11/03/2013 12:34 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 10:52 EST

Quebec Hopes To End Era Of Scandal With Municipal Elections


Quebec voters are hoping to turn the page on an era of scandal-ridden leadership as they cast their ballots in municipal elections across the province.

Today's elections come as the province's Charbonneau Commission continues to hear testimony detailing a system of kickbacks and illegal party financing at the municipal level.

The longtime mayors of Montreal and the suburb of Laval were forced to step down a year ago amid corruption allegations.

Months later, their interim replacements resigned in scandal as well.

Montrealers want to vote against corruption

In Montreal's mayoralty race, the corruption issue has also been front and centre of the campaign and many voters still haven't decided who is best suited for the job.

The presumed front-runner is former Liberal MP Denis Coderre, but he could face a challenge from upstart candidate Mélanie Joly, a public relations professional.

On the last day before voting, candidates made appearances around Montreal, making a final push to convince the public of their integrity.

Marcel Côté dropped by a church bazaar in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, while Joly and Richard Bergeron took turns meeting voters at the Atwater market.

Coderre's staff would only say he had many meetings planned, avoiding the media linking some of his candidates with names that have come up at the Charbonneau commission.

Voter turnout and corruption

Voters in more than 800 municipalities in Quebec are called today to choose their mayors and councillors, while in 300 municipalities, local leaders were re-elected without opposition. 

In the 2009 municipal elections, the turnout had been only 45 per cent across the province.

Bruce Hicks, a political science professor at Carleton University said all the talk about corruption will have an effect on voters, one way or another.

“It can either get people mad as hell and they don't want to take it anymore and they come out in large numbers, or people are going to sit on their hands and not vote," said Hicks.

Hicks said he would like to see mandatory voting for municipal elections because poor voter turnout doesn't give politicians the legitimacy they need to govern effectively.

At Atwater market, Mathieu Lavoie said he plans to vote, but has found the campaign depressing and hopes whoever is elected will be able to address other problems in the city.

“I'm sick of hearing about corruption and I would like our future mayor to be able to handle other issues,” said Lavoie.