Tensions around Trois-Rivières, Que., Mayor Jean Lamarche's controversial plan to turn local wetlands into an industrial park have contributed to an "unhealthy work climate" that's led to the mayor's decision to take a break from his duties.
According to a news release issued by the mayor's office Tuesday, Lamarche intends to "recharge his batteries and reassess his ability to work in line with his core values."
In that news release, the mayor also requested that a notice of motion concerning Carrefour 40-55 — a contentious plan backed by Lamarche that would destroy a large swath of wetland for the expansion of an industrial park — be removed from the agenda of Tuesday's municipal council meeting.
The industrial park plan has faced opposition by both citizens and members of the municipal council. More than 100 people signed an open letter against the expansion project, demanding that Trois-Rivières commission an independent study to evaluate the project's environmental impact.
"We have removed the polarizing subject [from the agenda], the 40-55," said the deputy mayor, Daniel Cournoyer, who will be taking over from Lamarche in the mayor's absence.
"We will get back to it when the mayor returns," he said. "By putting it aside and not discussing it for a few weeks before his return, it will probably calm the situation."
Cournoyer described the arguments over the wetlands as "deplorable."
"The climate around the municipal council has been unhealthy for quite some time," he said. "So, I understand that he is taking this time to reflect on it and, above all, rest as well."
Coun. Pierre Montreuil claims he was threatened by another local elected official in connection with the project a few hours before Lamarche suspended his activities.
"The threat I received was one of the elements that eventually convinced him to step away," said Montreuil. "It's the icing on the sundae. Add to that the adoption of the budget in December that caused a lot of reflection and fatigue for him and other elected officials."
Cournoyer insists that the situation does not put Lamarche's political future into question, pointing out the mayor won handily last October, with a margin of victory of 61.49 per cent.
The mayor's office said Lamarche would not be granting media interviews or commenting further on his decision to step away from his duties.