Laval Citoyens leader Michel Poissant gets an early start on mayoralty bid

First elected in 2013, Vimont councillor’s political journey has been circuitous

As founder of the new Laval Citoyens party and as a mayoralty candidate in the municipal elections in November, one could easily be left with the impression that Michel Poissant is starting the race a few places behind pole position.

Unlike the Mouvement lavallois, the current party in power whose roots date back to when former Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt was in office, or Action Laval which ran its first candidates in 2013, or the Parti Laval which has been around since 2016, Laval Citoyens has a steep hill to climb if it hopes to win the confidence of Laval’s voters by Nov. 7 in such a short time.

Plain spoken

Poissant, a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and former Fonds de solidarité des Travailleurs du Québec financial administrator who is now CFO at a Saint-Laurent-based telecommunications company, has a gift for plain-speaking and the ability to appeal to the common woman or man.

Although he willingly converses in English, it seems fairly clear that his strongest support is most likely to come from voters in Laval’s predominantly French-speaking districts, with a broader base of support should he manage to recruit and place appropriate candidates in English-speaking areas.

Seeks undecided voters

“I believe that in the upcoming election we’re starting from scratch,” Poissant admitted candidly in an exclusive in-person interview with the Laval News recently following a mayoralty campaign launch that other media chose to attend only as online participants.

While acknowledging the uphill battle lying ahead from now to next November, Poissant believes that at least 50 per cent of voters in the City of Laval are undecided – “That’s my gut feeling,” he said – and Laval Citoyens has its work cut out to win their support.

“People have been voting from election to election for one party or the other. So, this time, the citizens will have to ask, okay, which one they want to have managing things for the City of Laval, considering the values, the vision, the experience and while having both feet on the ground.”

‘We can deliver,” he says

With seven years experience sitting on Laval city council as the councillor for Vimont, Poissant says he and his team have the knowledge, leadership ability and experience “to make sure that we can deliver” impressive projects such as the city’s currently stalled aquatic complex.

‘You can have the best plans and the best PowerPoints. But you know what’s hardest? It’s to deliver,’ says Poissant

“You are no doubt aware that we are one of the few cities that does not have an interior pool,” Poissant pointed out, while alluding to decisions by the Demers administration to postpone construction of the planned aquatic complex because of higher-than-expected contract bid estimates, followed by cancelled architectural plans. “We’ve been waiting for it for years, but they took the wrong approach,” he said.

Walking the talk

Using the colloquial Québécois expression, “Il faut que les babines suivent les bottines,” meaning roughly “You have to walk the talk,” Poissant suggested the mayor and his party, the Mouvement lavallois, have lost touch with reality and that its failure to deliver the aquatic complex project is a prime example.

“You have to be a realist,” he said. “When you manage a business – and I have managed a good number of them – you can have the best plans and the best PowerPoints. But you know what’s hardest? It’s to deliver.”

While Poissant’s time in Laval municipal politics amounts to not much more than a half-dozen years, he managed to wander around quite a bit between the parties in that time.

He was part of the first wave of opposition to the iron-rule on Laval city council that was former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt’s Parti PRO des Lavallois. After the Parti PRO got turfed, Poissant and other Mouvement lavallois candidates were on hand to ride the resulting tidal wave and won their first majority on council.

Disillusioned by ML

Poissant, who describes himself as community-minded with a “citizen-driven” mindset, said his initial loyalty to the ML began to wane when he saw the ML administration becoming “bureaucratic-driven, red tape-driven, with bosses everywhere, but not such much action.”

So, in 2018 he and at least nine dissenting city councillors decided to leave the ML and “cross the floor” as it were to join the Action Laval opposition. (Since then, several of the dissenters agreed to return to the Mouvement lavallois fold where they remain.)

That didn’t mark the end of Poissant’s wandering, however. In May last year, after sitting with Action Laval since late 2019, he and city councillor for Marigot Daniel Hébert decided to abandon Action Laval, leaving behind rumours that Poissant had harbored leadership ambitions within that opposition party that other members were unwilling to support.

Not impressed by Action Laval

Explaining why he decided to leave Action Laval, Poissant said it was because of “the land problems and ethical problems,” referring to a controversy last year when three Action Laval city councillors were suspended from the party caucus following conflict-of-interest allegations published in the Journal de Montréal.

Although they were eventually exonerated, Poissant insisted that a perception persists among people in Laval. “In politics, credibility is everything,” he said.

Although he said Laval Citoyens won’t be unveiling a detailed platform until the election campaign is officially underway, he hinted that some elements could focus on improving the city’s downtown area which is now in a phase of intensive development.

Some candidates chosen

Earlier this year, a suggestion he made to the Demers administration, that it undertake a vast tree-planting campaign in the mostly concrete and glass downtown area, was rejected. However, Poissant suggested during our interview that he hasn’t given up on the idea and that it could serve as inspiration for broader policies later. As of last week, Laval Citoyens had announced five candidates (one being English-speaking), with more to be announced in the coming months for the 21 seats on Laval council. The current candidates are: Hugo Martin (l’Abord-à-Plouffe), Yann Caron (Saint-Vincent-de-Paul), Christelle Unubemba (Auteuil), Anna Del Bello (Saint-Bruno) and Louis-Martin Beaumont (Laval-Les Îles).