Montreal votes: Debate shows Coderre and Plante don't see eye to eye
Montreal's leading mayoral candidates were all smiles before and after Monday's debate, but for one hour they argued fiercely around two opposing views of how the city should be run.
From construction to public transit to pit bulls Denis Coderre and Valerie Plante do not see eye to eye, and used the public forum to elaborate on many positions that they have made clear over the past few weeks and months.
Coderre began the evening by pointing out that when he took office four years ago, it was after decades of underspending on construction projects.
Calling it "short term pain for long-term gain," Coderre said he has increased spending significantly.
"We have 13,000 km of sewer pipes, water pipes, and roads, and to put that at level it costs $2.1 billion a year, and the investment when we arrived was only $600 million," said Coderre.
"We said since day one it's a ten-year plan... and we're investing over $21 billion in the next ten years."
Plante countered that while "Montrealers are ready to make a sacrifice," she believes construction has hurt merchants on multiple major streets.
"Look at Bishop... or Gouin... Shops are closing. The co-ordination is not there," said Plante.
"We will put an intervention unit to put quick changes on construction sites. And also a quality squad, because right now people are tired to see a hole in the street and a year after we have to do it again," said Plante.
Coderre disagreed with Plante on that final point, saying his administration had already taken steps to co-ordinate all groups that need access to below-street infrastructure.
"Look at St. Denis St. that was complete a month before [its projected end date]," said Coderre.
When it came to helping merchants who have struggled through construction, Plante said she would give them tax breaks, and Coderre said that would only happen because of his work lobbying the provincial government to have Montreal granted metropolis status.
In terms of helping those not in cars get around the city, Plante touted Projet Montreal's proposed Pink Line, which would eventually run from Lachine to Montreal North.
"When we talk about mobility, we have to understand we all share the same grid," said Plante. "If we want to work on public transit it's important to see it as a big picture, as a whole."
She said it could carry 250,000 people per day, as opposed to the REM light rail line being built by the Caisse de Depot, which will have a capacity of 175,000.
Coderre said in the next ten years multiple changes will happen to public transit.
"First of all you'll have the light rail system. You'll have an extra 60 km that you'll have integrated into the actual metro system. Secondly we have the SRB [Dedicated bus line on Pie IX] which will have an impact from Montreal North where it will carry 40,000 people," said Coderre.
He added that the Blue line should have five extra stations added in the next few years, said the Cote Vertu train garage will increase metro frequency, and pointed out the Azur trains also carry more people.
While Coderre -- and the moderator -- said that critics of the Pink Line show the proposal has problems, Plante said those would be worked out.
One bone of contention that has shown very different views between French- and English-speaking communities is Montreal's anti-pit bull legislation.
Anglophones, perhaps as a result of exposure to American-based pro-pit bull lobby groups, have been less supportive than their francophone counterparts of the bylaw passed in the wake of the death of Christiane Vadnais after she was mauled by a pit bull.
Plante promised that Projet Montreal would overturn the pit bull ban and force dog owners to undergo much more training.
"The administration totally dropped the ball on this issue," said Plante. "We will be introducing the Calgary model which is exactly what it's doing. It talks more about the responsibility of the owners rather than specific types of dogs."
Coderre pointed out that the vast majority of Montrealers support the ban on bringing new pit bulls into Montreal.
"We don't hate dogs. We're saying it's public safety first," said Coderre. "Those who have pit bulls can keep them, that's why I think with that grandfather clause it was a great way to address it."
He pointed out that many people have forgotten that the bylaw also prevents "those with criminal records from owning dogs."
The debate also covered bilingualism, with both saying they supported providing English services where warranted, but would not attempt to change Montreal from being an officially French city.
Plante said that Montreal did not get its money's worth with the 375th celebrations, and said she would hold a referendum before deciding on whether or not Montreal should devote public funds to a baseball stadium.
Coderre said that Plante was slow to show her lack of support concerning Bill 62.
"I didn't flip flop," said Coderre, pointing out that Plante seemed to support the niqab-banning law passed last week, but then spoke to CTV Montreal in the late afternoon and said she was firmly opposed.
Plante said that in any case, Bill 62 "needs to go back to the drawing board."
Coderre has always been adamant that the law would never be applied in Montreal.
The debate ended with Plante asking Coderre if he would remain as opposition leader if she wins.
Coderre's response was quite firm.
"I'm going to be the mayor."