MONTREAL – She was a small-town mayor who reached the top of local municipal politics but never seemed overawed by any of it. She contemplated the idea of entering provincial politics, but decided against it after her husband worried the National Assembly in Quebec City would too often keep her away from their home in Town of Mount Royal.
Vera Danyluk, mother, community volunteer, mayor and former head of the Montreal Urban Community, died yesterday at the Montreal General Hospital after a battle with an illness described by city officials as "a very rare disorder."
Danyluk, 66, was surrounded by family in her hospital room when she died.
Trent said Danyluk "was an extremely important role model for women," referring to her assuming the reins of the MUC at a time when women in politics were a rarity.
"She showed that if you’re going to be in municipal politics, you can do it with probity, with a sense of ethics, a sense of responsibility and you can work very hard.
"She almost single-handedly helped to raise the public opinion of municipal politicians in the Montreal area."
In a communique made public in the hours after her death, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, on his way to Rome to attend the canonization of Brother André, described Danyluk as "an exceptionally talented woman who was a great source of inspiration for all those who made a choice to enter municipal politics. We’ve lost an exceptional woman who dedicated her life to public service."
Danyluk was a critic of forced municipal mergers carried out at the start of the decade, but her support of decentralization wasn’t limited to municipal administration. In the 1970s, not yet involved in politics, she co-founded the Women’s Committee on Public Safety after the attempted rape of an adolescent girl in T.M.R. That group called for a demerger of the Montreal Urban Community’s island-wide police, placing public security back in the hands of municipalities.
Elected chairperson of the Suburban Mayors’ Conference of Montreal in 1992, two years later she experienced what might be considered the greatest irony of her political career: After spending more than a decade criticizing the MUC, Danyluk, then 49, was named its chairperson, responsible for a budget of $1.2 billion and the 15,000 employees who provided the region’s public security and transit, restaurant and food inspection, water purification, air pollution monitoring and emergency co-ordination services.