MONTREAL — The surging Coalition Avenir Quebec has nabbed a highly visible member of the Montreal police force to run for the party in the upcoming provincial election campaign.
Ian Lafreniere, who has spent nearly two decades as one of the department's most prominent faces, will make the announcement official in the coming days, a party source told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.
Lafreniere is an inspector who ran the communications department and is currently on leave from the force. He is on vacation abroad until next week and did not return an email seeking comment Tuesday.
Persistent rumours have swirled since July that Lafreniere would run for the Coalition, which has been leading in recent polls ahead of the Oct. 1 election.
He is expected to run in Vachon, a Montreal-area riding that has been held mostly by the Parti Quebecois since 1994.
It is currently represented by Martine Ouellet, an Independent who was a longtime PQ member before her brief, chaotic stint as leader of the Bloc Quebecois.
She resigned in June after suffering a crushing defeat during a Bloc leadership vote and announced around that time she wouldn't run again provincially in 2018.
Patrick Ney, a former political attache for Ouellet and previous PQ member Camil Bouchard, is vying for the PQ candidacy.
The best showing for the Coalition in the suburban riding was a second-place finish in 2012, followed by a third place in 2014.
Lafreniere began working in the police's communications team in the mid-1990s and has been front and centre for many of the city's major police-related events, including the manhunt for convicted killer Luka Rocco Magnotta in 2012.
He was also very visible on TV during the highly charged student protests of 2012, which featured numerous clashes between authorities and demonstrators.
In 2015, a woman was convicted of harassment for posting to Instagram a graffiti drawing of Lafreniere with a bullet in the head. He testified in the aftermath of the image being posted online that he was shaken up, his young children were scared and that his wife stopped working for several months.
Lafreniere was briefly shunted aside from his communications gig in 2016 before returning last December under new interim police chief Martin Prud'homme.
He will just be the latest former police officer in recent years to try his hand in the political arena.
The Liberals boasted two former Quebec provincial police officers among their ranks — ex-cabinet minister Robert Poeti, who served one term before announcing he won't run again this year; and Guy Ouellette, a backbencher who has represented the Montreal-area riding of Chomedey since 2007 and is seeking re-election.
Jacques Duchesneau, a former Montreal police chief and well-known corruption fighter, won a seat for the Coalition in 2012 as a star candidate in the Saint-Jerome riding north of Montreal. He didn't seek re-election in 2014.
Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press