MONTREAL – A prominent politician has bowed out of Montreal’s mayoral race while conceding her failure to win support from the city’s English community.
Louise Harel announced Tuesday that she will run only for a seat on council, but not for the mayoralty, in November.
The leader of the main opposition party at city hall said she will back a coalition candidate — Marcel Cote, an economist and businessman believed to have support from different parties.
Harel essentially admitted that she couldn’t penetrate the electorate in the western — mostly English-speaking — half of the city.
A former Parti Quebecois cabinet minister and staunch sovereigntist, Harel had drawn the ire of many suburban Montrealers when she was the municipal affairs minister who created the merged mega-city more than a decade ago.
In response to criticism back then, she singled out the wealthy suburb of Westmount over what she called “its anglo-British character, its old stench of colonialism.”
That may have left her unelectable in a city-wide race.
Not only did Harel lose the 2009 vote to the scandal-plagued party of Gerald Tremblay, a former provincial Liberal minister, but recent polls also place her far behind Denis Coderre, a former federal Liberal.
“It’s an open secret that I had some trouble penetrating the western part of the city,” Harel said. She said Cote was the kind of candidate who could be more successful at “rallying the west and east.”
The move to recruit Cote is seen as an attempt to block Coderre.
The former federal immigration minister is the current front-runner to win the November election. The victor will become Montreal’s fourth mayor in just over a year, following an interim one and two others who quit in scandal.
Cote has an extensive business background in which he was a founding partner of Secor Consulting Inc., an executive in different companies, and has been involved in various public-policy and community organizations. He is also a fellow at the Center for International Affairs of Harvard University.
He was also a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office of Brian Mulroney.
Cote illustrated Monday on social media one way in which he’s different from Harel. He tweeted: “Happy Canada Day to all Montrealers!”