MP-0000.859.5 | Raymond Prefontaine, Mayor, before 1905

Raymond Prefontaine, Mayor, before 1905
Before 1905, 20th century
Ink on paper - Halftone
11 x 7.5 cm
Gift of Mr. Stanley Triggs
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  portrait (53878) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

A Lively Political Scene

At the turn of the 20th century, the social and ethnic divisions that characterized the city were reflected in political life. The struggle between populists and reformers continued, and even intensified. The most popular politician in Montreal, Raymond Préfontaine, became mayor in 1898 and remained in the position until his retirement from municipal life in 1902. The political machine he had created collapsed, however, following the electoral victories of the reformers in 1898 and 1900. The reform movement succeeded in attracting a number of French-speaking businessmen to their cause; the leading figure among them was Hormisdas Laporte (1850-1934), who became a municipal councillor in 1897 and served as mayor from 1904 to 1906. Laporte and his colleague Herbert Brown Ames (1863-1954), the leader of the English reformers, sought to clean up the City's financial situation and to improve municipal services, especially in the area of public hygiene.

  • What

    Raymond Préfontaine was a controversial figure who left no one indifferent. To some, he was the "Haussmann of Montreal" as a result of his road-building achievements. To others, he was a spokesman for working-class French Canadians. Still others saw him as the symbol of populism and corruption.

  • Where

    Raymond Préfontaine began his career in municipal politics in Hochelaga, of which he became mayor. When this suburban municipality was annexed in 1883, he became a member of Montreal City Council and built up a particularly effective political machine.

  • When

    In 1898, when he became mayor, Préfontaine lost the power he had been able to exercise until then. He had few real responsibilities in this essentially honorary position. As mayor, however, he automatically had a seat on the Harbour Board and hoped to exert his influence to advance port development projects in the east end of the city.

  • Who

    Raymond Préfontaine (1850-1905) was a lawyer and politician. First elected to the provincial legislature in Quebec City and then as a member of parliament in Ottawa, he served as federal marine and fisheries minister from 1902 until his death. His marriage to one of the daughters of Jean-Baptiste Rolland, in 1876, introduced him into one of the most successful French-Canadian business families.