By Robert Frank
Montreal has gone through three mayors in a span of less than a year. Laval has gone through four.
Gérald Tremblay and Gilles Vaillancourt were already gone before 2013 began.
They had faced accusations of corruption many times before but they finally succumbed. Tremblay to public opinion. Vaillancourt to worse. By May, Vaillancourt was arrested on dozens of organized crime charges—shocking even the jaded with the scope and scale of the accusations.
Anti-corruption task forces had not only taken down the mayor of Quebec’s third-largest city, but Tremblay’s successor—Michael Applebaum—as well, in a move that still has many stunned and others disbelieving.
Vaillaincourt’s successor, Alexandre Duplessis, might have been elected, had he played his cards right. Laval is one of the few bright lights in a dim Quebec economy. The city is growing and has a budget surplus, despite freezing property taxes. Refugees from Montreal’s dysfunctional civic administration and crushing taxes continue to move north in significant numbers. His opposition was divided between several feuding political parties.
Perhaps the warning signs were there when Duplessis was stopped for driving well over the speed limit. He also fired the city’s underresourced ombudsman, Diane Lemelin, who served as citizens’ watchdog over city hall.
Duplessis was finally undone by allegations of sexual hanky panky. In a quick about-turn, June 28, he first rebuffed accusations that he had consorted with sex care workers. Then, a few hours later, he resigned. On July 8, he told Elections Quebec to cancel his bid to form a municipal political party.
Martine Beaugrand briefly warmed the mayor’s chair, after Duplessis’ departure. The financial whiz and television host was one of only two city councilors who hadn’t been tainted by accusations of having participated in Vaillancourt’s allegedly illegal political party financing. Beaugrand restored civility to Laval’s hitherto-acrimonious civic chamber.
Applebaum’s successor for several months—Laurent Blanchard—was well-liked and respected and held things together morally and administratively until the municipal election brought Dénis Coderre into Montreal’s mayor’s chair.
In Laval, popular Marc Demers was elected but faces a court challenge based on residency. If the challenge is successful, Demers could, in turn, be ousted from city hall during the coming year. Demers’ opponents challenged his eligibility to run for mayor, since he hadn’t resided in Laval for twelve consecutive months before the election. If the court agrees, Laval citizens could be heading to the polls again in 2014.
And the beat goes on…
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