Josh Freed: Montréal need a real option for the future

Major mayoral candidates Valérie Plante and Denis Coderre are not debating issues that voters really care about, writes Josh Freed.

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We’ve barely finished one election and we’re already facing another: the Montreal mayoral vote on November 7, and Justin Trudeau can’t be blamed for this.


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The top two contenders, Valérie Plante and Denis Coderre, are head-to-head in the polls, well ahead of Balarama Holness.

They’ve already made hundreds of campaign pledges, from planting 500,000 trees by 2030 to making Montreal carbon neutral in 2050. How about a floating winter heat dome over Montreal in 2350?

So far, the Coderre and Plante platforms have so many similarities a La Presse columnist suggested they could be twins.

That’s largely because Coderre is trying to reinvent its old-fashioned image and reflect the 21st century. Therefore, it is borrowing from Plante’s green agenda and promising more green spaces, bike paths and “eco-responsible housing”.

He wants to prove that he is Coderre 2.0, or at least Denis Plante.


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But Plante has also borrowed Coderre’s central pillar: law and order, with both candidates pledging a lot of money to fight escalating gang gun crimes.

These are important issues, but are they the ones on Montréal’s minds? I think the topics most of us talk about are not being discussed, and they largely involve cars.

Neverendum Construction: Plante was chosen in part on the promise of improving traffic “mobility” and tame the Construction Festival that Coderre ignited, with its $ 6 billion infrastructure program.

But yes these experiencing more “mobility” since Plante became mayor, I love you as my driver.

Driving in Montreal still feels like being trapped inside a video game called “Grand Theft Auto Lanes,” trying to avoid potholes, orange cones, flashing lights, rues barrées, and detour signs that lead to more detours and more construction.


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But walking around the city is not much easier.

Your only chance to win this video game is your magic wizard: your phone’s GPS. But that only works if you catch up on 500 new construction sites from the last hour.

Otherwise, you could waste 90 minutes taking a gas tour to your corner garage.

Does any candidate have a plan to better coordinate construction, so that when one route is closed, a nearby one is not? If so, let’s hear it. I would also like posters from the city that honestly say how long each new construction project will take:

A) Longer than the Panama Canal (10 years).

B) Longer than the Pyramids (1,000 years).

C) Enough time for the universe to stop expanding and then begin to contract, so time is reversed and we go back to the Stone Age, and without construction. Hurrah!


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Shared road: Plante’s first two years saw an all-out war between motorists and cyclists over proposed bike trails everywhere from Terrebonne St. to Notre-Dame St., Little Italy, and the Mount Royal Bicycle Battlefield.

All of that has been frozen since the departure of Luc Ferrandez, “My way and no highways” from Projet-Montréal. But is this a change of mind for Projet-Montréal, or have they just kept quiet until re-election?

I have no idea, but many motorists would love to know. In a 2018 government study, there were 1.9 million cars owned by roughly two million Montréal island residents, and car purchases have only skyrocketed since the pandemic.

More than a million Montréal’s travel by car and many rant about narrow streets, tight parking, and scramble for space on the road with bicycles, scooters, e-bikes, hoverboards, unicycles, and the occasional unicorn.


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That said, hundreds of thousands of motorists have become cyclists in recent years. They are as divided as I am between the desire for more bike lanes and the desire for more fluid traffic.

Like Plante, Coderre now promises more paths for cycling, which Bikejosh likes. But Carjosh wants to know how we can share the road peacefully and avoid the divisive battles of Carmageddon.

I would love to hear the two candidates debate this issue, rather than how many electric buses they promise by 2050.

Center: Another item missing from the action is our battered Ste-Catherine Street. The city council has reduced the eastern part of the city center to a narrow lane, with no street parking, to increase the size of the sidewalks for pedestrians.

Now you are reducing the western part of Ste-Catherine: will it help or harm the city center? Again, I don’t know. But isn’t this worth discussing during an election when much of the city center is isolated like Chernobyl?


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Beneath these questions there is also a philosophical debate. Plante wants Montreal to be a world leader in the fight against climate change, a model green city like Paris and Oslo, where the car-free streets are spreading fast.

Plante likes the neighborhood’s one-way streets, green alleys, and other measures to reclaim car space for people. It’s an idealistic idea and one that is percolating globally, but how far will she and Montréal agree?

And where is Coderre, if there is any part?

He says he wants Montreal to be a bustling international metropolis, “not a town.” What does that mean for Ste-Catherine, the international street of our city?

I’d like to see the real Coderre emerge, not the Plante resemblance. Then he and she could have a debate that interests the voters.

So here’s the hope that our top candidates will part ways and give Montréal’s a real choice for the future, at least until the universe shrinks and we all wake up in the Stone Age.

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