Candidates sprint to the finish in the race for mayor of Gatineau

The race also shed light on a divide that is still present in several cities in Quebec: the presence of political parties at the municipal level.

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Gatineau residents go to the polls to elect a new mayor in a race that will likely test voters’ appetite for change at town hall.

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The city’s electoral campaign, which ends Sunday, when all of Quebec will vote to elect new mayors and municipal councilors, is based on the candidates’ different visions of the future.

Most of the main candidates highlighted the environment, infrastructure and housing as key issues, but put a different emphasis on what is most important to the city, the fourth largest in Quebec in terms of population, according to the 2016 census data.

The race also shed light on a divide that is still present in several cities in Quebec: the presence of political parties at the municipal level.

In Gatineau, this is evident in the clash between the so-called favorites: one of whom is an independent candidate, another who runs under the banner of Action Gatineau, a political party to which the outgoing mayor of the city , Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, is part.

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Action Gatineau candidate Maude Marquis-Bissonnette, city councilor and doctoral student in public policy at Carleton University, appears to be a probable favorite thanks to the support she enjoys from the outgoing mayor and his camp.

Marquis-Bissonnette has promised to put in place a climate plan if he is elected and to prioritize public transport and the development of green spaces.

But other candidates fired salutes at Marquis-Bissonnette during the campaign, criticizing his party as representing the status quo, disconnected from a booming city. Action Gatineau has been in power at Gatineau City Hall for eight years.

Jean-François Leblanc, an independent candidate who, according to polls, is third in the race, challenged Action Gatineau in a recent Facebook video.

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“Since the start of the campaign, I have the impression that they are embarrassed to say that (Action Gatineau) is a political party. Marquis-Bissonnette speaks of a citizen movement, ”he said in the video. “It is not a citizens’ movement, it is a political party. They say there is no party line, there is a party line.

Leblanc, a city councilor, entrepreneur and IT consultant, has vowed to freeze municipal taxes if elected – a promise that has drawn criticism from other candidates, who have suggested such a freeze would inevitably result in cuts in some areas of the city budget.

According to an early October poll commissioned by Le Droit and 104.7 Outaouais radio station, only nine percent of potential voters signaled their intention to vote for Leblanc, disqualifying him from a local candidate debate that required participating candidates to reach a threshold of 10 percent. hundred.

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Leblanc and other candidates – there are six in total – protested, but in the end, only the two favorites who exceeded 10%, Marquis-Bissonnette and France Bélisle, an independent candidate who positions herself as a candidate for change. and alternative to the domination of Action Gatineau, attended the debate.

Since then, however, Bélisle has defended herself against online accusations that she oversaw a toxic work environment in her former position as head of the regional tourist office, Tourisme Outaouais.

Bélisle denied the charges, which surfaced in the midst of the campaign, and noted that no formal complaint had been filed against her. She even suggested that the allegations against her may have been orchestrated by Action Gatineau, Le Droit reported – an accusation the political party has firmly denied.

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A poll conducted at the end of October by CROP for ICI Ottawa-Gatineau showed Marquis-Bissonnette in the lead with 22 percent of the voting intentions, Bélisle in second with 12 percent and Leblanc third with six percent.

At the end of the race, the three candidates shared with this newspaper what they believed to be the most important issue for the next mayor of Gatineau.

Marquis-Bissonnette cited the environment. “One of the main problems facing cities is the climate emergency,” she said. “We know we need to act in a robust way to reduce our GHG emissions and adapt our city, and that will be one of my top priorities if I am elected on Sunday.”

She said one of the ways she plans to reduce Gatineau’s carbon footprint would be to secure federal funding for a streetcar project.

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Bélisle said the biggest challenge a new mayor would face would be improving Gatineau’s infrastructure. “The most important issue is infrastructure: road infrastructure, but also cultural, recreational and sports infrastructure.

She also spoke of a need for new blood at City Hall to meet the needs of a growing city. “I think the city of Gatineau has to change. He’s been living on the same party for eight years.

Leblanc also said infrastructure was the main issue the next mayor should tackle and stressed that Gatineau’s roads were a key priority. “Currently, we are waiting for the roads to be completely rutted before acting, which considerably increases the scale of the works and the costs associated with it,” he said. “The longer we delay this work, the more expensive and difficult it will be to catch up. “

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