A word to describe our mayoral candidates: Unacceptable!
In my duties as an occasional reporter-analyst here at CJAD 800, I try my best to keep some semblance of balance in my reporting despite having strong opinions on Montreal politics. It was quite the challenge after last night's debate.
After ten years of covering municipal politics, there's only one word I would use to describe the top three contenders for the mayor's job: Unacceptable!
Today's poll shows that Denis Coderre is well ahead with 39%, followed by Projet Montreal's Richard Bergeron at 23% and the Coalition's Marcel Cote at 17%.
Coderre: I go into more detail about my reservations in The National Post, but Coderre makes me very uncomfortable. He's a world-class shmoozer and a skilled politician, but rarely do I hear anything of substance crossing his lips - which never, ever stop moving. At times last night, I simply didn't understand what he was talking about. I'd like to think I'm not a total moron, so I can only assume that he gets caught up in his own double-speak, to the point where he probably doesn't even know what he's saying. His platform lacks substance, and all he talks about is filling potholes and free WIFI. As Cote said last night, Denis Coderre has a plan for Denis Coderre, but not for Montreal.
Cote: ...which brings me to Cote, who leads a "coalition" of independents and Vision Montreal councillors (it's a new party, let's not mess around); a real potpourri. I asked him about corruption and how public works projects should be done. As he's written for CA Magazine in the past, he doesn't trust government to deliver services efficiently. Yet he's trying to run a government. He either has a very, very uphill battle to reinvent Montreal's civil service, or he's in it to push his own wrong-headed philosophy on Montrealers. His preference for contracting out basic services like road repair or garbage pickup to the private sector (in his post-debate comments, he seemed to have suggested that 2/3 of city work could be contracted out), is fundamentally irresponsible. Anyone who's been following Quebec's corruption scandals knows that the more work we give to private firms, the higher the risk of corruption and waste. The profit motive has no place in the delivery of basic, essential services to Montreal citizens, period. Cote is fundamentally wrong on this very crucial issue and clearly has learned little from the Charbonneau Commission.
Bergeron: Projet's anti-car policies in areas that have high commercial traffic make me nervous. Bergeron's lack of proficiency in English, for supposed world-class city, is also problematic. I very much like many Projet candidates - a couple are actually friends - but the party needs a more credible leader. As I wrote in the Post, he's just said and written too many whacky things over the years that suggest he lacks maturity and knowledge: "He is plagued by his strange proclivity for conspiracy theories (he’s questioned common wisdom about 9/11 and the moon landing, and also wrote in his last book that the orphanage he grew up in was akin to a concentration camp)." I gave him a chance to rethink his Holocaust analogy months ago on CJAD; he doubled-down. As a Jew, I'm insulted and he's a write-off for me. He may have honourable intentions for this city, but let's call a spade a spade: He's just plain nuts sometimes.
So what to do on Nov. 3? First of all, vote. Even if you disagree with me. Second, look beyond the big three candidates (there are about a dozen in total), who all lead parties that have broad agendas and contribute to the decline of municipal governance in Montreal by pushing those petty agendas more often than delivering basic services in the most efficient way possible. Municipal politicians incorrectly believe they're just as influential as their provincial and federal counterparts. Pave the roads, pick up the garbage and once you have that right, then we'll talk about changing the world.
Also, today's poll is a big boost to fourth-place candidate Melanie Joly, who is only one percentage point behind Cote. Joly is interesting because she's young, energetic and the only real outsider with double-digit support. When I first spoke to Joly about a month ago, it was hard to pin down concrete policy points. Since then, she's refined her message a bit and hopefully will bring more to the table in the next three weeks. One thing is for certain: She needs to be heard because her three main rivals are simply not fit for a mayor's job in a city in crisis.
Watch the entire debate here and judge for yourself.
photo: CTV Montreal / Cindy Sherwin