A “Strong Mandate” for Équipe Labeaume

A “Strong Mandate” for Équipe Labeaume
Régis Labeaume's victory speech broadcast to the City Hall media room while results continue to come in

Régis Labeaume’s victory speech broadcast to the City Hall media room while results continue to come in

About a dozen reporters and nearly as much city staff just spent the evening in a first-floor room set aside for following the election results.  Five city flags and a podium in front of a projection screen make up the entirety of the pomp and circumstance set aside for the room, while two flat-screen TVs in the corner of the room are still playing the RDI newsfeeds.  Representatives from Spain’s Catalonia region, vying for greater national independence, were also present to learn about our municipal election methods.  Ms. Joana Ortega i Alemany, Vice-President of the Catalan government, took a few moments to give her praise to our process.

Labeaume’s lead was dominant from the very first minutes of the evening, at 8PM, with Labeaume opening with 75% of the first 3000 or so votes counted.  Radio-Canada declared him re-elected a mere 11 minutes after the polls closed, and unsurprisingly his lead held through to the end of the evening.  53.4% of those eligible to vote in the Quebec City elections did so for a total of 215,650 voters. A little over 74% of those voted for the incumbent, giving Mayor Labeaume a strong win over David Lemelin at just under 24%.

A few districts were less clear-cut.  A few of the districts gave tight races to their councilors.  Notably, Yvon Bussières of Démocratie Québec came out to an early but modest lead in Montcalm-Saint-Sacrement.   Anne Guerette, Démocratie Québec candidate in Cap-aux-Diamants, and Paul Shoiry in Saint-Louis-Sillery, also held leads throughout the evening and all three would go on to win their seats.  Aside from those three, Démocratie Québec candidates scored between 20% and 40%, while other candidates failed to break double digits.

Ultimately, though, the conclusion of the election was truly foregone.  Labeaume’s gamble of framing the election as a referendum on his leadership in general – and of his strong position against the city’s worker unions in particular – paid off handily.  For those who’ve followed the election though, it’s hard to be surprised.

For many, the question wasn’t if Labeaume would win, but rather by how much.  The next months promise to be fraught with union conflicts as Labeaume had his plan to cut retirement benefits and increase working hours of blue- and white-collar city employees confirmed.  Labeaume had asked for a “strong mandate” in order to do this.  In 2009, Labeaume had obtained a stunning 79% of the popular vote; the question remains to see if his slight slip to 74% will temper his resolve.

Régis Labeaume, with 18 of 21 councilors elected, was visibly pleased in his headquarters at at Château Bonne Entente.  He called it a “strong mandate”, before moving up to the stage and delivering his victory speech.  He opened by thanking the people of Quebec for their strong rate of participation, and then to all candidates of any party for their resolve.  He then related the main points of his campaign, calling for strength and unity in front of the coming budget and public finance questions to be tackled.  Calling it a “historic” vote, he saluted the people of Quebec City for taking head-on the issue of public retirement benefits, and their load on public finances, launching the debate for the rest of the province.  He closed calling on all parties at the National Assembly to pay attention to his administration’s demands, saying there was now a clear need for change on the question.  The stage is clearly set for the months to come.  His opening statements included his other campaign promises, such as a consultation on culture in 2014, assistance for first-time home-buyers, a desire to unclog the city’s highways, and, of course, a reassertion that major events will continue to draw the eyes of the world to the city.

He secondly addressed union leaders themselves, saying everything could be solved through discussion.  He appealed to the good work done by municipal workers and requested that the air of bad faith be broken and negotiations continue, while making it clear that he would be “inflexible” on the point that retirement benefits would not entirely be solved through increased taxation.  He called on union leaders to meet with him as early as the next morning.  “It’s time to get back to work,” he closed.  In subsequent media scrums, he called on newly-elected Montréal mayor Denis Coderre to be his ally in the upcoming public sector retirement benefits negotiations.

What does this mean for Démocratie Québec?  With Lemelin himself not elected and facing a confidence check with his recent revelations, it’s easy to start feeling that Paul Shoiry, former Sainte-Foy-Sillery councilor elected in 2005, might be the next leader of Démocratie Québec and of the official opposition at City Hall.  Anne Guérette, original founder of Démocratie Québec, might also take back the reins.  They’ve certainly got the experience and popular support, though only time will tell how well they’ll be able to rally the only three remaining opposition members against Labeaume’s commanding presence.

As for Équipe Labeaume, they’re walking out of this electing with the clear support of the population intact.  Labeaume’s vision for big projects coupled with a lean civil service is extremely popular among the majority, but likely to simultaneously disgruntle unions and ruffle the feathers of the fiscally conservative – a dangerous combination, if handled poorly.  Brace for a rocky fall and invest in a good shovel for the likely work conflicts to come this winter.

Closing analysis of the election will come tomorrow.

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About the author:

Farnell-Morisset_BiogFarnell Morisset is passionate about discussing (among other things) the issues of modern social identity for many Québécois who, like him, feel deeply connected to the Québécois nation and culture yet do not identify with the traditional francophone non-practicing Catholic nationalist image.

It is with this in mind that he contributes to LifeinQuebec.com as a valued member of our in-house writing team.

See other articles by Farnell Morisset

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