It’s a bad sign when citizens prefer the former mayor in jail to the one running the city, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Laval, Jean-Claude Gobé says.
Marc Demers and his Mouvement lavallois won the 2013 election, a few months after longtime mayor Gilles Vaillancourt resigned in disgrace. Vaillancourt was later convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for fraud, breach of trust and conspiracy to commit fraud between 1996 and 2010.
Gobé, who is taking his second run at the mayor’s seat with the party Action Laval, said services in Quebec’s third-largest city have declined since Vaillancourt left, and Demers is to blame for that.
The five other candidates running for mayor in Laval are Sonia Baudelot for Avenir Laval, Alain Lecompte for Alliance des conseillers autonomes, Michel Trottier for Parti Laval and independents Hélène Goupil and Nicolas Lemire.
“People are telling me: ‘Vaillancourt was a thief and we weren’t happy about it, but the city worked well and he took care of us’,” Gobé said. “That means that today, the mayor doesn’t take care of them.”
He said since the mayor once known as the King of Laval departed, the bureaucrats have taken over.
“Things have changed, but not for the better,” Gobé said. “We have seen the bureaucratization of the city’s administration, and Mr. Demers doesn’t know how a political system works, so he gave them carte blanche.”
Gobé, a former MNA for the Lafontaine riding in Montreal’s east end, said he’ll streamline services if elected, and promised a three-per-cent tax decrease in his first year, and increases of less than one per cent every year thereafter.
For his part, Demers defended his record, and said it’s not the bureaucracy, but the citizens that are at the centre of all decisions.
“I believe the public is satisfied with the direction we have taken the city,” Demers said, adding that his administration engaged in wide-ranging public consultations before coming up with major policies. “We’ve promised to put an end to disorder and I think we’ve done that,” he said. “There’s lots more transparency, planning and integrity in the city.”
He said under his leadership, there has been a lot of investment in sports facilities, including half of the arenas, the $14-million acquisition of the Guimond sports complex to provide more municipal ice time for Laval residents, and the construction of the Place Bell mega sports complex and amphitheatre.
“Citizens will have to decide if they want to continue with us, and the credibility we established, or to go to the unknown, which is all the other parties.”
On the transit front, Demers would like to see an extension of the métro’s Orange Line, either by two stations into Chomedey, or to complete the loop by extending the Orange Line north from Côte Vertu into Laval, and then extending the Montmorency end of the line west.
“We’re going to ask the ARTM (the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain, a regional body that handles public transit planning) to evaluate both options,” he said. “I’m confident there are important advantages for the whole region with those two options.”Traffic and transit
Buses use the express lane to access the Champlain Bridge during the morning rush hour in Montreal Oct. 24, 2017. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette
If there is an election issue that Laval and Longueuil share, it’s traffic and transit problems.
Longueuil has three women running to replace outgoing mayor Caroline St-Hilaire, who announced she would not seek a third consecutive term.
“We’re lucky to have three women,” said Josée Latendresse, leader of the Longueuil Citoyen party. “But we’re all so different.”
Latendresse, who was elected in 2016 during a byelection, broke ranks with St-Hilaire’s Action Longueuil to form her own party. She is in stark opposition to the St-Hilaire plan to develop a downtown core around the Longueuil métro station, which she calls a “hyperdensification project.” Instead, Latendresse proposes creating strong centres in each of Longueuil’s neighbourhoods.
“We want to revitalize neighbourhood life by creating neighbourhood centres,” she said.
Latendresse wants to revisit how big projects are handled by the city, because many have stalled, including plans to solve chronic traffic problems, redesign the road network around the Jacques Cartier Bridge, and extend the métro’s Yellow Line.
Latendresse also wants to improve relations with the suburbs that form the agglomeration council, notably St-Lambert and Brossard.
Option Longueuil’s Sadia Groguhé also wants to improve relations within Longueuil, but she wants to start with some of the boroughs that remained part of the city.
Groguhé, a former NDP MP for the region, has aligned with longtime Greenfield Park borough mayor Robert Myles, under his Option Longueuil party, the lone opposition party after the 2013 election. Groguhé believes the individual identities of the boroughs have been ignored by the outgoing mayor in favour of a strong central city.
“How can you feel like you’re part of the city when you have been left aside? We’ll bring citizens to the heart of the decision-making process,” Groguhé said.
If elected, she intends on holding public consultations so the boroughs can develop according to the priorities outlined by their citizens.
She also wants to improve the city’s 311 telephone services, and develop more social services to help those with reduced means, especially in light of new powers granted to cities by the Quebec government.
“We also need a policy of diversity for the city,” Groguhé said. “How can a city, with more powers, face the challenges posed by immigration? I think we have a good challenge to meet.”
As for Sylvie Parent, although she is St-Hilaire’s apparent successor, she too wants to improve citizen engagement.
She’s proposing participatory budget processes, and a website that allows citizens to obtain and pay for permits, reserve library books and pay property tax bills.
Action Longueuil is also proposing to improve culture and heritage in the city, and make investments in parks.
A member of the mayor’s party for the last eight years, Parent says she’s really selling experience and continuity.
“I was responsible for budgets, both at the agglomeration and the city level and, all the infrastructure projects,” she said. “On Nov. 6, I’m ready to get to work as soon as I’m elected. Action Longueuil was born in 2009 because we wanted to bring the city to the service of its citizens, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
Traffic lines up on the Jacques Cartier Bridge during the morning rush hour in Montreal Oct. 24, 2017. Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette
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