By Beryl Wajsman on May 26, 2014

We had met before, but my first meeting with Marcel Côté during the Mayoralty campaign took place on one of those perfect late summer Montreal afternoons that makes us all forget the city's problems and remember why we stay Montrealers. We sat in the window of the café near his office that looked out onto Place Frère-André. The biggest tree was lush and green, with birds and pigeons swooping around having their way with the branches and with the statue of Frère André. The air was sweet with the perfumed scent of some bud gently blown our way by a soft wind. 

Cote.jpgCôté came in relaxed and dressed more for a casual outing than political battle. Tieless, light blue shirt, blazer and slacks. His face had a welcoming openness totally without artifice. It was framed by hair that - at least on that day - seemed to have a mind of its own. He was thinner than I remembered but what really struck me was how lithe his movements were. He seemed a man at peace with himself.

After the usual back and forth about policies and politics I turned the conversation to a more personal note before we parted. I asked him why, after a career of substantial achievement, he would risk frustration in a political campaign when he had never before presented himself for election. His answer took me aback a bit. He said it was simple, "I am totally free. I can't lose." I asked what he meant by that. He responded, " If I win I can implement my ideas without worrying about pleasing everyone because I've already said I only want one term. And if I lose I can still offer my talents to the new administration. I have freedom whatever happens."

And as he had predicted, he did lend his talents to the new administration. It was gratifying to witness the elegance and respect with which Mayor Coderre brought Côté in as an unpaid advisor. The Mayor’s crediting Côté for playing a role in Montreal’s renaissance was ”rassembleur” governance par excellence. Mayor Coderre is to be commended.

Marcel Côté, may you rest in peace in the eternal freedom we all seek. Thank you for your service.


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