• James Armstrong

Three more candidates enter Saint-Lazare by-election


(Left to right): Anna Maria Conte, Darrin Etcovitch, and Michel Lambert are joining the Saint-Lazare by-election race for council seats in District 2 and District 3.

Three additional candidates have thrown their hats into the political ring in the Saint-Lazare by-election scheduled for June 9 to replace former councillor for District 2 Pamela Tremblay and District 3 Councilor Martin Couture.

District 2 candidate

For District 2 resident Anna Maria Conte, the initial motivation was to solve the crisis situation that appears to be happening with the council.

“When I heard them say they are like a dysfunctional family, I knew I could help,” Conte told The Journal. With an accounting and business administration background, Conte said she’s used to handling crisis situations in companies that are in transition.

“I’m a facilitator,” she said, “It’s a big warning sign when two councillors quit.” In terms of working with the other councillors, Conte said it was a question of getting to know them. “Everyone brings something special to the table. We have to be able to work with people’s strengths.”

Conte has lived in Saint-Lazare for 10 years and has attended council meetings on a regular basis for the past two years.

“Everyone loves Saint-Lazare and wants the best for it,” she said adding she and her family were attracted to the town because of its rural setting. For that reason, she’s concerned about the town’s current and future development.

“The town is growing, the hospital is coming and we need to prepare, plan and think ahead,” she said, emphasizing the need for sustainable development. Having grown up in a small town in Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula, Conte is well aware of the effects of urban sprawl.

“We don’t want to see that happen here,” she said. “We have the ability to decide how we want to grow. It’s about the people of the town, we all pay taxes,” she added noting the money needs to be spent wisely and not wasted. She questioned whether environmental studies done in the past had been put to use and if there was a need for more recent studies. When asked how she plans to work with her constituents, Conte replied, “I’m a boots-on-the-ground type of person.”

She has been out every evening going door-to-door. She also has a campaign website and is accessible by e-mail and telephone. Her goal is to maintain those avenues of communication with her constituents if she wins the District 2 seat.

District 3 candidates

Darrin Etcovitch has been a resident of Saint-Lazare for 16 years and has faced some of the challenges that others in his district have experienced. Etcovitch was one of the residents who had to pay to have his house lifted because of sinking foundation problems. Chaline Valley is also in his district and is the subject of the largest land stabilization projects in Quebec to prevent possible landslides in the valley along the Quinchien River. Some homeowners with foundation problems received subsidies from the town and the province and some did not. Etcovitch was one of the lucky ones and says he hopes to get more compensation for everyone.

“People shouldn’t be out of pocket to pay for repairs to homes that were built on land that they shouldn’t have been built on in the first place,” he said.

With a university degree in economics and political science, training and experience teaching elementary school, Etcovitch said he has the ability to communicate easily with people including other members of council.

“I want to do something for the greater good of the community,” he said. “I will do my best to come to agreements so that things can get done. Hopefully, we will be able to keep the lines of communication open.”

He said there are many issues the town needs to be deal with besides sinking houses and Chaline Valley. “There are water issues, sewage problems, and traffic problems,” he said. He expressed concern about new construction in the town, the new hospital and increase of vehicular traffic.

In terms of campaigning and meeting the residents of district, Etcovitch has been going door-to-door. He also has an email address, a Facebook page and is setting up a website. If he wins the seat, he intends to continue with those methods of communication. He’s also planning a local BBQ for his district.

“People could come and have a hotdog and ask their questions,” he said. He describes himself as a fresh face on the Saint-Lazare political scene with some political campaign experience having run as a candidate in the district in 2005.

“It’s what everyone wants, not only my ideas,” he said. “I’ve been taking notes while going door-to-door.”

Former councillor runs in District 3

Michel Lambert is a well-known figure on the political scene in Saint-Lazare having represented District 4 as a councillor from 2009 to 2013.

“If I’m elected in District 3, I’m functional the next morning,” he told The Journal.

Lambert pointed out there are only two years remaining for the current council before the next municipal election.

“It takes a time to accomplish things in politics and there isn’t a lot of time left,” he said adding that it takes approximately two years to learn the role of town councillor. “When I was elected in 2009 I was alone with Brigitte Asselin but eventually others joined us to form Alliance Saint-Lazare,” he said. “I have the capability to bring people together. There’s one town council and it has to work together.

“The Chaline Valley, Quinchien River file and the sinking foundations are complicated files that take time,” said Lambert adding, “the town and the Quebec government have put a lot of money into these projects.” He noted some residents look at those situations as not being their problem and thus something for which they should not have to pay.

“When we live in a community there are certain things we have to accept to pay as a community,” said Lambert.

As for contacting his constituency, Lambert is campaigning door-to-door and has developed a Facebook page.

“There isn’t much there, yet, because my daughter created it yesterday,” he said with a laugh. Lambert has a longtime connection to the Saint-Lazare and wider community through the Club Optimiste, sports teams such as ringuette, softball and soccer, and the Richelieu Club.

As for the up-coming election he said, “It’s easy to say I will do this or that, but there’s only two years left to finish what has already been started before the next election.”

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