POLITICS

Valérie Plante To Become Montreal's First Female Mayor; Defeats Denis Coderre

"We have made history."

11/05/2017 22:40 EST | Updated 11/06/2017 12:21 EST
Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Valerie Plante speaks to supporters after being elected mayor of Montreal during the municipal election on Sunday.

MONTREAL - Valérie 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.

Coderre said just after 10:30 p.m. that he'd called Plante to congratulate her. He later announced he was leaving municipal politics.

In her victory speech, Plante reiterated her campaign promises, which include improving public transit and lessening road congestion, as well as adding green spaces and social housing.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Valérie Plante with husband Pierre-Antoine Harvey, right, and their two sons after Plante was elected mayor of Montreal on Sunday.

"During the course of this campaign, I had one goal in mind: I wanted to put Montrealers first and I'm not going to change that," she told a roomful of cheering supporters at a downtown theatre.

"I'm going to put Montrealers first, I'm going to get Montreal moving again, I'm going to build safer roads for pedestrians, seniors and cyclists."

Plante, 43, was leading with over 51 per cent of the vote with almost all polls reporting, compared to just under 46 per cent for Coderre.

"We have made history," she tweeted. "Thank you, Montreal!"

Plante will be the first female mayor elected in Montreal in the city's 375-year history, and Montreal will be the largest North American city with a female mayor, according to CTV News.

She 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.

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

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Valérie Plante's supporters react as votes comes in projecting her win on election night during the municipal election in Montreal on Sunday.

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.

Her signature campaign promise was a new 29-stop subway line that would link the city's densely populated northeast to downtown.

During her victory speech, she appealed to the provincial and federal governments to partner with her on her two biggest campaign promises: the subway line and increasing social housing in the city.

"In Quebec and Ottawa, I invite you to act on the strong message that Montrealers are sending you," she said.

"I know we can't do it tomorrow, but we can start working together, immediately, for those who need it most."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saluted Plante's historic victory in a tweet late Sunday night.

"Congratulations @Val_Plante, first-ever woman elected mayor of Montreal! I'm looking forward to working together on our shared priorities," he wrote.

The outgoing Coderre, a former Liberal MP and cabinet minister who was elected mayor in 2013, had campaigned largely on his record.

He had highlighted his ambitious infrastructure renewal plan, naming an inspector general to oversee the awarding of city contracts, and negotiating increased powers for the city from the province.

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

He was criticized for spending millions on showy projects to celebrate the city's 375th birthday, and drew the ire of dog lovers when he introduced legislation last year to ban pit bulls from the city.

Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Outgoing Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre makes his concession speech after losing the municipal election on Sunday in Montreal.

In his concession speech, Coderre announced he would be leaving municipal politics but said he remained proud of what he'd accomplished.

"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."

Incumbents fared better elsewhere in the province, including in Quebec City where Mayor Regis Labeaume easily won a fourth term.

Marc Demers was re-elected in Laval, as was Yves Levesque in Trois-Rivieres and Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin in Gatineau.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS
Valérie Plante stands on a Montreal street corner on Wednesday.

There was a surprise in Sherbrooke, however, where incumbent Bernard Sevigny lost the mayoral race to independent candidate Steve Lussier.

Some 858 municipal elections were held across the province, with over 8,000 mayor or councillor jobs up for grabs.

Of those, about half were already filled by election day by candidates who ran unopposed.

With a file from HuffPost Canada.

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