On Friday afternoon, June 28, Laval Interim Mayor Alexandre Duplesis became the second mayor of a major Quebec city to resign in less than two weeks, and the fourth mayor to resign in less than a year. However unlike the other mayors from Montreal and Laval who resigned, this time it had nothing to do with the Charbonneau Commission inquiry into corruption, instead it had to do with sex.
The cause was unusual for Quebec politics, and smelled more of American politics were every couple of months another congressman, senator or governor seems involved in a sex scandal, and even a president, Bill Clinton had been embroiled in a sex scandal that nearly saw him impeached. In contrast, most Canadian political scandals have to do with money, with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford being the rare drug scandal, and unlike the American political sex scandals, this one played out in just hours.
Reports began on Thursday that the Laval mayor had filed a police complaint with the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police over being extorted by an escort and her driver over payment for services. The Journal de Montréal reported that there were 100 text messages related to hiring the escort that prove the event occurred. A cousin of the escort was also interviewed by TVA’s Claude Poirier.
Sûreté du Québec confirmed to Radio-Canada that an extortion complaint was filed on June 14, but they did not give any further details. SQ spokesperson Christine Coulombe issued a statement to the press; “An individual solicited the services of an escort and there was a dispute as to the payment.”
Apparently Duplessis had arranged with the head of an escort service for a prostitute to come to his Laurentians country home. The escort had a female driver accompany her to his country home, they were unaware who their customer was when hired, but one of women realized who Duplesis was. Duplesis sent them away after a payment dispute relating to him taking the women on a boating trip; he would not pay them their hourly rate. The basis of the extortion complaint was based on the women trying three times to get a payment from Duplessis.
Early Friday morning, Duplessis held a press conference at Laval’s city hall, where he emphatically denied that he hired prostitutes; “I have never engaged anyone for sexual services… I never received any, any, never any sexual service or favour.” It was a denial Duplessis kept on stating repeatedly and in different ways; “I never solicited, I never received anything of a sexual nature, I never received [anything] of a sexual nature and I never received favours of a sexual nature.” Duplessis 42, is married with two children.
Duplessis did admit to filing the police complaint, being the subject of the extortion attempts, and he stated the two women have already been arrested; “I immediately contacted police. There was an investigation and police made arrests.” He remained adamant that he would not resign over the issue; “I will continue my work as mayor. I will continue my work for the citizens of Laval. I will not resign over this extortion threat.”
The head of the escort service at the center of the scandal gave an interview to the TVA network anonymously, and shared many of the text messages, which have been with certainty traced back to Duplessis’s cell phone.
Duplessis called a special closed door meeting of Laval’s city council for Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. to discuss the scandal. Most of the counsillors called for his resignation, and Duplesis resigned before the meeting at 2:30 p.m. E.T; the councillors used to the meeting to discuss the plan to choose a new interim mayor.
Jean-Claude Gobe, a former Liberal MNA, who intends to run for Laval mayor in the general election, stated in an interview; “I think it’s pathetic…. It’s something that he needs to understand – that he no longer has the credibility or the moral authority (to stay on).”
In the end, only six hours after his press conference, Duplessis submitted his resignation by a letter to the city clerk. His resignation was announced on the city of Laval’s website, which reads; “The Ville de Laval announces that Alexandre Duplessis has tendered his resignation as interim mayor. Mr. Duplessis provided a letter of resignation to the city clerk; his resignation takes effect immediately.”
The resignation will not interrupt governing the city since it is aleady under provincial government trusteeship. Despite many councillors who wanted the city to remain without a mayor until fall elections, executive council vice-president Basile Angelopoulos stated a new interim mayor will be chosen by the city council next Friday. “It’s not an easy moment, and these are events that make us all sad,” Angelopoulos told the press.
The nominating process begins Saturday, with a council vote set for Friday, July 5 to vote on the interim mayor who will remain at the helm until municipal elections are held on Nov. 3, 2013.
Duplessis’s predecessor Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt resigned in November 2012 after serving as mayor for 23 years. The Charbonneau Commission inquiry has been investigating corruption in the construction industry and organized crime’s involvement since October 2011, and the anti-corruption unit (UPAC) raided several times the Laval municipal offices.
Vaillancourt was just charged in May with 12 corruption related counts, which included “conspiracy, fraud, breach of trust and gangsterism.” Each member of the city council was involved in election fund corruption, including Duplessis, although he has not been charged as of yet. The widespread corruption prompted Premier Pauline Marois at the beginning of June to place the city under provincial trusteeship.
Duplessis was only interim mayor for six months, when the scandal broke on Friday; his tenure was shorter than Montreal’s latest interim mayor to resign, who served seven months. On Monday, June 17, Montreal’s interim mayor Michael Applebaum was arrested on 14 corruption related charges. The calls for his resignation were immediate and unanimous. Applebaum subsequently announced his resignation in a news conference Tuesday afternoon, June 18th.
Applebaum’s predecessor Gérald Trembly served as mayor of Montreal for 11 years before being forced to resign in November 2012 amid accusations of knowledge of widespread corruption in his government. Trembly still has not faced any criminal charges.
Laval’s city council has 21 members all of which formerly belonged to Vaillancourt’s Parti PRO des Lavallois. The party dissolved with the councillors becoming independents; currently there are a number of empty seats due to resignations. The new interim mayor will be chosen from the pool of remaining councillors.
Quebec municipal politics seems more toxic with each passing scandal and resignation. Hopefully municipal elections in the fall will bring responsible government devoid of scandal for both Montreal and Laval, and bring back credibility to both cities.
- Alexandre Deplessis’ Biography
- Ville de Laval
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & International politics.