Le Bel eyes mayor’s office

By Robert Frank

Claire Le Bel wants to put her deep roots in the community to work for the benefit of all Laval residents.

The Concorde-Bois de Boulogne councilor has formed a political party called Option Laval, and has recruited a posse of young candidates to her slate.

“For me, it seemed like a natural next-step to take my experience in Pont Viau and apply it on a grander scale,” she told The Suburban during an interview in French.

Le Bel, who trained as a social worker and completed a master’s degree in ethics, founded Entraîde Pont Viau and Laval des Rapides on a shoestring in 1993. Since then her reputation for community work has grown shoulder-to-shoulder with the organization which she still heads.

“It reflects my priority is to work with citizens and families,” she said. “The members of my team of candidates are all committed fathers and mothers who are—first and foremost—highly involved Laval citizens.”

They also present a very different face than today’s city council, which is far more demographically homogenous than today’s Laval, which is composed of nearly 40 percent non-francophones, as of the 2011 census.

“It’s natural for me to have many members of Laval’s cultural communities on my team,” she explained. “Entraîde is a very cross-cultural organization.”

Le Bell acknowledged that cultural divisions are currently “on everyone’s mind” in the wake of the Parti Québécois government’s proposed values charter. She said that it is too early to say whether Laval would opt out of the charter, if she is elected mayor.

“For now, people need to keep talking about it,” she explained. “We don’t know what it will contain, so it’s important to keep the dialogue open.”

In contrast, Le Bel was unequivocal in calling for the Laval municipal commission to respect whomever the city’s citizens elect, Nov. 3.

“It doesn’t make any sense for them to be hiring the city’s top civil servants,” she declared. “It’s highly unusual for a democracy. For me it’s clear: Once the newly elected representatives are in place, they are the ones who should determine who will serve as director general and so forth. It’s difficult to understand [why the municipal commission wants to do so before the election].”

Le Bel also took issue with the municipal commission’s insistence on the unusual step of passing the city’s budget before the election.

“It’s questionable,” she said. “I have read their rationale, which made their position a bit more understandable, but it’s still a sore point. I have written to [Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain] Gaudreault and am still waiting for an explanation.”

Le Bel was elected in 2009 on former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt’s Parti PRO de Laval coattails. In a highly articulate news release, Nov. 9, announcing her resignation from his party, she declared that she had no intention of forming her own political party to run for mayor.

“It wasn’t my initial plan,” she admitted. “It followed from the events that ensued afterward. I formed my own party to let citizens choose someone who would be honest and listen to their reality and needs.”

Despite the proliferation of political parties in Laval, with a record number of candidates for voters to select from, she said that “it is much better that people put their names forward [as candidates] so that people will have more of a choice.”

Le Bel has acknowledged participating as one of the proxies involved in her former party’s illegal political financing schemes, but claimed that she did not know what it entailed at the time.

She is the only currently elected official running for mayor. Interim Mayor Martine Beaugrand, who was also elected on Vaillancourt’s ticket, but is one of only two city councillors untainted by the proxy scheme, said that she intends to run again as city councillor for Fabreville district, the position that she held until she was catapulted into the mayor’s chair in the wake of the abrupt resignation of her predecessor, Alexandre Duplessis.

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