MONTREAL (AP) – The French-speaking city of Montreal elected an Anglophone mayor Friday for the first time in 100 years, following his predecessor’s resignation over allegations of corruption.
Michael Applebaum won a city council vote to serve as interim mayor for only a year, with a promise not to run in the next municipal election of November 2013.
Applebaum speaks French, but it’s not his first language and Anglophones in Canada’s French-speaking province of Quebec rarely hold prominent political roles.
Because former mayor Gerald Tremblay resigned last week, a year before an election, provincial law dictates that his successor had to be picked by the city council on an interim basis.
Tremblay stepped down as a public inquiry hears testimony linking him to graft and organized crime.
Martin Dumont, who worked for Tremblay’s Union Montreal party, testified that the mayor knew about illegal financing within his political party and didn’t care.
Tremblay, mayor for 11 years, has denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and says he was let down by underlings. There is no suggestion he profited personally and he said he was resigning to spare his city further difficulty.
Frank Zampino, once a top adviser to Tremblay, faces fraud charges and current employees have been suspended.
Following Tremblay’s resignation, Gilles Vaillancourt, the mayor of Quebec’s third-largest city stepped down after 23 years as mayor of Laval, a suburb of Montreal.
Quebec, the only province with French as its official language, has fought to maintain this linguistic identity despite changing demographics due to immigrant populations.
In Montreal, Canada’s second largest city with a population of 1.7 million, about 13 percent of people claim English as their mother tongue and the notion of an Anglophone mayor would have seemed highly unlikely just a few weeks ago.
Even last week, Applebaum appeared to have a slim chance of success but he went about building support, and as details of the corruption scandal unfolded, he grew increasingly popular.
In his speech before the vote, Applebaum cast himself as a historic candidate not for linguistic reasons but because he wanted to create a multi-party coalition, bringing together former foes to clean up the scandal-plagued city.
“You have a chance to make history today,” he told council colleagues, “as the city council that moved beyond the sterile bickering.”
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