Montreal has a new mayor--and he's an anglophone

In a secret ballot with several parties casting free votes, 31 councillors voted for Michael Applebaum as interim mayor, while 29 ballots were cast for his Union Montreal rival Richard Deschamps. The speaker said that three ballots were rejected.

In a short speech, Applebaum said it would be an honour to work for the betterment of Montreal.

"I assure you we will all work together," he said, before walking over to Deschamps and shaking his hand.

Applebaum will be inaugurated on Monday with his wife and family at his side for the historic occasion.

It is the first time in over a century that an anglophone has been chosen for the top elected post in the city of Montreal. The city's last non-francophone mayor was James John Guerin, who was elected in 1910 to rule over the then-half million inhabitants of Montreal.

Applebaum will serve until a new mayor is elected in the next municipal elections, in November 2013, and reiterated on Friday that he will not run to become mayor at that time.

"At that time I will return to running for borough mayor of Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace, where the people have supported me for 18 years," Applebaum said.

“I accept the vote with humility,” said Applebaum in a media scrum. “My objective is to serve citizens and be above politics. I know that citizens have been hurt by what they’ve seen on television and I will do my best to build this coalition.”

Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel suggested that she was hoping Applebaum cleans up corruption.

“We have elected not only a mayor but we have voted to start the very big clean-up and a major change at city hall,” she said.

Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron agreed with that cooperation would be required. “We will do everything that is possible to help him succeed,” said Bergeron.

The loser was diplomatic in defeat. “I think we always have to respect democracy,” said Richard Deschamps who is expected to serve on Applebaum’s Executive Committee.

Interim Mayor-Elect Applebaum sat down with CTV Montreal immediately following his election.

“I’m a Montrealer, I’m English, I speak French, I work in the French language and I’m part of what Montreal is all about,” said Applebaum.

“It’s a one-year term and we’re going to work hard, bring back confidence in the city of Montreal.”

One former provincial and municipal elected representative said that the election is a sign that the city is changing.

“It says something towards linguistic and cultural unity in this city,” said Robert Libman.

But Libman said that Applebaum won’t have an easy time. “It’s going to be tough for anybody in his position for the next 12 months because of the unstable position the city finds itself in.”

One woman interviewed in the street expressed a surprise shared by many at the sudden and unexpected arrival of an anglophone mayor.

“I didn’t think they’d vote for him because of his French not being that great but more power to him,” she said.

Working for the city

Applebaum said he plans to work hard for the city, and he bears no ill will toward Deschamps. In fact he is ready to have Deschamps maintain a role on the Executive Committee.

"I have already asked him if he wants to be part of this coalition," said Applebaum. "I would like him to be part of this team. It's very important."

"We have to build bridges and we need to work together for the City of Montreal."

He is also determined to limit the tax increase that had been planned by Tremblay's administration.

"It will be 2.2 percent. That's the inflation rate," said Applebaum.


Opposition leader hopeful for future

Richard Bergeron, the leader of Projet Montreal and a former member of the Executive Committee under Gerald Tremblay, said he is happy with the result of Friday's vote.

"There was a will between both candidates to change the government, to change the administration," said Bergeron.

"Despite what Deschamps said, it was more clear with Applebaum."

Bergeron said the next year will be a time for all councillors to work together, and for Montrealers to start looking at other options besides the hitherto ruling party.

"I think Union Montreal has fallen and will not be revived," said Bergeron, saying in 2013, Montrealers will have to choose between his party or that of Vision Montreal.


Vote triggered by Tremblay's resignation

Councillors were forced to select an interim mayor when Gerald Tremblay resigned on Nov. 5, 2012.

At that time Tremblay said his decision was a "sacrifice" he was making after years of allegations of corruption in city hall.

Those allegations were confirmed by the Charbonneau Commission, when engineers admitted under oath that they had accepted cash bribes, gifts of wine and golfing vacations.

If Tremblay had resigned a few days earlier a byelection to replace the mayor would have been necessary. Instead, with less than one year until the municipal election, the decision came down to councillors to choose one of their own as a replacement.

With a strong majority in city hall, it looked like whoever Union Montreal would rally behind would be a shoo-in for the position, until Michael Applebaum threw a wrench in the works.


Three candidates, narrowed to two

According to various sources three people within the party, all members of the Executive Committee, presented themselves as candidates: Richard Deschamps, Michael Applebaum and Helen Fotopulos

Deschamps was first elected to city council in LaSalle in 1999, and after the municipal mergers became a member of Union Montreal. He was responsible for infrastructure and citizen services.

Tremblay named Applebaum his righthand man on April 6, 2011 when he promoted the longtime borough mayor for Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace to the Chair of the Executive Committee.

Fotopulos has decades of experience in city hall, being first elected in 1994 and serving two terms at Plateau-Mont-Royal borough mayor before becoming a councillor for Cote-des-Neiges.

In that internal party vote, members chose Deschamps.


Applebaum spoiled the party

Immediately following that decision Applebaum started denouncing other decisions made by Union Montreal, including deciding not to change a 3.3 percent tax hike proposed in the city's budget, and keeping secret a 2004 document outlining problems with the high cost of contracts.

In the week before Friday's vote Applebaum left Union Montreal as did many other councillors, including Marvin Rotrand, the vice-chair of the STM and the most-experienced member of city council.

Applebaum decided to run for the interim mayor position as an independent, promising to include members of Vision Montreal and Projet Montreal in a coalition government if elected, and to revise the budget to limit a tax increase to 2.2 percent.

Deschamps later followed suit on those decisions, but also promised to ask for Quebec to appoint an auditor for the city's spending.