For those of you unfamiliar with the mayor of Quebec City, you should know that Régis Labeaume is quite the firecracker. He is perhaps, the second best mayor in all of Canada, bested only by the iconic "Hurricane" Hazel McCallion of Mississauga.
Régis Labeaume runs a tight ship and ever since taking over the mayor's office in 2007 has performed rather brilliantly, with solid management and dogged determination. He's unafraid to speak his mind and is sometimes politically incorrect. He infuriates his opponents by taking strong positions and defends them ferociously, as was the case in the Red Bull Crashed Ice event that was the target of the wrath of locals who were annoyed by the inconvenience it's staging would cause.
When the "Moulin à paroles" event planned for the Plains of Abraham, turned into a separatist love-fest, he pulled his support and cancelled his participation, much to the chagrin of organisers.
Quebeckers seem to enjoy his brashness. There's no doubt that Lebeaume is more popular than ever and even his enemies admit that he's effective. Polls predict that he'll garner over 80% of the vote in the coming election.
Lebeaume was born in the town of Roberval, located on the western shore of Lac St. Jean, in the heart of the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region. Of the city's 10,000 inhabitants it's likely that 9,900 are white, Catholic Francophones and the city remains a place where the only English spoken, comes from the mouths of tourists who stop for gas or food on their way up the road to the excellent zoo in St. Felicien. (I saw my first polar bear there.)
After graduating from Quebec City's Laval University, he embarked on a successful career in the mining industry. In 2003 Lebeaume became the director of an organization that promoted entrepreneurship in Quebec City and soon became interested in politics.
I'm recounting all this because everything in his past would indicate that he'd very likely be a unilingual Francophone.
But he's not. Regis Lebeaume found the time and made the effort to learn English.
Here's a video of Lebeaume hamming it up with Chicago Mayor Richard Daily. It seems that Mr. Lebeaume is quite comfortable conversing in English and seems to enjoy some pretty good connections south of the border. LINK
Last week he made his way down to New York to meet with the president of the NHL to lobby for a return of the Nordiques to Quebec. He, along with Marcel Aubut, the ex-owner of the team (who also speaks perfect English) made an impassioned plea and presented a cogent plan to bring back the NHL to Quebec. Mr. Bettman was impressed.
Does the mayor of Quebec, a city that is 95% Francophone need to speak English. I think so.
So does he.
When Louise Harel tells Montrealers that English isn't necessary for the job, perhaps someone should show her the above video and give her a copy of the news article detailing Mr. Lebeaume's exploits in New York.
It seems that the real tragedy is not that Louise Harel doesn't speak English, it's that Lebeaume is not running for the Mayor of Montreal.