Peter F. Trent
Mayor of Westmount
Westmount City Councillor: 1983-1987 and 1990-1991
Following three years of involvement in Westmount politics, Mr Trent was first elected in November 1983. For the next four years, Alderman Trent was the Commissioner of urban planning:
- He was responsible for major zoning changes that included reductions in permissible building heights across the City.
- He oversaw the launch of the heritage properties study that led to legislation protecting Westmount’s built heritage.
- He insisted that the City’s updated building code require all new houses to be sprinklered – a first in Quebec.
- For years, Westmount’s policy required replacing traditional Washingtonian lamp-posts with tall highway-style light standards. Mr Trent completely reversed this policy; starting in 1987, all “highway” lights were replaced with upgraded Washingtonians whenever streets were reconstructed.
In January 1990, Mr Trent was again elected Councillor (exit the title “Alderman”), becoming the Commissioner of Finance until his election as mayor. City operating spending was frozen from 1990 – until its forced merger with Montreal on January 1, 2002.
Mayor of Westmount: 1991-2001
In November 1991, Mr Trent was elected Mayor of Westmount. Among his accomplishments were:
1) The restoration of civic buildings
- Mayor Trent was the moving force behind the 1995 restoration and expansion of the Westmount Public Library. Floor area was increased 50%. The original building and its interior were stripped of decades of architectural intrusions and authentically restored.
- In 1996, Mayor Trent insisted the 94-year-old bowling green pavilion be rebuilt and replicated – with a massive new Hydro Westmount substation built under the greens.
- From 1994 to 1999, Victoria Hall was refurbished and the Gallery added in 1999.
- The total value of these three projects was $24 million in 2017 dollars.
2) The protection of built heritage
- In 1995, Westmount adopted a by-law to protect its built heritage. From then on, all renovation and new construction had to harmonize with existing buildings and respect key architectural characteristics of the local streetscape as defined by 39 character areas. The bylaw also included mandatory design guidelines.
- In 2000, a study recommended that Parks Canada declare Westmount a district of national historic significance; the 1995 heritage bylaw was noted in the recommendation. Finally, in 2016, Westmount was so honoured.
3) Assuming a regional leadership role
- From 1991 to 1994, Mayor Trent was a member of the Environment Commission of the Montreal Urban Community (MUC).
- From 1993 to 1997, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Union des municipalités du Québec.
- From January 1994 to January 1998, he was President of the Conference of Montreal Suburban Mayors.
- From November 1994 to February 1998, he was Vice-Chairman of the MUC.
- From 1994 to 2001, he was a member of the Executive Committee of the MUC.
- During 1998, he was a member of the Board of the MUC Transit Commission.
- From 1999 to 2001, he was the Vice-chairman of the Administration and Finance Commission of the MUC.
4) Leading the battle against mergers
- From 1999 to 2001, Mayor Trent led the fight against forced municipal mergers on the Island of Montreal – in the courts and in the media.
- A SOM poll (Montreal Gazette, 2 August 2001) revealed that Mayor Trent was the most popular suburban choice for mayor of the new megacity of Montreal, even though he had refused to run.
- Another SOM poll (La Presse, 25 August 2001) showed that, right across the Island of Montreal, more people had confidence in Mayor Trent to run the megacity than in Gérald Tremblay – who was elected mayor two months later.
Private Citizen: 2002-2009
After being “de-elected” 31 December 2001, Mr Trent refused to have anything to do with the new megacity; instead he worked pro-bono full time – initially alone – to make demerger happen:
- Mr Trent was the instigator of, and a contributor to, the Poitras Report. The release of this report in March 2003 immediately turned municipal mergers and demergers into a major provincial election issue that gained twenty seats – and therefore victory – for the Liberal Party, and led directly to legislation permitting demergers. Premier Bernard Landry is on record for saying the PQ lost the election because of the merger issue.
- Mr Trent was the demerger leader across the Island of Montreal. Thirty Quebec cities demerged 1 January 2006, including Westmount.
Mayor of Westmount: 2009-2017
Mr Trent was re-elected Mayor in October 2009, and again in 2013. Since 2009, he has served as President of the Association of Suburban Municipalities of the Island of Montreal. Trent has now been elected mayor five times, winning each election without opposition. Some of his more recent accomplishments are:
1) Building the WRC
- Mayor Trent was the driving force behind the Westmount Recreation Centre (WRC).
- In late 2009, he convinced Council to reject a plan for a new above-ground Arena/pool, to build the ice rinks underground, and later to switch from the traditional “design-bid-build” method to “design-build.”
- The WRC was opened in November 2013. It cost $41 million, of which Westmount taxpayers only paid $15 million. They would have paid $21 million were it not for fundraising – a funding innovation Mayor Trent first used for the 1995 Library project.
- The WRC houses the world’s first underground rinks. It has since received many awards (including LEED Gold certification) for this innovative concept that created an acre and one-half of new green space.
2) Writing the definitive history of the mergers
- Mayor Trent wrote a critically-acclaimed history of the 2002 municipal mergers entitled The Merger Delusion. This 672-page book was published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in November 2012.
- His book was one of five finalists for the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for the year’s best Canadian political book:
“A brilliant history…an erudite, meticulous, yet lively narrative. (….) Written with wit and no small degree of self-criticism, this splendid book is a warning to politicians of all persuasions.”
― Conrad Black
“I thought The Merger Delusion frankly was fantastic…I got into it and I literally could not stop. A magnificent story about what a provincial government should not do.”
― Ed Broadbent
“Written by a politician who can actually write.”
― Daniel Poliquin
3) Fighting corruption
- As a member of the Executive Committee of the Union des municipalités du Québec, Mayor Trent was the only elected official in Quebec to demand, in the media, that Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt resign from the UMQ board in November 2010. Vaillancourt refused, and Trent quit the UMQ in protest. It took two years before others questioned Vaillancourt publicly; eventually, he was arrested on charges of gangsterism.
- In June 2013, the Civic Action League, a pan-Québec anti-corruption group, awarded Mayor Trent a prize for his “exceptional contribution” to the fight against corruption, his sound municipal stewardship, and his political activism that resulted in the reconstitution of 14 cities on the Island of Montreal.
4) Working with Mayor Coderre, yet against the Agglomeration Council
- In March 2016, Mayor Trent negotiated a settlement with Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre that capped the amount the demerged Cities paid for downtown development and also charged them for the operating costs of potable water based on consumption rather than on real estate value. These two items had been bones of contention ever since 2006.
- Both Mayor Trent and Mayor Coderre took a very public position against Canada Post’s decision to eliminate home mail delivery. They also worked together to force Quebec to legislate controls on runaway municipal pension benefits, a cause Mayor Trent had forced on the previous mayor of Montreal in June 2011.
- In September 2016, Mayor Trent resigned as vice-chairman of the Agglomeration Council’s Finance and Administration Commission, a position he had held since 2010. He denounced the yearly budget process as a “charade.” Regardless of the Commission’s many hours of work on Montreal’s draft budget, the final budget was always approved by Montreal’s Executive Committee without as much as a comma changed from the draft.
5) Increasing green space
- In June 1990, Trent, as Councillor, came up with the idea of demolishing one-third of Summit Circle in order to increase the size of Summit Woods from 30 to 50 acres. Following a year of effort, local opposition thwarted his idea. With the contribution of Councillor Lulham, his vision will finally become reality in 2017 – 27 years later.
6) Negotiating 1250 Greene
- Mayor Trent brokered a deal with Metro Inc and the property owner of 1250 Greene that kept the 5 Saisons grocery open, created a public square at Greene and de Maisonneuve, and permitted an elegant building, in 2013, to grace “Westmount’s downtown.”
7) Making Westmount debt-free; doubling yearly infrastructure investment
- The 2017 Westmount budget froze the average tax bill for the second year in a row.
- In 2017, the City of Westmount, for the first time, has no net debt.
- The 2017 budget for infrastructure investment – $17 million – is double the historical average. This yearly amount will continue into the future without having to borrow.
- Westmount’s average tax bill, after inflation, is the same as it was in 2009, except for increased infrastructure investment.
- In 2009, the City of Westmount owned $93 million of infrastructure (after depreciation) and $27 million of net debt, for a “net worth” of $66 million. Today, Westmount has infrastructure worth $158 million and no debt. The City’s “net worth” has more than doubled during the time Mayor Trent has been in office.
Mr. Trent was a shareholder and director, the President and C.E.O. of PBI/Plastibeton Inc., a company he co-founded in 1971 at the age of 25. He invented, developed, and put into production an entirely new composite material used in applications as diverse as building cladding, quartz countertops, tiles, and moulded products for industry. He had world-wide chemical patents in his name.
A number of international companies became shareholders of PBI: Turner and Newall PLC of England, the Shell Oil Company (Houston, Texas), and Lone Star Industries (Greenwich, Connecticut). From 1979 to 1988, they invested over $50 million in PBI. In 1989 Mr. Trent resigned from PBI.
Born in England, educated at McMaster University, Mr. Trent moved to Québec in 1968. In 1982/83, he taught Marketing at Concordia University. He was awarded the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal in 1992 and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013. From 1994 to 1999, he served as the Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Royal Montreal Regiment, and then as Honorary Colonel until 2008. In 2005, he was awarded the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.
Mr Trent has performed in a number of theatrical productions, by the Lakeshore Players (California Suite), the Centaur Theatre (Merry Millennium) and Geordie Productions, playing King Henry VIII in A Man for All Seasons, Noel Coward in The Man Who Came to Dinner, Colonel Pickering in Pygmalion and the Judge in To Kill a Mockingbird. He wrote and performed in a play for the 125th anniversary of the City of Westmount. From 1991 to 1999, his column appeared regularly in the Westmount Examiner. Between1996 and 2001, he wrote editorials for the Montreal Gazette as a member of its Board of Contributors.
Mayor trent’s column
Here you will find articles written by Mayor Peter F. Trent which have appeared in the local newspapers.