Mayoral Hopefuls Look to Win Over Youth Vote

Candidates Debate Public Transit, Youth Involvement

Half of the first debate between Montreal’s mayoral candidates revolved around youth issues in front of a student-heavy audience on Aug. 16.

Denis Coderre, the longtime Liberal Member of Parliament for Montreal’s Bourassa electoral district; Marcel Coté, an economist and founding partner at consulting firm Secor; Mélanie Joly, a 34-year-old lawyer and communications expert; and Richard Bergeron, an urban planning expert and former university professor, took part in the debate organized by the Institut du Nouveau Monde.

Coderre, the leader of municipal political party Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal, said that the mobilization of students around the issue of university tuition fees in the spring of 2012 revealed the need “to canalize this energy and ensure that our youth can feel they’re part of the decision-making,” despite many disagreeing with the protesters’ demands. Coderre promised to ensure that young people are hired by the city, and to create new ways for residents to engage with their municipal administration online.

Bergeron said only his Projet Montréal party—the smallest of the parties currently represented in city council—could make “an absolute guarantee of integrity.” Of the 65 candidates it has already nominated for city and borough council positions throughout the city of Montreal, Bergeron said 19 are less than 35 years old. Bergeron also outlined an ambitious program of urban renewal, promising to revitalize the downtown core by eliminating street-level parking lots and adding 50,000 new residents to the downtown population by 2025.

Joly, who is running as an independent, said Bergeron’s plans would greatly increase the city’s debt. “The reality is that our [young] generation is already going to inherit a huge bill from other generations,” Joly said of Bergeron’s plan to create a $1-billion tramway network. “Every time you have a project, you create a debt for our children.” She said she will turn Montreal into an “innovative, entrepreneurial and efficient” city, and promised to create a rapid transit system uniting the east and west of the city with an express bus network.

Coté, the leader of a loose coalition of candidates running for city council, promised to make all full-time students, regardless of age, eligible for reduced-fare monthly transit passes. Currently, only students under the age of 26 have access to the reduced fare of $45, with older students paying the full price of $77. The city—and not public transit corporation Société de transport de Montréal—would cover the $9-million cost of making the change.

Elections will take place in all of Quebec’s municipalities on Nov. 3.

CORRECTION: The original version of this article stated that students “under the age of 25” have access to the reduced fare of $45. In fact, students aged 26 or over have to pay the full price of $77, but those who are 25 still have access to the reduced fare. The article has been updated accordingly. The Link regrets the error.

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