Valerie Plante made history in Montreal’s mayoral election on Sunday, defeating incumbent Denis Coderre in a stunning upset to become the first female mayor in the city’s 375-year history.
A relative newcomer to municipal politics, Plante run on a campaign of improving public transit, including building a new 29-station metro line and lessening road congestion, as well as adding green spaces and social housing.
“During the course of this campaign, I had one thing in mind: put Montrealers first. I’m not going to change that,” she told a group of cheering supporters at Montreal’s Corona Theatre.
“I’m going to get Montrealers moving again. I’m going to build safer roads for pedestrians, seniors and cyclists.”
Plante managed to get about 51 per cent of the vote against Coderre’s 46 per cent despite a relatively low voter turnout.
Only 41 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot, compared to 44 per cent in the last election.
In his concession speech Coderre, a veteran politician and a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, announced that he was leaving municipal politics.
“I’m leaving with my head high,” he said. “Montreal is an exceptional city, Montreal is a metropolis that is the envy of the world.”
While Coderre had been credited with cleaning up corruption at city hall by naming an inspector general to oversee the awarding of city contracts and negotiating greater powers for Montreal, his brash style of leadership had rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.
Plante, 43, entered municipal politics in 2013. In 2016, she was elected leader of the left-leaning party Projet Montreal.
Plante began the mayoral race as a relative unknown but opinion polls showed her steadily gaining on Coderre as the campaign continued.
The mother of two, who cycles or takes public transit to work, sought throughout the campaign to present herself as less flamboyant and more in touch with Montrealers than her opponent.
With files from CBC News and The Canadian Press