Laval mayor wants Charbonneau inquest suspended during city elections

By Robert Frank

Mayor Alexandre Duplessis has asked the Union des municipalités du Québec to pass a resolution calling on the Quebec government to suspend the inquiry into corruption in the province’s construction industry during municipal election campaigns this fall.

Residents of cities throughout Quebec are slated to go the polls, Nov. 3, to vote in local municipal elections. The campaigns kick off in earnest Sept. 20, when Quebec’s election authority begins accepting candidacy papers from everyone who will run for mayor or city councillor offices.

“The mayor did talk to key members of UMQ,” his spokesman Pierre-Philippe Lortie acknowledged to The Suburban in an interview. “Not only will this have an impact in Laval and Montreal, but in other municipalities as well.”

“The proposal to UMQ did not go through,” he added, “and of course Laval will not act on its own. We fully respect UMQ’s decision.”

UMQ promotes the interests of cities that comprise six million Quebecers over 80 percent of the province’s territory, which gives it considerable political clout when addressing provincial issues.

Cars and condos

Mayor Duplessis also took flak last week over the price the city paid to lease a new vehicle to transport the mayor, even though, according to Lortie, it was cheaper than its predecessor.

“There was quite a bit of splash about the Lexus,” he said, “which was quite unfortunate, since it is much less expensive than the [Chevrolet] Volt. It’s a hybrid car that is quite comfortable, but it’s certainly not a BMW.”

Rival candidates for mayor have been unusually outspoken, so early on, given that the election is almost six months away.

“He shouldn’t make citizens pay for a luxury car with an election in the offing,” contended Action Laval’s mayoral candidate Jean-Claude Gobé, who also claimed that the call to suspend Charbonneau commission hearings showed “no judgment. The other UMQ mayors flatly said no. You can’t do that.”

Gobé also crowed over the city’s decision to backtrack on plans to build a number of high-rise condominiums by the river.

“They made a lot of decisions without consulting citizens, and didn’t want to listen to those who questioned the project,” he said. “The river is important to the city’s heritage. We need to protect waterfront access for all citizens, and avoid constructing huge buildings that dwarf the surrounding communities.”

Democratic engagement

Independent candidate for mayor Jacques Foucher noted in a statement that one salutary effect of the Charbonneau hearings has been “an explosion in Quebecers’ interest in municipal politics.”

“Quebec’s election authority has seen a 33 percent increase in queries of all kinds, compared with four years ago,” he observed.

Foucher, a senior municipal mandarin who resides in Laval but is employed as Joliette’s city clerk, indicated last week that although he would normally be responsible for presiding over that city’s upcoming election, he has been officially absolved of those duties in order to permit him pursue his campaign for mayor in Laval.

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