Martin C. Barry
“You are probably asking yourselves what I’m doing up front here,” Chomedey Liberal MNA Guy Ouellette said to an audience of a few hundred people while introducing Sonia Baudelot, Avenir Laval’s mayoralty candidate, during a pre-election campaign event held at the Château Royal last Friday evening.
“The answer is simple,” Ouellette continued. “I have the pleasure and privilege to present one of my friends. She is a woman – and women in politics are very few. We would all like to see more of them.”
A 2013 council candidate
While this will be the first time Sonia Baudelot runs for the City of Laval’s mayoralty, she is not altogether a newcomer to municipal politics. She ran as an independent without success for the city council seat in l’Abord-à-Plouffe in 2013. For this year’s election on Nov. 5, she decided to put together a party of her own, and has managed to recruit a slate of candidates that, according to Baudelot, is almost completed.
“Laval needs a vision,” Baudelot said in a speech to supporters. “Laval needs leadership, Laval needs recognition and acknowledgement. Laval needs innovation. On Sunday November 5, 2017, Laval will need you. Avenir Laval is proposing to you a plan with an economic and dynamic outlook inspired by all Laval residents.”
Critical of ML’s record
Despite the claims being made by Mayor Marc Demers and the Mouvement Lavallois that the ML administration brought about fundamental changes in the city’s operations over the past four years, Baudelot and Avenir Laval maintain that Demers and the ML made superficial changes to a system put in place by disgraced former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt – without doing anything fundamentally different.
“They didn’t propose anything new,” she said. “They had four years to do something new. Four years as elected officials to give to the citizens after being elected in 2013. We’re now in 2017. Four years is a long time.”
A native of Laval, Baudelot has worked in the airline industry for the past 20 years as a flight attendant, as well as an airline staff recruiter and director of flight services. She is also well-known in west-end Laval for her involvement and volunteerism with a number of community organizations.
A Liberal presence
Apart from the presence of Ouellette – he and Baudelot have known each other for years on the personal and political level, she told the Laval News – there were other signs of a Liberal presence at the meeting. Among others seated in the front row encouraging Baudelot was Claudette Lessard-Ravenelle, a longtime driving force and organizer within the Laval-Les Îles federal Liberal riding association.
“They’ve known me for a long time,” said Baudelot, explaining their presence. She later added that “it’s known that I’ve worked for the PLQ as a volunteer. I’ve been volunteering since I’m a child.” It’s also apparent that Avenir Laval is a fairly well-organized party, one that was able to foot the expense of a costly evening that included the services of a hired photographer and video technician who recorded all the proceedings. According to Baudelot, five Avenir Laval candidates who were introduced on stage footed the bill.
The PQ connection
Despite outward appearances, Baudelot said Avenir Laval has succeeded in recruiting candidates of all political persuasions – including some whose previous background was with the PQ. “No we’re not all Liberals in the party,” she said. “We represent every single person in Laval.”
But at the same time, political partisanship spilling down into the municipal arena from higher levels of government is not unusual in Laval. Baudelot said she was aware that since being elected in 2013, Mayor Marc Demers (who ran unsuccessfully for the PQ in Laval-des-Rapides in the 2012 provincial election) has appointed at least two people with PQ connections.
In March last year, Demers hired former PQ MNA for Gouin Nicolas Girard (who was named CEO of the Agence métropolitaine de transport by the PQ before being fired by the Liberals) as a special liaison for the City of Laval responsible for regional public transportation issues.
And this past June, Demers appointed Lynda Tousignant, who was a fellow PQ candidate (in Vimont) in the 2012 election, to the Place-du-Souvenir Fund committee. The unremunerated committee is overseeing up to $10 million clawed back legally by the city from former mayor Vaillancourt following his breach of trust and fraud convictions.
Baudelot declined to comment on the appointments. “I don’t want to go down that road because I don’t want to do that kind of politics,” she insisted.