Mayoral candidates trade verbal jabs as election draws near
Rivals Coderre, Plante ramp up rhetoric in race that’s now a statistical dead heat
Closed-minded bully versus inexperienced improviser.
With the clock ticking on the election campaign and the race a dead heat, Montreal’s main mayoral candidates spent Monday taking swipes at one another.
Projet Montréal Leader Valérie Plante said a new CROP poll indicating she and incumbent mayor Denis Coderre are statistically tied shows that her ideas and style are resonating.
Montrealers “want to have a leader who is open-minded, who is inclusive, who works with different people, who is not afraid of being challenged, and this is something I represent,” Plante told reporters.
It was a jab at Coderre, who has been accused of muzzling those who question him within his own administration, and has been deemed arrogant in two recent polls.
Plante said “people expect to have a leader that respects them, represents them and ... (who) will be listening to their concerns, and that is something that Denis Coderre has been lacking.”
Earlier, Coderre suggested Plante and her party are not ready to run Montreal.
“We can’t put somebody (at city hall) who will improvise, who doesn’t have the experience and who doesn’t have the team or is hiding it,” he said, a reference to his contention that Projet Montréal has sidelined Luc Ferrandez because the Plateau-Mont-Royal mayor is unpopular outside his home borough.
Projet Montréal is indulging in “magical thinking ” in its promises, among them a major extension of the métro network, Coderre said, adding that he hopes Montrealers start asking Plante and her candidates follow-up questions.
Coderre said that, unlike Plante, he has an experienced team and a realistic financial plan that will not raise taxes above the rate of inflation. As for Plante’s party, “they’ll have to find the money somewhere,” he said.
Plante, 43, said Coderre’s comments about her experience were an attack on anyone who, like her, “has the city at heart, is well-surrounded and is not a formatted politician.”
Plante, who entered politics in 2013 after working in community organizations, said her team includes lawyers, engineers and economists.
And she noted her party “has been around for 10 years and we have been running four boroughs so far (and performing) little miracles with so little because of (Coderre’s) centralization and all the money taken away” from boroughs.
All of Projet’s promises are costed out by experts and feasible, she said. Would Plante raise taxes above the rate of inflation? “No, absolutely not,” she said.
Coderre, an MP for 16 years before becoming mayor in 2013, brushed aside the “arrogant” label.
“I’m 54 — I’m not going to change,” he said when asked if he will alter his style. “I’m going to be myself. You know, authenticity provides you the right to make mistakes. I’m human. We’re not perfect.”
He said his administration turned Montreal around, signing deals with multiple unions, tackling corruption and helping Montreal’s economy soar.
“To be arrogant is to be determined,” he said, admitting he has stepped on toes. “Montreal has a $5.2-billion budget, 28,000 employees, 19 boroughs and issues coming from all over the place. Sometimes you have to be someone who can take the heat.”
Both candidates said they’re preparing for voting day, Nov. 5.
“We’ve been working hard on the ideas and vision, but we’ve been working really hard on the ground strategy as well,” Plante said.
“Projet Montréal has been here for awhile. We have 5,000 members who’ve been going door to door, supporting us. And we also know what to do to get the vote out.”
Coderre, in his 11th political campaign, said he knew this election “was going to be close — it’s a two-way race. I like those kinds of close calls because everybody wants to work in the field now.”
He said “the most important thing in politics is to identify your voters and make (sure they) vote.”
Incumbent mayor Denis Coderre shakes hands with a Université de Montréal student prior to speaking to a class on Monday. Coderre said he knows the Nov. 5 mayoral race is ‘going to be close.’