Denis Coderre can be cowardly with the truth. Do people care?
During the municipal election campaign, the leader of Ensemble Montréal and mayoral candidate Denis Coderre had a complicated relationship with the truth.
On more than one occasion, Coderre has presented facts and figures which have subsequently turned out to be false.
Allegations range from allegations that Montreal’s credit rating was down – it was not – to Montreal having experienced “400 shootings”, during gun violence talks – it was not .
The comments do not seem to affect the popularity of Coderre. Recent polls show that the former mayor is neck and neck with his main rival, the outgoing Valérie Plante, who heads Projet Montreal.
Many statements were made as Coderre spoke out of the blue. Most were said by answering questions at press conferences.
CBC News and Radio-Canada have verified certain Coderre statements. Here is what we found.
Speaking at a press conference announcing his downtown revitalization plan, Coderre was asked whether or not he was scary during the election campaign.
Coderre had previously suggested that Montreal was dangerous and compared it to Beirut after the Lebanese Civil War.
“If I’m scary, what did I say that scared?” ” He asked. “What are you going to say to these families right now, who are afraid because there are more than 400 shootings? ”
There have not been 400 shootings in Montreal this year.
From January to the end of September, there were 97 incidents where a gun was unloaded, according to Montreal police.
The SPVM specified that these cases include times when a firearm was used without targeting someone – shooting in the air, for example.
If we also include all of 2018, 2019 and 2020, the total rises to 236 incidents.
Asked by CBC this week about the gap, Coderre said he had not said there were 400 shootings. He claims to have said that 400 bullet casings were found, although video from the press conference shows otherwise.
He also said he didn’t know what the English word for envelopes was.
French-language newspaper La Presse previously ran an article saying 367 bullet casings had been found in the city up to the end of August.
Speaking to Radio-Canada All morning Radio broadcast in September, Coderre said that Montreal’s credit rating was in danger of being downgraded because of the Plante administration’s financial record.
Coderre was asked what his definition of an “effective” mayor was, in reference to his campaign posters. He explained how a mayor must commit to assuming financial responsibility.
“What people want is to have someone who is able to manage finances, to raise billions of dollars,” he told Radio-Canada. “We are even on the verge of being downgraded in terms of credit.”
Montreal’s credit rating has not been and should not be lowered.
At the end of June, the credit agency DBRS Morningstar confirmed that it was maintaining the “A” rating of the city of Montreal. He cited “the city’s prudent fiscal framework, its large and well-diversified economic structure, relatively predictable income and tight control over spending.”
Standard & Poor also maintained the city’s “AA-” rating this year.
Coderre maintained his comments when questioned by CBC.
“It’s true,” he asserted. “It depends on which side you are on [on]. “
He pointed to Montreal’s accumulated spending and debt, and the fact that the province of Quebec provided additional funds, which he called “living with Quebec money”.
“It’s not a question of truth. It’s a question of perspective,” Coderre said.
Michael Yake, senior vice president of Moody’s Canada, said in an interview that while the credit agency is monitoring Montreal’s debt, it is not yet in degrading territory.
Moody’s gave the city an “Aa2” rating, the third highest possible rating, with a stable outlook. Montreal has held this score since 2015, when Coderre was mayor and before Plante was elected in 2017.
“If we thought there was a downgrade, we would have a negative outlook,” Yake said. “The fact that this is a stable outlook suggests that the note is there for the next 12-18 months.”
He said the debt burden would have to be 130% of the city’s revenue to trigger a downgrade. Currently, the city’s debt is around 110 percent and is expected to reach 120 percent.
“If this were to continue for several years, it could add to the downward pressure on the rating.”
At a press conference on his environmental policy at the end of September, Coderre was asked about a recent the death of the cyclist and its plans for cycling safety.
“Unfortunately, over the past four years there have been even more cyclist deaths,” he said.
This is not correct. The Plante administration was elected in the fall of 2017. According to the Montreal police, the number of bicycle fatalities in the city per year has since decreased, but not increased.
“Looking at the numbers, the number of deaths has decreased,” said Jean-François Rheault, President and CEO of the Vélo Québec cycling organization.
As for 2021, the SPVM said there have been three cycling fatalities in the city so far this year.
“The number of fatalities and serious injuries is dropping. It’s safer to cycle in Montreal than it was 10 years ago, ”said Rheault.
“[Coderre’s comments] implied that cycling may not be safe, which it is not. “
When asked if it was possible that Coderre simply misinterpreted the numbers, Rheault was firm.
“The numbers are pretty clear, so – no.”
Ensemble Montréal has not responded to repeated requests for comment on this statement.
A change of strategy
Sometimes Coderre backtracked in the municipal election.
At the start of the campaign, Coderre proposed a new ban on drinking in public parks after 8 p.m. After a public backlash, his party dropped the proposal.
At a press conference on Truth and Reconciliation Day last month, Coderre announced he would restore a statue of John A. Macdonald to Canada Place downtown. The statue was famous shot by protesters last year.
Coderre then clarified his position, saying he would not put the statue back in the same spot on an elevated platform.
Even on questions that do not fall under public order, Coderre has made mistakes. At the same press conference, he was asked why he attributed a quote in his book, Find Montreal, to Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel when that is not correct.
“No, no, no, no. Elie Wiesel said [it]”, Coderre replied at the time.
The quote – “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” – is largely attributed to the philosopher George Santayana, not Wiesel.
“[Politicians] aren’t perfect, ”said Harold Chorney, professor of political science at Concordia.
“They make mistakes and sometimes they don’t tell the truth. You could say, out of charity, most of the time, that they don’t tell the truth by mistake – rather than deliberately lying.”
Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal are not immune to false declarations.
The Plante administration claimed to have exceeded its goal of building 6,000 affordable housing units in four years, but in June 2020, the Auditor General of Montreal found that the city’s AccèsLogis program had not produced any completed and inhabited housing.
However, Plante does not seem to have the same propensity for boastfulness as Coderre.
Chorney described it as “a more efficient calculator of the right thing to say”.
Despite that, he said those moments could also work to Coderre’s advantage.
“He’s gregarious, you know? Pat on the shoulder, pat on the back. ‘How are you?'” Said Chorney. “He can be charming. I mean, that’s part of its appeal.
Being upfront and speaking out of the blue is part of that charm, he said.
But Danielle Pilette, an associate professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) who studies municipal governance, said Coderre’s comments are part of a broader strategy.
She said Coderre had proposed large, large-scale projects for Montreal and “justified these projects with a negative view of the current state of the city, in terms of city finances, city security, and et cetera, ”she told CBC.
However, when the strategy did not seem to bear fruit, she said the ex-mayor appears to have changed course for a different kind of campaign.
“Now Coderre must play on the same political ground as [Plante], which includes green spaces, quality of life and affordable housing. “