'No purge' of City Hall rivals, Denis Coderre claims after high-profile firings

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre is denying he's purging his political opponents from key municipal positions ahead of the November elections.

Marvin Rotrand says he was fired from STM after 16 years as deputy chair

Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand, pictured in 2014, says Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre "fired" him from his position as deputy chair of city's transit authority. (CBC)

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre is denying he's purging his political opponents from key municipal positions ahead of the November elections.

In a municipal council meeting Tuesday, Coderre confirmed the dismissals of two city councillors who recently decided not to join his party, Équipe Denis Coderre. 

Marvin Rotrand, the councillor for the Snowdon district, was removed his post as deputy chair of the Montreal transit authority, the Société des transports de Montréal (STM), after 16 years on the board.

Rotrand said he was "fired" at Coderre's request after taking over the leadership of Coalition Montreal, a small municipal party that only has one council seat.

Last week, Southwest borough mayor Benoit Dorais, who had been sitting as independent in council, announced that he was joining Projet Montréal, the largest opposition party at City Hall. 

A few days later, Dorais was relieved of his position as president of the city's agglomeration council.

Mayor 'blinded by partisanship:' Opposition

The mayor is now coming under criticism for the dismissals. Justine McIntyre of Vrai Changement pour Montréal accused Coderre on Tuesday of firing people simply to benefit his own party.

"There is no purge," Coderre replied. "The fact that a lot of people came to this side [Équipe Denis Coderre] is because they saw that we could work together."

Projet Montréal is not buying his explanation. A spokesperson for the party said Coderre was reneging on his promise to reduce political bickering at City Hall.

"The mayor of Montreal is blinded by partisanship and holds a grudge against his political opponents," Marc-André Viau said in a statement.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre is getting ready for the municipal election in November. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

"Instead of keeping his promise, he did the exact opposite with retaliation and bullying against his opponents.... What we see now is Denis Coderre using a 'you are with us or against us' mantra."

In an interview with CBC Montreal's Daybreak, Rotrand said people in the Coderre administration told him in January that they were uncomfortable with his having assumed the leadership of Coalition Montreal. But he hadn't heard from Coderre since then.

"​For whatever the perceived slight he might have — and again it would be so minor — it is a punishment that exceeds any crime that I have committed," Rotrand said of Coderre, who hasn't publicly announced the firing yet.

Coderre's office did not return a request for comment.

Sending a message?

Rotrand said he had no "inkling" that Coderre was unhappy with his work at the STM.

"In December, Denis Coderre came to see me to tell me what a great job I was doing in terms of defending public transit at council and defending the admin's line on transit," Rotrand said.

"So you can imagine what a surprise this is."

He added that he believes his dismissal is a message to councillors in Coderre's own party: fall into line ahead of the Nov. 5 municipal election.

"I think that in some ways the municipal election ... will be a referendum on whether you like the style of Denis Coderre or not," said Rotrand.

Loosing his position with the STM also comes with a dramatic pay cut. Rotrand estimates he wil lose 40 per cent of his salary.

"I'm now out in the boonies and making the minimum, so if any of your listeners have any ideas for a clever guy who needs a little bit of extra income," he said with a laugh.

With files from Daybreak