With less than a month left to go before the start of Montreal’s municipal election campaign, Louise Harel’s team is already up to speed with 10 more weeks to go before next November’s election. While Harel’s charm offensive is winning converts all over the city, she’s still letting everyone know she won’t back down from a fight-any fight.
“I promise you I will ask Premier Charest’s government to amend the city’s charter,” she said. “The citizens of Ville-Marie have the right to elect their own representatives like everyone else in this city and the government must stop treating them like second class citizens.”
Harel was talking about yet another Tremblay-Zampino initiative which occurred after future municipal opposition leader Benoit Labonté left the Tremblay administration but kept his position as the mayor of Montreal’s Ville Marie Borough. As a result of Labonté’s defection, Tremblay asked the Charest government to pass Bill 22 to alter the city’s charter in such a manner as to eliminate any possible opposition to the city mayor in the city’s most important borough. As a result of the new law, the city’s next Mayor-Elect will automatically become the new mayor of the Ville-Marie borough with the power to appoint three more elected councilors to the borough’s council to offset any possible opposition from the borough’s elected councilors.
“It’s profoundly un-democratic,” said Harel, “…and we must do something about it.”
For a man who only months ago was staring at the smoking train wreck of his own political ambitions, Benoit Labonté is quickly learning how to make his way in the back-alley brawl which often defines politics in Montreal’s city hall. As a result of his new alliance with Louise Harel, he won’t have too much trouble winning the borough’s Ste. Marie district which means he will be the president of the city’s executive committee as promised if Harel wins the next election. While Labonté admits politics takes up a lot of his time, he did take the time to remind his audience why he took up the challenge of public life.
“I have two passions,” he said. “...public service and the city of Montreal.”
Citing all the social, economic and cultural issues that cross his desk every day, Labonté reminded his audience how both the richest and the poorest of Canada’s people live in the same borough.
“You know there’s a lot of work to be done when 46% of the borough’s population lives below Canada’s poverty line.”
Entertainment lawyer and former federal Liberal candidate Denise Dussault will face off against veteran city politician Sammy Forcillo, Tremblay’s executive committee member in charge of finances in the Peter McGill district’s three way race. Labonté’s friend and former colleague, Concordia communications executive Karim Boulos will be the district’s third candidate. In a classic election scenario, both Dussault and Forcillo could cancel each other’s votes out which could provide Boulos with a seat on city council.
Former Hydro-Québec executive Francois Robillard will be facing Tremblay loyalist and executive committee member Catherine Sévigny in the borough’s St. Jacques district. As Sévigny is one of the few people close to Tremblay who managed to avoid the mud bath of recent months, many observers believe she might keep her seat even if she may be forced to move out of her executive committee office after the city’s November elections.
During a short but impassioned speech, Harel kept scoring points with her audience as she continued to offer her audience a credible alternative to four more years with Gérald Tremblay as the mayor of Montreal. Wearing her trademark bright yellow jacket, Harel made a determined effort to speak more than a few token words in English as she repeated how she hoped all of the city’s different communities would set aside their usual animosities and help build a new and united city. While she admits many people have a problem with her separatist politics, she also told her audience she wanted to become the city’s new mayor because she believes in the city and she believes in its people.
“You must understand this election is not about Québec’s future,” she said in bold and broken English. “It’s about the future of Montreal.”