Quebec City mayor's political foe steps down after crushing defeat

One of the people who has kept Régis Labeaume in check for the past 10 years is quitting municipal politics. Anne Guérette has announced she is stepping down after the party she founded, Démocratie Québec, only elected one councillor to city hall.

Longstanding Démocratie Québec councillor Anne Guérette leaves municipal politics

Anne Guérette will be leaving municipal politics, after her party suffered a major defeat on Nov. 5 election. (Radio-Canada)

The woman who has gone head-to-head with Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume for the past decade will no longer sit opposite him at city hall.

After suffering a major blow during Sunday's municipal election, Anne Guérette is leaving municipal politics.

The party she founded, Démocratie Québec, only saw one councillor voted into city hall on the Nov. 5 election.

"My team and I were ready to govern this city," she said at a news conference on Tuesday, with her youngest son at her side. "I was ready to be mayor but the citizens decided otherwise."

Guérette came in third with 14.6 per cent of the vote behind newcomer Jean-François Gosselin, who is now head of the opposition at city hall.

She knew taking on Labeaume was not going to be an easy feat, she said.

"But we still hoped for it until the last minute. In politics, everything is possible," she said, citing Valérie Plante's surprise victory over veteran politician Denis Coderre for Montreal mayor.

Rocky relationship

Guérette never minced words when it came to Labeaume's decision-making skills or his overall attitude.

In September, Démocratie Québec sent a press release detailing some of the derogatory language Labeaume has used throughout the years in his dealings with the city's unions and his fellow councillors.

"This is an unhealthy, aggressive reign that is harmful to our city in many ways. We can not condone such behavior," Guérette said at the time.

A few days before the election, she remarked that Labeaume's more courteous tone during the 2017 election campaign would be short lived.
During the Oct. 17 debate, Anne Guérette and Jean-François Gosselin, right, both criticized Régis Labeaume, left, for not respecting his opponents. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)

"Like my mother would say, leopards do not change their spots. They can camouflage them, but citizens have to expect his true nature to come back after the election."

Labeaume, for his part, refused to reply to these recriminations during the campaign.

His team sent out a statement on Tuesday applauding Guérette's contribution for the past 10 years.

"Her participation in debates, at municipal council and in the public sphere, and her interest for urbanism and heritage have contributed to enriching the quality of life in Quebec City."

Dissidence within the party

There was also an ongoing conflict within the ranks of Démocratie Québec that may have taken its toll.

Councillors Yvon Bussières and Paul Shoiry both left in the last year to sit as independents.

Several administrative staff also abandoned ship, leaving the party in turmoil.

While Guérette remained undeterred, on her final day she acknowledged these tensions were harder to bear than her public battles with Labeaume.

"It's sometimes more difficult when it comes from the inside than outside," she said, emphasizing the decision to leave was entirely her own.

The party's board of directors is set to meet on Dec. 9 to decide what will happen next.

Leaving with head held high

While Guérette could have taken the place of her running mate Jean Rousseau, who was elected in the Cap-aux-Diamants district, she said it was time to move on.

"I'm leaving with one defeat for mayor and five victories as councillor," Guérette said. "I'm leaving with my head held high."
Anne Guérette says it was her decision to leave Démocratie Québec. (Alice Chiche/Radio-Canada)

The 52-year-old mother said she first entered municipal politics because she had ideas to improve her city, but she's now looking forward to spending more time with her two children.

"I'll be able to take better care of my children, help with homework and confiscate cell phones," Guérette joked.