For Valérie Plante, pulling off the greatest political upset in 50 years was easy. Now comes the hard part

It’s day one of the Valérie Plante era. What’s next? It's Monday morning, and now things get real.

How will Montreal’s new mayor deliver on her campaign promises?

Valérie Plante waves to supporters alongside her husband Pierre-Antoine Harvey, right, and their two sons after being elected mayor of Montreal Sunday night. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

OK, so Valérie Plante just pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Montreal's political history. I'll bet the party was rocking at Projet Montréal headquarters last night.

But it's Monday morning, and now things get real.

There were two dimensions to Plante's winning campaign. One was the charisma, the energy, the easy rapport she struck with voters.

The other was the string of policies, promises and proposals she floated over the last five weeks, which ignited the imaginations of Montrealers.
Valérie Plante brought her signature laugh and bubbliness to her victory speech Sunday night. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

If she's able to deliver on these, she will reshape the city — connect new neighbourhoods to downtown, give lower-income families a chance to buy a home on the island, make it safer to get to work on your bike.

How is she is going to pull this off? If you're a Plante supporter, you'll be encouraged by her victory speech.

She seemed acutely aware of the size of the task she's set for her administration and the partnerships she needs to forge to make it all happen.

Her speech sent out a signal to three groups that she needs to bring on board.

Supporters of Valérie Plante cheer as results show she is the new mayor-elect of Montreal. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

1. Quebec City and Ottawa

First, Quebec City and Ottawa. Plante needs provincial and federal funds in order to press forward with her signature projects — the construction of the Pink Metro line and the building of 12,000 units of social and affordable housing.

Both levels of government have made public transit and social housing a priority in recent budgets. There is money on the table.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said in a tweet this morning that he spoke with Plante, and that Montreal is getting ready to work. 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said on Twitter that he's "looking forward to working together on our shared priorities." 

But it's up to Plante to demonstrate that Montreal is deserving of the money, that the need is there and that the city's plan are viable. She took a preliminary step in that direction Sunday night.

"The numbers of cars are growing twice as fast as the population," Plante said. "We can't build twice as many roads, but we can more Metro stations."

Former mayor Denis Coderre, who flaunted Montreal's reignited close relationship with Ottawa, is seen with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

2. The business community

The next group she sent signals to was the business community. And it was surely lost on no one that her olive branch was proffered mainly in English.

"To my friends in the business community, Montreal is open for business," she said, in English.

Montreal's business elite may be a tougher nut to crack than politicians in Ottawa and Quebec City. 

Plante has no business background to speak of, and several prominent business people publicly backed Denis Coderre. (Remember him?)

Developers in Montreal are investing billions of dollars in new condominium and office complexes, along with retrofitting older buildings. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

There are surely a few investors skittish about what a Projet Montréal administration will mean for them.

During the English-language debate she backed a foreign buyers tax, and her platform proposed forcing developers to set aside 40 per cent of units for social and affordable housing, up from the current 30 per cent.

Downtown merchants, moreover, are likely to complain if Plante makes good on promises to make traffic-calming measures more widespread downtown.

3. Anglophones, allophones

The third group is non-francophones. From his time as a federal MP in Montreal North, Coderre was able to count on the support of a wide range of diverse communities.

And many anglophones, too, are probably unsure of what to make of Plante. She wavered on divulging how she voted in the 1995 referendum, and she ran a unilingual francophone candidate for borough mayor in Pierrefonds-Roxboro.

Plante speaks with reporters following her mayoral win. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

Montreal Anglos also tend to line up faithfully behind Liberal parties, both federal and provincial.

"The francophone, the anglophone and allophone communities of Montreal have more in common than many people want us to believe," she said.

Plante needs to bring these groups together, less to fulfil a particular campaign promise than to carry out an implicit duty that comes with being mayor of a major North American city.

Montreal's motto is, after all, Concordia Salus — salvation through harmony.

Valérie Plante ready to 'do an amazing job'

6 years ago
Duration 2:31
Valérie Plante says she is ready to 'do an amazing job' as mayor of Montreal and that her win was a vote for her, not against Denis Coderre.


Jonathan Montpetit is a Senior Investigative Journalist with CBC News, where he covers social movements and democracy. You can send him tips at