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The anticipated rematch of the last mayoral race pitted Ms. Plante’s party, the left-leaning and ecoconscious Projet Montréal, against Mr. Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal.Andrej Ivanov/The Globe and Mail

Valérie Plante has been re-elected mayor of Montreal in a striking endorsement of her controversial brand of green urbanism that has criss-crossed the city with bike lanes, often angering drivers and small businesses, as she scored a second surprise victory over Denis Coderre, the man she unseated four years ago.

For Mr. Coderre, a former Liberal cabinet minister, this defeat comes as a humbling failure to redeem his upset loss in 2017, after a campaign when personal liabilities undermined his message of security and competent management.

The anticipated rematch of the last mayoral race pitted Ms. Plante’s party, the left-leaning and ecoconscious Projet Montréal, against Mr. Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, with its focus on law and order and economic development.

Projet partisans gathered at a downtown theatre screamed with joy as Ms. Plante’s re-election was announced on Sunday night, chanting “Valérie, Valérie,“ in recognition of the woman who has transformed their party from an idealistic upstart to a local political powerhouse.

With more than half of polling places reporting, she had received 53 per cent of ballots cast to 37 per cent for Mr. Coderre.

Addressing the party faithful in a speech punctuated with bursts of her famous laughter, Ms. Plante said her re-election proved that “the election of Projet Montréal in 2017 was not an accident. … It was, in fact, the beginning of a new era, of governing Montreal in a different way. … A Montreal that is green, that is innovative. A Montreal where housing is affordable, where the streets are safe, where the green spaces are numerous.”

“The next four years will be decisive for Montreal,” she added. “We have a unique chance to accelerate our ecological transition and put Montreal at the forefront of the world economy of the future.”

The loss may end Mr. Coderre’s roller coaster career in municipal politics. After years of demoralizing corruption investigations that led to the resignation of one mayor and the arrest and eventual conviction of another, Mr. Coderre swept into power with a mandate to clean up City Hall. He created the post of inspector-general to root out graft and endeared himself to voters, at first, with his energy and showmanship.

But Montrealers eventually soured on his publicity stunts (such as jackhammering an unpopular Canada Post community mailbox) and penchant for expensive megaprojects. His advocacy for the controversial Formula E electric car race played an outsized role in his downfall, when residents came to see it as a wasteful vanity project.

Left-leaning and ecologically minded, Projet Montréal swept to citywide power in 2017 after years governing the dense central borough of Le Plateau-Mont-Royal with an ambitious program of building bike lanes and widening sidewalks to encourage modes of transport other than driving. Its sunny leader, Ms. Plante, wooed voters with an upbeat feminist pitch that billed her, tongue-in-cheek, as “The right man for the job” (L’homme de la situation).

Although the party fulfilled a number of its progressive promises – including some of North America’s strictest requirements for social and family housing in new developments – Ms. Plante and her team looked vulnerable in the lead-up to this campaign. Some of the mayor’s favoured urban design projects, such as a cycling highway on Saint-Denis Street and the reconfiguration of commercial strip Sainte-Catherine Street, involved grinding construction and headaches for drivers.

In the meantime, Mr. Coderre was planning his return to politics – and waging a well-publicized weight loss campaign – before finally publishing a book about his plans for the city and launching his campaign in March. Presenting himself as a competent administrator who would run a more orderly city and control housing prices by allowing for more density, he jumped to an early lead in the polls.

But Mr. Coderre stumbled in some of his policy proposals, such as allowing construction of skyscrapers taller than the city’s beloved Mount Royal and banning drinking in parks after 8 p.m., both of which he rescinded after backlash.

His emphasis on security seemed to resonate with some Montrealers made anxious by a series of brazen gang shootings in suburban neighbourhoods, but his poll numbers declined after the official launch of the campaign in September. He and Ms. Plante both promised to hire 250 more police officers in their next term, while the only candidate to aggressively criticize the police – former CFL player and anti-racism activist Balarama Holness – polled a distant third.

Housing emerged as the top issue in the race, fuelled by soaring real estate prices and steadily climbing rents, both unfamiliar in an historically affordable city. Ms. Plante has promised to spend $800-million buying land for affordable housing and to build 60,000 affordable units in the coming years.

The last days of the campaign were dominated by an increasingly bitter fight over transparency and personal ethics, when it emerged that Mr. Coderre had worked as a consultant for companies that interact with the city government during his four years in the political wilderness. The mayor accused Mr. Coderre of hiding potential conflicts of interest, while he, in turn, accused Ms. Plante of covering up a sexual assault accusation against one of her candidates.

Ms. Plante’s re-election effort seems to have been boosted by a sense that Montreal is in good shape, overall. The city’s higher home prices and a recent labour shortage are side effects of an economic winning streak for the city, as it becomes a hub for growing tech industries such as video games, AI and special effects. Many of the Plante administration’s controversial urban planning schemes, meanwhile, like the Saint-Denis bike artery, have turned out to be relatively popular.

“Despite the difficulties, despite the uncertainty, despite the little fears, we’re doing super well in Montreal,” said Florence Junca-Adenot, an urban studies professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal.

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