Liberal MP Denis Coderre is coming under fire for the slow-motion unveiling of his mayoral ambitions, with additional attacks over his role in Liberal politics at the time of the sponsorship scandal.
Mr. Coderre, who will wait until next spring to formally announce his transition to municipal politics in Montreal, is distancing himself from the political improprieties that marred the Liberal Party of Canada's Quebec wing in the 1990s and early 2000s.
"I am beyond reproach," Mr. Coderre said in an interview Sunday morning on the CBC's French-language radio. "I have been elected and re-elected six times, including after the sponsorship scandal. What is important for me is to have the trust of voters."
Mr. Coderre, who is topping polls to lead the city bruised by a series of corruption scandals, could not be reached by The Globe and Mail on Sunday. He was a long-time Liberal organizer until his first electoral victory in 1997, and he went on to become a junior minister of amateur sport and a minister of immigration.
Mr. Coderre was not one of those blamed for the sponsorship scandal in the final report of the Gomery inquiry. Still, he did come under opposition fire in 2002 after internal records showed that his office directed a contract to a Liberal-friendly advertising firm called Groupe Everest.
Richard Bergeron, the leader of Projet Montréal and candidate for the mayor's job in November of next year, said Mr. Coderre represents "old-time politics" in Quebec.
"Mr. Coderre embodies the Liberal Party of the Gomery days, and so far, he is defending himself by stating that he was unaware of what was going on," Mr. Bergeron said in an interview. He added that Mr. Coderre should resign his seat in the House and get immediately involved in municipal politics, saying the Liberal MP "has to play during the regular season if he wants to participate in the playoffs."
Mr. Coderre held a spaghetti dinner in his riding in Montreal on Friday evening to commemorate his 15-year anniversary in the House of Commons. He confirmed that he is "considering" running for the mayor's job in 2013, while adding he will not make a formal announcement before the Liberal leadership race concludes in April. Last week, Gérald Tremblay resigned as mayor after having stated for years that he was unaware of the corruption that afflicted the municipality.