Martin C. Barry
A feeling of victory filled the air at the Notre Dame Blvd. campaign headquarters of incumbent Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette on provincial election night last Oct. 1 – even though it also rang hollow.
Although Ouellette himself easily won re-election as expected, the Quebec Liberal Party’s losses most everywhere else in Quebec were historic in their proportion. Since election night, events turned in such a way that Ouellette is no longer a Liberal and will be representing the people of Chomedey as an independent member of the National Assembly.
By 9:30 pm on the evening of the election, it still wasn’t clear how the PLQ did in Laval’s five other ridings, although they managed in the end to win four, with the exception being Fabre where incumbent Liberal Jean Habel was defeated by the Coalition Avenir Québec’s Christopher Skeete.
A fifth term as MNA
First elected in 2007, this was the fifth time Ouellette won a mandate to serve Chomedey. Only a few days before the election, the former Sûreté du Québec investigator was embroiled in a controversy when Coalition Avenir Québec leader François Legault maintained that Ouellette had previously leaked confidential information to the CAQ regarding contracts awarded by the Liberal government.
Ouellette was briefly placed under arrest in October last year by the Unité permanente anticorruption which was conducting an investigation of leaked documents and information from within UPAC. At the time, the National Assembly’s speaker issued a statement expressing solidarity with Ouellette and denouncing UPAC’s actions as a threat to the work done by all MNAs.
No longer a Liberal
Ouellette refused to talk about the alleged information leaks with journalists on election night, saying that the matter was the subject of litigation and he could not comment for that reason. In the days after the Oct. 1 election, Ouellette was expelled from the Liberal caucus by interim-PLQ leader Pierre Arcand.
“Being in politics isn’t always easy,” Ouellette said in an address to his supporters on election night. “You have to be willing to follow through on your convictions, you have to be up to the same level as your integrity. It’s not everyone who understands this and it’s not everyone who accepts it. But I have never made any compromises in terms of rigour and this integrity to defend the citizens of Chomedey while continuing to serve you.”
Determined to keep serving
Despite the dismal results for the Liberals across the province, Ouellette said “it won’t change my determination to serve and to serve each and every citizen of Chomedey.” He thanked the many volunteers who helped with the Liberal campaign in Chomedey, while congratulating all the MNAs across Quebec who were elected to the National Assembly regardless of political affiliation.
“We didn’t get the results across the province that might have been wished for tonight,” he added. “But for the citizens of Chomedey, starting tomorrow we’ll be in a position to continue the work we do and that was started by [former MNAs] Mr. Mulcair and Mrs. Bacon and the late Jean-Noël Lavoie.”
Longtime volunteer retires
The 2018 Chomedey provincial election campaign was the last that longtime local political organizer and volunteer Claudette Lessard was participating in. After helping the Ouellette team in a total of five elections, and helping organize Liberal campaigns in the federal riding of Laval-Les Îles before then, Lessard let it be known on election night that she felt it was about time she retired.
“I’m 78 years old now and I think I have given just about everything possible,” she said in an interview with the Laval News. Asked for her impressions of the election, she replied, “It was a very difficult one. There was a lot of mud-slinging from one side to the other. It’s just not like it used to be back in 2007 with Guy. It was a lot easier then.”