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Peter Black

Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Hard on the heels of the announcement of his impending departure from politics, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume has anointed his would-be successor.

Marie-Josee Savard, 47, the vice-president of the city’s executive committee, jumped into the mayoral race May 13, making the surprise announcement at the restaurant she owns in Place Québec.

Savard is the city councillor for the Cap Rouge-Laurentien district, first elected in the Équipe Labeaume wave in 2009. She took a break from politics, sitting out the 2013 election, but returned to city hall in 2017.

Much has been made of the contrasting styles of Labeaume and his chosen successor. While the mayor is a gregarious extrovert who won’t shy away from harsh criticism of opponents, Savard has been all but invisible in media coverage, despite being responsible, as the executive committee member handling urban development, for some of the weightier matters on the administration’s agenda.

Labeaume acknowledged the difference in style. Savard “has qualities that obviously didn’t make my fortune,” he joked. “She listens naturally, has a conciliatory tone and is patient, exactly what our fellow citizens need with or without a pandemic. It will be good after 14 years of Labeaume.”

Savard herself said that while Labeaume has tended “to beat down the door,” she prefers “to knock before entering.”

Savard, the mother of two children, has been an entrepreneur for 20 years, operating a convenience store as well as a Place Québec restaurant that specializes in serving the lunchtime office crowd.

She has a certificate in psychology from Université Laval and her official biography says she has been involved in several community and charitable organizations. She grew up in the Vanier district of the city.

Asked what her biggest challenge would be as mayor, Savard said “to stay myself. To be the same Marie-Josée behind the counter,” referring to her restaurant.

Savard faces four others who have so far declared their candidacy for mayor: Jean-François Gosselin is making his second attempt for the top job as leader of the Québec 21 party; Jean Rousseau, the city councillor for Cap-aux-Diamants– La Cité-Limoilou, is the Démocratie Québec candidate for mayor; Jackie Smith is running for Transition Québec, a new party evolved from Option Capitale-Nationale; and Bruno Marchand, the former head of Centraide in the city, has created his own party, Québec Forte et Fière.

Équipe Labeaume is now officially known as Équipe Marie-Josée Savard.


Screenshot from Équipe Marie-Josée Savard Facebook page

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