If Stephen Bronfman had secretly hoped for a financial contribution from the municipal administration to the return of baseball in the major league to Montreal, the final victory of Valérie Plante would surely have swept away his illusions. The mayor was clear on this: Do not talk about investing public funds in the project.
In November 2017, shortly before the election that brought Plante to power for the first time, Bronfman was wrong when he publicly supported Denis Coderre’s re-election. This time he had the elegance of not interfering. But you do not have to be a fortune teller to understand that returning the business to the former mayor would have served his interests better.
With a passion for baseball, Coderre would like to repeat the battle of Jean Drapeau in 1968, whose influence was crucial to the establishment of the Expos. I’m convinced he would have devoted a lot of energy to the file.
Plant is not opposed to the return of Major League Baseball, and his ties to Bronfman are cordial. He congratulated her even after the victory on Sunday. And he has probably not forgotten that it was under the mayor’s administration that his father, Charles Bronfman, was made an honorary citizen of the city in 2019.
However, Bronfman and his partners must present a well-designed plan to convince her that a baseball stadium will be a resource in the development of Peel Basin. The mayor’s priorities are elsewhere: affordable and social housing, the improvement of green spaces and the development of public transport.
In this delicate context, Bronfman’s group would be wise to equip themselves with a “ball carrier”, that is, a person who will promote the file in the public space, while sitting at the table. Discussions with stakeholders: the government of Quebec, municipal administration, community , self-employed etc.
Bronfman is the big boss, but he needs help to “sell” the return of baseball to the people. Until now, he has worked in opacity. Its rare public excursions, full of enthusiasm, are poor at information. It’s great to work behind the scenes. But if the inhabitants have the impression that we want to fall a concept conceived behind closed doors down their throats, which for the time being seems to be the case, the setback will last.
Last week, when two polls showed that Coderre was heading for an election defeat, I thought that when his disappointment was over, he could be the necessary “running back”.
Without his enthusiastic support when he occupied City Hall, the hope of returning baseball would have remained a fad. He used his political weight to make the idea credible. Under his leadership, this crazy dream at first glance became a real possibility. Therefore, I saw him as the ideal candidate to continue the work in a different way.
Denis Coderre could have gathered the business community around the project and promoted it in the media and among the population.
However, the scale of his defeat changes the situation. Coderre did not want this election to be a “referendum” on his personality. It is clear that this was partly the case and the judgment is not in his favor. His speech on Sunday night, after his defeat, also hurts him a lot. Bitterness and barely contained anger leaves an unpleasant impression in such a circumstance.
That’s not all: by repeating during the election campaign that Montreal was “dirty” and “unsafe”, Coderre would today be ill-positioned to praise the city’s merits to the major league baseball makers.
If Bronfman finds it appropriate to hire a “running back”, he must turn to someone else. This does not change Coderre’s enormous contribution in this file when he was rapporteur. This must be remembered if Montreal finds a team.
Bronfman is not the only sports director who has to adjust the shot in the wake of Plante’s victory. Geoff Molson too. The owner of the Canadiens probably did not foresee this triumph of the mayor when he scolded her on Twitter during the last playoff game of the Stanley Cup, and blamed him, who knows why, for his “negativity”.
At the time, Coderre was at the top of the polls and his chances of winning back City Hall seemed excellent. When he was in charge, the CH group maintained an excellent relationship with the administration. The contract that was obtained by evenko within the framework of the Formula E race as well as the development of the open-air amphitheater in Parc Jean-Drapeau (the site of the Osheaga festival) is proof of this.
The relationship between Groupe CH and the Plante administration is more difficult. We had proof of that when the new master plan for Parc Jean-Drapeau was unveiled in April last year. Additional emphasis is placed on green areas. This announcement angered Groupe CH, which will lose space to present its shows and which has already threatened to organize the Osheaga Festival elsewhere than in Montreal.
With an overwhelming victory, Mayor Plante must nevertheless strengthen the dialogue with businesses. They are also committed to the development of Montreal, although their visions are not always consistent.
When it comes to sports entertainment, Molson is a key player in Montreal. And Bronfman will be one if baseball’s comeback comes true. The two must now realize that Plante has become decisively back in power. This result gives it a strong mandate and illustrates the extent to which its policies are widely endorsed by the population.
Bronfman has to take this into account when he adjusts his future stadium. The quality of life in neighborhoods, affordable housing, green areas and environmental considerations is – more than ever – at the heart of urban development. It will be in his best interest to fully understand the mayor’s expectations.
The same goes for Molson. It is not by scratching him on Twitter, as he cavalierly did last summer, that he wants to facilitate communication. Plant was right to remember that Sunday night: his election in 2017 was not an accident. Rather, it was a sign of a fundamental change in Montreal, a change materialized by his re-election on Sunday. The message is as clear as ever.