Montreal mayoral candidates wonder how to boost tourism

Valérie Plante and Denis Coderre agree that downtown needs an elevator, but they don’t agree on how to get there.

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To boost tourism, the city needs to revitalize the city center, top mayoral candidates said Thursday.

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However, neither Valérie Plante nor Denis Coderre agreed on how to proceed.

The candidates debated the theme of tourism during an event organized by Tourisme Montréal at the Palais des congrès. The debate was moderated by UQAM marketing professor Paul Arseneault.

Coderre said that as mayor he would see if he could use tax break to revitalize restaurants and hotels in Montreal. He would also consider reallocating some office buildings, as many are currently vacant.

“Unfortunately, there has been a lack of leadership on this front,” Coderre said of Plante’s management of the downtown economy.

Later in the debate, Plante hit back, saying a mayor should be an event promoter, but Coderre doesn’t have a good track record on that front.

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“I’m really worried that Mr. Coderre will put his event promoter cap back on, because we all know what’s happened with Formula E. It’s something that scares me,” said Plante, referring to to the electric car race in 2018 which became a boondoggle and likely contributed to his electoral defeat.

Plante said she was proud of what her administration has done so far, after reviewing the Ste-Catherine Street renovation plan, remaking Phillips Square and designing a new Oscar Peterson Square, which will be a plaza exterior at the end of avenue McGill College.

For his part, Coderre said he was a great ambassador for the city when he was mayor. He said he raised the profile of Montreal during his tenure, which was marked by a celebration of the city’s 375th anniversary. He is also proud of some of the projects he launched while he was mayor, such as the redesign of Robert-Bourassa Boulevard. and the surfacing of the Ville-Marie expressway near the town hall.

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Plante said she was proud her administration listened to the needs of the tourism industry, adding that it also listened to citizens when they complained last year about the number of construction projects in the city. This led to her canceling 40 percent of planned downtown projects.

She said her administration hopes to “take back the shores” with a promenade that will allow people to walk and cycle between Nuns’ Island and Old Montreal, passing under the Victoria Bridge.

Coderre said he represents experience and skill and will have a well thought out plan, while Plante said she aims to make the city more livable for its citizens and will work with all partners and listen to stakeholders.

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Coderre said he would like to explore other tools to help restaurateurs, such as allowing them to build heated terraces so they can have more capacity during the colder months. For her part, Plante said she is already working on heated terraces and hopes to set up a pilot project this winter.

Both candidates have said they want to master Airbnb units as well.

Things turned sour during question period when Coderre accused Plante of mismanaging the city’s finances, pointing out that the city’s net debt is now at 120 percent of its revenue.

Plante retaliated.

“You are lying when you say that we are about to see our credit rating go down; Montreal is in very good financial health, ”she said.

Coderre reprimanded Plante: “To insult me, you have to understand how it works.

In other campaign news, Plante presented his candidates on Wednesday night, revealing a list of 61 women and 42 men. Forty-seven percent of his party’s candidates are from visible and ethnic minorities.

Thursday, Coderre unveiled its plan to improve city services. It includes the increase in the snow removal budget and the improvement of the 311 telephone service.

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