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Valerie Plante's election signals a move away from old-style politics: analyst

Montreal's new mayor Valerie Plante shares a laugh with members of the media while standing on the front steps of City Hall Monday, November 6, 2017 in Montreal. Plante scored a stunning upset in Montreal's mayoral election on Sunday, defeating incumbent Denis Coderre to become the first woman to win the post. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
November 06, 2017 - 1:43 PM

MONTREAL - Valerie Plante's election as Montreal mayor sends a clear message that people are tired of old-style politics, according to one political scientist.

Concordia University's Daniel Salee described former mayor Denis Coderre as "a sort of grumpy old bear" who thought he knew what was best for Montreal.

"Coderre is an old politician in a sense that his approach is one that's been favoured by the older generation of politicians, which is essentially smear campaigns and attacking or essentially trying to delegitimize the positions of their adversaries," Salee said in an interview Monday.

'I think we've reached the point where people are not interested in these types of old tactics where politics appears to be a competition, a fight to the finish.''

Enter Plante who, with her constant smile, appeared to connect with Montrealers over the last few months on her way to becoming the city's first female mayor.

"You don't have to be a professional politician to do this job and that's the message people are sending, that you are going to have to be more attentive to what the people are saying and you're going to have to listen to what they have to say," Salee said.

The political analyst added that if Coderre had been re-elected, what Montrealers would have seen in the next five years is more of a man who thinks he owns the city.

"He was already going in that direction," Salee added.

While Montreal's economy boomed during his mandate, Coderre was often branded by opponents as an arrogant leader who made hasty decisions with little consultation.

About a week before the election, he addressed head-on the arrogance allegations.

"Listen, to be arrogant is to be determined,'' Coderre said, adding it's not easy running a city with a $5-billion budget and 28,000 employees. "Sometimes you have to have somebody who can take the heat and can make a difference.''

Plante's victory is considered historic in a city where municipal politics has long been male-dominated.

"It's changed a little over the past few decades, but it's changing slowly," Salee said.

Youssef Amane, Plante's press secretary, says the new mayor's trademark smile is not fake, adding she's like that all the time.

"So definitely what you see is what you get," he said in an interview Monday. "It's genuine."

Amane said Plante, 43, actually began a pre-election campaign back in August and has been on the hustings non-stop for three months.

"Her level of energy was just flabbergasting," he said, adding she was always willing to listen to what people had to say.

"Her sense of humour and her ability to find positives in every situation is really helpful in terms of dealing with the crazy life on the campaign trail."

Amane admitted Plante raises the bar and expects everyone to come prepared for meetings.

"I've been working with her for many months now and I've never seen her lose her temper," he said.

Plante, who was born in Rouyn-Noranda in northwestern Quebec, spent a year as a teenager in North Bay, Ont., to learn English.

She moved to Montreal at the age of 19 and attended university where she received degrees in anthropology and museology.

She then worked for a number of non-profit organizations.

Plante entered municipal politics in 2013 when she won a council seat in a contest that pitted her against former provincial cabinet minister Louise Harel.

In 2016, she was elected leader of the left-leaning party Projet Montreal.

The mother of two began the mayoral race as a relative unknown but opinion polls showed her steadily gaining on Coderre as the campaign continued.

Her signature campaign promise was the new subway line that would link the city's densely populated northeast to downtown.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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