Montreal mayoral debate centres on crime, climate change, and housing
MONTREAL -- Watch the video above for the full, 90-minute debate.
Sparks flew during Montreal's only English-language debate Thursday.
The debate, hosted by CTV's Mutsumi Takahashi and CBC's Debra Arbec, covered six topics: public safety, inclusion, the climate crisis, the economy, and housing.
PUBLIC SECURITY APPROACHES ARE 'ARCHAIC': HOLNESS
The first question came from Montreal resident Onica John, who’s cousin, Jannai Dopwell-Bailey, 16, was stabbed in broad daylight in the parking lot of the Programme Mile End school on Van Horne Avenue in the city’s Cote-des-Neiges neighbourhood last week.
She asked how the candidates planned to make the city safer from gun crime and gang-violence.
Incumbent Projet Montreal candidate Valerie Plante heralded the ELTA program, which was created to combat firearm trafficking during her time in power.
“I’ve spoken to the chief of police, he told me what the needs are,” said Plante during a post-debate press conference.
Police “are tired,” said Ensemble Montreal leader Denis Coderre, who promised to address what he called a staff shortage in police departments.
He vowed to hire 250 new police officers to increase the workforce to 4,800 across Montreal.
Both candidates faced criticism from Mouvement Montreal candidate Balarama Holness, who called their approaches to public safety “archaic.”
“There is an idea that we can invest in firearms and police to solve (this issue of crime),” said Holness. “That is not the correct solution.”
Holness said his public safety plan centres access to leisure and recreation activities for young people in “boroughs that have been underfunded for decades.”
Both Coderre and Plante agreed that community initiatives are an important part of preventing crime.
BIKE LANES: KILLED CYCLIST ‘WOULD NOT HAVE DIED’
Plante took aim at Coderre while talking about bike lanes on Saint-Denis St., saying that a cyclist who was struck and killed while Coderre was in office.
Mathilde Blais was struck by a crane truck in 2014 under the des Carrieres overpass while riding her bike to work.
Following the installation of a bike lane on Saint-Denis last November, Ghostbikes Montreal (Velo Fantome Montreal) wrote publicly that if the lanes had come sooner, Blais would still be alive today.
Plante carried that sentiment to the debate floor Thursday.
“Under your administration,” Plante said to Coderre, “if you had done something realistic on Saint-Denis, Mathilde Blais would not have died.”
“I’m not saying you’re responsible.”
“That’s an extremely low blow,” Holness chimed from across the stage. “You just blamed a death on Coderre.”
‘WE NEED TO DO A BETTER JOB’: HOUSING
Facing questions on Montreal’s housing crisis, all candidates agreed on two things: that Montrealers deserve an affordable place to live, and that they were the only candidate who could deliver it.
Holness said housing was “at the core” of Mouvement’s platform, vowing to address the needs of the 24,000 people waiting for social housing, where rent is determined based on a person's income.
Under the 2021 municipal budget, 2.9 per cent the city’s $6.17 billion fund was allocated to social housing and similar expenses.
Mouvement Montreal wants to gradually increase that funding each year to a maximum of 11 per cent.
Plante highlighted her plans to introduce a responsible landlord certificate in an effort to enforce transparency with regards to rent increases and to limit renovictions.
“There are amazing landlords around the island,” she said, adding that the plan aims to identify "the ones that are not doing a good job."
"We’re going to be after them,” she said.
She also raised the issue of so-called “housing flips,” where people buy a building and sell it quickly, usually for more money, as a “huge problem” in the city.
According to a July report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, about 8,840 Greater-Montreal properties were resold within 12 months of sale since the beginning of 2016 to the first quarter of 2021.
Most of those were single-family homes, accounting for about 53 per cent. Condos made up for 36 per cent, and 11 per cent were plexes.
“Flips are a huge problem,” said Plante. “People get affordable housing, they flip it, and then it's gone. I want to stop that.”
“We need to do a better job,” said Coderre, who said that Montreal has the tools it needs to combat the housing crisis under it’s empowered “metropolis” status – a title given to the city by a unanimous provincial vote while Coderre was in office.
“I would suggest that we would create an impact investment fund for social housing,” said Coderre, pledging $25 million from the city and an invitation to philanthropic, union, and private investors to contribute.
Advance voting in the election will take place this Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 30 and Oct. 31), and regular voting will be the following Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 6 and Nov. 7).