Sparks flew among Montreal’s three main mayoral candidates during a fiery French-speaking debate.
The participants were Valérie Plante who leads Projet Montréal and is seeking re-election, Ensemble Montréal leader Denis Coderre, who is looking to regain the mayoral seat after losing the 2017 municipal election to Plante and newcomer Balarama Holness, head of Mouvement Montréal.
Valerie Plante’s Projet Montreal was attacked by Ensemble Montreal leader Denis Coderre for supposedly waging a war on cars due to her party’s plan to build bike paths.
“The three of us are pro-bikes, but only one party is anti-car and that is Projet Montréal,” Coderre said.
Plante was also in the hot seat for not advancing the expansion of the blue line and one of her cornerstone campaign promises, the pink line, a transit project that would run from Lachine through downtown to Montréal-North.
Candidates also questioned Plante’s housing policy.
Plante says her 20-20-20 housing development bylaw has been working to build affordable housing in the city.
The strategy requires real estate developers to build social, affordable, and family housing.
“That’s not true,” said Denis Coderre.
As Plante began to laugh at his statement, Coderre said, “When you are nervous, you laugh. You are nervous, stop.”
Plante stopped laughing and replied, “Excuse me?” Coderre asking her once again to stop laughing. “Housing is too important,” he said.
Plante rebutted with a question. “Because it’s a problem when someone laughs, Mr. Coderre?”
On the environment, Denis Coderre received a few shots from Plante who criticized his platform for not being detailed enough on what he will do to tackle climate change.
“How many trees are you planting?” Plante asked, saying Ensemble Montréal’s platform has no numbers.
Things also got heated when sharing ideas about managing and restructuring Montreal Police (SPVM).
Coderre said Plante’s party believes in disarming the police at a time when the city’s crime is high and pushed her on what she’s done to improve the situation.
Plante accused Coderre of disappearing when he was mayor and asked what he did.
“And you Mr. Coderre, during four years when you were mayor…? You left the boat”
Coderre defended himself saying he was taking care of his health.
Balarama Holness was attacked for his statement saying he would do a referendum to determine whether Montreal should become a bilingual city.
Both Plante and Coderre said it’s not acceptable but Holness defended his position.
“I want to showcase the French language. We recognize that Montreal is a Francophone city but I am also on the side of small businesses, business owners, young people who have legitimate concerns regarding Bill 96,” Holness said.
Bill 96 is Quebec’s overhaul of its strict French language law.
The latest poll conducted by Radio-Canada shows Coderre and Plante in dead heat, Coderre leading with only one percentage point and Balarama Holness in a distant third.
The debate will likely help French-speaking voters make a decision.
Voters will have a chance to hear the candidates in English during a debate planned for Oct. 28 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
The debate is organized by an English media consortium, hosted by Global News Morning host Laura Casella.
It will be broadcast online on Globalnews.ca.