MONTREAL—The first clue to reporters waiting outside the governing party’s caucus was the chanting: “Richard! Richard! Richard!”

Behind closed doors on Thursday evening, Union Montreal selected Richard Deschamps to replace Gerald Tremblay as mayor of Montreal. Unless something unexpected happens, next Friday’s vote to appoint an interim mayor will prove a formality and Deschamps will serve the final year of Tremblay’s term.

Michael Applebaum, the chairman of the city’s powerful executive committee, was visibly upset by the vote. Tremblay’s former lieutenant, Applebaum threatened to quit as the city’s number two. While he cited a disagreement with Deschamps over taxes, CTV Montreal has learned from sources within Union Montreal that Applebaum’s real issue was being passed over for the top job.

Deschamps has proposed keeping a 3.3 per cent tax increase put forward in the final days of the Tremblay administration. Applebaum has called for the hike to be scratched and for the drafting of a new 2013 budget.

A powerful figure on the city’s executive committee in his own right, Deschamps has an MBA and has handled the city’s economic development portfolio since 2009. The mayor-in-waiting has also represented Lasalle as a city councillor for 13 years.

“I've said that we have still challenges ahead and we are going to face them as a party,” said Deschamps, who will inherit a difficult job from the first mayor to

The race within the party was close, as Deschamps won out over two Anglophone candidates: Helen Fotopulos and Applebaum. Heading into the meeting, councillors insisted language wouldn't play into their choice.

“It’s not a matter of Anglophone or Francophone, we need the best person at the right place for the best reason,” said Lachine councillor Bernard Blanchet.

Union Montreal’s troops maintained that the party had far more pressing concerns than language. With corruption revelations coming out of the Charbonneau Commission, the party said it needs to concentrate on cleaning up city hall.

“He's probably one of the smartest and best reflected individuals I know, he thinks quickly but he also thinks deeply,” said deputy mayor Jane Cowell-Poitras, who is currently occupying the mayor’s seat.

On Nov. 16 councillors will vote to choose the interim mayor. Union Montreal holds a strong majority of seats on council.