Around 200 students, journalists, and citizens gathered on October 9 at Redpath Hall to hear what mayoral candidates Mélanie Joly, Richard Bergeron, Denis Coderre and Marcel Côté had to propose for the next four years. The four, considered the main contenders for the mayorship, answered questions in French from the public in a debate moderated by Radio-Canada’s Patrice Roy.
This debate, the first to be broadcast in French for this election, allowed candidates to contrast their ideas a month in advance of the municipal election, set to take place on November 3.
Among the issues debated, the proposed Quebec Charter of Values held a consensus among the candidates, as all four were strongly opposed to it.
“The Charter, as presented, tarnishes the image of Montreal as an international city,” said Côté. Bergeron agreed and emphasized the division that the Charter could create between Montreal and rural Quebec.
However, only Joly and Coderre explicitly raised the possibility of a legal battle against it.
Candidates talk infrastructure
The question on public transit and infrastructure brought out the differences between the candidates and their approaches. Bergeron proposed the construction of 10 to 15 kilometres of tramways and wanted to speed up various construction sites by the Quebec government.
“130 kilometres of BRT [bus rapid transit] is 8 times cheaper than Mr. Bergeron’s proposal and 40 times cheaper than the same distance on trams. This is our great project to unify Western and Eastern remote areas,” replied Joly, who favors rapid transit buses.
BRT is a system that includes reserved traffic lanes and a high frequency of buses along the routes. Montreal offered one BRT line until 2002, when it was done away with.
Coderre suggested that the solution to public transit debates needed to be discussed with suburban cities such as Laval or Brossard. Côté addressed the reliability of existing infrastructure and called for realistic expectations concerning deadlines for existing projects.
‘Revival’ of Montreal also a major topic
When questioned on how to revive Montreal, all the candidates’ responses – except for Bergeron’s – focused on ethics. Côté – who is running his campaign on targeting corruption at city hall – proposed a code of ethics and stronger promotion of integrity within the administration, as well as the nomination of someone to control public expenditures.
Joly challenged Coderre on the topic of transparency and ethics in municipal politics. She cited New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg as an example of enhancing transparency and asserted that there was “no need for an inspector general like Mr. Coderre proposes.”
In the past, Coderre has proposed the creation of the role of inspector general, an individual who would target corruption within the government, especially in light of the recent Charbonneau Commission. His proposal also favoured the expertise within the administration, rather than sub-contracting out the position.
“There is an inspector general in New York,” said Coderre in response to Joly’s comment.
Unlike the other three candidates, Bergeron’s top priority was to stop the family exodus toward the suburbs, an issue addressed later on in the debate. As an urbanist, Bergeron insisted on the careful planning of new developments “to avoid a repetition of what happened in Griffintown.” Côté and Bergeron agreed to improve existing programs subsidizing access to property for families.
Coderre specifically targeted programs that would help families purchase their first property on the basis that it can “apply to new constructions as well as existing households.” Joly proposed a Land Tax Transfer break for families and reiterated that the “BRT would allow the creation of new neighbourhoods dedicated to families.”
The candidates will face off once again in an English-language debate on October 22, which will also be hosted at McGill.