It was through the luck of the draw — literally — that Jean Lapointe was declared mayor of Saint-Jean-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, Que., on Tuesday.
The town of about 1,200 people is located on Île d’Orléans, an island in the St. Lawrence that is known for its farming, strawberries and panoramic views of Quebec City.
Lapointe’s name was picked out of a judge’s hat after he and his only opponent, outgoing mayor Jean-Claude Pouliot, each got 327 votes during the 2021 municipal election.
Under Quebec law, when there is a tie for first place between two candidates, the winner is determined by a draw.
If that happens, each candidate must be notified in advance and the draw must be done in their presence at a time and place they agree on, said Elections Quebec spokesperson Julie St-Arnaud Drolet.
“I never thought I’d be elected as mayor through a draw,” said Lapointe, adding it felt a bit like a game of Russian roulette.
The new mayor said he was nonetheless thrilled by the result. He first expressed his interest in the position in June, when he was still working as a city councillor, he said.
Pouliot, who had served as mayor of the rural village for 24 years, said he found the situation very peculiar.
“Personally I would’ve preferred to do another election and that we start over, that we start a new campaign,” he said. To him, it doesn’t feel like there is a clear mandate from the population if someone wins by a draw, he said.
Even if it wasn’t what he hoped for, Pouliot said he accepted the result.
“The law tells us it must be by a draw,” he said. “We must live with it.”
Draw comes after official recount
Lapointe was first declared winner on the night of the Nov. 7 election, but only by one vote.
Pouliot asked for a recount after learning that a couple of ballots in his favour had been rejected for not being marked properly.
A judicial recount was approved by a Court of Quebec judge on Nov. 16, and took place on Tuesday at the courthouse in Quebec City.
One ballot that had initially been rejected was validated, putting both Lapointe and Pouliot at a tie and prompting the need for a draw.
That’s when Judge Christian Boutin put both their names in his hat, and picked one — Lapointe.
Lapointe said the waiting period to know whether he would indeed become mayor was very stressful for him and his partner because they had worked hard on the campaign.
But now that the process is over, he said he looked forward to working with the councillors to draft the municipal budget.
He said one of his priorities is to make the decision-making process more transparent, which he plans on doing by ensuring that the council deliberations are filmed and made available to the public.
Unlikely, but not unheard of
While rare, it’s not the first time a situation like this has happened in Quebec.
In 2017, Gladys Martin Driscoll was re-elected as mayor of Saint-Augustin, by a draw, after she tied with her cousin and opponent Shirlynn Driscoll.
St-Arnaud Drolet could not confirm if any other mayors had won by draw this year, but she said at least two councillors were elected this way.
One of them was France Groulx, who won against Bruce Ditcham after both got 207 votes. She became city councillor for the town of Bedford, in the Eastern Townships.
The other was Ovila Soucy, who won against Sylvie Claveau after they tied with 54 votes each. He will serve as city councillor for Saint-Luce, a town in the lower St. Lawrence.