By Geneviève April
Laval’s first post-election city council meeting, Nov. 18, felt like opening night at the theatre. The public turned up in strength, arriving early to scramble for the best seats. Many were the curious, who wanted to see the new team at their first city council. For the first time in more than two decades, a new party is at the helm in city hall as well as the opposition to Mouvement lavallois seated around the table.
It was business as usual as the meeting unfolded, disappointing those who had come hoping to witness a major change in the way the assembly is run.
Though all the city councillors were rookies, apart from Jacques Saint-Jean, the session—chaired by Christiane Yoakim with the support of seasoned city clerk Guy Collar—ran smoothly with few hiccups.
Mouvement lavallois councillors remained silent on most municipal affairs during the meeting, during which only Mayor Marc Demers rose to speak and answers citizens’ many questions. Most pertained to the new flood zones Quebec government decreed in July. Several citizens were distressed that their houses are among the more than 700 buildings along the shore of the des Prairies and Mille Îles Rivers. The decree has rendered their homes worthless, uninsurable and ineligible for renovation permits.
Demers responded that the city intends to convene an information meeting, Dec. 5, where he will have experts on hand to respond citizens’ concerns about the decree. Meantime, council voted unanimously to implement the new flood zone rules.
Demers defended the city’s action, explaining that having voted against it would have changed nothing, since the provincial government decree it will take effect on Dec. 28, regardless.
“The only thing we can do is to complete an ongoing study which will clearly show that the data used by the Quebec government is outdated,” suggested Demers. “That data will permit us to negotiate with the environment minister. Meanwhile, it is more prudent to halt real estate development in the designated areas.”
Demers then made a surprise announcement that three of Laval’s top civil servants will be leaving their posts. Among the departures is city clerk Guy Collar, who doubled as chief returning officer for the Laval municipal election.
As reported in The Suburban, a frustrated Collar spoke out, Oct. 27, about infractions by candidates—including members of Mayor Demers’ Mouvement lavallois party—who lurked at polling station while citizen tried to vote in the advance poll.
Collar, who is retiring after 29 years of service to the city, received a heartfelt standing ovation following the announcement.
Also heading out the door are community affairs director Marc Deblois and culture, communication and legal affairs director André Guérin. Neither was on hand, and no reason was given for their exit.
Unsuccessful mayoral candidates Jean-Claude Gobé, Jacques Foucher and Guy Landry maintained a discreet presence at the meeting. Frequent city council attendees noted that fourth mayoral contender, Robert Bordeleau, was nowhere to be seen.
Several unsuccessful city council candidates took to the microphone to congratulate their erstwhile opponents and ask about topics that came up during the campaign, though ordinary citizens posed most of the questions.
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