If you woke up on Nov. 8 and were surprised to see the preliminary election results in the Hills, you are probably among the minority.
It’s no shocker that voters in Chelsea pencilled in two-time councillor Pierre Guénard to fill the void left by longtime outgoing mayor Caryl Green. Guénard was facing unilingual challenger Shelley Fraser, who, despite putting together a solid campaign, failed to crack 1,000 votes on Nov. 7.
Was it her absolute lack of political experience that scared voters? Or was it a language thing? Certainly, the latter was Fraser’s biggest hurdle in swaying voters. Despite Chelsea being an official bilingual municipality, voters voiced their concerns about having an English-only mayor.
But now the real work begins for Guénard, who will be tasked with a number of daunting projects centred around climate change, affordable housing, development, and the controversial Bill 96 that has many English-speaking Quebecers fearing for their rights.
Guénard has said he will ensure anyone who wishes to receive information in English will be able to do so during his mandate.
What about climate change? Guénard promised to form a climate and biodiversity committee to review bylaws and projects while engaging with local environmental groups to ensure the municipality is meeting its green goals.
Affordable housing may be the biggest challenge for any mayor in the MRC des Collines region. There are currently more than 6,300 residents over the age of 65 and just 162 private and social housing units for seniors in the area — and zero in Chelsea.
Political leaders have a serious dilemma that is getting worse by the minute. Will Guénard’s plan of higher density development be enough to give our aging population a place to grow old? How long until the NIMBYers come out and squash his plans?
Over in La Pêche, it was even less surprising to see incumbent mayor Guillaume Lamoureux cruise to his second term with a whopping 72 per cent of the vote, according to the preliminary results. This was anticipated, given that his challenger, Luc Richard, was absent for the final two weeks of the campaign, including a no-show at the La Pêche climate debate.
The pressure will now be on Lamoureux to make good on his promise to hook everyone up to high-speed internet by 2022. The clock is ticking.
Up in Kazabazua, the heat will be on returning mayor Robert Bergeron, who barely slipped back into the mayor’s seat by just 10 votes, according to unofficial results. He’ll have to make good on his promises to develop safe public water access for residents in the next several years and revitalize a struggling village core.
Green will also be doing some soul searching this week, as the former longtime Chelsea mayor was edged out of the MRC warden race by one-time warden and former MNA Marc Carrière, who stole close to 40 per cent of the vote, according to preliminary results.
New faces in Chelsea, familiar ones in La Pêche and Kaz, and a new MRC warden will make for an interesting four years in the Hills.