Plante lays out Montreal pre-election vision with 500-day challenge
Mayor plays down proposal to disarm police and plays up pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly policies
At the close of her party's conference on Sunday, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante showcased her party's strategies and plans ahead of the November elections and a likely showdown with former mayor Denis Coderre.
In a speech that reaffirmed Projet Montréal's commitment to local neighbourhoods, public transit, pedestrians and cyclists, Plante stated her intention to revive the downtown core and asked that voters give the party 500 days, from Sunday, to relaunch Montreal after the crushing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Five hundred days is the time that a Projet Montréal administration needs to put the metropolis back on track," Plante said. "To ensure that Montreal returns to the growth of the past, but in the economy of today."
In that time, she said, her party would oversee development plans for 14.5 million square metres of land with the goal of establishing entire new neighbourhoods that set new standards for affordability and liveability.
And she said the party would draft new urban and transportation plans for Montreal with the help of the public, calling it "the biggest co-creation project in the city's history, that will define the next 50 years of this city."
Plante's speech indicated she and the party remain loyal to the goals and qualities that have defined the current term in office. She celebrated the separated bike paths on St-Denis Street — part of the Réseau express vélo project — and the widened sidewalks on Ste-Catherine Street downtown.
"Big cities around the world are going this way," she said, citing the largely pedestrianized Times Square in New York and the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
Plante's 500-day plan envisions a strong, vital downtown Montreal built on those principles.
"By giving more space to everyone, especially pedestrians and cyclists, we can stimulate downtown Montreal's vitality, support merchants, attract businesses and relaunch the economic and cultural heart of the metropolis," she said.
The main opposition party, Ensemble Montréal — under whose banner Coderre will run for mayor — singled out one of the 27 proposals adopted by Projet Montréal that focused on disarming the police force.
In an interview with Radio-Canada, Sari Abdelhaq, Ensemble Montréal's public safety spokesperson, called Projet Montréal "a disconnected party that prefers to follow its ideology rather than work for the security of Montrealers."
Plante said the proposal is for a pilot project to be worked out in collaboration with the SPVM, and is "not about having police officers not having firearms" in general.
Abdelhaq also accused Projet Montréal of wanting to defund the police through the back door. Plante said defunding the police "was not on the table."
The mayor made no direct mention of Coderre — whom she defeated in 2017 and who announced his intention to run again at the end of March — coming closest when she referred to his recently-released book, Retrouver Montréal, which is French for ''Finding Montreal Again."
"What interests me is not to find Montreal again, which we never lost sight of, but to rediscover Montrealers where they live, with their concerns, in their neighbourhoods," she said.
With files from Radio-Canada