Report recommends sweeping changes for Quebec cities

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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The scandal surrounding construction of a new roof on Montreal City Hall have lead to a series of recommendations

Toronto has one. Vancouver is about to get one. And now a report delivered to the Quebec Municipal Affairs minister is recommending that cities in Quebec hire an ethic commissioner to help keep civic politicians on the straight and narrow.

The report was commissioned in response to a major scandal swirling around Montreal Mayor Gerard Tremblay. I had the opportunity to meet Mayor Tremblay on numerous occasions when I worked in the Mayor's office in Vancouver and he always struck me as one of the nicest and most generous guys you could ever meet.

A number of close associates of his are now caught up in a scandal related to contracts issued by the City for a new roof at City Hall as well as water meters. According to CTV news:

The Surete du Quebec is investigating the contract following a media report that a mobster asked contractor Paul Sauve to pay off two city councillors to guarantee that he could stay on the project.

Pretty serious stuff indeed. When he learned of the allegations, Tremblay suspended the $355 million water-metre contract pending the investigation. Despite these actions, Tremblay is quite wounded heading into the next election later this year.

As a result of this ongoing investigation by the Quebec police, the provincial government asked a panel of experts to make some recommendations on how to reduce possible corruption in big cities. The report is now in and it make a series of recommendations. They include:

  • Introduce a new code of ethics that would be in effect during and after a politician's term of office
  • Similar to federal legislation, ensure that a politician can't work with a company that is working with the city he/she was just elected in for a certain period of time - a bit of a "cooling off" period
  • Civic politicians will be forced to take a few courses on ethics
  • Mandatory disclosure of any relatives that may be working or trying to get contracts with the city

As for the political reaction to these recommendations...well, Michel Bisonette, the Deputy Mayor of Montreal seems in favour of it:

An ethics code is a code of honour, it's a code of responsibility.

As for the man who wants to become Montreal's next mayor, Benoit LaBonte said:

It could put more elements of control in terms of ethics, integrity and transparency in Montreal

How could any politician stand in front of a camera with a straight face and say he doesn't support recommendations to help enhance the ethics of civic government. It goes without saying that all politicians will publicly support it, but they'll likely grumble under their breath that this is a big waste of time and money.

The world of urban politics in Quebec is about to take a sharp turn in a new direction. And dare we say, it looks like a turn for the better.

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Politicians may certainly grumble, but citizens need to believe the city is taking active steps to ensure the public trust. And what is the point of one or two cities across Canada actively involved in ethics management if the rest continue to do business (or are perceived to) in a way that upholds outdated prejudices about politicians and government agencies.

Well, for one thing you may see younger generations, who have been raised and educated within ethical, collaborative structures settling themselves in cities where they perceive the governments operate in concert with those values.

That's a city I want to grow older in.

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