Michael Applebaum was sworn in Monday as Montreal's 42nd mayor, vowing to combat corruption and eliminate bickering at city hall.
At the start of the brief ceremony, Montreal city clerk Yves Saindon formally declared Applebaum elected. That follows Friday's vote by secret ballot that saw Applebaum squeak by his former Union Montréal colleague Richard Deschamps by a margin of 31 to 29.
Applebaum then took his oath of office and signed the city's "golden book" in the presence of hundreds of friends, family and fellow politicians, making history as the city's first elected Jewish mayor and the first anglophone mayor to lead the city in a century.
'I will erase this stain on our city,' mayor vows
In a brief address, Applebaum said he will restore faith in city hall, reiterating his commitment to make public the city's executive committee meetings, held in camera until now, and to include members of all municipal parties on that committee.
"I solemnly vow that I will erase this stain on our city," said Applebaum, alluding to the allegations of corruption in the city's public works department that rocked his predecessor Gérald Tremblay's administration — culminating in Tremblay's resignation on Nov. 5.
"I vow that I'll be your eyes and ears and that I will get back what has been stolen from you," he said. "I will give you back your city."
He reminded Montrealers that he first got into municipal politics in 1994 to fight against the planned closure of a skating rink in his NDG neighbourhood, adding that it's the stuff of daily life —wading pools, cultural centres and skating rinks and the sound of children playing outside — that he still considers the most important to his constituents.
100-day plan of action
Applebaum said he will name a new executive committee on Thursday, and he'll submit a 100-day plan of action to that new committee.
Among his priorities:
- to submit a new budget, lowering the average property tax hike from 3.3 per cent to 2.2 per cent.
- to seek ways to increase funding for public transit, to minimize fare hikes.
- to increase transparency, by making executive committee meetings public and broadcasting them on the internet.
- to maintain the freeze on the granting of all non-urgent public works projects until their integrity can be guaranteed.
Applebaum also said he will lobby the provincial government to strengthen Bill 1, so that it applies to all contracts and not just those worth more than $50 million.
He said he has already been in touch with Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain Gaudreault and the minister responsible for Greater Montreal, Jean-François Lisée, asking them to consult with Montreal's elected officials before passing the proposed legislation.
He also wants the province to do checks on some 275 companies that have municipal contracts of $100,000 or more, to ensure none are involved in collusion or corruption.
"New way of doing things," Harel says
Vision Montréal leader Louise Harel said she is reassured by Applebaum's approach.
"There is a willingness to do things differently," Harel said.
She confirmed Applebaum plans to name a member of her party, Laurent Blanchard, to chair the new coalition executive committee.
Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron said he has promised Applebaum his party's collaboration.
"We have to succeed," Bergeron said. "We need to reassure citizens. We need to work together."
As for Richard Deschamps, the Union Montréal councillor narrowly defeated in Friday's secret ballot, he said he will wait to see if Applebaum's promises translate into concrete measures.