Mayoral candidate Balarama Holness has decided to merge his Mouvement Montreal with another new municipal party, in an effort to provide voters with what he described as "a real, viable third option" ahead of the upcoming elections.
Marc-Antoine Desjardins, the founder and leader of Ralliement pour Montréal, will now run under the Mouvement Montreal banner.
Holness and Desjardins made the surprise announcement at a news conference on Thursday, only a day before the deadline for candidates to register.
As a result of the merger, Holness will stay in the running to become the city's next mayor and Desjardins will remove himself from the race.
Desjardins will instead try to become a borough mayor, though he did not specify which one. According to Radio-Canada sources, he will run in Outremont.
As of Thursday morning, Mouvement Montreal had 43 registered candidates across the city. Ralliement pour Montréal had 16.
The two sides are working on "meshing" their team of candidates, Desjardins said. By Friday afternoon, the official list of candidates for Mouvement Montreal will be submitted.
"We're not just here to participate," Holness said. "Now, with Ralliement pour Montréal, we're here to win."
Eye to eye on housing, but language issues linger
While the merger will give Holness a larger slate of candidates, questions remain about how the two parties will work together, given their contrasting positions, most notably on language.
One of Ralliement pour Montréal's top campaign priorities is strengthening the French language.
The platform of Mouvement Montreal, meanwhile, includes having the city "officially recognized as a bilingual metropolis," instituting a bylaw to allow businesses to operate in both French and English and having all municipal government documents available in both languages.
In the past, the two mayoral candidates have clashed on this point. Just on Monday, Desjardins replied to a tweet that referred to Holness's plan as "anti-Quebec" by saying "the only vaccine for this is Ralliement pour Montréal. Simple as that."
At Thursday's news conference, Holness and Desjardins did not provide many details about their common vision for the city. The two said more information would be shared in the coming days.
"Rest assured everyone, francophones and anglophones, we will work together to address the real issues of Montreal society to bring people together and put an end to ideological wars," Desjardins said.
According to Holness, the two parties do not want to let disagreements over language distract them from tackling the issue of housing.
"We have a lot of things in common, especially housing," Holness said. "Once we made a list of [what's included in] our programs, it was an exceptional fit."
The municipal elections are set for Nov. 6 and 7.