Denis Coderre makes mayoralty bid official amid protests
'Real test to come,' says Vision Montréal's Louise Harel
Liberal MP Denis Coderre said he has no regrets about launching his bid to become mayor of Montreal in front of city hall — where he was upstaged by demonstrators with an array of complaints, including a couple of masked protesters who were later detained by police.
"Nobody will take Montreal hostage," Coderre told Homerun's Sue Smith on Thursday afternoon. "This is a public space, and I decided to talk directly on the public space to Montrealers."
The two protesters wearing bandannas over their faces stood directly behind Coderre during his live televised news conference.
About Denis Coderre:
49 years old, married, father of two.
Liberal MP of Bourassa since 1997.
Immigration minister 2002-2003.
Minister responsible for the Francophonie 2003-2004.
Minister responsible for the Office of Indian Residential Schools Resolution 2003-2004.
President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada 2003-2004.
Studied political science at the University of Montreal.
Executive MBA from the University of Ottawa.
Coderre later pulled the mask off one of the men when that protester approached him.
"I just wanted to see his face," he explained afterwards.
Meanwhile, an elderly social housing activist grabbed the arm of a police officer and was pushed to the ground. The man, who other protesters said was 85-years-old, did not appear to be hurt but was taken to hospital by ambulance as a precaution.
'Son of a carpenter' supports bylaw P-6
The main group of protesters was there in support of social housing, a cause Coderre said he supported.
"Social housing is very important," Coderre said. "You know, I'm the son of a carpenter myself. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth."
Coderre soldiered on, talking over the protesters and vowing to fight cynicism in the city.
"It's not the time for group therapy. It's the time for action," he said.
He endured more boos and heckling when he said he supported the controversial municipal bylaw P-6, which prohibits demonstrators from wearing masks and requires them to provide an itinerary to police.
"I'm from the party that created the Charter of Rights and Freedoms," he said later in the day to Homerun. "I have no problem with [demonstrations], but I don't see why you can't provide your itinerary. You don't have to be masked if you want to rally against a cause."
"I don't have any intention to change [the bylaw]," he said.
'Nobody will touch my integrity,' Coderre says
Coderre said he is not afraid of controversy and is up to the challenge of leading a city in turmoil, awash with corruption allegations.
Questions have already been raised about the 16-year federal political veteran's own vast network of supporters, including his volunteer public relations adviser who used to work for the former mayor of Laval, Gilles Vaillancourt.
"Nobody will touch my integrity," Coderre said, defending his volunteer as a professional. He then proceeded to explain his longstanding friendship with Lino Zambito, a key witness at the Charbonneau inquiry who admitted to participating in cash-for-kickbacks schemes when he was the head of the now-bankrupt firm Infrabec.
"I'm a friend of the family," Coderre said. "One of my mentors was Senator Pietro Rizzuto, a man of integrity. And if you have some people who made a mistake, does that make you the person that is also at fault?"
"We have to stop the guilt by association," he said.
Bergeron: 'Finally, he takes to the ice.'
Coderre has promised to centralize power at city hall, to appoint an inspector-general for ethics and to build a broad coalition rather than a traditional political party.
He said he will draw half of his candidates from councillors first elected to other parties — including two borough mayors, former Vision Montreal councillor Anie Samson and Gilles Deguire, who quit Union Montréal last February. The other half of his slate will be made up of newcomers to municipal politics.
Coderre said financing for the party will be limited to individual donations of no more than $100.
His political opponents are unimpressed with Coderre's much-anticipated launch, which began early Thursday morning with a message to Coderre's 105,000 followers on Twitter and a video on YouTube.
"The real test will be in the weeks and months to come," said Vision Montréal leader Louise Harel.
"Finally, he takes to the ice," said Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron on Thursday evening, at an event introducing his own candidates in Hochelaga-Maissoneuve.
The former immigration minister is still the Member of Parliament for Bourassa but has said he will step down on June 2, exactly 16 years after he was first elected.
Denis Coderre's YouTube video launch: