Montreal gets an anglophone mayor

For the first time in a century, an anglophone has won the keys to the mayor's office in Montreal, a stunning victory inside a city hall that has been shaken by scandal.

Michael Applebaum won a vote Friday at city council, 31-29, to become the city's first non-francophone mayor since just before the First World War.

He will serve as interim mayor of Canada's second-largest city for a year, with a promise not to run in the next municipal election of November 2013.

Anglophones in Quebec rarely hold such prominent political roles.

In the municipality of Montreal itself, only 13 per cent of people claim English as their mother tongue; a far greater number of Montrealers actually speak the language in their everyday lives, however, given that 47 per cent of residents are not original French-speakers.

The flurry of developments leading to his win began last week with the resignation of Gerald Tremblay, the former mayor whose administration was tarnished in a corruption scandal.

Applebaum was an obvious contender, given that he was the No. 2 politician in the city after the mayor. But a newspaper report carried suggestions from an anonymous colleague saying Applebaum's French wasn't good enough to be mayor.

At a subsequent meeting, members of the Union Montreal caucus sidelined Applebaum and picked Richard Deschamps as their candidate.

Applebaum promptly quit Union Montreal, and cut an improbable path to victory.

He reinvented himself as a whistleblower. Until a few days earlier, he had led the city's executive body. But there he was, suddenly railing against its planned tax hikes and also revealing the existence of embarrassing documents it had withheld from the public.

He reached out to other parties. Applebaum promised to ditch the partisan politics that have ruled city hall for years and bring together council members from all banners.

His strategy enabled him to siphon support from Union Montreal, which held a majority in council, and leapfrog Deschamps.

As the results were announced, Marvin Rotrand, a veteran councillor who quit Union Montreal this week to support Applebaum, jumped out of his seat, thrust both his fists into the air and shouted "Woo!" Rotrand was among nine council members, including Applebaum, who abandoned Union Montreal in recent days.

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