For weeks the former Parti Quebecois minister who spearheaded the forced mergers of cities across the province has been dropping hints she wants to be mayor of Montreal.

Wednesday afternoon Louise Harel made it official: she will run for mayor under the banner of Vision Montreal.

Benoit Labonte is the current head of Vision Montreal, and opposition leader at city hall. The pair held a joint news conference at Marche Bonsecours where they confirmed that if Vision Montreal wins, Labonte would serve as head of Montreal's executive committee.

Labonte originally gained prominence as head of Montreal's Chamber of Commerce.

He was elected to city council and as mayor of the Ville Marie borough under Gerald Tremblay's Union Montreal party, but he jumped ship in 2007 to lead Vision Montreal.

Recently Harel wrote an editorial article in Le Devoir criticizing the city of Montreal's political structure. She said that the boroughs have too much independence, and that Montreal would be more effective if power was centralized.

During Wednesday's conference, where she flipped back and forth between French and English, Harel said "Montreal is over-governed and over-administered."

As a well-known provincial politician who served as interim leader of the PQ in 2005, Harel has much better name recognition than Labonte, but it's not known how much goodwill voters will feel for her.

For years Harel was plagued by angry demonstrators who opposed the 2002 municipal mergers, which were rammed through without any public consultation.

In March, Harel drew flack after she said that she opposes cutting the number of boroughs in half to save money because she fears the creation of ethnic cities.

Harel said "if we go from 19 to ten boroughs, but these boroughs remain quasi-municipalities as they are now, we will end up in the worst of situations because we'll have cities... an italian city, a haitian city, an anglophone city, an arab city - ville st. laurent - a jewish city, etc..."

Meanwhile the head of Montreal's third party is ready to step aside and let a star candidate run for mayor.

Richard Bergerson of Project Montreal says he is willing to clear the way for Harel.

But he has one catch: Harel would have to support Project Montreal's green plan.

Municipal elections are on November 1st.


Some were not as enthusastic about Harel's run for mayor.

"The issue [citizens] should really be concerned about is the continued punative over-regulation," said Beryl Wajsman, president of the Institute for Public Affairs of Montreal, and editor of the Suburban. "It's a nanny state gone mad in the city, which is already pretty bad already."