Montreal’s choice to replace Michael Applebaum as interim mayor had better be squeaky clean

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

When now-former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum resigned from the office on Tuesday, amid corruption charges, he maintained his innocence and vowed to clear his name.

“Being the mayor of Montreal is not a task one can do while defending yourself from allegations of this nature,” he said, adding that he would focus on clearing his name and removing the stain from Montreal City Hall.

Fulfilling the last half of that promise could be a full time job on its own. There is plenty of stain these days. Applebaum was brought into office late last year after his predecessor resigned amid corruption allegations.

Gerald Tremblay has not been charged in the province's anti-corruption investigation. When he stepped down in November, also maintaining his innocence, he said: "The city's functioning is much more important than my own personal interest."

Does anyone hear an echo? The sanctity of the institution has been dulled by the ongoing controversy. It is a building in need of varnish. It requires a leader absent of tarnish.

Montreal's next municipal election is in November, leaving the city in search of an interim mayor who can cleanly shepherd to flock for about four months.

[ Related: Montreal scrambles to find new mayor, again ]

City council is prepared to choose one of their own to take up the mantle next week.

Some names have already started to pop up, and most agree that anyone who has sniffed scandal should not be in the running.

Vision Montreal leader Louise Harel suggested to the Montrel Gazette that anyone interviewed by the province's anti-corruption squad or connected even tangentially to their raids should be considered.

Not because they are accused of doing anything wrong, just to avoid the smell of anything scandalous.

That would leave Alan DeSousa and Helen Fotopulos out of the question. Both DeSousa's borough of St-Laurent and Fotopulos's Côte-des-Neiges have been raided.

DeSousa ran to be interim mayor against Applebaum and lost by a vote of 31-29, which suggests he would have a good chance at winning, should he run.

[ More Brew: Montreal Mayor Applebaum resigns amid corruption charges ]

The impending November election could also have a cooling effect on the top potential candidates.

Both Harel, leader of the Vision Montreal municipal party, and Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron are set to run for the full-time mayorality at the end of the year and therefore are not inclined to run for the interim post.

Those parties have already propped up their own suggestions, including:

  • Rosemont-Petite-Patrie borough mayor François Croteau, via Projet Montreal
  • Executive committee chairman Laurent Blanchard, via Vision Montreal
  • Speaker Harout Chitilian has also been suggested as an option.

Another consideration would be Deputy Mayor Jane Cowell-Poitras, who has stepped up until Applebaum's replacement is found. She did the same thing after Tremblay stepped down;last year, and those brief moments were perhaps the least controversial of the city's recent history.

Without taking a cynical view, or at least an overly-cynical one, it is beyond important that whomever is selected as the next interim mayor successfully passes the time in the most idle way possible. No scandal, no whiff of it, lest the city be tagged with its third mayoral controversy in less than a year.

Not an easy task, that's the problem with skeletons in the closet. They tend to go unnoticed until people really start looking for them.

Eventually, those seeking the permanent job will as the public to decide who will lead. All council needs to do is find someone who can get them to November without tripping over any bones.