Sona Lakhoyan Olivier wins Quebec Liberal Party Chomedey nomination

Longtime Chomedey resident chosen by riding association with 51.5 per cent support

Following one of the rare nomination contests Quebec Liberal Party supporters in Chomedey have seen in decades, members of the PLQ’s Chomedey riding association have chosen Sona Lakhoyan Olivier from a field of five candidates to represent the party in the Oct. 3 provincial election.

A nomination and investiture meeting held at the Château Royal on Aug. 8 drew up to 1,200 enthusiastic Chomedey PLQ supporters, of which 1,106 were entitled to vote as card-carrying riding association members.

A winner at 11:30 pm

Because of the exceptionally large turnout and the elevated number of candidates, three rounds of balloting were needed. The final decision – declaring Sona Lakhoyan Olivier the winner with 51.5 per cent of the votes – wasn’t announced until 11:30 pm.

The candidates for the PLQ’s Chomedey nomination were (from the left) Nezha Omary, Sona Lakhoyan Olivier, Peter Papadakis, Sayed Melhem and Abderrahman Essayh. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

In a biographical brief furnished by the PLQ, the party says Sona Lakhoyan Olivier has been a resident of Chomedey for more than 30 years and a longtime PLQ supporter.

She has been an employee of Loto Québec for the past 25 years, and has served as a school commissioner with the former Commission scolaire de Laval and as a member of the board with the Fondation de la Cité de la Santé.

A process of elimination

Her nearest rivals in the race, Sayed Melhem and Peter Papadakis, managed to win 37.5 per cent and 11 per cent support respectively each.

Nezha Omary, a former chief of staff and political attaché to ex-PLQ cabinet minister David Heurtel, was eliminated after the first round of balloting, followed in round two by Abderrahman Essayh, a one-time candidate for the Parti Laval in the municipality’s Saint-Martin district.

As has sometimes been the case in the past during political party candidate investitures in Chomedey, there were significant partisan overtones during this one, divided along multicultural and ethnic lines.

Multicultural interest

Virtually all the candidates and their close supporters arrived with sizeable delegations, consisting of a mix of long-time and newly-minted riding association members, with roots in the Armenian, Lebanese, Greek, Syrian and Maghrebi communities.

Sona Lakhoyan Olivier will be representing the Liberal Party of Quebec in the riding of Chomedey in the Oct. 3 provincial elections. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

The event was reminiscent of the November 2014 investiture held by the Liberal Party of Canada to choose a new candidate for the riding of Laval-Les Îles for the 2015 federal elections.

While Fayçal El-Khoury ultimately finished first in that exercise in democracy and has won three elections since then, there was a similarly intense but ultimately friendly competitiveness between factions from the communities during his initial investiture.

Winner’s unifying message

In a statement Sona Lakhoyan Olivier issued the morning after her investiture, she said, “This was a truly open and invigorating investiture race. It’s now time to unite our efforts in order to win Chomedey next Oct. 3.”

It’s worth noting that the provincial riding of Chomedey has been a Liberal Party of Quebec stronghold for more than 40 years without interruption, with PLQ support as high as 73 per cent in the 2014 election. As such, the Liberal candidate is routinely regarded as a shoe-in provincial election after election.

The evening proved to be a little bumpy at times for some of the candidates, given the large number of new riding association members. As the signing-up deadline for new members to have voting privileges had been set at July 19, there were inevitably some contestations and not every new member passed muster.

With more than 1,100 of the 1,200 people attending entitled to vote for their chosen candidate, there were long waits outside the voting room at the Château Royal on Aug. 8. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Contested voting privileges

At one point earlier in the evening, Sona Lakhoyan Olivier herself was complaining that a number of her supporters were rejected. “They’re saying they’re not on the list,” she told the Laval News, maintaining she had personally overseen the registration of the members being contested, but adding that some of the other candidates were no doubt also dealing with the problem.

“I think we all had challenges,” Peter Papadakis, who tried unsuccessfully to win the federal Liberal nomination in Laval-Les Îles in 2014, acknowledged in an interview before he was knocked out of this latest race. “There are well over a thousand people here tonight, and we’re all going to have to work out our challenges as a team.”