're very we're it's a very big country and I have, I feel, very privilege now being on the council, to meet them and to we do a lot of skype conferences and we work together by phone and and then sometimes we see each other and they're very, very, very incredible moments and I feel very much. I feel like this need for us to be more cohesive and more united as a country, because we're so small. We're such a small country where there's so few of us that if we're separated we're not strong, but if we're all connected we become strong. Oh. So to me that's a huge issue. And you know, and I'm an immigrant, so I was accepted by Canada and when I go to ceremonies. Recently I was invited as an elected official, to go to when you immigrants become Canadians. You know, there's a special ceremony and I cry. I still cry, Oh my God, or so good, this is such a good thing that we accept all these people. We should accept more people. That's my point of view. Yeah, where I came from, Gradatia, I gave from Croatia and I go back a lot. So I feel very much. You know, my kids feel very strongly, even if just half of the them is Croatian, they feel very strongly that that's a part of that them, that they that they appreciate and they appreciate and of course they're perfectly tri lingual and they love Quebec, they love Montreal, Quebec and Canada and but it's for me, it's I wish Canada was more like Germany, you know, like where Angela Merkle just said, you know, which she brought in a million people, a million serians, because she said, you know, we can do this and we need we need a lot of skilled people. We don't have enough people, especially in Montreal. There's a lack of skilled workforce right now. So immigration should not be a problem for us. We should welcommit the specially people that are skilled. Yeah, so I definitely feel Canadian. You're very thank you, very welcome to really appreciate you. Thank you. Thank you for having me on your show. Thank you for listening to an apologetically Canadian. This episode was brought to you by notable non fiction. Notable nonfiction teaches people to grow through their own ingenuity. Find out more at notable nonfictioncom.

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