Municipal Affairs Minister Sylvain Gaudreault said this afternoon that effective immediately, the City of Laval is under control of the quasi-judicial body that oversees municipal matters in the province, the Quebec Municipal Commission.
Gaudreault said Laval Mayor Alexandre Duplessis and the sitting council will continue to serve. However, all council decisions will have to be approved by trustees appointed by the municipal commission.
"We're taking the means necessary to restore people's confidence and to ensure the sound administration of the municipality," Gaudreault said.
"The situation in Laval is absolutely special. It's absolutely extraordinary."
The municipal commission has appointed three trustees — a career bureaucrat, Florent Gagné, and two of its administrative judges, Sandra Bilodeau and Sylvie Piérard — to oversee the running of Quebec's third-largest city.
Gaudreault says the city will remain under Gagné's control as long as the municipal commisison sees fit, although he says that will likely come to an end with November's municipal election.
Former party agent implicates Duplessis
The Quebec cabinet moved quickly to issue the order-in-council to take away Laval city council's decision-making authority.
Just last Friday, Duplessis told reporters he agreed to trusteeship, after consulting with the minister and other councillors.
The latest crisis was provoked by testimony from a witness at Quebec's corruption inquiry last Thursday.
A former agent for the long-ruling PRO des Lavallois party, Jean Bertrand, told the Charbonneau Commission that almost every sitting councillor, including Duplessis, had participated in illegal political financing.
Bertrand said in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he gave money from colluding construction companies to party officials so they could be reimbursed for contributions to the party.
Big projects could be put on hold
Duplessis had planned to run for the mayoralty in next November's election, but he said Friday those plans are now on hold.
Duplessis was appointed mayor last fall to replace longtime mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, who stepped down amid mounting allegations of corruption. Vaillancourt was arrested earlier this month and faces a dozen charges, including conspiracy, fraud, influence peddling, breach of trust and gangsterism.
Mayoralty candidate Emilio Migliozzi is the leader of the Mouvement Lavalois party, which doesn't hold any seats at City Hall.
He says most people won't even notice if the city is put under trusteeship.
"What's important to a city is transportation, security, firefighters and public servants. This is all going to be taken care of by the people who work here. What's going to change is that the big projects like Place Bell and the aquatic complex will be put on hold," says Migliozzi.