City hall still anyone’s for the taking

Laval election could produce surprise winners

By Robert Frank

For the first time in history, Laval’s non-francophones—now nearly 40 percent of the city’s population—could tip the balance of power, if they take the time to vote, Nov. 3.

With many voters undecided and the leading candidates for mayor mere percentage points apart among committed voters, none of them commands the vote of more than one in five citizens. It is therefore possible to win the mayor’s chair with less than a quarter of the popular vote.

More important than opinion polls is mobilization: Whoever can motivate their supporters and muster the large number of undecided voters to go the polling stations on Sunday will likely wear the winner’s laurels after the ballots are counted.

During last week’s mayoral debate, Action Laval’s mayoral candidate Jean-Claude Gobé shot back at what he perceived as his opponent Marc Demers’ holier-than-thou attitude.

“When the house is on fire, you call the fire department,” quipped retired policeman Demers, whose Mouvement lavallois campaign has taken a strong law-and-order stance during the past few weeks. “When the crooks take control, you call the police.”

Demers reiterated allegations that the Quebec government is pursuing two other opponents—Guy Landry (Nouveau Parti des Lavallois) and Robert Bordeleau (Parti au service du citizen)—to reimburse alleged debts ranging from $40,000-$120,000, Gobé accused Demers of having one set of rules for himself and a different set for others, with Demers’ eligibility to run as mayor still in question.

Demers has acknowledged that he moved back to Laval less than the 12 months ago required by the Quebec Elections Act. Two weeks ago, he circulated a legal opinion that claimed he is eligible to be mayor, nonetheless.

Since Demers’ eligibility can only be tested in the courts if he is elected, a Mouvement lavallois win will almost certainly entail a legal challenge.

According to Elections Quebec spokesman Denis Dion, were a judge to subsequently rule Sunday’s election result invalid, “a byelection would have to be called to elect a new mayor.”

Officials estimated last week that it would cost taxpayers about $1.3 million to send Laval voters back to the polls to choose a new mayor.

Demers, Gobé and Bordeleau have all run long, strong and well-organized campaigns, as has independent mayoral candidate Jacques Foucher, whom the Laval Chamber of Commerce and Industry excluded from last week’s debate (see accompanying report).

Option Laval mayoral hopeful Claire Le Bel remained a contender, despite growing questions about the depth of her on-again, off-again relationship with former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt.

It remains to be seen what Le Bel would do to help serve Laval’s burgeoning non-francophone community. In an interview three weeks ago, The Suburban asked her what she would do for Laval’s non-francophone seniors.

Several opposing candidates had previously noted that while Laval offers some excellent services for the city’s elderly population, almost none are available in English.

Le Bel replied that she was unaware that elderly English-speakers have to travel to Montreal to obtain the services that they need and promised to look into the problem and respond the following week. She has subsequently not replied to any of The Suburban’s repeated follow-up calls.

Interestingly, last week’s public opinion survey reported that some eight percent of those polled would still vote for Vaillancourt, even though he faces organized crime charges is not running in this election contest. That figure doubled to 16 percent among anglophone voters.

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