With the Nov. 3 election day fast approaching, Richard Bergeron, Mélanie Joly, Denis Coderre and Marcel Côté spoke about the changes that needed to be implemented by Montrealers in order for the city to prosper at its full potential.
On Friday Oct. 25 Montrealers gathered at the Loyola campus, where CJAD Radio and The Gazette had organized a debate with the Montreal mayoral candidates, in order to raise awareness of the importance of politics among young voters.
Mayoral candidates debated in English, addressing the future of the city of Montreal. The discussion opened with a question on reforming the municipal administration. Coderre started off by saying transparency and a zero tolerance policy needed to be implemented, and Joly added that making information public should be mandatory..
“The best defence against corruption is a well managed organization,” said Côté.
Bergeron pointed out that compliance among civil servants is a concern.
Tightening the belt in regards to possible increases in revenues was foreseen by Côté. Joly, however, pointed out that 70 per cent of Montreal’s revenue comes from property tax, while only 39 per cent of Toronto’s revenue comes from property tax.
Bergeron spoke about the 25 years of economic drama in Montreal. He explained that as a result, in the last 12 years, Montreal had lost 22,000 people and between 6,000 and 8,000 young families.
“2.5 billion dollars a year are invested by Montrealers outside of Montreal,” said Bergeron. He suggested that increasing the number of collective transit operations might keep young families from moving away to the suburbs.
The candidates also addressed multiculturalism, although it was bilingualism that received the most controversy from the audience.
“Montreal has to be run by all Montrealers,” said Côté when alluding to what some English speakers in the city consider to be strict policing on language. “We cannot let the Quebec government be the only actor.”
Bergeron, on the other hand, considered that linguistic balance has prevailed in the municipality.
“We need all to be united and work together,” Kofi Sonokpon, mayoral independent candidate, told The Concordian after the event.
“We need to have a massive turnout at our pools because this is the deciding moment for Montreal […] this is not the time to be cynical — cynicism is a trap that we need to avoid.”
Sonokpon urged people to find the right leadership that can raise the spirit of the city and change it for the better.
Julia Vera, a political science student at Concordia voting for the first time in municipal elections, sees hope for Montreal.
“In every society there are issues,” said Vera. “By going to the elections and seeing the candidates’ positions is the only way to know there is actually a solution and a way to find it.”
Christian Arsenault, 25, is the youngest Projet Montreal city councillor candidate running for Loyola’s district and shares Vera’s sentiments.
“A lot of young people tend to overlook [municipal politics], [but] it’s here at the local level that people can make big changes,” said Arsenault.
Arsenault is currently working on means to increase walkability and active means of transportation at Loyola, along with finding solutions for the needs of residents in the Walkley/Fielding area — one of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce’s poorest neighbourhoods — and Summerland Village.
In an interview with The Concordian Arsenault admitted that it was the corruption and administration problems in city hall that lead to his candidacy.
“There are so many important things that need to be looked at in the Loyola district that used to be ignored.”