Montreal's 'third option' candidate maintains call for bilingual city status, city-state ideas on the table

Montreal mayoral candidate Balarama Holness says he wants more bilingual services for Montrealers, while frontrunner candidates Valerie Plante and Denis Coderre made their pitches to seniors Friday. 

BILINGUAL CITY-STATE WITH A FRENCH CHARTER

Balarama Holness, the self-proclaimed "third option" candidate, commented Friday on whether the recent merge with Raillement Pour Montréal would change Mouvement Montreal's platform. 

The new Mouvement Montreal-Ralliement Pour Montreal alliance will maintain Holness's promise to "officially recognize Montreal as bilingual (French and English) metropolis."

Holness said, however, the party won't move to change the Montreal Charter.

"We won't touch the Montreal Charter, which says Montreal is a French city. But that doesn’t impact the reality, which is that Montreal is a multicultural, bilingual city," he said. "We are going to provide services, documentation in both languages."

Holness also said his party won't push Quebec Premier Francois Legault to modify the Charter of the French Language.

While speaking with Elias Makos on CJAD 800, Holness said that Quebec's Bill 96 was "extremely problematic," particularly the CAQ government's suggestion that it would use the notwithstanding clause to enforce it.

His alliance with Ralliement, however, led to compromises on some aspects of his party's original platform.

Holness is okay with people calling him "Mr. Inclusion," in working with Ralliement mayoral candidate Marc-Antoine Desjardins, who said on Twitter that there would be "no bilingual status" in Montreal, but "a new way of bringing our two solitudes together."

1/2Bonjour,
La charte de la ville de Montréal ne sera pas modifiée.

La valorisation de notre culture et de notre langue française sera maintenue comme prévue dans notre programme.

On s’entend sur le fait que nous avons plus de points en commun que de divergences.

— Marc-Antoine Desjardins (@Desjardins_MA) September 30, 2021

"I'm trying to bridge that gap and include these two solitudes that have been divided forever," said Holness.  

On making Montreal a city-state, Holness said he wants the $200 billion the metropolis generates to come back to Montreal, and not just the $6 million in the budget.

"The means through which we got to that (city-state status), essentially is that we need more money," said Holness. "Montreal needs to be recognized as a metropolis. Does Montreal need to go all the way to the point of being recognized as a city state in order to get more money? That is on the table."

Holness wants the city's budget to be closer to $14 billion.

"The solution I brought forth was the city's state status," he said. "We need to do more to retain more of our finances."

PITCH TO SENIORS

Front-runners in the mayoral race - Valerie Plante and Denis Coderre - spoke about what they'd do for the elderly in the metropolis on National Seniors' Day.

Plante said she wants to implement free public transit by 2023, safer streets with wider sidewalks and a property tax deferral program for seniors.

"If a senior citizen paid $2,000 annually, we would make sure to limit the increase so that his or her payments are similar from year to year until they decide to sell their home and from there will take what was missing," said Plante.

Coderre is promising almost the exact same programs, and that all seniors living in low-cost city housing will have air conditioning.

"We will provide them with the tools to make everyone feel like first-class citizens, that's it," he said.

Holness said he wants to allow more time for seniors to cross at crosswalks and to make metro stations more accessible.

"If you are a senior and you have trouble going up and down stairs, there are many metro stations that do not have elevators making it non-accessible so that's something we wanted to concretely put to the forefront," he said.

-- With reporting from CTV New Montreal reporter Rob Lurie. 

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