Montreal's four main mayoral candidates faced off in a surprisingly friendly debate on Tuesday evening, jousting over the key issues of corruption, city life, public transit, economy and the proposed charter of values.
The Tuesday evening English debate was moderated by CBC Montreal co-anchor Andrew Chang and hosted by CBC in partnership with McGill University at McGill’s Tanna Schulich Hall.
Throughout the debate, the candidates defined their leadership strengths. Richard Bergeron highlighted his team as an honest administration that would be full of ideas, while Denis Coderre promoted himself as an experienced leader. Marcel Côté pushed his entrepreneurial background as a skill that would help him clean up the city, while Mélanie Joly outlined a team that would bring change and transparency.
The candidates were in a good humour for the hour-long debate, poking fun at one another and pausing several times for laughter.
'There are no better watchdogs than you and I.' - Mélanie Joly
Candidate Richard Bergeron got a laugh when he criticized Marcel Côté for including members of the former administration in his team.
"How can you change the situation with the same people?" he said to Côté, adding, "It's not as bad with you as it is with Mr. Coderre."
Mélanie Joly spoke over the laughter, thanking Bergeron for his implied support.
But the amicable atmosphere had its fair share of heated discussion.
At about 10 minutes into debate, Bergeron and Côté were yelling at each other about whose team was more involved in the previous embattled city administration.
Q: What practical plans to you have to counter corruption?
The theme of corruption has been at the forefront of the election campaign and the candidates wasted no time outlining how they would clean up City Hall.
Mélanie Joly highlighted her digital transparency plan, which takes its inspiration from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"There are no better watchdogs than you and I," she said.
'If we promise the world, nothing will get done.' - Denis Coderre
Joly said her administration would appoint a chief digital officer to ensure that all city information would be made public.
Denis Coderre outlined his plan for an independent inspector general who would be appointed by City Hall and have the power of inquiry and the power to open contracts and take people to court.
"If a house has a leaky roof, you don't throw the house down. The vast majority of employees and politicians are honest," he said.
Richard Bergeron pointed to his party - Projet Montréal - as a party with an honest history in city politics. Bergeron criticized Coderre for running a slate of 25 candidates who were members of former mayor Gérald Tremblay's now-defunct Union Montréal party.
Marcel Côté said that corruption can only take hold in an organization that is badly managed. He pointed to the need for checks and balances for the city's executive committee and for a more efficient bureaucracy. Côté also said his administration would make the position of city ethics commissioner a full-time job.
Q: How would you keep traffic flowing on Montreal's roads and improve public transit systems?
Coderre: "It's a major major problem ... If we promise the world, nothing will get done."
'We have to stop the brain drain in Montreal.' - Marcel Côté
Bergeron: "We have a real nightmare for the next decade. And during this next decade, 350,000 new cars will be on the roads. We just have to convince 100,000 of these new 350,000 drivers to take public transit."
Côté: "Why do we have all these orange cones all over Montreal and nobody doing any work?"
Q: What's the best way to revitalize the economy to keep and attract the brightest?
Côté: "We have to stop the brain drain in Montreal ... I've invested in quite a few businesses in Montreal. What they want is the mayor to run properly City Hall. They can do the rest. Montreal has the highest business tax in Canada."
Joly to Côté: "It's great you've made the analysis that taxes are too high but we need solutions, not analysis.
Q: All four of you are against the government's' proposed charter of values. How far will you go in fighting against it?
Côté: "This is a very divisive fight. We have to be careful not to stoke the fire. Montreal is always on the losing side of nationalist politics. Let them play their game."
'Don't build a wall between Montrealers and the rest of Quebec.' - Richard Bergeron
Coderre: "The charter is not a matter of culture. It's a matter of rights. There's no hierarchy of rights ... All that division is bad for Montreal."
Bergeron: "It is building a wall between Montreal and the rest of Quebec. Don't build a wall between Montrealers and the rest of Quebec."
Joly: "The rest of Quebec must understand Montreal is unique in its culture. Let's wait to see what's in the charter, then debate in council."