Ousted in the election, Richard Bergeron seeks a job with the party he founded
'We do what we have to do in the moment,' says founder of Projet Montréal, who ran for Équipe Denis Coderre
Richard Bergeron says he's happy he didn't get elected. In fact, watching the results roll in on Sunday, as he tells it, he felt an overwhelming surge of pride.
Projet Montréal, the party he founded in 2004, had finally taken power at city hall.
Now, unemployed after losing his seat on city council, Bergeron makes no secret of the fact that he wants a job with Valérie Plante's administration — even if, three days before the election, he warned that Projet Montréal was "radical" and "far left."
"Of course I would like that," Bergeron said in an interview Thursday, when asked if he wants to work with Plante.
His criticism of his old party, he said, was part of the "political game."
"We do what we have to do in the moment," he said. "They have to understand that two-and-a-half minutes of criticism is not a whole life."
Bergeron officially became part of Coderre's team last year. He had been sitting as an independent since 2014, when he joined Coderre's executive committee after losing the last election.
He ran for mayor as leader of Projet Montréal three times — in 2005, 2009 and 2013 — and finished third each time.
Bergeron acknowledges the party would never have been able to take power under his leadership.
In his view, two things were necessary for Projet Montréal to win: his departure, and Plante's arrival, with "her smile, with her head and her energy."
After Sunday's election, Bergeron removed any mention of Équipe Denis Coderre from his Twitter bio, replacing it with "founder of Projet Montréal, author and urban planner."
Bergeron's shifting allegiance hasn't sat well with former colleagues. Russell Copeman, a Coderre ally who was ousted as mayor of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, took to Twitter Thursday to express his displeasure.
Plante, for her part, has demonstrated little interest in bringing Bergeron on board, but hasn't entirely ruled it out. When asked about his efforts to land a job so soon after criticizing his old party, she replied, with a laugh, "That's his style. He's flexible."
At 62, Bergeron said he still needs a job somewhere, whether it's "selling carpets" or helping the new administration. He still shares Projet's vision for improved mobility with a focus on public transit, he said.
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But he wasn't ready to slam the outgoing administration for its bookkeeping. Plante told reporters Thursday they found a $358-million shortfall in the city budget.
Bergeron dismissed the report as nothing more than an old political trick, practiced at all levels of government.
"The team going out says the house is clean. The team that arrives always says it's not. Three months later, they say it's fixed," he said. "It's politics 101."