Opposition says ‘circus continues’ as Laval city council elects new mayor
Published Friday, November 23, 2012 12:58PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 23, 2012 9:38PM EST
MONTREAL—In one month Laval saw both its long-time mayor and one-party council disappear. On Friday, two weeks after Gilles Vaillancourt’s resignation, the leaderless Laval city council elected Alexandre Duplessis to run the city.
A member of Laval’s long-time governing party, Parti PRO des Lavallois, Duplessis will finish the final year of Vaillancourt’s term. However, on the day one in the job Duplessis faced criticism that the new mayor was a lot like the old one.
“Mr. Vaillancourt was my mentor,” Duplessis said of his successor, who ran the north shore suburb for 23 years. “He taught me how to manage a city and manage public funds.
“I feel that we need to prove to our citizens that they have rightfully placed their trust in us.”
Vaillancourt and his party’s final month in office were not pleasant ones. The mayor was the subject of a number of raids from the Surete du Quebec’s permanent anti-corruption squad, with his office, home, condo and bank accounts targeted.
Due to the bad publicity, Parti PRO disbanded this week, despite holding all the seats on the city council and sitting on over $1 million in the bank.
Duplessis is now answering questions about one file he managed in 2008, when he backed a deal to sell city land valued at more than $1 million to developers for $463,000. The developer flipped it eight months later for more than $1.6 million.
“With the information that I had at the time, it was a normal transaction,” said Duplessis, defending his involvement in the deal. Even though he maintains he did nothing wrong, the opposition says taxpayers lost about $700,000.
When questioned further, Duplessis said that with what we know now, it was wrong, and that when he realized it was wrong, he turned the file over to the SQ.
With the new mayor promising to clean things up by being more transparent, the unelected opposition doubts it will happen.
“This is a perfect clone of Mr. Vaillancourt's administration, nothing has changed,” said Emilio Migliozzi, from the opposition Mouvement Lavallois. “It’s always the same people who are going to make the decisions.”
“The circus continues, it's not because you change the colour of your coat that you change everything,” said Robert Bordeleau, speaking for PSC Laval.
One thing will change: the province has appointed two special auditors to monitor Laval's business. The opposition believes that will go a lot further than anything the mayor can do to clean up the city.