Aref Salem named interim leader of Ensemble Montreal following Coderre’s resignation

Ensemble Montréal has named Aref Salem as its interim leader now that former mayor Denis Coderre has stepped down.

The Saint-Laurent city councillor will lead the opposition party for the next three years, Ensemble Montréal announced Tuesday.

Prior to being elected as a city councillor in 2009, Salem was the manager of a small business for 17 years.

During his time in office, the Lebanon-born Montrealer has been responsible for transportation and served as vice-chair of the Commission on Transportation and Public Works.

Salem has also been on several boards of directors, such as BIXI Montréal and Stationnement Montréal.

“The last election showed us how strong and united we are as a team and the future can only be more beautiful and promising,” said Salem, adding his priority is the upcoming municipal budget.

The interim leader says he wants to make sure reelected mayor Valérie Plante keeps her election promises, such as limiting tax increases to two per cent and hiring 250 more police officers.

Coderre announced last week that he was quitting politics after losing to Plante in the municipal election on Nov. 7.

He made the decision to step down after a closed-door meeting with his team at Casa d’Italia, a community centre on Jean-Talon Street.

“I gave 40 years of my life. I took time for me to reflect. It was pretty hard,” he said, adding he plans to “do something else,” but did not elaborate on what that meant. “After 40 years of public life, 12 election campaigns, 16 years in Ottawa, [then] mayor. We contributed to the rebirth of Montreal after all this corrupt situation at the time… What I’m really proud of is this team.”

Coderre came in second during this year’s municipal mayoral election, receiving 37.97 per cent (158,751) of the vote.

Incumbent mayor Valérie Plante had 52.14 per cent (217,986) of the vote, acccording to Élections Montréal.

The election loss was a difficult one, Coderre admitted, leading him to realize now is the “right time” to leave.

“I want to take care of my kids, I want to take care of me, my senior parents,” he said.

Salem says his goal as interim leader will be to prepare Ensemble Montréal to take office after the next municipal election in 2025.

However, he would not divulge whether or not he is considering running for mayor of Montreal.