New Quebec law used to boot out mayor accused of corruption

MONTREAL – A recently adopted Quebec law, used to try forcing a small-town mayor to resign, has passed its first courtroom test.

Michel Lavoie, the mayor of Saint-Remi south of Montreal, has been temporarily relieved of his duties as the result of a Quebec Superior court ruling.

Under a law adopted last March by the national assembly, the courts have the power to boot an elected official if he faces criminal charges and there is a link between the allegations and his political role.

In a judgment rendered Thursday, the court declared that Lavoie, who faces charges of conspiracy, fraud and breach of trust, was incapable of performing as mayor because it would discredit the municipal administration.

Quebec Superior Court justice Jean-Francois Michaud said the court found it necessary to legislate to protect the integrity of municipal institutions.

Despite the judgment, Lavoie said he will run again in municipal elections on Nov. 3 and wants to let voters decide.

He is the only mayor arrested by Quebec’s special anti-corruption unit who has refused to step down. Mayors in Laval and Montreal, who face charges, quit their jobs.

The neighbouring cities have also each seen a mayor not facing charges quit in other scandals, meaning Montreal and Laval have had a combined total of six mayors since last year.

The law was adopted during the corruption scandal that rocked a number of Quebec municipalities.

In the meantime, Lavoie will hold onto the title of mayor, but because of the court ruling he cannot carry out any functions related to the job.

Lavoie’s lawyer argued that the legislation went against the presumption of innocence and was unconstitutional — arguments rejected by the judge.