Plante and Coderre talked construction, Montreal 375 spending and Bill 62
Montreal mayoral candidates Denis Coderre and Valérie Plante faced off on Monday in the campaign’s only English-language debate.
The Oct. 23 debate was organized and hosted by CJAD, CTV Montreal and the Montreal Gazette at Concordia’s Oscar Peterson Hall. Host and moderator Leslie Roberts presented the candidates with questions based on those submitted to each outlet by Montrealers.
Roberts first asked the candidates how they planned to ease the burden placed on Montrealers by construction. Incumbent Mayor Coderre said his administration’s investment of more than $21 billion in infrastructure over 10 years is “short-term pain, long-term gain,” and “a necessary approach that we have to do for the future generation.”
Plante—the leader of Projet Montréal—criticized what she called “a lack of organization, coordination and communication” in construction projects. She said the city needs a “quality squad” to ensure projects are done properly and efficiently.
Both candidates promised compensation for business owners who have been negatively affected by construction.
On the topic of public transport, Plante said her proposed pink metro line from Lachine to Montreal North could transport up to 250,000 people per day. Coderre said the light rail system, the Service rapide par bus (SRB) and an extension of the blue metro line are better transit alternatives.
Coderre later responded to criticism about the pit bull legislation he introduced in 2016, saying it’s not about loving or hating dogs but “a matter of public safety.” Plante denounced the legislation, claiming breed-specific legislation creates “a false sense of security,” adding that the legislation is “not even based on science.”
The candidates were then asked about their positions on the renaming of landmarks named after controversial historical figures. Although Coderre said “there are some times where we have to take that kind of decision to recognize the bad things that happened in the past,” he also spoke out against removing John A. MacDonald’s name from buildings and landmarks, saying Canada’s first prime minister “did some great things too.”
Plante said any name changes must be undertaken by “listening, understanding history, connecting with the different communities and finding the proper place for a proper name.”
Coderre was challenged by Plante and moderator Roberts on the lack of English signage on Montreal roads and public transit. Roberts suggested the lack of English signage on Camillien-Houde Way may have contributed to the death of 18-year-old cyclist Clément Ouimet who was struck by a car making an illegal U-turn on Mount Royal on Oct. 4. In response, Coderre said the pictograms along the road were sufficient. “There’s no reason not to understand that a U-turn is illegal,” he said.
On the subject of Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations, Plante criticized what she called a “lack of transparency” in the way money was spent. “Right now, it is a non-profit organization that manages the money, and so we don’t have access,” she said, referring to the Society for the Celebrations of Montreal’s 375th Anniversary. “We don’t have access to information, we have no idea where things are at. And so people feel like it’s just this big hole that we’re just throwing our money into.”
Plante pressed Coderre to reveal the total ticket sales for the Formula E electric car race that took place over the summer. “Everybody wants to know, and you have the ability to tell us how many tickets were sold,” Plante said. According to Coderre, a report would be released and “it will show that everything is well transparent.”
Roberts also asked the panelists about the possibility of baseball returning to Montreal, a project Coderre has been advocating for since his election in 2013. Plante said no such initiative would be undertaken by the city without a city-wide referendum.
Both candidates spoke out against Bill 62, which prohibits the wearing of face coverings by anyone giving or receiving a public service. “To provide services with an unveiled person is OK,” Coderre said. “But to receive services, I think it’s ludicrous, and it won’t pass the court.” He also criticized Plante for not speaking out against the legislation more immediately. Plante said the law is “ill-conceived. It is not connected to Montrealers’ reality. It is not applicable.”
The candidates also had the chance to ask their opponent one question. Coderre asked Plante whether she was for or against the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). Without taking a clear stance, Plante responded with: “I think it is important to understand the international context of this,” adding that it was something that needed to be discussed with “the whole team.”
Plante asked her opponent whether or not he would serve as leader of the opposition if she won the election. “I’m running, and I’m going to be the mayor,” Coderre responded.
Photos by Alex Hutchins