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Gatineau mayor resigns, citing 'hostile' political climate

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France Bélisle is stepping down as mayor of Gatineau, Que., citing a "hostile" climate in municipal politics.

Bélisle announced her resignation, effective immediately, during a media conference at Gatineau City Hall Thursday morning.

Speaking at an emotional press conference, Bélisle said she decided to resign to preserve her health and integrity, two-and-a-half years after being elected mayor of the western Quebec city. The mayor said she has received death threats and intimidation from the public and other politicians.

Bélisle was elected as an independent mayor in November 2021, receiving 43 per cent of the vote. The victory ended eight years of governing by the Action Gatineau Party.

"I am aware that this news is a shock, and that it will create an area of ​​turbulence," Bélisle said in French at the press conference.

"This decision is mine. It is the result of long reflection and a personal journey. However, I recognize that this decision may disappoint people.

"I am satisfied with the work that I was able to accomplish, above all, know that I always did it to the best of my ability."

Coun. Daniel Champagne will take over as interim mayor of Gatineau.

The Union of Quebec Municipalities says since the last municipal election in Quebec, nearly 800 municipal officials have left office across the province.

"That's never been seen in this province," she said. 

"Municipal politics is being deserted by more and more elected officials, who are leaving their positions in record numbers," she said.

Quebec City Mayor Bruno Marchand said on social media that, "losing a friend, an ally and mayor who left no one indifferent is not easy. France, we will miss you. Quebec loses a great mayor."

Quebec Premier Francois Legault said on X, "I want to thank France Bélisle for her years of service as mayor of Gatineau. I wish her the best for the future."

Gatineau MP and Government House Leader Steve MacKinnon issued a statement on social media.

"The Gatinoises and the Gatinois will always remember your dedication and pride in serving them. Your leadership and commitment made a real difference," MacKinnon said.

"Political life is tough and sometimes unfair. With your boldness and determination, you broke through a glass ceiling and showed that anything is possible. Thank you for everything and, above all, for your friendship."

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said, "I'm very sorry to hear of the resignation of France Belisle as mayor of Gatineau."

"France has been a great partner and I will miss working with her on building a stronger economy for our entire region. I wish France the best in the future."

A statement to social media by Action Gatineau thanked Belisle for her service to Gatineau.

"We offer our full collaboration to Mr. Champagne who will take over at the town hall for the future," Action Gatineau said that.

"We will continue our work on council with the same objective of ensuring the best interests of all citizens."

The City of Gatineau says details on a future by-election will be communicated to residents in the coming weeks.

"Although Ms. Bélisle's departure brings changes to the municipal council, all teams remain committed to maintaining stability and serving the population," the City of Gatineau said.

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