Montreal's governing party crumbling, as half-dozen bolt caucus

MONTREAL – Montreal’s ruling political party is starting to crumble.

The city manager who quit last week says five other people have joined him in bolting from the caucus of the Union Montreal party.

Michael Applebaum made the announcement today at city hall.

The party has been in turmoil since the resignation last week of Mayor Gerald Tremblay.

The attempt to pick a new mayor has created a rift within the party, as Applebaum was snubbed by colleagues. He cast his departure as a matter of principle, accusing his former allies of preparing unreasonable tax increases and of suppressing embarrassing documents.

Now he’s poised to challenge them. The city council must pick an interim mayor on Friday, and Applebaum appears set to seek support from both the governing party and opposition ones.

There have been suggestions in local media that Applebaum’s candidacy would be hampered by his imperfect French and his powerful accent in that language.

Applebaum brushed aside such questions during a news conference today.

“Yes, I’m an anglophone,” Applebaum said, speaking French.

“I was born here. I am a Quebecer. I’m proud of being able to work in French. Now I think we should focus on other things.”

While Montreal has a large English-speaking population, the city has not had an Anglophone mayor for generations.

Applebaum’s chief rival, Richard Deschamps, held his own news conference surrounded by a number of caucus members to demonstrate that he still has strong support.

“Our caucus is more united that ever,” he said.

He appears to have budged on the tax issue, and agrees with Applebaum that a property-tax increase be limited to no more than 2.2 per cent.