News  Opposition leader resigns, accused of shady fundraising

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Ville-Marie borough mayor Benoit Labonté. Two weeks ago, reports surfaced that he had accepted over $100,000 from the powerful local construction mogul Tony Accurso. He was later excommunicated from his own party, Vision Montreal.

Labonté and Louise Harel, Vision’s mayoral candidate, both denied the allegations at first and accused Mayor Gérald Tremblay of promulgating rumours of corruption. Behind closed doors, however, Harel asked Labonté to step down as leader of Vision, according to the Montreal Gazette.

Currently, $180,000-worth of contracts doled out under Labonté’s tenure as mayor of Ville Marie are under review, including a $125,000 in contracts to a consulting firm run by Michel Petit, who reportedly served as one of Labonté’s top advisers in the 2008 Vision leadership race.

Labonté decided to go for broke on Thursday and bust the cesspool of Montreal and Quebec politics wide open. A former member of Tremblay’s Union Montreal party, Labonté has since accused both Tremblay and Harel of turning a blind eye to illegal campaign fundraising.

In an interview with Radio-Canada, Labonté admitted that he was lying when he initially denied that he had met with Accurso and accepted funds from him during his 2008 bid for leadership of the opposition party Vision Montreal. Labonté then joined the chorus of pundits calling for a public inquiry into municipal influence-pedalling Thursday, saying, “The system is so poisoned that we need a public inquiry immediately…. The real scandal would be not to have a public inquiry.”

Labonté also alleged that corporate payolas are constantly being funnelled into leadership races and electoral campaigns “in all the parties, municipal and provincial.”