Montreal

Former PQ cabinet minister Harel seeks Montreal mayor's job

Former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Louise Harel is making a run for mayor of Montreal as head of the Vision Montreal party in next November's municipal election.

Former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Louise Harel is making a run for mayor of Montreal as head of the Vision Montreal party in next November's municipal election.

Harel was first elected to the Quebec national assembly in 1981. She won seven consecutive elections in the Montreal-east riding of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, and has held several cabinet posts including minister of employment and minister of municipal affairs.

In the municipal affairs post, Harel oversaw the forced merger of several Quebec cities, including Montreal and its 28 municipalities.

Last fall, after 27 years in politics, she announced she was leaving to spend time with her family.

On Wednesday, she made an about-face, and announced she would run for mayor.

Harel has been studying English at Bishops University, but when questioned by an English-speaking reporter Wednesday, she said, "En anglais? Oh, mon Dieu, tant tot," meaning "it's so early."

About 40 per cent of Montrealers do not call French their first language. Some voters, such as Ron Bonheur, think Harel's poor English will affect her chances of winning.

"In Quebec it doesn't matter if she doesn't speak English. But in Montreal it does matter that she doesn't speak English," Bonheur said.

Harel will also face some opposition because of her PQ background.

"I don't like her. She's a separatist," said Montrealer Stephen Panasuk, who heard the news of her candidacy on his way home from work Wednesday.

Benoît Labonté is withdrawing his candidacy for mayor so that Harel can take over as the head of Vision Montreal.

He says he will stay on as head of the opposition at Montreal city hall until the election in November.

Labonté says the two make a municipal dream team, "because we're completely complementary. She's a woman, I'm a man. She's a sovereigntist, I'm a federalist. She's a social democrat, I'm coming from the business sector. She has a lot of experience, I'm a relative newcomer.

"You know you cannot dream of a better ticket than that for Montreal," Labonté said.

In announcing her candidacy, Harel said the city is over-governed and it's time to pare down the administration.

In response, Mayor Gérald Tremblay's cabinet released a statement saying economic development and quality of life should take priority over issues of governance at this time.

now