Vision Montreal Councillor wins RDP byelection
Published Sunday, November 11, 2012 7:16PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 12, 2012 2:00PM EST
MONTREAL—The opposition at Montreal's city hall is one person stronger after a Vision Montreal candidate won a byelection in Riviere des Prairies.
Cindy Leclerc was the first choice of 1884 voters, enough to win her a seat in city hall. She picked up 99 more votes than her closest rival, Union Montreal's Nino Colavecchio.
Projet Montreal's Nathalie Pierre-Antoine was third with 1467 votes.
Only 21 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot.
Union Montreal, the party of former Mayor Gerald Tremblay, now has 35 seats on City Council. Vision Montreal, under opposition leader Louise Harel, now has 16 representatives, while Richard Bergeron's Projet Montreal holds 10 seats.
Sunday’s byelection in Riviere-des- Prairies was a test for all three parties in Montreal, but it could not have come at a worse time for Union Montreal: the weekend after the resignations of Mayor Gerald Tremblay and his No. 2 in Michael Applebaum.
“It’s a terrible atmosphere and clearly our party is rowing against the tide,” said Alan DeSousa, a contender to replace Applebaum at the head of the city’s powerful executive committee.
“The events over the last while do not inspire a huge amount of confidence, people’s emotions are raw and we understand, but we are asking them to look beyond that.”
Montreal’s opposition wasn’t passing on the rare opportunity to steal a seat away from Union. The largely Italian-speaking community had enthusiastically supported Tremblay’s party, but with weekly revelations from the province’s anti-corruption inquiry, opposition candidates ran on platforms heavy on integrity.
“My chances are excellent. Every day I’m on the ground meeting people and I hear that people want change,” said Projet Montreal candidate Nathalie Pierre-Antoine.
“Projet Montreal is the only party yet to be cited at the Charbonneau Commission, people want integrity and transparency. We are the only alternative.”
In the days before the Nov. 11 vote, Projet leader Richard Bergeron had led the party’s faithful in victory chants. Bergeron heads the second opposition on city council.
As Pierre-Antoine spoke, people yelled in Italian as they left a nearby polling place. While playing up her credentials as a local, the Projet candidate admitted to being hampered by a lack of Italian.
“It’s not only Italians who go to vote,” said Pierre-Antoine. “But they’re an influential community.”
Born and bred in Little Italy, Union Montreal candidate Nino Colavecchio carries heavy baggage. A former Parti Quebecois candidate, Colavecchio was a close associate of former Liberal minister Alfonso Gagliano—the highest-ranking Liberal tainted by the federal sponsorship scandal.
“A lot of people were expressing change, or saying we're all the same, we cannot change anything but all I can say is I hope they'll go out and vote today,” said Vision Montreal candidate Cindy Leclerc.
The only problem is that despite the publicity and the campaigning, few people seem likely to vote. Turnout for byelections average 20 per cent, with just over an hour of voting left on Sunday less than 19 per cent of electors had cast ballots. Even Montreal’s opposition leader had to admit that it was a tough day for municipal democracy.
“The citizens of Riviere-des- Prairies have the privilege to show their anger about what happened at city hall with mayor Tremblay's administration,” said Vision head Louise Harel.
Despite stunning resignations and mudslinging in Montreal’s governing party, along with gripping testimony at the Charbonneau Commission, most residents of Riviere-des- Prairies found themselves faced with three choices that failed to inspire.