Montreal's new mayor: Laurent Blanchard
Published Tuesday, June 25, 2013 12:24PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 25, 2013 5:14PM EDT
MONTREAL -- Montreal has its third mayor in eight months.
Laurent Blanchard, who has served as president of city council’s executive committee since November, will take over the reins at city hall after a raucous year that saw two mayors quit in disgrace. Blanchard will serve as interim mayor until elections in November.
“It's not easy to take over the city of Montreal after what happened in the last months and say, ‘Well we have four months to go,’ but it is what has to be done and I will try to do it the best possible,” he said.
Sixty-one councillors voted in a secret ballot, choosing Blanchard with 30 votes over two other candidates. Harout Chitilian came a close second with 28 votes, and Jane Cowell-Poitras got three.
Francois Croteau, Rosemont-La Petite Patrie borough mayor, pulled out at the last moment and urged councillors to support Blanchard in order to maintain stability. DeSousa also withdrew his candidacy in favour of Chitilian.
Before the vote each of the candidates faced a few questions from the half-dozen members of the public who attended the meeting, then had 20 minutes to speak and ask for the support and votes of their fellow councillors.
Blanchard argued that he would maintain the open executive council meetings instituted by former mayor Michael Applebaum, and would focus on getting the work of the city done.
Blanchard is widely considered to be an ally of Vision Montreal’s Louise Harel, and served on her team before becoming independent last fall.
“We can really be very happy as Montrealers because as Montrealers we have an executive committee that will maintain stability,” said Harel.
Projet Montreal leader Richard Bergeron had a hand in Blanchard’s victory, urging his party’s candidate for mayor to bow out of the race and support Blanchard.
“It was our best choice considering he had a very strong commitment to keep the administration of coalition alive up to the next general election,” said Bergeron.
Blanchard has served as a politician for eight years, and was a weekly newspaper publisher prior to that.
Chitilian, the current speaker and a former Union Montreal member, is the youngest councillor in city hall. He said he would remain an independent until municipal elections in November, and pointed to his work as both a blue-collar and white-collar city employee.
He said Tuesday’s vote was a good exercise in democracy.
“It demonstrates again that we don't need a trusteeship from the Quebec government. We can take care of business on our own in a respectful and transparent manner,” he said.
Cowell-Poitras, the current pro-tem mayor and former member of Union Montreal, said this was going to be her last year in municipal politics. The Lachine councillor said Blanchard is honest, has integrity, and has never had any run-ins with police.
Croteau of Projet Montreal and the borough mayor for Rosemont-La Petite Patrie, said the interim mayor must have integrity and should not come from a borough that has been raided by the anti-corruption squad. Since the position will only be held for four months Croteau said no major changes should occur. He then withdrew his candidacy and threw his support to Blanchard.
The final speaker was DeSousa, former member of Union Montreal and borough mayor of Saint-Laurent. He said as an immigrant he represents the Montreal of the future, and said he will not run for mayor in November.
DeSousa also pointed out that in 27 years as an elected official he has never been investigated for any crime, and has done substantial work to combat corruption, before pulling out and supporting Chitilian.
Former mayor Michael Applebaum was chosen in a similar procedure just last November following the resignation of Gerald Tremblay. Applebaum resigned last Tuesday, one day after he was arrested and charged with 14 counts of corruption and fraud.