MONTREAL — Yves Levesque, the mayor of Quebec’s ninth-largest city who was courted by the federal Conservatives for a 2019 run with the party, resigned from city hall Thursday citing health reasons.
Levesque had been mayor of Trois-Rivieres, located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River between Montreal and Quebec City, since 2001, and is leaving with three years remaining in his fifth mandate.
His spokesman, Yvan Toutant, could not hold back tears when he told reporters at city hall about the emotional council meeting held Thursday morning in the departing mayor’s absence.
“I am convinced (Levesque) would have preferred to have a better departure than this,” Toutant said in an interview, adding that “it’s way too early” for Levesque to make a decision on his future with the Conservative party.
A well-placed source within the party, however, told The Canadian Press that Levesque “remains a high-quality potential candidate for the Conservative Party of Canada in the riding of Trois-Rivieres.
“We are following the situation closely with regards to his health, and we still hope he’ll decide to make the decision to join us for the 2019 election,” said the source, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
The Trois-Rivieres riding is currently held by the NDP’s Robert Aubin.
Tory leader Andrew Scheer held a meeting last April with Levesque in Trois-Rivieres during the leader’s Quebec tour. Scheer said at the time that the party was looking for quality candidates for the 2019 election and Levesque had a solid reputation.
Levesque told reporters the following month he was seriously considering a run with the party.
At a meeting of the party’s Quebec wing last May in Saint-Hyacinthe, about 60 kilometres east of Montreal, Scheer mentioned the names of Levesque and former Bloc Quebecois leader Michel Gauthier as two people helping the party gain influence in the province.
Gauthier, who led the Bloc Quebecois from 1996 to 1997, said at the time he would help the Tories find candidates in Quebec ahead of the 2019 campaign.
“Believe me,” Scheer told the 400-person crowd in his closing speech, “the Michel Gauthiers and the Yves Levesques, there will be many more of them.”
In a public statement addressed to citizens Thursday, Levesque said his decision to resign as mayor was “difficult and heart-rending.
“For medical reasons and under orders from my doctor, I came to this inescapable decision,” he wrote.
Neither Levesque nor Toutant gave details about the departing mayor’s illness. He has been on sick leave since October.