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Lionel Perez joins Denis Coderre team

Montreal mayoral candidate Denis Coderre, right, introduces Lionel Perez as a candidate for his party.

MONTREAL — Lionel Perez, an Orthodox Jew first elected to Montreal city council in 2009, will be a candidate for Team Denis Coderre in this November’s municipal election.

Coderre, a longtime Liberal member of Parliament, announced Perez’s candidacy at a press conference on July 30 held in the lobby of the Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce borough office.

Perez, a former member of ex-mayor Gérald Tremblay’s Union Montréal party, has been the borough’s interim mayor since November.

Perez succeeded Michael Applebaum in that position after the latter became interim Montreal mayor. Applebaum resigned in June after being charged with 14 criminal offences, including fraud and corruption.

Perez, Applebaum and four other Union Montréal members left Union Montréal earlier in November after Tremblay’s resignation. The party was dissolved in May.

Perez, 43, is a lawyer by training and was a high-tech entrepreneur before entering politics four years ago. Perez will run again for the Darlington district, which was held by Saulie Zajdel until 2009, when he quit municipal politics after 23 years.

“Montreal has gone through difficult times, as has Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce,” said Perez. “It is time to turn the page and look to the future, a better future for the borough, for Montreal and for all Montrealers. I want a service-oriented administration that will meet their needs.”

He echoed the words of Coderre, who said he aims to be mayor of “an administration, not a parliament, an administration that is there to serve the people.”

Coderre said he’s impressed by Perez’s integrity and that he will be his team’s spokesperson for matters of governance.

“The true antidote to cynicism is to show that the majority of politicians are honest,” said the mayoral hopeful.

Asked if his past close association with Applebaum will be a factor in his re-election, Perez warned against “guilt by association.”

“I have always been my own man. Today, I am presenting myself for Denis Coderre. My integrity has never been put in question and it never will be.”

Perez is currently chair of the city’s Commission on the Examination of Contracts, the body that reviews submissions for city work.

He praised Coderre as a man capable of returning pride to Montrealers, a straight shooter who can unite all citizens.

Coderre and Perez were joined by another of the party’s candidates in the borough, former president of the Montreal Teachers Association, Ruth Rosenfield. She announced her candidacy earlier in the month.

The other Jewish Montreal city councillor, Marvin Rotrand, also representing the Côte des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grâce borough, has given his support to Coderre’s perceived most serious challenger, Marcel Côté.

There have been unsubstantiated reports that Russell Copeman, who is also Jewish, will be running for Côté’s Coalition Montréal. Copeman, a vice-president of Concordia University, was the Liberal member of the National Assembly for Notre Dame de Grâce.

Perez, who wears a kippah, is of Sephardi origin and completely bilingual. He has been a board member of the Yeshiva Gedola Mercaz Hatorah.

Perez himself attended Jewish People’s and Peretz Schools and Herzliah High School. He has described his Moroccan-born parents as “traditionally observant,” but he gravitated toward a more religious lifestyle as an adult.

Darlington, which is ethnically and economically diverse, has a significant Jewish population, many Orthodox.

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