Montreal's top mayoral candidates, incumbent Denis Coderre and Projet Montréal's Valérie Plante, debated the merits of Plante's new metro line proposal and why Coderre isn't releasing ticket sales of the controversial Formula E in their first TV head-to-head Sunday night.
The two appeared on Radio-Canada's popular talk show Tout le monde en parle, which was taped Thursday and aired Sunday night.
The informal debate lasted 18 minutes and featured the show's signature glasses of red wine distributed to each guest. Neither candidate touched theirs.
Both were cordial, preferring to communicate their objections through facial expressions.
The conversations also included contributions from two of the show's earlier guests, acclaimed musicians Robert Charlebois and Dan Bigras.
Formula E ticket sales post-election
Bigras, a popular Quebec rock singer, stepped in when host Guy A. Lepage asked the incumbent about the Formula E electric car race that disrupted the city's downtown in July, upsetting residents and businesses boxed in by the track.
"I can't believe… it's impossible that we can't count [tickets]. I'm not talking about the economic benefits, but strictly of the number of tickets sold," Bigras said in one of the night's more tense exchanges.
He was critical of the fact Montrealers would have to wait until after the Nov. 5 municipal election to find out about the financial impacts of the race.
Coderre reiterated one of the only numbers released since the race, that 45,000 people had attended the weekend-long event that is costing the city $24 million over six years.
Charlebois questioned another aspect of the race, the fact it was held downtown.
Coderre replied that its founders wouldn't allow it to be held anywhere else, to which co-host Dany Turcotte replied that it was because of the "nice pictures."
Charlebois rolled his eyes and Plante said she didn't believe that.
Pink line price tag unrealistic: Coderre
The first topic of the night, though, was public transit, mostly about the 29-station Pink Metro line proposed by Plante and Projet Montréal, who say it would only cost $6 billion.
Coderre says the price tag isn't realistic. He pointed to the planned extension of the Blue line, expected to cost $3 billion and with only five new stations.
"Good year, bad year, it's at least $300 million per [metro] station. So, when we calculate it, it's not $6 billion, it's going to cost $10 billion," he said.
But Plante argues another line is necessary as an extension would only put more pressure on the Metro's other already clogged arteries.
She says the line's construction would cost less than other similar projects because it would use tunnel-boring technology that digs deep pathways underground without tearing up city streets.
Sharing the road
The candidates were asked about another mobility issue — cycling — which is on Montrealers' minds this month, following the death of 18-year-old Clément Ouimet.
Ouimet was struck and killed by a vehicle performing an illegal U-turn on Mount Royal Oct. 4, leading to calls for better bike safety on the mountain and elsewhere in the city.
Lepage asked what the candidates would do to improve the culture between drivers, bikers and pedestrians, and their willingness to share the road with each other.
Coderre said the city was investing money to do so with its Vision Zéro campaign and Plante said she would encourage more bike paths with physical barriers, "not just paint on the ground."
Both Plante and Coderre are open to Amazon moving its headquarters to the city. A number of other big North American cities have indicated they'd like to host the e-commerce retailer, which is asking for free land, subsidies to help pay employee salaries and a 15-year engagement.
"An apple turnover with that?" Lepage joked.
Coderre said it would be a boon for Montreal, while Plante said she wanted to make sure negotiations benefit the city, too.
An island-wide Plateau?
Plante was teased by Lepage about incumbent Plateau-Mont-Royal borough mayor Luc Ferrandez of Projet Montréal, who has been criticized for changing street directions and cutting out parking spots in the neighbourhood.
"If you become mayor, will the whole city become like a big Plateau-Mont-Royal, with streets changing directions, businesses that close and snow removal every leap year?" Lepage quipped.
Plante laughed. "The answer: no!" she said, leaping up in her seat.
She noted many of Ferrandez's changes had been appreciated by cyclists and pedestrians and that the neighbourhood was one of the most popular places in the city.
"I'm the leader of Projet Montréal … not Luc Ferrandez, that's the difference," Plante retorted.