Six candidates running in St. Lazare’s upcoming by-election
Shutterstock photo; Copyright: Alexandru Nika
The St. Lazare District 4 by-election slated for September 25 has a record field of six candidates vying to win the council seat vacated by former Councillor Denis Briard who abruptly resigned from his post in July.
Mayor Robert Grimaudo said the large number of candidates indicates the people want a say in the town’s political process. “The fact there are six candidates is very encouraging in the sense that it shows how much people are interested in the process. It also shows an involvement from residents that is very encouraging.”
A profile of each of the six candidates is provided below.
Hugo Castonguay, who will turn 18 just three days before the by-election, is the youngest of the six candidates vying to win the district seat. One of his motivations for running is because he feels there needs to be a voice on council who will represent its younger citizens while continuing to listen to and address concerns raised by seniors.
“A little bit of diversity will be welcome,” said Castonguay. “Different generations have different opinions and I want to explore everyone’s opinion.” He said town has done a good job of providing various types of activities for youth, but Castonguay wants to go one step further and become the councillor who will be able to appropriately represent young people on council.
While he may not have any first-hand experience in municipal politics, Castonguay says he was actively involved with student council throughout his five years at Collège Bourget in Rigaud. He is presently studying architecture at Vanier College and is also involved as a class representative.
“Every time I had a chance to get involved, I got involved,” said Castonguay. “This will be my first chance to get involved in my community. I’ve spent my entire life in St. Lazare and I want to give something back.”
As an accounting professional, Martin Couture knows about fiscal responsibility. As an accredited chartered public accountant, auditor and founder of the accounting firm Martin Couture Cabinet Comptable based in St. Lazare, he wants to use his financial expertise to bring a semblance of fiscal order to the town.
While Couture doesn’t have any political experience, he is president of l’Association des gens d’affaires de Saint-Lazare and is aware of the difficulties shop owners and business people face. As it stands now, the town seems to have a closed door policy when it comes to dealing with merchants and doesn’t provide enough support, said Couture.
He would like the town to take a more pro-active approach to defend the interests of merchants and encourage more businesses to set up shop in the downtown core.
A St. Lazare resident since 2002, Couture said he and his family love the town and while it isn’t perfect, there are things that could be done to further enhance the quality of life for residents, such as improving services and making the town more activity friendly by expanding the town’s bicycle paths. But his main priority if elected would be to ensure the town’s finances are well-managed.
Prudent fiscal responsibility is the main theme behind Marc-André Esculier’s campaign. As a regular attendee at the town’s monthly council meetings, Esculier is often seen standing behind the microphone during question period, taking council to task for what her perceives to be unnecessary ‘extravagant’ spending, especially when it comes to the town’s new city hall and the past two au Galop equestrian festivals.
Esculier said he has lived in the district for 37 years and knows the needs of its residents. “There’s been a lot of extravagant spending that should have not taken place. There’s about one year left in current council mandate and it’s my hope to put a foot in the door and try to reason with council and the mayor to come back to reality by becoming more responsible with their spending,” said Esculier.”
He doesn’t dispute that a new town hall or the recently opened new fire station were needed. What bothers Esculier especially is the $10 million price tag attached to the town hall, a project that he says could have been built for substantially less money if the scope of the project was scaled back.
As it stands now, Esculier says taxpayers will be hook to pay off both projects through higher taxes for years to come. He said it’s imperative for the town to become more financially responsible with its spending.
Michel Lambert is no stranger when it comes to the town’s municipal politics. He served as District 4 councillor for one four-year term from 2009 to 2013 before resigning his council spot to run unsuccessfully for the mayor’s position in the 2013 election.
Despite the setback, Lambert has stayed up-to-date with municipal affairs and is a regular attendee at council meetings. He said it’s his previous political experience that makes him the ideal candidate for position because he already knows the inner workings of council.
Lambert said it takes an average of two years for a new councillor to learn the ropes and the various administrative files. Given that this by-election is being held just over one year before the municipal election next fall, Lambert said it would be difficult for anyone without the experience to make an adequate contribution.
For Lambert, his main priority is for the town to find a way to reign in its spending and reduce the tax burden placed on its citizens. Last year, property taxes increased an average of about 4.7 per cent, a significant amount that has added to the financial stress being endured by seniors and people living on fixed incomes, said Lambert.
Regardless of whether he wins or loses the by-election, Lambert said he will run for the mayoral seat in next year’s municipal election.
Developing and maintaining an open and transparent dialogue with District 4 residents so they feel well-represented on council is just one of Paul Lavigne’s priorities for his constituents. “I aim to faithfully represent the desires and direction of the residents of the district and only with an open, informative, transparent and ongoing dialogue will I be able to achieve my goal,” said Lavigne.
One of his goals is to work together with business owners and merchants to continue developing the downtown core to help new business set up shop in the area while striving to preserve its rural cachet. “The city must not only act as a leader and as the catalyst for this project to succeed, but it must do so jointly with the key stakeholders in order to ensure its success,” said Lavigne.
His professional background revolves around his 32 years spent in the aviation industry as a safety and quality control specialist, with the past 20 years spent working as a manager at the regional and national level. At the municipal level, Lavigne currently sits as a citizen representative on the town’s Urban Planning Advisory Committee.
“I think that my extensive work and life experience fits in well with the town council position and I am sure that I can positively contribute to the development of not only the downtown district, but the growth of St. Lazare in general,” said Lavigne.
As the owner of Anis and Marjolaine Café Bistro on Ste. Angélique Road, Alvaro Martinez said he wants to become more involved in the town’s municipal political process.
A St. Lazare resident since 1980, Martinez said he attends council meetings regularly and always listens to comments made about the town by his customers who frequent his bistro which has given him the opportunity to understand residents’ concerns.
Martinez said he has the time to devote as councillor. If elected, he hopes to improve the feeling of belonging for all residents. “Unlike the town of Hudson, we are missing a beautiful city core and I want to improve the social aspect to make it more inclusive for all residents.
“It would also be good to work with Centre local de développement (CLD) Vaudreuil-Soulanges and the regional chamber of commerce,” Martinez added. “We are important employers in the area, particularly for people who don’t have adequate transportation such as teenagers and seniors. We should be more conscious of that,” said Martinez.
He also foresees the possibility of adding pedestrian and bicycle pathways to the town’s equestrian trails and exercise equipment for adults in the town’s parks, two proposals which he says would be inexpensive and improve the quality of life for residents.