May­oral can­di­dates trade ver­bal jabs as elec­tion draws near

Ri­vals Coderre, Plante ramp up rhetoric in race that’s now a sta­tis­ti­cal dead heat

Montreal Gazette - - CITY - ANDY RIGA

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.”

PIERRE OBENDRAUF

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.’

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