Arrests, scandals, vacationing candidates: Meet Quebec's new batch of aspiring municipal politicians

People voting in Quebec’s local elections could be forgiven for feeling less than confident these days that their scandal-plagued municipalities are about to elect a better batch of leaders.

In the last few days one candidate for the Nov. 3 elections was arrested. One went on vacation. One had his criminal record, for causing the death of his wife, featured in news reports.

And one candidate for Montreal municipal council was repudiated by her party — not because of her recent work as a prostitute, but because of an investigation into other business activities by Quebec’s stock-market regulator.

She was allegedly trying to create a new international currency and seeking money from people in an existing tender — namely, stacks of euros — to make that dream a reality.

This was supposed to be Quebec’s season of hope and change, after a series of scandals. With so many municipal politicians recently resigned, or arrested, and so much scrutiny over ethics issues, a wave of new candidates promising better days has applied to fill these vacant seats.

But over the last few days local media have been filled with tales of the more unusual antics of several candidates.

In Laval, Que., there’s a race for mayor after two successive municipal leaders were forced to resign. One of the candidates to replace them has decided that he’ll be spending the rest of the campaign in Cuba.

Regent Millette is a perennial political candidate. The 78-year-old has run in as many as 25 federal, provincial and municipal elections over the years and, except for one instance, has never finished higher than last place in any of them.

Now, he’s seeking to follow in the footsteps of the federal NDPer who got elected in 2011 after a campaign trip to Las Vegas.

Millette, 78, is travelling to Cuba with a friend who is in poor health. He left his spokesman to handle his campaign.

“I talked him into going — but when I did so I was under the impression he’d go once the campaign was over,” spokesman Rick Blatter said in an interview.

Blatter said local media had largely been ignoring Millette, and independent candidates have been shut out of local debates. So sticking around might not have made much of a difference.

Millette left on Saturday and isn’t due back in town until Nov. 9. “(That’s) unless he gets elected (Nov. 3), then we’ll call him and he’ll come back earlier,” Blatter said.

Things have been even stranger in Montreal — where a dark-horse candidate, Melanie Joly, has catapulted out of the shadows to become a perceived top challenger to former federal minister Denis Coderre, according to the latest polls.

Now, there’s greater scrutiny of her slate. And the spotlight’s glare made for an uncomfortable weekend.

Late last week, a newspaper reported that one transgendered candidate, Bibiane Bovet, had been working as a prostitute until 18 months ago.

Joly at first stood by a candidate who was trying to turn her life around. Then La Presse newspaper reported that the stock-market authority was investigating her for another type of solicitation: Bovet allegedly asked people for 150,000-euro contributions to help her start a new international currency.

And that was that.

Joly announced Sunday she wasn’t satisfied with Bovet’s responses to the report and decided to part ways with her. She called it a “good-faith” error because her campaign simply hadn’t had the resources to vet the candidate deeply.

Joly even tried to spin the news in her favour.

She noted that some of her opponents are allied with long-time former politicians who belonged to the corruption-ridden, now-defunct Union Montreal party.

“I’d rather be wrong about a candidate whose past I don’t know enough about — while in other parties everyone knows their past,” Joly said.

Meanwhile, the outgoing mayor of St-Remi, south of Montreal, was arrested last week.

It was strike two for his campaign.

Michel Lavoie was already facing corruption charges since last December and he’d been stripped of the mayor’s position by the courts. He’s running for re-election. Lavoie is due in court on the new charges in January.

One report about a candidate’s past was downright tragic.

In a small village in Western Quebec, a man who spent nearly four years in prison in connection with the death of his girlfriend is running for mayor in Kazabazua, Que.

Paul Liberty was charged with criminal negligence causing death and spent roughly four years in jail. He told a local newspaper earlier this month that the conviction has nothing to do with his candidacy.

He called his prior conviction “irrelevant” to the campaign.

Liberty said he was wrongly accused. He was quoted telling the Ottawa Citizen that his girlfriend, Line Renaud, had blacked out after a night of heavy drinking and he had, too, off and on for two days.

He eventually drove her to the hospital, where she fell into a coma and died. The newspaper reported that he has been unemployed since being released from prison in 2009.

Liberty is running on an anti-corruption platform.

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