John Gardiner (Montreal politician)

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John Gardiner is a former politician in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He was a member of the Montreal city council from 1974 to 1978 and again from 1982 to 1994 as a member of the Montreal Citizens' Movement (MCM) and was a prominent figure in Jean Doré's municipal administration.

Early life and career[edit]

An anglophone Montrealer, Gardiner studied History at McGill University.[1] He was a high-school teacher from 1967 to 1973 and a school commissioner from 1973 to 1977. He also co-ordinated Montreal's Milton Park project, in which capacity he organized six hundred units of non-profit housing.[2]

Opposition councillor[edit]

Gardiner was a founding member of the Montreal Citizens' Movement and became one of its first elected councillors in the 1974 municipal election, defeating incumbent councillor Hyman Brock in the second Saint-Louis ward. He lost his seat to Civic Party candidate Joffre Laporte in 1978 but was returned over Laporte in a rematch four years later.

Mayor Jean Drapeau's Civic Party dominated municipal politics in this period, and Gardiner served as a member of the opposition. He was considered a radical left-wing activist in the 1970s and took part in several efforts to preserve historic buildings from urban development.[3] By the 1980s, he had moved to the political centre.[4]

Gardiner was the MCM's house leader and housing critic in the mid-1980s.[5] In 1985, he called for the city to hold public consultations before approving any large-scale downtown development projects.[6] The following year, he criticized the Drapeau administration's decision to cancel a housing renovations program.[7]

Shortly before the 1986 municipal election, Gardiner said that francophone Montrealers were becoming increasingly engaged in municipal politics, in light of the growing role of the French language in the city's professional sector. He added that this change benefited the MCM's chances of winning the election.[8]

Doré administration[edit]


The MCM won a landslide majority in the 1986 municipal election and its mayoral candidate, Jean Doré, was elected to succeed Drapeau. After being sworn in as mayor, Doré appointed Gardiner to the Montreal executive committee (i.e., the municipal cabinet) with responsibility for housing and city planning.[9] Gardiner also served as the leader of the Doré government in council.[10] He supported several development projects while also attempting to promote low-income housing.

Early in the Doré administration, Gardiner offered support to a new low-income housing project in the Rosemont area, pledged that Montreal would cover most costs in renovating dangerous rooming houses, and announced that the city would make rent control a condition of landlords receiving renovation grants.[11] In 1989, he announced that Montreal would introduce a tax incentive to make home ownership easier and prevent a drift to the suburbs.[12]

Gardiner supported several high-rise projects in the Doré administration's first term and was sometimes accused of ignoring tenant rights. One of the most controversial projects he supported was an unsuccessful condominium development on Overdale Avenue that caused the displacement of seventy tenants. Gardiner required the developers to provide alternate housing for all of the affected parties as a condition of the project's approval; this notwithstanding, some MCM councillors opposed the project on the grounds that it was unfair to the tenants and created a bad precedent for future development on the Saint Lawrence River.[13] Despite the internal opposition, the Doré administration approved the project in September 1987. The tenants were ultimately evicted and relocated, although the developers never followed through with building the condominiums.[14] Gardiner later helped approve two 45-storey office buildings in 1988, despite further opposition from within the MCM.[15]

In March 1988, Gardiner announced the first draft of a long-awaited master plan for Montreal's downtown. Its key planks included making Montreal streets friendlier to pedestrians, requiring that no new buildings significantly block the view of Mount Royal, and giving incentives to developers who create "social useful" amenities such as day care centres.[16] Gardiner followed this in January 1990 with a ten-year downtown plan that included the creation of ten thousand new housing units and significant new office space and a restoration of the area's main commercial thoroughfare.[17] Gardiner led council in approving the plan later in the year; critics charged that it favoured developers by permitting the construction of more high-rise offices.[18]

Opponents argued that Gardiner did not sufficiently prioritize low-income housing, while Gardiner responded that Montreal did not receive sufficient funds from the government of Canada.[19] When seeking re-election in 1990, he said that he still regarded himself as a supporter of poor and disenfranchised Montrealers.[3] He argued that Montreal had raised $120 million in new tax revenues from office towers since 1986 and openly described himself as "pro-development."[20]


The MCM won second consecutive landslide victory in the 1990 election, and Gardiner was re-elected without difficulty in his new ward of Mile End. He was promoted to vice-chair of the executive committee after the election, with responsibility for economic development, tourism, and housing.[21] Shortly after his appointment, he said that he would consider declaring downtown Montreal a tourist zone to permit Sunday shopping.[22]

Gardiner announced in late 1991 that an ongoing North American recession would delay the city's plans for to construct a municipal court, a computer centre, and two cultural centres. This notwithstanding, he indicated that the city would move forward with a new bicycle path for the St. Jacques cliff, an extension allowing trucks to use the Wellington tunnel, and renovations in the Atwater and Maisonneuve markets.[23] The following year, Gardiner said that the city government would end its ownership of Montreal's four public markets. "We don't think that the city is organized to administer commercial property," he said. "It's not the role of the city and we don't do it well."[24] In October 1992, he announced an $86 million bailout plan for the World Trade Centre Montreal to prevent the Old Montreal facility from going bankrupt.[25]

Gardiner also announced in late 1992 that the city would lift a five-year moratorium on converting apartments into condominiums. Social welfare activists argued that this change would leave tenants vulnerable to harassment by landlords (as had happened before the ban was introduced), but Gardiner said there was no danger of this.[26]

The Doré administration launched a major new housing project in April 1993, budgeted at $350 million and intended to bring five thousand people into the waterfront area east of Old Montreal. Gardiner indicated that twenty per cent of the units would be targeted to low-income families, though he added that he main purpose was to bring people of different income levels into the downtown.[27] In the same month, Doré and Gardiner issued Montreal's first comprehensive economic development plan. Gardiner indicated that his first priority was to introduce a five to ten per cent tax cut for commercial and industrial properties and also said that he would streamline the application process for city building permits.[28]

Gardiner announced significant cuts to Montreal's rental-housing-purchase program in 1993, while arguing that the cuts could have been far worse. Under the program, the city purchased derelict apartments, renovated them, and allowed residents to occupy them again; it was widely regarded as a successful program for renovating neighbourhoods and combating crime. Gardiner noted that the program had been in jeopardy of being eliminated entirely due to the recession and added that the funding cuts could be restored in the future.[29] He protested against the federal government's cuts to public housing in the early 1990s and criticized as discriminatory the provincial government's plan to deny low-income housing access to sponsored immigrants.[30]

In June 1994, Doré and Gardiner announced new reforms to the city's housing code. Gardiner indicated that the changes would increase the rights of tenants and give the city the "power to put (negligent) landlords out of business."[31]

Gardiner was one of the most visible members of the Doré administration and was described by the Montreal Gazette as "extraordinarily hard-working."[32] He announced in August 1994 that he would not seek re-election.[33]

Since 1994[edit]

The MCM was defeated in the 1994 municipal election and later fell victim to internal divisions. Gardiner quit the party in 1997, saying that it was no longer a credible force in municipal politics. In early 1998, he encouraged Conrad Sauve to consider running for mayor of Montreal on a centrist ticket.[34] He also recommended that the Montreal's municipal government be restructured, converting the city into eight to ten municipalities, consolidating the suburbs into eight communities, and giving all municipalities on Montreal Island shared oversight of the city's downtown.[35]

In 2000, Montreal lawyer Jean-Pierre Cantin recorded an affidavit that accused Gardiner of taking bribes for the rezoning of commercial property in Montreal's north end. Gardiner denied the charge, saying, "I haven't a clue what [Cantin] is talking about. I'm not worried because I am not guilty, but I'm concerned because I get phone calls and people are talking. We were an honest government, and we maintained it that way."[36]

Electoral record[edit]

1990 Montreal municipal election results: Councillor, Mile End
1986 Montreal municipal election results: Councillor, Ville-Marie
1982 Montreal municipal election results: Councillor, Ville-Marie
1978 Montreal municipal election results: Councillor, Ville-Marie
1974 Montreal municipal election results: Councillor, Saint-Louis, Ward Two


  1. ^ Henry Aubin, "Here are 10 views on how to boost Montreal," Montreal Gazette, 7 February 1991, B3; Jean Doré, "`I see Montreal as a meeting place of peoples and nations'," Montreal Gazette, 7 November 1991, B3.
  2. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "Dore team waiting in the wings; MCM stalwarts set to take top city jobs if party wins Nov. 9," Montreal Gazette, 1 November 1986, B1; Felicity Munn, "Adieu, Drapeau, adieu!", Toronto Star, 8 November 1986, B6; Robert Winters, "Who is who in the new MCM administration; MCM backbenchers will demand more say in decision-making than Drapeau-era councillors," Montreal Gazette, 15 November 1986, A4; Ingrid Peritz, "How David beat Goliath in Milton Park," Montreal Gazette, 16 May 1987, J8; John Sewell, "A neighborhood's story," Globe and Mail, 1 August 1987, C17.
  3. ^ a b Marion Scott, "John Gardiner: from wild-eyed radical to developers' ally," Montreal Gazette, 27 October 1990, B1.
  4. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "Dore team waiting in the wings; MCM stalwarts set to take top city jobs if party wins Nov. 9," Montreal Gazette, 1 November 1986, B1; Ann Laughlin, "MCM has firm grip in most 'Dore country' districts," Montreal Gazette, 6 November 1986, A4.
  5. ^ Robert Winters and Eloise Morin, "Middlemen get renovation funds; Take fees to cut red tape that shouldn't exist in first place, critics say," Montreal Gazette, 13 April 1985, A1; Ingrid Peritz, "Montreal North mayor seen as first transit chief," Montreal Gazette, 17 December 1985, A3.
  6. ^ Susan Semenak, "City OK's widening of McGill College," Montreal Gazette, 13 June 1985, A1.
  7. ^ "City cancelling subsidies for housing renovations," Montreal Gazette, 12 April 1986, A3.
  8. ^ John Sewell, "The significance of the summit," Globe and Mail, 20 June 1986, A8.
  9. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "Fainstat will chair executive including 3 women, 2 anglos," Montreal Gazette, 26 November 1986, A1.
  10. ^ Elizabeth Thompson, "City seeks new powers through charter amendments," Montreal Gazette, 11 March 1989, A3.
  11. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "City plans to use renovation grants to control rents," Montreal Gazette, 4 July 1987, A3; Debbie Parkes, "City agrees to hold land for low-income housing," Montreal Gazette, 16 April 1987, B10; Ingrid Peritz, "City to pay $5.5 million for safety of roomers," Montreal Gazette, 22 May 1987, A1.
  12. ^ Robert Winters, "City considers new planning body; Developers call proposal another level of red tape," Montreal Gazette, 26 October 1988, C1; Lewis Harris, "City plans tax break to spur first-time home buying," Montreal Gazette, 7 February 1989, A3. Gardiner introduced a similar tax incentive in 1993, targeted to owners of newly constructed homes. "City proposes tax rebates for buyers of new homes," Montreal Gazette, 27 February 1993, A3.
  13. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "Developers must replace cheap housing," Montreal Gazette, 3 June 1987, A1; Lewis Harris, "MCM's bigwigs split on question of a rift in party," Montreal Gazette, 21 August 1987, A3; Lewis Harris, "Let Overdale tenants stay: city report," Montreal Gazette, 23 September 1987, A1.
  14. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "City rejects report, OKs Overdale condo plan," Montreal Gazette, 30 September 1987, A1; Jack Todd, "Ruined promises; MCM should admit error and step in to save Overdale," Montreal Gazette, 10 September 1991, A3.
  15. ^ Lewis Harris, "45-storey towers get council nod despite dissent," Montreal Gazette, 28 September 1988, A3.
  16. ^ Lewis Harris, "Special panel to scrutinize city's master plan for development," Montreal Gazette, 26 March 1988, A3; Lewis Harris, "Downtown master plan maps out 'vibrancy streets' for city," Montreal Gazette, 31 March 1988, A3; Lewis Harris, "City to encourage 'socially useful' projects," Montreal Gazette, 30 March 1988, A3.
  17. ^ James Mennie, "City wants more people to live downtown; 10-year master plan aims to develop shopping areas, improve housing and transit," Montreal Gazette, 27 January 1990, A1.
  18. ^ John Gardiner, "City's master plan protects heritage buildings" [letter], Montreal Gazette, 20 July 1990, A3; Henry Aubin, "Municipal parties aren't unanimous," Montreal Gazette, 14 August 1990, B3; "MCM: betrayal of a mandate; City hall's master plan is a huge step backward" [editorial], Montreal Gazette, 14 August 1990, B2; Henry Aubin, "Master plan imperils city's human scale; Buildings too large for Montreal's needs would be fostered," Montreal Gazette, 14 August 1990, B3; Jack Todd, "Towers of power; MCM betrays its roots with absurd master plan," Montreal Gazette, 22 August 1990, A3.
  19. ^ Lewis Harris, "City plan lacks low-cost housing: critics," Montreal Gazette, 3 April 1990, A3; "Montreal doesn't get its share of low-cost housing: Gardiner," Montreal Gazette, 22 May 1990, A3; Marian Scott, "MCM assailed on low-cost housing," Montreal Gazette, 1 November 1990, A1.
  20. ^ Marian Scott, "City under siege; Opponents criticize MCM's development plans," Montreal Gazette, 27 October 1990, B1.
  21. ^ Irwin Block, "Cousineau leads top city panel; First woman to be chairman of executive committee," Montreal Gazette, 16 November 1990, A1. Oversight of the city's master plan was transferred to another councillor. See Lewis Harris, "Executive committee rookie on front lines in war against poverty," Montreal Gazette, 24 November 1990, B4.
  22. ^ Lewis Harris, "City studying downtown Sunday shopping; Proposal would have the core commercial area declared a tourist zone," Montreal Gazette, 29 November 1990, A3.
  23. ^ Elizabeth Thompson, "City scraps planned cultural centres, court; Capital-works budget leaner, meaner, but St. Jacques park will go ahead," Montreal Gazette, 17 September 1991, A3.
  24. ^ Barry Lazar, "To market or not to market; City officials pondering the future of four Montreal landmarks," Montreal Gazette, 5 October 1992, A3.
  25. ^ Mike King, "City should stay out of World Trade project: opposition; Montreal shouldn't bail out centre during its own budget cutbacks, councillor says," Montreal Gazette, 17 October 1992, A3.
  26. ^ Elizabeth Thompson, "Keep freeze on condo conversions, city urged; But Gardiner says there is no danger speculators will take advantage," Montreal Gazette, 20 October 1992, A3.
  27. ^ Elizabeth Thompson, "Major development on waterfront site starts this fall: Dore," Montreal Gazette, 21 April 1993, A1.
  28. ^ Elizabeth Thompson, "City pledges to help business, cut red tape in economic plan," Montreal Gazette, 28 April 1993, A1.
  29. ^ Carolyn Adolph, "Montreal cuts program to buy and renovate run-down flats," Montreal Gazette, 5 May 1993, A3; Ed Bantley, "City hall's secret: making an honest effort to provide housing," Montreal Gazette, 9 May 1993, A5.
  30. ^ Carolyn Adolph, "Marchers protest against public-housing funds cut," Montreal Gazette, 23 April 1992, A4; "City slams province plan to keep immigrants from low-rent housing," Montreal Gazette, 10 November 1992, A3; "Gardiner blasts funding cuts," Montreal Gazette, 22 February 1994, A3.
  31. ^ Michelle Lalonde, "Beefed-up housing code on the way: city; Extra fines promised, but tenants' group fears rules will lack teeth," Montreal Gazette, 15 June 1994, A3.
  32. ^ Henry Aubin, "Here are 10 views on how to boost Montreal," Montreal Gazette, 7 February 1991, B3.
  33. ^ "Gardiner won't seek re-election," Montreal Gazette, 12 August 1994, A3.
  34. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "Bureaucrat might take run at mayor's job: Conrad Sauve heads health board," Montreal Gazette, 17 February 1998, A3.
  35. ^ Henry Aubin, "Urban small: Small-is-beautiful concept would counter Toronto's megacity model," Montreal Gazette, 25 February 1998, A3.
  36. ^ Arpon Basu, Ingrid Phaneuf, and Kevin Dougherty, "No bribes for zoning: Mayor: Bourque, ex-councillor deny testimony in Marche Central fraud case," Montreal Gazette, 2 September 2000, A3.