'Business as usual' in Laval despite mayor's woes
Rival politician says Gilles Vaillancourt can be counted out
The new de facto head of the city of Laval said Thursday that "business as usual will continue," a day after the city's mayor stepped aside temporarily to reflect on his health and future.
"That is our intention. That is what the population of Laval is entitled to," said Basile Angelopoulos, the vice-chair of the city's executive committee.
Angelopoulos said the committee will run the city while Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt is on leave.
"We intend to do everything that needs to be done to ensure that decisions are made, to ensure that the important files of the city are looked after," Angelopoulos told a news conference Thursday afternoon.
The executive committee announced on Wednesday night that Vaillancourt has opted to take a leave of absence, hours after the mayor was targeted in raids by Quebec's anti-corruption squad for the third time in as many weeks.
The mayor's announcement said the decision was for medical reasons on the advice of a doctor, but on Thursday Angelopoulos said the mayor is also stepping aside "to reflect on the events of the last few weeks" and "on his future."
He didn't say how long that process would last.
"There's no precise date for that. The mayor asked for a period of leave. I think he deserves it, and we've agreed to grant him this period of reflection."
'Mayor is a goner'
Vailliancourt has faced periodic misconduct accusations for years. He's most recently been under the gun since Oct. 4, when anti-corruption agents swept down on City Hall and one of his homes to conduct searches for files and computer servers.
Ten days later, star witness Lino Zambito testified at Quebec's corruption inquiry that construction entrepreneurs who got contracts from Laval were expected to give a cut worth 2.5 per cent to Vaillancourt, who has been mayor since 1989.
One of Vaillancourt's rivals for the mayoralty in the last municipal election, Robert Bordeleau, speculated Thursday that problems extend to the mayor's entire municipal party, PRO des Lavallois. The party has swept all the seats on city council in each of the last three elections.
Previous Laval raids:
"There were a lot of people, surely, who witnessed certain things, certain practices. And no one has denounced anything," Bordeleau said. "It's a party where, as I've said, the mayor is a goner, the party too. You can forget about PRO des Lavallois."
If Vaillancourt wants to resign outright, he has an incentive to wait until after Nov. 3. Provincial law requires a byelection to replace a mayor who resigns more than 12 months from the end of his term. But if the mayor resigns within 12 months of the next municipal election, then city council gets to decide whether to hold a byelection.
In Vaillancourt's case, if he waits another 10 days, he can spare his party going to the polls in a byelection race that — given the rash of adverse news — it could lose.
Vaillancourt would also automatically lose his position on city council if he fails to attend a meeting for three months in a row, though that can be overturned by a council motion.