By Robert Frank
Laval’s city councillors have picked Alexandre Duplessis to serve as mayor until municipal elections are held in November 2013. The post was vacated when longtime mayor Gilles Vaillancourt resigned, Nov. 9.
In a secret-ballot vote during a special city council meeting, Nov. 23, they plumped for Duplessis by 15 votes to three, over St. François Councillor Jacques St. Jean.
The interim mayor is a 42-year-old accountant who recently resigned from his job as development manager at waste-recycling firm EBI-Energie. He wasted no time in taking the reins of Quebec’s third-largest city.
Immediately after the vote the erstwhile councillor for St. Martin district was sworn in to office. He then made a public statement reassuring Laval residents that the city is in the hands of “a competent and dedicated management team.”
Mayor Duplessis promised to open a new era of municipal administration.
“We intend to implement more stringent controls and operate more transparently,” he pledged, vowing to beef up the resources at the disposal of the city’s auditor-general.
Duplessis also committed the city to move forward with construction of the Place Bell arena, adjacent to the Montmorency metro station, as well as new cultural, sports and aquatic centres.
“On Dec. 13, the city’s 2013 budget will spell out the priorities for Laval and its citizens,” he stated.
All members of city council, including the interim mayor were, until two weeks ago, members of former mayor Vaillancourt’s political party. However, prior to the vote to succeed him, all of them resigned and are now sitting as independents, with no party affiliation. Duplessis has not yet signaled whether he will form a new political party to run in next year’s election.
Laval has been dogged by accusations made at the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption in Quebec’s construction industry. Though the city has not been placed under trusteeship, is now under the close scrutiny of two provincial auditors appointed by Quebec’s minister of municipal affairs.
Municipal turmoil has left Canada’s cities with a democratic deficit. Together with the abrupt exit of Laval’s mayor, the recent departure of Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay and Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford—forced out of office this week by an Ontario court—has left more than one in seven Canadians unrepresented by a mayor elected through universal suffrage.
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