Denis Coderre is quitting municipal politics, after 2nd mayoral defeat

·3 min read
Denis Coderre is quitting municipal politics, after 2nd mayoral defeat
Denis Coderres says he's stepping down as the leader of Ensemble Montréal and quitting politics for good.   (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Denis Coderres says he's stepping down as the leader of Ensemble Montréal and quitting politics for good. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Denis Coderre is quitting municipal politics — again — and will not be the leader of the opposition at city hall.

Coderre announced his decision Friday following a closed-door meeting with members of his party, Ensemble Montréal, at a community centre in the city's Villeray neighbourhood.

He failed to win back his former spot as the mayor of Montreal during last Sunday's municipal elections, losing to incumbent Valérie Plante by 14 percentage points, an even wider margin than when she defeated him in 2017.

Coderre told a group of reporters that after 40 years in politics, it was time to move on for good.

He also said he felt the latest municipal campaign was a referendum on his personality, instead of the parties' platforms.

"In the end, it wasn't about the issues, it was about me," he said.

Four years ago, Coderre also stepped away from his party, which was called Équipe Denis Coderre, but was rebranded as Ensemble Montréal after he left.

His departure leaves a leadership void in the opposition at city hall.

The previous opposition leader, Lionel Perez, who is also a member of Ensemble Montréal, lost his bid to become borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in Sunday's election.

Last March, Coderre released a book called Retrouver Montréal, which he touted as his vision for the city, while announcing he would once again run for mayor.

For much of the campaign, opinion polls suggested a tight race between Plante and Coderre, who emphasized the importance of economic development and public safety during his mayoral run.

In the final week, the veteran politician and former federal cabinet minister came under criticism for initially refusing to disclose the consulting work he did prior to confirming his candidacy.

WATCH | Denis Coderre explains why he is leaving politics:

When asked why he believes he lost two consecutive elections to Plante, Coderre did not provide a direct answer.

"I was not running against Valérie Plante, I was running for Montreal," he said, echoing something he said several times during the campaign.

Parting shots for Plante, low voter turnout

While addressing the media, the longtime politician took a few digs at the current mayor and leader of Projet Montréal.

"Unfortunately, during this campaign, we didn't really talk about the [Plante administration's] last four years," he said. "I have the impression that environment [policies] from Projet Montréal was copying word for word many of our ideas."

During his concession speech last Sunday, Coderre said the race "one of the dirtiest campaigns" he had ever experienced. On Friday, he reiterated his belief that his camp ran a clean campaign that focused on issues.

Coderre said he reached out to Plante in the days following her victory and congratulated her. He also insists he is not bitter about the election loss.

He also lamented the low voter turnout in the city, which was around 38 per cent.

"[Montreal] is starting to look like a "big school board," he said, in reference to the extremely low voter turnout for school board elections.

In a statement, Plante described her two-time opponent as someone who cares about the city, wished him well in his future endeavours, and said her administration would "offer its full collaboration" to the person who succeeds him as leader of the official opposition.

Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada
Jean-Claude Taliana/Radio-Canada

What's next for Coderre?

Despite another convincing election loss, Coderre said he is encouraged by his party's prospects, adding that he feels confident that Ensemble Montréal has "four or five potential candidates" that could become the city's next mayor.

"We are the true alternative [to Projet Montréal]," he said. "I feel good about the team, I feel good about the people who are elected who are doing a great job."

He did not specify what his plans were moving forward. He did say he would try to find different ways to make the city better, even if his career as a politician is over.

"I will contribute to the development of Montreal in other ways," he said. "We have to make room for other generations."

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