Denis Coderre clings to politics, enters Quebec Liberal Party leadership race

Denis Coderre wants to be the next premier of Quebec.

On Friday morning, the former mayor of Montreal and federal minister officially announced his candidacy for the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party.

Coderre, who represented a Montreal riding when he was an MP, intends to run in the Quebec City-area riding of Bellechasse in the 2026 provincial election. Stéphanie Lachance, who's with Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) is the riding's current MNA.

He said he chose Bellechasse for its "federalist" character, its large French-speaking population and its reputation in the agricultural and industrial sectors. In recent decades, the riding has elected Liberal candidates on several occasions but also chose other parties including the Parti Québécois (PQ) and the Action Démocratique du Québec, which merged with the CAQ in 2012.

Coderre was the mayor of Montreal from 2013 to 2017, when he was defeated by Valérie Plante. Coderre stepped away from his party, which at the time bore his name, before running for mayor with the party again during the 2021 municipal elections.

Plante defeated Coderre a second time, by a wider margin, prompting him to announce that he was leaving politics for good.

Setting the tone

After he made his announcement in front of the National Assembly, he invited "all the disappointed Liberals" to come back and join him.

"I think we need experienced men and women," he said. "I've always loved this party. I have deep roots in it, no matter what anyone says. I think it's important for us to come together again."

He tried to set an early tone for his eventual campaign by addressing the issues of systemic racism, Indigenous peoples' rights, and immigration.

He said he was in favour of the controversial third link project, criticizing the CAQ government in the process for its "lack of credibility."

Quebec City's two existing links to its southshore suburbs, the Quebec Bridge and the Pierre-Laporte Bridge.
Quebec City's two existing links to its South Shore suburbs are the Quebec Bridge and the Pierre-Laporte Bridge. François Legault's CAQ government has set creating a third transportation link across the St. Lawrence River as one of its priorities. But the project has been modified several times. (Radio-Canada)

The staunch federalist also reiterated his opposition to a sovereignty referendum.

"I don't need a new country. I've got one," Coderre said, before throwing a jab at the PQ. "The best way not to have a referendum is not to vote for them."

Federalist credentials

Coderre's choice of riding is an attempt to take on the CAQ "on its territory," according to Daniel Béland, a professor of political science and the director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

The CAQ-dominated riding could be one of many territories the candidate would like to conquer.

Béland said Coderre's "unorthodox" position on the third link in Quebec City — which has been a "nightmare for the CAQ," draws attention to his campaign.

"There is something a bit populist about him," he said, which could set him apart from other candidates.

"Right now, we cannot say there is some kind of wave that's pushing him up. It's the opposite, actually, if you look at polling numbers," said Béland.

He said that with the rise of the PQ in the polls, the decline of the CAQ and the possibility of a third referendum, Coderre's leadership could be an opportunity for the party to "return to their traditional position as leaders of the federalist camp."

His strong federalism could help him "score some points" within the party, Béland said.

Former MP and Montreal mayor Denis Coderre walks to a news conference with his life partner Annie Pare, friends and supporters, Friday, June 21, 2024  in Quebec City. Coderre announced his decision to run for the Quebec Liberal leadership for the next election.
Former MP and Montreal mayor Denis Coderre walks to a news conference with his life partner Annie Paré, friends and supporters, Friday, June 21, 2024, in Quebec City. Coderre announced his decision to run for the Quebec Liberal leadership. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

The race for the Liberal Party leadership won't start until January 2025.

According to Radio-Canada, other people are also thinking about joining the race, including Frédéric Beauchemin, MNA for Marguerite-Bourgeoys, Charles Milliard who recently stepped down as president of the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ), and the mayor of Victoriaville, Antoine Tardif.

The Quebec Liberals are still recovering from the last provincial election result.

In 2022, the Liberals maintained their status as the Official Opposition at the National Assembly but received only 14 per cent of the popular vote. Dominique Anglade stepped down as the party's leader a little more than a month later.

Marc Tanguay has been serving as the party's interim leader.

Prior to entering municipal politics, Coderre spent 16 years at the federal level, serving as the MP for the Bourassa riding, which includes Montréal-Nord and part of the Ahuntsic–Cartierville borough.

The good and bad of Coderre's time as mayor

When Coderre was mayor, the Quebec government granted metropolis status to the City of Montreal, which came with greater autonomy in matters of economic, social and cultural development.

Coderre's four-year stint at city hall also included the city's 375th anniversary celebrations.

Fireworks explode over an illuminated Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal Wednesday, night to celebrate the city's 375th birthday.
Fireworks exploded over an illuminated Jacques-Cartier Bridge in Montreal in 2017 to celebrate the city's 375th birthday. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

In 2017, he oversaw hundreds of events meant to mark the occasion, including the lighting of the Jacques-Cartier Bridge, which has become a mainstay in the city skyline.

One of the major events for the celebrations, however, was shrouded in controversy.

The Formula E race came with a price tag of $24 million. It was held in the streets of downtown Montreal instead of the Gilles-Villeneuve race track, a move that led to major inconveniences for several people and businesses in the downtown core.

Coderre praised the event as a success at the time, but it was later revealed that more than 40 per cent of tickets had been given away for free.

After becoming mayor, Valérie Plante scrapped the event, a decision that led to a lawsuit.