Bélanger enters Gatineau mayoral race, vowing to unite 'divided' council

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  2. Clément Bélanger joined the mayoral race in Gatineau Wednesday, with no municipal experience or platform specifics but “a vision” of unity that he promises to turn into votes.

    He has a little over six weeks to accomplish this. The election is Nov. 5.

    Bélanger, a career federal public servant, was optimistic Wednesday as he met reporters. No experience in office? That’s as much experience as local MPP Maryse Gaudreault had when she was elected in 2008, he said. “Maybe more, because I worked in a minister’s office,” he said.

    Six weeks to go? He compared the situation to Emmanuel Macron’s election win in France, coming from nowhere with a final two-month surge.

    And in his vision for Gatineau — promising to make the city act like the fourth-largest in Quebec rather than a suburb of Ottawa — he quoted Prime Minister Justin’s Sunny Ways belief.

    “It’s a change in tone. The Sunny Ways. All of a sudden, people have pride.”

    Bélanger has spent 20 years in the public service, and has taken a leave for the election campaign. He is currently a senior bureaucrat in Public Services and Procurement Canada.

    He said his experience lies in public administration and finance, but his real skill is “bringing people together” — something he said is needed in a “divided” Gatineau council.

    “I have six weeks to make myself known,” he said. “Six weeks is plenty of time.”

    He said he has been going out and meeting people since last May, and by election day he will be well known in the community.

    Gatineau voters feel they are paying too much tax for too little service, he said, and as mayor he believes he will be able to lower taxes while improving municipal infrastructure.

    He said the details of this platform will emerge during the campaign. “On each point I will have a clear position.”

    There are now five candidates for mayor. Incumbent Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin has been in office for four years, representing Action Gatineau. Others in the race are two current councillors who have opposed Action Gatineau — Sylvie Goneau and Denis Tassé — and another newcomer, Rémi Bergeron.

    “I’m going to propose a vision, a vision for Gatineau, that is positive and that puts Gatineau on the map. And I’m also going to propose a tone where the mayor is going to work with every councillor as a team,” Bélanger said Wednesday. “Right now council is divided.”

    “I don’t have any experience at the municipal level. I have 20 years of experience professionally … My strength is to bring people together. My strength is to get to the compromises where everybody wins.

    “I have a lot of experience in management of human resources and financial management. I’ve managed over $70 million worth of international development projects and I’ve also been in media relations.”