Week in Review: Anti-mask protesters, lockdown warning, STM to grow, Bill 40, Halloween

Catch up on all the big stories that happened this week in Montreal.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante holds a news conference outside the Lucien Saulnier Building in Montreal Monday Sept. 14, 2020.

The city’s transit agency is forging ahead with the most costly purchase of buses in its history, despite an anticipated prolonged decline in its ridership. The Société de transport de Montréal has ordered 830 diesel-electric hybrid buses from St-Eustache-based Nova Bus at a cost of $941 million. That includes 300 buses the STM will add to its overall fleet to boost its service; the rest are replacements for older buses. The agency began receiving the buses last December and will continue receiving them until 2024. The STM is also going ahead with plans to hire 200 additional bus driversby the end of the year, in contrast to many transit agencies around the world that are cutting back on their service and laying off employees. Ridership on the city’s buses nosedived by about 90 per cent at the height of the pandemic, and is still about 75 per cent lower than it was before March. The STM anticipates ridership levels will return to their pre-pandemic levels by 2023.

Now that they have won a second legal battle against Bill 40, Quebec’s English school boards will ask the provincial government to postpone its board elections this year. Russell Copeman, executive director of the Quebec English School Boards Association (QESBA), said the request will be made after the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled in favour of maintaining a court-ordered suspension of Bill 40 as it applies to English school boards. “All of the boards approve of it and so does the teachers’ union. The (Nov. 1) elections should be postponed,” Copeman said on Thursday while listing several other groups that are calling for the English school board elections to be postponed. “The (current) mandates should be extended. You’re asking thousands of electors to show up in schools to vote while there is still a pandemic. It makes no sense.”

It’s impossible to say what it will look like this year, but one sure thing a little more than a month before the big day is that it won’t be your usual Halloween. Trick or treating hasn’t been cancelled by the government, at least not yet, but even if the province allows it, will parents send their young children out in the streets on Oct. 31 to pick up candy from strangers? “I don’t know what Halloween will be,” said Marc Choran, owner of the Giggles costume shop in LaSalle. “In my opinion, I think there will be a lack of adult parties. I don’t think anyone should be doing parties. So I think that will cut my adult business in a pretty strong way. That’s going to affect my sales for sure. I bought accordingly. I don’t think it’s going to be a very strong Halloween. I don’t know about trick or treating, but kids will dress up. Whether they say there’s no Halloween or not, they’re going to dress up the day of. You could do a small house party within your bubble.”

Catch up on all the big stories that happened this week in Montreal.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante says it’s beyond comprehension that people held an anti-mask protest in the city over the weekend, calling the event “irresponsible.” At a news conference outside city hall Monday, Plante said it’s OK for people to have different opinions about the pandemic, but called on them to respect those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. “It’s beyond me,” Plante said when asked about the protest. “It scares me, to be honest, and I do not understand why people are taking those risks.”

Premier François Legault hardened the tone Tuesday, slapping a COVID-19 pre-alert status on four more regions and warning parts of Quebec are close to the next more critical level, which will mean closing bars and restaurants. Warning there is a now “a real risk” of a second wave that would mean the return of various levels of lockdowns, Legault said he does not understand why some people are still ignoring warnings — even holding fall barbecues and corn boils with large groups or gathering in restaurants. “The situation is critical, it is worrisome,” Legault said at a pandemic news conference as the National Assembly resumed sitting.

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