The former federal cabinet minister and political veteran gave up a career in Ottawa to take a run at the top job in Montreal. The front runner in the polls, much of his competitors' criticism has been aimed squarely at Denis Coderre's campaign and his team.

With a week left in the campaign, Coderre sat down for a one-on-one interview with Daybreak's Mike Finnerty to talk about his dreams for the city, his former Union Montréal candidates and why he sees criticism and jokes at his expense as  a good thing. 

Q: At a Plateau-Mont-Royal candidates debate, (incumbent borough mayoral candidate) Luc Ferrandez said you are a “Rob Ford style of politician and we all to team up to stop him...He has personal ambitions and frankly he is at the edge of succeeding, so my job tonight is to try to convince you to vote for Projet which is the only team that can stop him."

How do you respond to that?

A: "What can I say? Insults will bring him nowhere. This is the kind of politics he wants to make? No wonder things are going worse in Plateau-Mont-Royal. People will judge. I think they are panicking now that they are third in the polls. I think we have to trust people’s judgment. I’ve been there for more than 20 years.

"People know where I’m coming from and when you have to use that kind of thing, it’s like throwing a brick to one of my headquarters. It’s not working."

Quick questions

Do you own a car?

Yes. 

Is Jean Chrétien the kind of leader you would model yourself on?

I think he's one of the greatest leaders — low expectations, high delivery. 

Do you think Montrealers complain too much about potholes and snow removal?

No. 

Would Montreal prosper in a sovereign Quebec?

Well, I'm against sovereignty, but we’re not here for a national question, we’re here to make sure every citizen feels like first-class…

Does Jean-René Dufort go too far sometimes poking fun at you on Infoman?

(Laughing) He’s one of my agents. He’s helping me. Thank you, Jean-René. 

Q: Do you ever worry about there becoming an, “Anything but Coderre” movement where people would move to the second most likely candidate and people would try and stop you, for example on the sovereignist side?

"I’m flattered by that. The reality is when they are talking at my back it’s because I’m ahead. I’m doing what I have to do. I stay the course. 

"It’s my 10th election. I saw them all and I think the most important thing is to convince the people. So I’m a man of the field. I’m working with the people— don’t take anything for granted. The connection is there.

"Everything is going very well. I have a great team. I have a great team in Plateau-Mont-Royal by the way so if you want to enhance democracy, vote for all my team…"

Q:Your main competitor it seems at this point, Mélanie Joly, is focused on your team as well and she says it’s a problem that you have 24 of the former Union Montreal councillors. She says that’s not real change. What's your response to that?

A: "The reality here is even Richard Bergeron tried to get (those candidates). They all tried to get them to run for them. I have more new candidates. As a matter of fact, 70 per cent of them are newcomers . I even have more new candidates than the whole team of Mélanie Joly.

"It’s even more because a lot of those candidates from Mélanie tried to get on my team. You see, everybody tried to get everybody and when you don’t have them, you just try to smear and throw mud."

"I think that we have to be realistic. I believe in everybody’s integrity on my team. You know, when the roof is leaking, you don’t tear down the house. I have a great balance. I have people from Vision Montreal. I have people from Projet Montréal, but 70 per cent of my team are newcomers."

Q: Do you think corruption is still there at city hall?

"Well, if it’s still there, it won’t be because we will take all the measures that we need to. But I refuse to say that all politicians and all employees are corrupted.

'We have to make the change. Making the change is not starting from scratch and saying that everybody is a crook.'- Denis Coderre on starting over after the corruption scandals

"I believe that the vast, vast majority of them are honest people, are totally dedicated to their city and their citizens. We have to make the change. Making the change is not starting from scratch and saying that everybody is a crook."

Q: You've been accused of being a "petit penseur," by Richard Bergeron. What are your big dreams for Montreal?

A: "We all have dreams. . . The reality is we have to put our house in order first because if we want to make sure we can dream, we have to respect the wallet, we have to respect the citizens, we have to clean the house, we have to bring back the employees on our side. We will have major issues to discuss, but you see, in 2026, I dream about the (world cup) of soccer. I was sports minister. I signed an agreement myself with FIFA, with Joseph Blatter."

"We will have all those celebrations with the 375th anniversary (of Montreal). We are a great Olympic city. We have to start to believe in ourselves.

"I have credentials in all these things. I brought the world anti-doping agency, now (look) at what’s going on with ethics and sports. So I know ethics.

"I want to repatriate the power of the old port and create a cruise centre and a fair centre and put up a duty-free zone. With all those celebrations, the fact that I know what’s going on in Quebec,  I know the bureaucracy in Ottawa, they won’t tell me that they have to go to the treasury board because they have to reinvent the program.

"I know how things works so we can make the place great, but my main thing is to bring back Montreal  as a smart city. The smart city by using all those technologies  -- open data, transparency everywhere, use all the technology for collective transport, for sustainable development, to get rid of the traffic congestion, make sure that we have a better parking process. Smart cities bring smart citizens."