Laval council remains split, despite administration’s seat majority

‘A liar is what you are,’ says a dissident De Cotis, blasting mayor

David De Cotis
Former Laval executive-committee vice-president David De Cotis reacts angrily during the Sept. 4 city council meeting to the Demers administration’s decision to remove him as president of the STL board.
Martin C. Barry

An ongoing factional dispute on Laval city council involving standing committee and governing board appointments saw city councillor and former executive-committee second-in-command David De Cotis undergo a virtual meltdown during the Sept. 4 council session.

This came after Mayor Marc Demers reversed De Cotis’s previous appointment as head of the STL – which had been made by opposition councillors in June when they still were the majority – in order to name a councillor of Demers’s own choosing to head the Laval transit corporation’s board.

Had been on good terms

De Cotis was president of the STL from 2014 to 2017, having been appointed by Demers following the 2013 election when the Mouvement Lavallois first swept into office, replacing the administration of disgraced former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt. Following the 2017 election, De Cotis and Demers appeared to be on good terms under the banner of the ML, which De Cotis had essentially founded.

However, after the 2017 election Demers appointed Councillor Gilbert Dumas as the new head of the STL, while De Cotis was given new responsibilities involving economic development. Although De Cotis had no obvious objections at first, his departure from the ranks of the ML earlier this year, along with several other  former ML councillors, to sit with the opposition was followed by the opposition’s move to remove Dumas and restore De Cotis as the STL’s head.

De Cotis speaks his mind

Most of the Sept. 4 council meeting, including the public question period, took place in an overall atmosphere of decorum and order. However, about three-quarters through, after an item for appointing Saint-François councillor Éric Morasse as STL board president was approved – with some justifying statements by the mayor – De Cotis raised his voice to speak. Doing so, he spoke out of turn, against council protocol, and in defiance of official speaker Christiane Yoakim. Suffice it to say that he held nothing back.

Among other things, De Cotis told Demers “you’re a liar” and “a liar is what you are” in response to the mayor’s explanations of why De Cotis was removed and replaced by Morasse. De Cotis continued in that vein until Yoakim seemed ready to signal two Laval Police officers that De Cotis should be removed. De Cotis gradually contained himself and finally went silent.

Demers justifies his actions

Mayor Marc Demers
Despite recently regaining a majority of seats on Laval city council, Mayor Marc Demers was barely able at the Sept. 4 council meeting to get a resolution passed naming a new president of the Société de transport de Laval.

Justifying his actions, the mayor maintained that De Cotis had been delinquent in his duties as head of the STL when he failed to notify city council’s executive-committee that a $648,000 STL contract for computer data management wouldn’t immediately be awarded after being withdrawn from STL board’s July meeting agenda.

Defending himself, although clearly in a very agitated state, De Cotis maintained that during his nearly four-year mandate heading the STL he was never called upon by the mayor to provide an account of STL board decisions. “What he’s saying is lies,” insisted De Cotis. “You are accusing me of having badly managed the STL and it is exactly the opposite.”

De Cotis also objected to the mayor’s assertions that Councillor Morasse had better qualifications to head the STL board. Among other things, Morasse was listed as a member of the board of a citizens’ committee for mass transit in east-end Laval when he was a candidate for the Mouvement Lavallois before the 2017 municipal elections.

Saint-François Councillor, Éric Morasse
Laval city councillor for Saint-François Éric Morasse replaces David De Cotis as new president of the STL.

De Cotis defends his record

De Cotis pointed out that his own professional curriculum over the past 15 years or so includes more than a decade of mid-level project management at Bombardier Aerospace, as well as four years of similar experience at Via Rail Canada.

While the mayor recently was able to re-establish an administration majority on council by persuading a few dissident councillors to sit once again with the ML, in the end the vote for Morasse to head the STL was deadlocked at 10 councillors for and 10 against. Council speaker Yoakim was forced to vote in favour in order to get the motion passed.

Among the dissident councillors who recently accepted the mayor’s invitation to return to the ML fold, Councillor Aline Dib (Saint-Martin) suddenly bolted from the chamber just as it became evident a vote was going to be taken, while Councillor Sandra El-Helou (Souvenir-Labelle) voted unhesitatingly against the nomination of Morasse. A third, Councillor Aram Elagoz (Renaud), chose to vote in favour.

Laval-Ouest wants new skatepark

Joel St-Pierre
During question period, Joel St-Pierre submitted a petition asking the city to create a new state-of-the-art skatepark in St-Antoine Park in Laval-Ouest.

During the public question period, Joel St-Pierre, a resident of Laval-Ouest since last year, told Mayor Demers  that a skatepark located in St-Antoine Park in Laval-Ouest is badly in need of maintenance and repairs. He suggested that a new skatepark made of concrete should be developed.

“It is the new standard in the industry and needs less maintnance,” St-Pierre said, while noting that skateboarding has been accepted as an Olympic event at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. He submitted a copy of an online petition with more than 180 supporting signatures. Demers acknowledged that there is a demand in various areas of Laval for new skateparks and that the city is evaluating whether to place them on a list of recreation service priorities.