Mayoral Candidate Denis Coderre on Making Montreal A ‘Smart’ City
Denis Coderre started his political career as a three-time loser.
He fell short in three elections before finally being voted into office as a Member of Parliament for the Bourassa riding in 1997.
“All those years of relentless efforts have earned me the nickname of ‘Mr. Tenacity,’” he said in his first speech in Parliament.
He served as a minister in the Chrétien government and has been re-elected five times.
After the Liberals’ defeat in the 2011 federal election and the resignation of party leader Michael Ignatieff, Coderre said he wanted to be a party leader—regardless of whether it would be in Parliament or at city hall—and that he would either enter the Liberal leadership race or run to become Montreal’s next mayor.
Finally, on May 16, he announced his candidacy for the city’s top job.
His campaign hasn’t been without controversy. Hecklers tried to interrupt his campaign launch. In an English-language debate televised on CTV, mayoral rivals Richard Bergeron and Marcel Côté criticized Coderre for allegedly having vague plans for the city.
“You can’t surf your way into the mayor’s place, you have to be specific,” said Côté, the leader of political party Coalition Montréal.
“When I hear Mr. Coderre speaking, I realize that he has a plan for himself—to be the mayor of Montreal—but he has no plan for Montreal,” said Bergeron, the leader of Projet Montréal, who has also claimed his political opponents lack ambition.
In an interview with The Link, Coderre said he does indeed have goals for Montreal, but that it’s important to be realistic.
“There’s a difference between dreaming and reality,” he said. “I think that what we need to do first is build the link of trust between the population and the city.
“It’s a matter of putting up the template, all together, to make sure that what we will do for the next four years, we will deliver,” he continued.
“And by doing that, we will become an antidote against cynicism.”
He said his dreams for the city include holding FIFA World Cup events in Montreal if Canada is chosen as the host country for the international soccer competition in 2026, as well as having Montreal’s municipal government take control of the Old Port, turn it into a port for cruise ships and “provide access to the river to the citizens.”
Currently, the Old Port of Montréal Corporation, a subsidiary of the federal government’s arms-length and self-financing Canada Lands Company, manages and develops the historic site.
Furthermore, in addition to marking the 375th anniversary of Montreal’s founding and the 50th anniversary of the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, Coderre said he wants to improve the city’s infrastructure so as to leave a lasting legacy.
A High-Tech City
A central part of Coderre’s platform is to turn Montreal into a “smart city” where citizens can engage with their municipal government online and be involved through the means of digital communications “in the decisions that affect their daily lives.”
In his interview with The Link, Coderre used potholes and vandalism like graffiti as examples, saying that a truly “smart city” would allow you to alert the municipal administration to these problems.
“You take your smartphone, take a picture of it, sending [it] back to public works, and then [within] 24 hours, they can manage it,” he said. “If you can have that kind of a relationship, it means that it works and people will have a closer link with that [government] institution.”
Coderre’s platform states that his party will create a web-based platform that would allow for more dialogue between residents and the city’s administration, as well as provide “relevant, geo-localized information to residents, visitors and tourists” on topics such as history, arts, local services and businesses.
The platform also commits the party to supporting “the development of a multimodal trip planner that allows Montrealers to optimize travel within the city based on the time of day and their departure and destination points, taking advantage of the various means of public transit at their disposal (subway, bus, Bixi) and circumventing any blockages.”
In addition, Coderre told The Link that he will look to roll out Wi-Fi zones “everywhere on the island, underground and above.”
The Société de transport de Montréal, the city’s public transit corporation, announced on Sept. 25 that it was bringing together telecommunications companies Bell, Rogers, TELUS and Vidéotron to create a mobile network in Montreal’s metro at an estimated cost of $50 million.
Once the system is fully operational five to seven years from now, it will allow passengers to browse the Internet on their mobile devices while commuting throughout the city’s subway network.
Coderre’s platform takes it a step further by not only committing to providing cellular service in the metro, but also Internet access through Wi-Fi technology in new buses and bus shelters.
Improving Public Transit
Coderre also told The Link he is committed to bringing about more “urban mobility” through a wide array of transportation methods.
He said he’ll focus on the planned extension of the metro’s blue line towards Anjou, the planned commuter train line towards eastern Montreal and the off-island suburbs, a possible light-rail transport link to the South Shore on the planned replacement for the Champlain Bridge, and more cycling paths.
He added that the city needs to fight for another commuter train line from the west end and better coordinate its transportation strategies with neighbouring municipalities.
“We don’t need a tramway,” he said, referring to Bergeron’s plans to build an initial tramway network 10 to 15 kilometres in length by 2017.
He also characterized mayoral rival Mélanie Joly’s plan to create 130 kilometres of bus-rapid-transit lines as unrealistic.
In BRT systems, buses travel in reserved lanes along most of their route, allowing them to avoid traffic congestion, and passengers pay their bus fares before boarding, reducing wait times at each of a limited number of stops.
Additionally, BRT vehicles often can control traffic signals and have priority at intersections, distinguishing them from buses that merely use reserved lanes.
“The rapid bus that we were supposed to have on Pie-IX [Boulevard], now it’s going to be due for 2019,” Coderre said, referring to the long-delayed project that would see a BRT line built between Notre-Dame St. in Montreal and Highway 440 in Laval.
“What you’re looking for is a better way to make sure that you attack and tackle the congestion and traffic,” Coderre continued.
Coderre’s own party is committed to increasing to 370 kilometres the total length of the reserved bus lanes throughout Montreal—the same target the STM set for itself in its Strategic Plan 2020, which was adopted by the transit corporation’s board of directors in 2011.
Reserved lanes are a component of any BRT network, although Coderre said true BRT lines require more underground infrastructure and wiring than simple reserved lanes.
“It’s better to have a reserved lane and good communication [in terms of] technology […] to make sure that we also coordinate the traffic lights to make sure we have the fluidity of that transportation, than try to promise something that you can’t deliver and people will be cynical again about politicians,” he said.