Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay has broken with tradition at city hall, naming members of opposition parties to the new executive council.
'During the electoral campaign, all political parties told Montrealers they wanted to work for citizens. It is time for us to put our words into action,' —Mayor Gérald Tremblay
Tremblay announced his new council Tuesday morning, confirming reports he would recruit members from outside his Union Montréal party to build the city's powerful executive body.
New members include Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron, in charge of urban planning, and Vision Montréal Coun. Lyne Thériault, in charge of community development.
After campaigning this fall on a promise to lead a more transparent and accountable city government, Tremblay said he's following up on his pledges.
"Let's move from words to action," he said to a room packed with city councillors and borough mayors.
"During the electoral campaign, all political parties told Montrealers they wanted to work for citizens. It is time for us to put our words into action."
The mayor has been under pressure to clean up city hall. Tremblay's last administration was pummelled by accusations of inappropriate contract tendering and corruption. Several police investigations into municipal public works are still pending.
But Tremblay said he was under no obligation to break with convention at the executive council.
"My party being the majority, there is nothing that is forcing me to be open to others," he said. "I'm not doing this by obligation, I'm doing this out of conviction."
Tremblay said his whole team is behind the move, understands what needs to be done to reclaim Montrealers' confidence and has the political maturity to rise above "sterile debates."
Bergeron said he was pleased with the mayor’s decision to name him to the executive committee, calling the mayor "courageous."
Bergeron said he didn’t expect to have too much difficulty with the fact he will be obliged to follow the rules of cabinet confidentiality, which means he cannot report on what happens in the committee to his own party.
"We will see," Bergeron said. "If it's too difficult I will resign, but I hope that it works for three years and nine months."
Thériault said she was "very proud" to have been chosen by the mayor.
While it's a city first to have opposition members sit on executive council, the remaining members are all Tremblay's Union Montréal colleagues — including Ville St. Laurent borough Mayor Alan DeSouza, Coun. Helen Fotopulos, Coun. Mary Deros, and Côte-des-Neiges borough Mayor Michael Applebaum.
LaSalle borough Mayor Manon Barbe was named member in charge of transportation.
Tremblay will preside over the committee, another first for Montreal City Hall. No mayor has ever named himself president of the executive council.
He will handle the responsibilities in addition to his new job as mayor of the Ville-Marie borough, following legislative changes that took effect with the Nov. 1 election.
The mayor named DeSousa and Applebaum as council vice-chairs.
Fotopulos will handle culture, heritage and women's issues.
Longtime city councillor and former executive committee member responsible for public works, Sammy Forcillo, was left out this time around — as was longtime Anjou Mayor Luis Miranda, formerly the city’s snow-removal czar.
Both men have recently been the subject of media reports regarding recent scandals at city hall.
"I respect the authority of the mayor and I’m a team player," Forcillo said.
Longtime city councillor Marvin Rotrand, outspoken on council for 27 years, will now serve as the leader of the majority on city council.
He said mayor’s caucus was not pleased with the mayor's strategy.
Rotrand said members have questions about how confidentiality will be maintained and who can speak for the executive committee.
"We're not sure it's going to work." Rotrand said. "But the mayor is willing to take the risk and he's assured our caucus if it doesn't work, the experiment won't last long."
But, former city councillor Jean Fortier, who chaired the executive committee from 1998 to 2001, said the mayor had no choice but to change the way city council is run.
"Quite frankly, it had to be done," he said.
Fortier says Montreal's reputation has taken a battering due to recent allegations of collusion and corruption and he said having members of the opposition parties on the executive committee makes for a refreshing change.
He says if it works, it will lead to more debate — which means more accountability and weaker party lines.
Vision Montreal Leader Louise Harel can't sit on the executive committee because she is already opposition leader at city hall.
Harel was out of the country and did not comment on the nominations.