New York’s North Country Responds To Historic Montreal Mayoral Election

Nov 9, 2017

Over the weekend, Montreal residents elected the first woman mayor of that city.

There were eight candidates running for mayor in Canada’s second-largest city, but incumbent Denis Corderre and relative newcomer Valerie Plante were the leaders as the campaign came to a close. On Sunday voters made history, ousting the incumbent and electing the first woman mayor of Montreal.

According to the Montreal Gazette, Plante was relatively unknown a year ago. She was 14 points behind Coderre in June.  But by the end of the campaign, the newspaper reports, they were in a statistical dead heat.  
Election Montreal, the city’s bureau of elections, says Plante defeated Coderre 51 to 45 percent.  

Less than an hour south of Montreal is the U.S. border.   Plattsburgh North Country Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Garry Douglas often refers to Plattsburgh as Montreal’s U.S. suburb and follows Montreal’s elections closely because he says what happens there often impacts the North Country more than what happens elsewhere. He calls Plante’s election a bit of an earthquake.  “Mayor Coderre had been elected to his first term four years ago coming on the wake of three successive mayors indicted for corruption. I think certainly everyone agrees he largely restored integrity to City Hall. He came in initially seeming to be a very charismatic sort of character, but some of that I think over time wore on people as being less charisma and more arrogance. And this kind of upstart Valerie Plante came out of nowhere,  largely written off by most people at the beginning of summer. Seemed to start getting some traction and then a few weeks ago the polls showed that it was a dead heat. In the end she won very handily.”

Plante leads the Projet Montreal party and is a former district city councilor. The party and her campaign promised a new metro line, lower taxes and improved construction site supervision and management.  Douglas says Plante won because she ran a bread and butter campaign.  “She struck on issues about your neighborhood, about being able to get where you want to go within the city, parks and playgrounds, quality of life in the community and it seems that together with her kind of  always very positive always very forward looking, we can do things, we can make Montreal an  even better city. Voters responded to that.”

Douglas has met both the outgoing and incoming mayors.  “We look forward hopefully to having a meeting with her early in her administration to build the relationship and explore some ways that Montreal and its U.S. suburb in the Plattsburgh area can collaborate.  We've reached out to her although we know she's going to be absolutely buried in transition which happens very quickly. She'll be taking her oath on November sixteenth.”

Former New York Congressman Bill Owens is now a consultant specializing in U.S.- Canadian trade. He is a board member of the Canadian American Border Trade Alliance and the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  He believes it shouldn’t matter that the incoming mayor has little business background, because there is very little interplay between Montreal city government and cross-border trade.  “I think that we'll see not much change in the relationship because most of what happens actually is business-to-business chamber-to-chamber type activity.  In the past the mayor has not had a major impact on US-Canada trade and in particular the trade in our region.  Most of that's controlled by the provincial government and by the federal government.”

Canadian media reports that outgoing one-term mayor Denis Coderre is “quitting political life” in the wake of his loss.  Plante will be sworn in next week.