MONTREAL - Michael Applebaum officially began his one-year reign as Montreal's 42nd mayor Monday morning as he was sworn in by city clerk Yves Saindon at City Hall at 10:30 a.m.

Applebaum, 49, was voted in as interim leader by other elected officials last week and takes over from longtime former Mayor Gerald Tremblay.

Tremblay quit following testimony at the Charbonneau Commission suggesting that he had turned a blind eye to illegal party funding.

Applebaum had served as Tremblay's second-in-command, in the post of Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee since 2011. He is the first to move from that role to the mayoralty since the post was crated in the 1920s.

Applebaum's narrow victory came largely as a result of a decision by opposition leaders Richard Bergeron and Louise Harel to not run their own candidates against him.

In his brief campaign for the position, Applebaum has pledged to keep Montreal's tax hikes closer to the rate of inflation, and plans to hike taxes by 2.3 per cent rather than the 3.3 per cent originally planned by the Tremblay administration.


Busy first day

Shortly after being sworn in Monday, interim Mayor Michael Applebaum was forced to get down to work for a busy first day.

The new interim mayor met with a cabinet minister, presided over a council meeting and went outside to greet demonstrators.

Hundreds of the city’s white-collar workers greeted Michael Applebaum in front of city hall with a noisy protest Monday night.

“We say welcome to the new mayor,” said lawyer Annick Desjardins. “This is going to be on your plate and we hope that you'll understand it's very important for your employees to get paid without discrimination.”

A pay equity commission announced its plans to decide in favour of employees.

“The city agrees there is a wage gap. Now they don't want to pay the full correction; they want to pay only when you're on top of the pay scale,” said Desjardins.

Some of those arguments are now before the court, and during question period, Applebaum said he would respect the rule of law.

Earlier in the day, the interim mayor received a warmer welcome from Quebec’s Minister for Montreal, Jean-Francois Lisee.

“Michael Applebaum really rose to the occasion, changing the nature of the debate, being independent, not wanting to run in the next election,” said Lisee.

Lisee said Quebec will seek to fast track Bill 1, proposed anti-corruption legislation affecting public-sector contracts.

Building unity at city hall

Applebaum said he plans to revamp city hall after inheriting a city submerged in scandal, adding that within the first 100 days, he plans to work to renew the city and restore trust.

He is expected to name his executive committee Thursday, a group thought to contain many longtime opponents of his former Union Party.

Applebaum has said that he will offer a post on the executive committee to his opponent Richard Deschamps --whom he beat 31-29 in the vote for interim mayor.

He plans to meet Deschamps to discuss his plan.

"Now there's a division where many members left Union Montreal to become independent, so I have looked at regrouping all of them together," said Applebaum. "The independents have to be represented on the executive committee, so I will sit down with Mr. Deschamps and discuss it."

One former longtime colleague who is not expected to be named to the committee is Applebuam's longtime former colleague Alan De Sousa, who opted to back Applebaum’s opponent.

It is believed that Applebaum will offer five executive committee posts to former opponents, three to Vision Montreal and two to Projet Montreal.

Some of the likelier candidates for those posts are believed to be Real Menard, Benoit Dorais and Veronique Fournier of Vision Montreal and Émilie Thuillier and Josee Duplessis of the Projet Montreal.

Some have expressed doubt that Applebaum will be able to deliver the harmony he strives to achieve, as the various parties will be tempted to jostle to increase their chances of attaining power in the elections of November 2013.

That said, both opposition parties say they like what they've heard from Applebaum so far, including planning to have members from all parties and independents on the executive committee, and ensure that all meetings that were once private will now be public and broadcast online.

"I'm very happy because the decision making will be taken very publicly with transparency," said Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel.

Richard Bergeron, leader of Projet Montreal, also offered his support.

"I assure Mr. Applebaum that we will support him that we will collaborate with him and we will do everything that's possible for this new kind of administration be a success," he said.

Corruption task force

Applebaum plans to create a special task force to fight corruption, and vows to recuperate money he said was "stolen" from citizens through a corrupt construction industry.

Individuals or companies that have wronged the city will be taken to court, he said.

"This is taxpayers' money and it must be recuperated to the best of our ability," said Applebaum.

As mayor, Applebaum's responsibilities will include overseeing the downtown Ville Marie borough but he will relinquish his pervious borough responsibilities to Lionel Perez, who becomes mayor of Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace.

Other elected officials in that borough include councillors Marvin Rotrand, who also quit the Union Party and now supports Applebaum, while Susan Clarke, Lionel Perez and Helen Fotopulos have remained in the Union Party fold, but it’s unclear whether they will remain in the party long led by Gerald Tremblay, as the party has recently been losing many of its councillors.

Applebaum has pledged support for a new spirit of inter-party cooperation but observers of CDN-NDG council meetings note that the borough's only opposition councillor, Projet Montreal’s Peter McQueen has long been unable to get any of his motions seconded by the Union Party councillors, thereby leaving all non-party initiatives unable to advance.

Borough mayor since 2002

Applebaum, who has also worked as a realtor during his time in office, was first elected to city council in 1994 after getting involved in local poiltics as a volunteer maintaining a city outdoor hockey rink. He has been borough mayor since 2002.

His father ran a well-known shoe store bearing the family name in St. Henri. 

Applebaum is the first Montreal mayor with English as mother tongue since 1910, when James Guerin, who also served at the federal and provincial levels at other times, served as mayor.

At that time, Montreal had a population of 500,000 and a tacit agreement to alternate anglophone and francophone mayors.

The system of anglo-franco mayoral alternation ended when Mederic Martin succeeded Louis-Arsene Lavallee in 1914, following the incorporation of several others island municipalities which led to a larger francophone demographic in the voter base.