Quebec mayor by day, kitten killer by night

Mayor of Huntingdon, Quebec, Stéphane Gendron   Photo: The Globe and Mail  

Mayor of Huntingdon, Quebec, Stéphane Gendron   Photo: The Globe and Mail

 

What is the deal with Canada's mayors? There's the crack video allegations swirling about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. The resignation of Laval Mayor Alexandre Duplessis after being linked to a sex scandal. (Oh, and Mr. Duplessis was appointed after Laval's former mayor was forced out of office because of corruption allegations). Then there's the resignation of Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum, who faces charges involving fraud, conspiracy and corruption. 

That is bad enough. Now, enter the mayor of a Quebec town who recently admitted on the radio that he enjoys killing stray cats in his spare time.

Stephane Gendron, the mayor of Huntingdon, Quebec, made the comments on his radio show. 

"When I see a cat in the street, I accelerate," the Canadian Press quoted Mr. Gendron as saying on the air.

He also said that "The other day I backed up over a newborn and I'm sure it didn't feel a thing...The pickup passed over him like it was nothing."

You don't have to be a cat lover to find these remarks disturbing.  

And while Mr. Gendron did issue an apology for his remarks, it seemed more of the "I'm sorry you took offence to my actions" variety rather than the "I'm genuinely sorry for what I did" apology.  

Mr. Gendron explained that stray cats are a major problem in his community and that he was using dark humour to discuss the issue.  

Of course, he doesn't deny killing cats for fun. When asked directly by a Canadian Press reporter whether he really runs down cats with his truck, Mr. Gendron replied, "Everything has been said."

Now, he is being investigated by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and his past is being investigated by the media.  

The fact that a mayor would discuss his macabre pastime in the same manner as someone might talk about nuisance potholes or road congestion is mind-boggling.

While he seems anxious to put the ordeal behind him, Mr. Gendron doesn't seem to realize why his remarks are facing such a backlash.  

But, in reality, elected officials, corporate executives, company spokespeople and other employees are responsible for the comments they make and the consequences that may occur as a result.  

You don't have to be admitting to running down cats on the radio. Making disparaging comments about your employer on social media or mishandling a media interview can also do significant damage. This is why it's important - not only to figure out what you're going to say in advance and to think twice about those comments - but also to demonstrate genuine sensitivity to your audience, particularly when you're an elected official and you're dealing with a topic that represents such an emotional connection to so many people - their pets.