5 Times At The Montreal English Mayoral Debate When Candidates Got Feisty

CBC's English-language Montreal mayoral debate went off in Saint-Léonard on Thursday night, with each candidate presenting their vision for the future of Montreal.

While the debate was mostly tame, Valérie Plante, Balarama Holness and Denis Coderre traded punches on a number of issues including crime, public transit, and Bill 96. Here are the highlights.

Bill 96 & Inclusion

While all candidates agreed that Montreal's strength is in its cultural diversity, only Holness actively voiced his opposition to the controversial language bill.

They differed sharply on their descriptions of Montreal.

"Montreal is a multicultural, multilingual metropolis [...] we want to recognize Montreal for what it is and we want to ensure all business and all Montrealers will be able to have services and do business in the language of their choice," Holness said.

Plante and Coderre voiced their support for Bill 96 and both insisted that the city should be able to continue to offer some services in English.

Coderre called Montreal "a francophone city consisting of a diverse cultural mosaic." He added that maintaining "linguistic peace" is paramount.

"The duty as mayor of Montreal is to ensure that the Quebec government understands our need to serve our English community," he said.

Plante also supports Bill 96 but cited her testimony to the Quebec government asking for an exemption to allow the city to offer English services on the 311 phone line.

Crime Prevention

To the surprise of no one, the candidates diverged on how to most effectively prevent crime.

Plante called for investment in infrastructure such as sports facilities, parks, and public libraries to help prevent crime amongst young Montrealers.

She said defunding police is "not an option."

Holness, meanwhile, presented his plan to reallocate millions in police funding to invest in services to "help young people, those who are homeless, and those who are most vulnerable."

He insisted "we have to start investing in health and social services."

Coderre, who claimed to represent "the only party that is against defunding and disarming," called for a "strong presence" of the police force. He reiterated his campaign promise to hire 250 new police officers.

Transportation & Mobility

Things got heated as the candidates discussed transportation.

As the debate gained steam, the verbal sparring got a little intense with Holness calling the incumbent mayor "dishonest" about fulfilling campaign promises and declaring that there's a "war on cars."

As Holness raised a hand in Plante's direction to interrupt her, she insisted that he refrain from using such gestures.

Taking it all in, Coderre made his case that "there is only one anti-car [party] here and it's Projet Montréal."

The former mayor accused Plante of having "delivered nothing" on improving mobility safety.

"When you are without arguments, you blame others," he told Plante.

Plante fired back, "That's what you've been doing since the beginning of the debate, Mr. Coderre."

Plante accused Coderre of "playing with words" and said he was lying about numbers of deaths and accidents on the streets. She called his comments "disgraceful."

Taxes

Seemingly able to go all night, the candidates continued to debate how the city would manage its finances moving forward.

Holness re-stated a campaign promise to lobby to give Montreal city-state status in order to have more financial control. He also accused Plante of lying about raising taxes in 2017.

He said it's an example of the "lying that [he hopes] Montrealers see through, from the pink line to taxes to the amount of social housing."

Plante fired back at his attacks, saying that "this is a debate where people want to hear about ideas [...] even when there is a question about numbers you don't answer concretely, you just keep attacking me. I can defend myself, don't worry."

Housing & Renovictions

Moving on to housing, the candidates presented their plans, each of them wanting more affordable housing, but were at odds with each other on how to accomplish that.

Plante defended the 20/20/20 plan (which calls for 20% social, affordable and family housing in new developments) while Holness said it held back social housing development and Coderre said people are fleeing to the suburbs.

Plante also explained that her party introduced a by-law in boroughs to protect against renoviction but said Ensemble Montréal-controlled boroughs haven't adopted it.

She attacked Coderre for running a candidate for Verdun borough mayor who has reportedly flipped properties.

"I find it very troubling that Mr. Coderre, you talk about leadership, about housing knowing that your candidate for mayor of Verdun is a professional flipper," she said, adding that he "[contributed] to taking away housing from families."