Jean-Francois Lisee: Montreal needs you

The PQ minister has little to offer in Montreal’s moment of crisis
Martin Patriquin
Parti Quebecois candidate for the Montreal riding of Rosemont Jean-Francois Lisee speaks to supporters during his nomination meeting in Montreal, Que., Saturday August 4, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes

As you might have heard, there was a bit of news out of Montreal. Interim mayor Michael Applebaum stepped down after being arrested, a fact blasted across the planet as loudly (if not more so) than Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s alleged fondness for crack cocaine. It is a huge black eye for Montreal, with potential consequences for investment and tourism in a city still reeling from mayor Gérald Tremblay’s resignation last November. Add to this the near-constant barrage of bad news emanating from the Charbonneau commission—Montreal has long been ground zero for various price-fixing schemes in the construction industry, thanks in large part to corrupt city officials—and a strike in the construction industry, and it’s difficult to think otherwise: we’re hurting. Hurting bad.

It’s at times like these that citizens turn to their elected officials for guidance and leadership, which is why I was interested in what PQ minister Jean-François Lisée had to say. Apart from being responsible for the Montreal area, Lisée is himself a resident of this fine (if tattered) city. In his former life, Lisée was a fine and prolific blogger who could sell you (almost) anything with his mellifluous prose. Trouble was, he was rabidly, relentless partisan. He didn’t only sell sovereignty; he sold the Parti Québécois as the only means of achieving it. (Here, for instance, he shills for the Parti Québécois leader less than two weeks before declaring his intention to run for the PQ. Here, he trashes fellow sovereignist party Quebec Solidaire days before the election.) A minister, you’d think, would be above such petty partisanship—if only because he had more pressing issues, like yet another governmental crisis within the biggest city in the province.

Or not. Yesterday, in the wake of Applebaum’s resignation, Lisée took to the blogosphere to… promote the PQ. “This week , the promotion of foreign affairs in a sovereign Quebec continues with the #PaysQc campaign,” Lisée wrote, referring to the Parti Québécois-branded Twitter campaign. “Independence: the possibility to contribute in  all international forums.” The minister for Montreal then plugged a Daily Show clip about Bixis in New York, took a weird pot shot at former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and called it a day.

A minister for Montreal should be expressing exactly what the government is doing in the wake of Applebaum’s resignation. He should be reassuring Montrealers that the city is in good hands despite the latter’s arrest, and how the city will rebound as it always does from the trauma it has suffered. Tell us how the next mayor will be held to rigourous and exacting ethical standards. It’s easy, boilerplate stuff. Certainly, there’s a time for politics, but politicking in the midst of Montreal’s misery is cheap and reeks of desperation. Get back to work, Mr. Lisée. Your city needs you.