Independent councillors fear “loss of democracy” as Beaudin ally Kibonge replaces Berthold in key roles

Independent councillors fear “loss of democracy” as Beaudin ally Kibonge replaces Berthold in key roles

By Ruby Pratka

Local Journalism Initiative

Several independent members of Sherbrooke city council have told The Record they have concerns about the future of democratic debate in the chamber as an increasing number of key roles are filled by members of Mayor Évelyne Beaudin’s Sherbrooke Citoyen slate.

Earlier this week, Beaudin appointed deputy mayor and Sherbrooke Citoyen Councillor Raïs Kibonge as council president, replacing veteran independent Councillor Danielle Berthold. At the April 9 council meeting, Berthold resigned from the executive committee; the committee is now made up of Beaudin, Kibonge, Councillor Laure Letarte-Lavoie and Councillor Fernanda Luz, all Sherbrooke Citoyen members. Although independent councillors outnumber Sherbrooke Citoyen members on the full council eight seats to six, they worry that those with dissenting views may lose the opportunity to express them unless there’s a strong independent voice on the executive committee.

“The executive committee prepares the files for the full council, so instead of nuanced proposals that will have something in them to attract anyone, we’ll have proposals with [less nuance]. It will be harder for the independents to have their voices heard,” Berthold said.

“There’s a lot of centralization in the executive committee now – there’s no one to bring an alternative point of view,” said independent Councillor Christelle Lefevre. “It’s damaging and it’s not representative of the population.”

Lennoxville Borough President Claude Charron was more direct. “We’re losing democracy,” he said. “They [Sherbrooke Citoyen] are in the majority on the executive committee, and that’s where the decisions are made. You see that a lot in municipal politics, it’s not unique to Sherbrooke; whenever a party gets in, things get difficult for independents. I try to push ideas through now and it’s a challenge.”

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