Martin C. Barry
Following a non-confidence vote last month in which Mayor Marc Demers received just 57 per cent support from the Mouvement Lavallois membership, there was more bad news for the mayor less than a week into June when he was confronted by an unparalleled revolt by city councillors that reduced his party to minority status for the first time since coming to power with a majority in 2013.
The June 5 city council meeting was nothing less than a meltdown for Demers and the Mouvement Lavallois. In a manifestation of what seemingly was building for months, deputy mayor and executive-committee vice-president David De Cotis – who was the number two man on council, in addition to the fact he founded the Mouvement Lavallois – emerged as the leader of a dissident ML councillors’ faction.
The dissenting vote
Specifically, De Cotis and the other dissenters decided to support a motion brought forth by the opposition calling for a revision of some recent committee appointments. Although ML councillor Stéphane Boyer questioned the legality of the move, the matter was voted on, but was also referred to the city’s lawyers, who may end up deciding if it is legally binding.
The dissenters are De Cotis (who represents the district of Saint-Bruno), as well as councillors Vasilios Karidogiannis (L’Abord-à-Plouffe), Aline Dib (Saint-Martin), Paolo Galati (Saint-Vincent-de-Paul), Sandra El-Hélou (Souvenir-Labelle), Isabella Tassoni (Laval-des-Rapides), Michel Poissant (Vimont), Jocelyne Frédéric-Gauthier (Auteuil) and Daniel Hébert (Marigot).
Opposition now has majority
With the nine ML defectors, opposition councillors Aglaia Revelakis (Chomedey) of Action Laval and Claude Larochelle (Fabreville) of the Parti Laval bring the total number of opposing council members to 11, leaving the Mouvement Lavallois with a maximum of 10 seats on the 21-member council (not including the mayor who has a tie-breaking vote).
When the June 5 council meeting timed out at 11 pm with business on the agenda still not finished, the session was adjourned, on a motion by Councillor Paolo Galati, to 5 pm the following day. However, before then, on the morning of June 6, the mayor fired De Cotis from the executive-committee.
By late afternoon when media and a core following of Laval residents were gathering at city hall for the continuation of the council meeting, word was spreading that a “quorum” of councillors legally necessary to convene the meeting couldn’t be available, owing to the absence of the remaining ML council members.
Just before 5:30 pm on Wednesday, political staffers from the mayor’s office informed media waiting in the city council chamber that Demers would be holding an impromptu press conference in the executive-committee board room during which he would make a statement. Demers said the following:
Mayor Demers’ statement
“There was no quorum at this evening’s city council and the result of this is that the council session that was started yesterday is adjourned to June 7 at 8 am. This decision was not taken lightly. It grants us time to dialogue with all the municipal councillors of our caucus, which seems to me is fundamental at this stage.
“Important talks must take place and it seems to us that it would be wise to hold them when we feel rested, in a calm and serene climate,” Demers continued. “We wish to listen to them, to exchange views with them, with respect and openness. In the current situation, the worst thing to do is to act with rashness. I will take yesterday’s example as proof of this, when a resolution was adopted in non-conformity with the rules that were in force.
Mayor states his openness
“In conclusion, I reiterate my openness and my desire to discuss with the elected officials in order to clear the way towards solutions that would be satisfactory for all. The ultimate goal at all times remains to defend as best possible the interests of Laval’s population.” The mayor declined to say anything further.
Almost immediately following this, in the city council chamber, De Cotis, surrounded by the nine dissident councillors, issued the following statement: “This morning, Mayor Demers unilaterally decided to relieve me of my duties as vice-chair of the executive committee.
De Cotis makes statement
“I was motivated to enter politics 10 years ago and was elected in 2013 because I believed Lavallois deserved to be served by an open and democratic administration that strives to respond effectively to meet their needs. This objective continues to be the driving force behind my participation in public life. Although I am indeed disappointed with the mayor’s actions, I will continue to work in the best interest of my fellow citizens.”
Reacting to journalists who noted that the mayor maintains the June 5 vote wasn’t legal, De Cotis responded, “The mayor isn’t a lawyer. We researched the matter with our team and our lawyers, and yesterday’s vote was one hundred per cent legal.”
‘We have the majority now’
However, when asked whether he or other councillors had any overall objections to how the mayor does things, De Cotis replied, “We work very well with Mayor Demers. There can be differences of opinion, but we work very well with him. We want to continue to work with him. But he has to understand that we have the majority now and we should be working together for democracy and for Laval residents.”
While noting that he appreciated being deputy mayor and vice-president of the executive-committee, De Cotis refused nonetheless to say what specifically led to the rift between himself, the other dissident ML councillors and the mayor. “Soon we will reveal what he did that we didn’t like,” De Cotis said.