Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that suspended mayor Michel Lavoie won re-election in Saint-Rémi, Que. He in fact finished second with 26 per cent support.
Denis Coderre has a gift for firm handshakes and easy bromides, but as newly elected mayor of Montreal, he now faces the tough work of governing a struggling city while holding only a minority of council seats.
Mr. Coderre, who will be sworn in as Montreal’s 44th mayor this month, says he wants to rise above petty partisanship to help fix a city scarred by graft.
“Those who want to work without partisanship in the interests of Montreal will find an ally in me,” he said Monday at his first press conference at City Hall.
It may be easier said than done. Mr. Coderre comes to office with a weaker mandate and fewer friends than any magistrate in at least 50 years.
He surely knows his predecessors had a difficult city to govern, dealing with a major corruption crackdown and a web of overlapping councils seating more than 100 elected officials. The task just got more daunting.
Montrealers drew a new electoral map Sunday that will pose a tough test of Mr. Coderre’s capacity to make peace with opponents – qualities for which he was not famous during six terms as a federal MP.
Mr. Coderre’s narrow popular-vote win Sunday night, with just under a third of voters supporting him, masked important defeats on other fronts in Montreal’s unique, multilayered borough and party system.
His popular support faded compared with early poll results, suggesting the longer voters looked at him, the less they liked him.
Mr. Coderre’s party controls a minority of seats on council, which means he will need to coax independent and opposition councillors to support him if he wants to get anything done. “I have to find a way to reach out,” Mr. Coderre said Monday morning during a whirlwind tour of radio stations.
Mélanie Joly, the political novice who made a strong second-place showing in the mayoral race, is signalling she’s not about to reach out to Mr. Coderre. She said Monday the four councillors elected from her party will be watchdogs who will be a “strong opposition” on council. Ms. Joly says she will seek a seat to get a foothold at city hall as soon as an opportunity opens.
Still, Mr. Coderre believes he can work with his political opponents to implement an agenda that has been, until now, fairly vague. Among his priorities for his first 100 days in office is an anti-corruption plan that includes a new position of inspector-general.
“We have a duty to deliver. We have a duty to bring back that trust between the citizens and our institutions. My role for the next four years is to prove I was right,” Mr. Coderre said.
Quebec’s controversial charter of values, which is expected to be tabled this fall, isn’t part of his top priorities but he pledged to remain vigilant about the issue. “It’s very divisive,” he said. “My role as the mayor is to make sure we don’t put oil on the fire.”
Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain Gaudreault said Sunday night’s election results will allow cities such as Montreal and Laval – which elected ex-cop Marc Demers as mayor – to move on. This despite ongoing police investigations into graft and bribery, dozens of trials yet to come against a host of elected officials and civil servants, along with the ongoing work of the Charbonneau inquiry, which won’t deliver a final report or recommendations until 2015.
“I think yesterday we turned the page. It’s a new moment for the future of Montreal and for Laval. I think today it’s very important to work for the future,” Mr. Gaudreault said. “Corruption is behind us. I think this is the most important message.”
The Parti Québécois minister said the arrival of Mr. Demers in Laval should allow the government to lift trusteeship on the city soon. “It will be a matter of days or weeks. It’s a matter of transition from the previous administration to the new one,” Mr. Gaudreault said.