Former Federal Liberal Party cabinet minister Denis Coderre's victory as the 44th Mayor of the city of Montreal, Quebec on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013 might be the lead story, but the real success was lawyer Mélanie Joly's close second-place finish, rising from complete obscurity to nearly beating the frontrunner. Coderre won nearly 32 percent of the vote, followed closely by Joly with 27 percent, city councilor and Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron placed third with nearly 26 percent, while businessman Marcel Côté finished a distanced forth with only 12.8 percent of the vote. Throughout the Canadian province of Quebec, there were over 1100 cities deciding municipal races on Sunday, Nov. 3.
Although corruption was the overriding concern in the election for Montreal's next mayor, the city chose Coderre, 50, who served six terms as a Member of Parliament under the Federal Liberal Party, and was also a cabinet minister under the Jean Chretien- Paul Martin government. However recent suspicion dogged his federal political career, with unanswered questions about his involvement in the Liberal sponsorship scandal. Coderre's past in federal politics shaped his entire campaign from style, substance to rhetoric.
The early frontrunner always maintained the lead in the polls; but he was always questioned about the 24 candidates in his slate Équipe Denis Coderre, formerly associated with the corruption filled Union Montreal Party. His campaign also suffered late in the race from two tainted candidates, one dropping from the race "amid bribery allegations," while the second Michel Bissonnet, remained in the race, despite ties to many associated, mixed up and named in the Charbonneau Commission's continual investigation into the city's widespread corruption. Even with the suspicious ties, Bissonnet won mayor of the St-Leonard borough with an overwhelming 65 percent.
Reservations about Coderre may be why he and his slate of candidates could not secure a majority of city council seats; they took only 27 seats out of the total of 65 seats, Coderre had a slate of 99 candidates. Coderre acknowledged the public's suspicions leading to his minority government in his victory speech; "The message today is clear, for me: On the one hand, people wanted Denis Coderre as mayor. On the other hand they asked us, at city council, to work together. I always told you, we are not a government, we are an administration. ... We must all work together."
At his victory rally at L'Astral around midnight, a triumphant Coderre also promised in his victory speech to end the city's corruption and help restore its standing. He stated; "We have a magnificent city. It is one of the most beautiful metropolises in the world." Reassuring Montrealers, Coderre stated; "This is not a crisis. This is an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate that we belong among the greats." Coderre also promised; "Montreal will be an honest city. We are at the crossroads right now, and I will be the mayor of all Montrealers."
Although Bergeron placed third in the mayoralty race, his party Projet Montreal won the second most number of seats, with 22, and set to become the official opposition in city hall. Bergeron is the only candidate who lost the race that will be able to sit as a city councilor. Bergeron had a candidate designate or co-candidate Janine Krieber, former Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion's wife run in the Ville-Marie borough district of Saint-Jacques, she won the seat allowing him a place at the helm of the opposition. Both Joly and Côté's candidate designates or co-listers failed to win their their seats, therefore both will not be on the city council.
Bergeron in his concession speech said he would work with Coderre; "If Mr. Coderre and his majority ... want to go in the right direction. Our political party will help them to fulfill the projects that remain on our minds as we work together on city council for Montrealers."
Joly's youth at 34 and political inexperience, which originally were viewed as disadvantages were eventually what catapulted to her to a second-place finish. Until she rose in the polls, Joly was not even allowed to participate in the mayoral debates. Many Montrealers were looking for a candidate that was untainted by scandal, in this city inexperience was the way to completely have avoided scandal. Joly's pedigree was not without political connections, whose association helped her rising star; Joly had worked on Justin Trudeau Liberal leadership race, and his brother Alexandre endorsed her campaign and she credits former Parti-Québécois premier Lucien Bouchard as her mentor.
Although Joly failed to capture herself a council seat, and her slate of 55 candidates known as Vrai changement pour Montréal only garnered three victories on the island; one borough mayor and two council seats, still she was pleased with her surprised standing. Joly delivered her concession speech at her campaign celebration at Théâtre Plaza around 11 p.m. In awe of how close she came to winning, she expressed; "We came within a few steps of victory, something nobody would have predicted only a month ago…. Many times, since the beginning of this campaign, I have talked about trust. I can say tonight that I was right to trust Montrealers. Montrealers have confirmed change is possible when you put in the work and when you believe in what you do."
Joly also indicated that "The results of the vote demonstrate that the population of Montreal didn't want to give a blank cheque to Denis Coderre," referring to his inability to capture a majority. She promised to continue in municipal politics, and serve as a "watchdog" making sure corruption doers not seep into the new government. Joly stated; "Real change takes time. It requires patience. This new administration needs to be kept in check. We must not close our eyes. It's time to be vigilant." Joly also announced she will try to capture a council seat in the earliest by-election, saying; "We came within two feet of victory, something that no one could have predicted. Rest assured that I am here to stay."
Marcel Côté headed Coalition Montreal, which consisted of a slate of well known and experienced candidates, but the economist and businessman could not capture the public's vote, and came in forth, while winning just five council seats. Côté did not wait too long, and was the first to concede at 10:45 p.m., offering the new mayor congratulations; "I hope the new mayor, who I congratulate, recognizes that Montreal needs a profound restructuring. The population has made its choice. I was not able to convince the majority of the population."
Among Montreal council seats it was clear that Montrealers were looking for change with some high profile councilors losing seats especially if they associated themselves with Coalition Montreal. Louise Harel formerly of Vision Montréal lost her Saint-Marie seat. While interim mayor Laurent Blanchard lost his Hochelaga district seat, he was also running with Coalition Montreal. The longest serving councilor Marvin Rotrand easily won his Snowden seat, despite his association with Coalition Montreal.
In a significant victory, Mindy Pollak won a Montreal council seat from Outremont. Pollak at 24 is the first "Hassidic Jewish woman" to be elected to Montreal municipal politics. Her accomplishment also sent a loaded message to Denis Coderre. Last week Coderre courted Montreal's Hasidic ultra-Orthodox Jewish community for their vote telling them "if you want my friendship, if you want my support, don't divide the vote." He was secretly videotaped by an attendee, and what appeared as a threat was made public. Coderre denied wrongdoing and refused to apologize, but the heavily ultra-Orthodox community in Outremont sent Coderre a distinct message; they will not be intimidated.
Of the 1100 mayoral races, over 300 won by acclamation, only 800 were actual races. In Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume was easily reelected, and was first voted in 2007. While embattled Laval, who was placed under provincial trusteeship earlier this year, voted in Marc Demers, a former police officer, hoping he could restore law and order in the city plagued with corruption, also had two mayors resign in over a six month period, almost all the city councilors had been accused of corruption.
Political success is relative though in Montreal, with apathetic voters disillusioned by the city's widespread corruption running rampant in their city hall, which forced the last two mayors to resign amidst corruption allegations in a short six month period. Of the over million eligible voters in the city of the Montreal, only little over 40 percent went out to vote on the cold fall election day. Hopefully the few that did wield their power of the vote made the right decision, and the continual cycle of corruption will not begin again, and there will finally be a time to heal and renew city reputations on the wider stage.
MONTREAL MAYOR RESULTS
Source: CBC, 11-4-13
- 31.99 % Denis Coderre, Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal
- 26.46 % Mélanie Joly, Vrai changement pour Montréal - Groupe Mélanie Joly
- 25.70 % Richard Bergeron, Projet Montréal - Équipe Bergeron
- 12.80 % Marcel Côté, Coalition Montréal - Marcel Côté
MONTREAL BOROUGH MAYORAL RESULTS
Source: CBC, 11-4-13
- Ahuntsic-Cartierville: Pierre Gagnier (Équipe Denis Coderre).
- Anjou: Luis Miranda.
- Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce: Russell Copeman (Coalition Montréal).
- Lachine: Claude Dauphin.
- LaSalle: Manon Barbe.
- Plateau-Mont-Royal: Luc Ferrandez (Projet Montréal).
- Sud-Ouest: Jason Prince leading (Projet Montréal).
- L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève: Normand Marinacci (Mélanie Joly).
- Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve: Réal Ménard (Coalition Montréal).
- Montréal-Nord: Gilles Deguire (Équipe Denis Coderre).
- Outremont: Marie Cinq-Mars leading.
- Pierrefonds-Roxboro: Dimitrios Beis (Équipe Denis Coderre).
- Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles: Chantal Rouleau (Équipe Denis Coderre).
- Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie: François Croteau (Projet Montréal).
- Saint-Laurent: Alan DeSousa (Équipe Denis Coderre).
- Saint-Léonard: Michel Bissonnet (Équipe Denis Coderre).
- Verdun: Jean-François Parenteau (Équipe Denis Coderre).
- Ville-Marie: Denis Coderre.
- Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension: Anie Samson (Équipe Denis Coderre).