An anybody-but-Coderre movement has begun to form in Montreal's mayoral race, with the third-place challenger for city hall now endorsing the campaign of Projet Montréal's leader, Valérie Plante.
Jean Fortier, who was running for mayor under the Coalition Montréal banner, announced Wednesday that he is putting an end to his campaign and backing Mayor Denis Coderre's main rival.
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Few expected Fortier, a former chair of Montreal's executive committee, to finish higher than third in the Nov. 5 election. But his decision formalizes what was already, effectively, a two-person race.
Speaking to reporters outside Montreal City Hall, Fortier said the campaign was coming down to questions of personality and governing style. Given the options, he chose Plante's.
"For better or worse, [this campaign] has to do with ego," Fortier said. "Mrs. Plante has shown she can overcome ego, and that's how she's been able to attract better resources and better people to work for the City of Montreal."
Campaign failed to catch on
Coalition Montréal, which is led by Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce city councillor Marvin Rotrand, made its support for Plante conditional on Projet Montréal meeting a number of demands.
Projet has agreed to give smaller parties and independent councillors a bigger role on city council and to create working groups on public transit, taxes and borough-city hall relations.
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The two parties have been holding discussions for several months, though until now, none had borne much fruit. But as election day approached, and Fortier's campaign continued to sputter, those talks intensified.
"We introduced Jean to give people a third option, but we had to concede that he wasn't catching on," Rotrand said. "We were having trouble getting media attention, especially in the French media."
Rotrand said he was swayed by Projet's commitment to foster a less partisan city council, pointing out that members of Équipe Denis Coderre always vote as a bloc.
The centralizing nature of Coderre's administration has polarized municipal politics in Montreal.
Along with enforcing a strict party line at city council, Coderre has also sought to limit the discretion boroughs have in the delivery of public services, such as parking and human resources.
His supporters argue such moves are necessary in order to secure efficiencies in a city where powers are divided among several different levels of government.
But others contend the ill will that centralization creates at the borough level is undermining Coderre's chances at re-election.
"At the beginning of the year, I would have bet on him, big majority and all that," said Anjou borough Mayor Luis Miranda, an outspoken critic of the Coderre administration.
"Now, I'd bet that if he makes it, he'll be a minority."
Coderre's decision to reallocate borough funding, concentrate decisions about snow removal at city hall and prioritize the light-rail network over the Blue line expansion have all contributed to the spread of anti-Coderre sentiment among Anjou voters, Miranda said.
Miranda had been backing Fortier's campaign but is now encouraging voters in his borough to vote for Plante as the only viable option for unseating Coderre.
"Coderre has been a disaster for us," he said. "I say to people you have to vote. And I say to people, anybody but Coderre is better."
But even with Coalition Montreal endorsing Plante's campaign, the two parties are still running candidates against each other for borough and city council positions.
To the extent that Rotrand supports Plante, it is through gritted teeth.
"There is still a lot doubt about whether you can trust [Projet Montréal], on our side," Rotrand said.
When asked what he would tell voters looking for guidance, Rotrand offered the following:
"I'm going to tell them that Coalition has suspended Jean Fortier's campaign and that Jean is supporting Valérie Plante. They're invited to take a serious look at Valérie Plante."
"If they don't feel like doing that, they have other options open."