Martin C. Barry
Laval city councillor for Souvenir-Labelle Jean Coupal, who was elected with the victorious Mouvement Lavallois in the 2013 municipal election, has decided to leave the governing party.
Coupal joins the ranks of a growing number of disaffected city councillors who prefer sitting as independents rather than with the council majority or the official opposition, which is perceived by some former members and critics as ineffective.
Mayor Demers reacts
“Mr. Coupal had views which were very much his own on a number of subjects,” Mayor Marc Demers said in a statement to the Laval News reacting to Coupal’s decision. “He had difficulty staying with the majority, which ended up isolating him within the team. I believe he will be more at ease as an independent and I wish him good luck. However, it’s still a fact that the citizens of his district voted for a candidate from the Mouvement Lavallois, which they no longer have.”
Was critical of ML
In a statement Coupal issued last Monday, he said he has been sitting as an independent since December. Coupal said he did this “in order to better represent the interests of the residents” of his district, as well as the interests of all Laval residents, and “not just from behind the closed doors of the Mouvement Lavallois caucus.”
Coupal said what ultimately made him decide to leave the ML was Laval city council’s recent awarding of a sole bidder computer services contract to an IT consultant who will be receiving nearly $3,000 a day for a total of more than $400,000 for 1,000 hours of work.
“In the beginning, the Mouvement Lavallois was created to oust Mayor Vaillancourt’s PRO des Lavallois,” Coupal said, referring to the former mayor’s defunct municipal party. “This was carried off with brilliance in November 2013.
“Since then, unfortunately, the Mouvement Lavallois has been determined to repeat the era of one-party rule in council,” he added, “by means of money which allows it to eliminate all opposition and to manage public funds without having to worry about the capacity of taxpayers to pay and the equity between them and public servants.”
Immediately following the 2013 election, the Mouvement Lavallois held 17 of the 21 council seats. Action Laval won two (Aglaia Revelakis in Chomedey and Paolo Galati in St-Vincent-de-Paul) and formed the official opposition, while Jacques St-Jean (Saint-François) and Michel Trottier (Fabreville) sat as independents.
In August 2014, Galati decided he was no longer interested in Action Laval and formally joined the Mouvement Lavallois. Since then, he’s been prominent at a good number of public functions where he’s visibly become close to the second most powerful elected official in Laval: executive-committee vice-president David De Cotis.
Trottier forms new party
While Jacques St-Jean remained steadily independent during this time, Michel Trottier – who was one of the most outspoken, demonstrative and vocal council members from the beginning – decided to forego his autonomy in July 2014 and join Action Laval which was and continues to be led by 2013 mayoral candidate Jean-Claude Gobé, who has said he intends to run for mayor again in 2017.
For the opposition party, this made up for the loss of Galati. Then in September 2015, Trottier decided he’d had enough with Action Laval and announced he would be sitting again as an independent, leaving Aglaia Revelakis as the only Action Laval member sitting on city council. By last month, Trottier was announcing the creation of a new political party, the Parti Laval, in preparation for the November 2017 municipal elections. For the time being, he is the interim leader of the party.
ML loses three more
In the meantime, the Mouvement Lavallois has lost the support of three other councillors who were originally elected under the party’s banner. In September 2014, Laval-des-Rapides city councillor Pierre Anthian decided to leave the ML to sit as an independent. But he was present alongside Michel Trottier in December when the latter announced the formation of his new party.
In November 2014, Councillor Alain Lecompte (l’Orée-des-Bois) also decided to quit the ML, citing a climate of distrust within the ruling party, to sit as an independent. Councillor Jean Coupal is the latest member of Laval city council to go down the same route.