The cabinet minister responsible for Montreal is asking Laval city councillors to calm down, following their reaction to the province's decision to appoint an auditor to oversee the awarding of public works contracts in the city.
Yesterday, Basile Angelopoulos, vice-chair of the executive committee, withdrew his candidacy for the job of interim mayor, saying the municipal affairs minister will have to decide how to fill the position.
Angelopoulos said he decided to withdraw his candidacy, "on the basis that I no longer know what type of mayor I would be in the new context that the minister has created."
Cabinet Minister Jean-François Lisée says an auditor in Laval is necessary because the ruling party holds all the seats in council.
Lisée responded to Angelopoulos' reaction, saying that councillors knew that the province was considering appointing an auditor to oversee Laval's public works contracts.
"We're going to let them cool off for a couple of days … They've been warned before that that was the measure that would be taken," he told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
Angelopoulos was the only councillor to put his name forward as a candidate for Laval's interim mayor. He says the the minister now has three options: to designate a member of council to fill the position, call a byelection or put the city under trusteeship.
Robert Bordeleau, head of the unelected opposition Service du Citoyen party, said he would have liked to have seen the election of a candidate who is not a member of Vaillancourt's former party.
The PRO des Lavallois has been the only party represented at council for the last decade.
Province names special auditor for Laval
Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain Gaudreault's announcement that he would name an auditor to oversee operations in Laval follows last week's resignation of the city's mayor amid corruption allegations.
"The confidence of Laval residents has been shaken during recent months," said Gaudreault in a statement. "I want to know what is going on in Laval."
Gaudreault said the auditor will remain in place until the next municipal election in Nov. 2013.
He said the auditor will report back to the ministry and will watch over all aspects of the city's administration, particularly the awarding of contracts and real estate transactions.
"I want to assure [the population of Quebec] that concrete actions are being taken in order for us to emerge even stronger from this crisis," Gaudreault said.
The minister says he has also ordered the city council to prepare a report by Jan. 15 to outline how it will address "serious problems" identified in an audit by the ministry last spring.
Oppositions parties weigh in on auditor's role
Liberal opposition leader Jean-Marc Fournier said the lack of clarity about the auditor's tasks is part of the problem with Laval.
"My perception is that, probably, there was a problem of communication between the minister and the councillors who are elected in Laval, because it seems they don't even know what they are talking about," said Fournier.
Jacques Duchesneau, the Coalition Avenir Québec's corruption critic, supports the PQ's decision to hire an auditor.
"You need to be blind not to realize that there is something going wrong. We faced a major democratic earthquake in the province over the last couple of months and, you know, what's wrong with the minister asking questions?" he said.
Both main opposition parties said the province should have gone further and named a special auditor for Montreal as well.
Gauldreault said it wasn't necessary in Montreal's case because there is a strong contingent of elected opposition councillors at city hall.