With files from Robert Frank
During the council meeting last night (January 12), Pierre Anthian, the municipal councillor of Laval-des-Rapides made a motion that Laval city councillors visit their counterparts in Montreal to learn about democracy.
We look exactly the same as we did in the days of Vaillancourt,” said Anthian. “I see what’s happening in Montreal and it’s dynamic and active and everyone is speaking.”
Anthian’s motion has six precursors. Four make his points that Laval councillors don’t speak while citizens and media are watching, that dynamism and transparency are missing and that the administration encourages real discussion to take place in caucus rather than during City Hall debates. Two are counterpoints about the openness and ready discussion that takes place in Montreal.
The motion itself reads:
Il est proposé que les conseillers de ce présent conseil assistent au conseil de la ville de Montréal pour faire une saine comparaison de son fonctionnement et inciter l’intérêt d’une participation active aux discussions publiques.“
Roughly, it reads “It is proposed that the councillors of this present council attend a City of Montreal council session to make a clear comparison with how it functions and to encourage interest in actively participating in public discussions.”
In a separate discussion David de Cotis made it clear that he doesn’t agree with the implications behind Anthian’s motion.
I don’t necessarily agree with the allegations that are made against Marc Demers’ party,” said de Cotis. “It’s a very democratic party. We always discuss every decision that we make in caucus. All our city council questions are being broadcast live on the web. Marc Demers decided to implement in 2014 that all contracts over $24,000 would be passed to city council for its approval. In the past just the executive committee had to approve these contracts before they would be given out, but now the executive committee must recommend them to city council which then gets to decide whether to vote for or against them. We’re going to great strides to show that we’re a transparent and democratic administration. We are consulting with Repensons Laval, the biggest consultation in the history of the city. Now we are embarking on the urban development plan consultation.”
Newly independent councillor Jean Coupal plans to ask about wasteful spending at every city council meeting until the next election. Last night was no exception.
“It’s not about the mayor and the administration, it’s more about the city administration,” he said. “The mayor doesn’t challenge whether city employees have real needs when they propose projects. He just gives them what they want.”
This tendency led to Laval’s 2016 budget being too high, says Coupal, who was elected with Movement Lavoillois to represent District 12 Souvenir-Labelle in November 2013 and has been a member since 2011.
By leaving Demer’s party prior to the end of 2015, he gets access to a $27,000 research budget for councillors that would have otherwise gone to the party. He plans to use these funds to hire students to compare Laval to other cities.
“Cities on the North Shore didn’t increase taxes at all,” he said. “In Mirabel, there was no tax increase for three years. It makes no sense. Last year, two big amounts decreased. Law 15 dropped the retirement regime and Laval saved $12.3 million and the interest rates went down and Laval saved $8 million. We don’t control that, but instead of giving these amounts back to citizens, they just spent it all. In my district, I have a lot of seniors and the Government of Canada increased their pension by only 1.2% and we’ve increased taxes by 1.9% so these seniors are going to have cut somewhere.”
Coupal says that Laval should reduce expenses by eliminating automatic budget increases for manager salaries, limiting police overtime and forcing bureaucrats to release clear limited tenders.
As an IT specialist for 25 years, he was particularly shocked by a $300,000 information technology (IT) contract approved last year.
“I know exactly the work that needs to be done because I’ve done it myself,” he said. “The guy who is doing the work is getting $55 an hour and the rest of the money is going to the United States…The criteria was so complicated that there was only one company who could get that job.”
Coupal has been concerned about city spending since long before he got elected. In 2009, he was featured in a Suburban story about the distribution of Vivre en Laval in English. (See: http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/launch.aspx?eid=de522198-92c0-4a09-9908-8ba6bcfb4b37&pnum=88&from=search&terms=Jean%20Coupal&searchPage=1.)
“Oh, I remember that,” he said. “I was saying that I don’t need two copies because I’m receiving one in French and another in English. Everyone in Chomeday got one automatically, but someone in St. Francois couldn’t get one. Now, everyone who wants an English version can get it regardless of where they live. I’ll have to ask how many have been distributed.”
Coupal says he’s been asking pointed questions about spending behind closed doors since prior to his election. As an independent councillor, now he’ll ask them in public.
Last week a team of students from Montmorency College in Laval won $3,000 to set up a company to offer trips to people with mobility issues. The company will be a workers’ cooperative known as Mobilitas.
There is no such company in Quebec, but in France, this is a product that sells very well,” said Lise St-Arnaud, the very proud teacher who taught them the class within which they developed the project.
Please read the rest of my story, which appeared on page 13 of the Laval edition of The Suburban yesterday and on the Suburban website yesterday.
The City of Laval plans to hold another public consultation about flood zones .
The consultation will take place on Thursday, December 17, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall, 1 Place du Souvenir.
For more information about the consultation and its background, please see my Suburban story.
Last week, Laval police reported on the first year of the city’s new ethics and integrity office (Bureau d’intégrité et d’éthique de Laval or BIEL).
The office has investigated 85 reports of corruption, fraud or misconduct since it began operating in March 2014.
We can state for certain after one year that our efforts are already bearing fruit,” said Police Chief Pierre Brochet. “We’ve set up a system so that if you don’t respect your contracts, you will be found out.”
So far, complaints are divided almost equally between crimes (43) and misdeeds (42). Crimes are handled by the police; misdeeds are handled by bureaucrats.
The police team led by Brochet now includes Chantal Sicard, Yves Fournier and Chantale Desrochers. So far, they have handled 43 complaints that concerned accusations of fraud, intimidation and theft.
Eleven of these cases went to the provincial anti-corruption squad UPAC (l’Unité permanente anticorruption). One of these was an investigation into political hiring by Aglaia Revelakis that the Suburban reported on February 11.
Two other complaints led to 15 arrests. Fourteen people were accused of filling snow-clearing trucks half full before they began their work. Another person was accused of intimidation relating to soccer field improvements.
Twenty police investigations are still under way; six are being analyzed and another six cases have been closed. Investigators reported that five of the closed cases were without merit.
Brochet’s team also handled more than a dozen requests for information about ethical behaviour in specific situations. In future, he plans to create information about how city workers and suppliers can handle contracts fairly. He also has to finish hiring the rest of the BIEL team.
BIEL received an additional 42 complaints that were administrative in nature and given to city bureaucrats to handle. This team is being led by Benoit Paquette. Laval’s governance, ethics and conformity chief, Quynh-Giao Pham, reports to Paquette. Nineteen of the 42 cases handled so far have been closed. Another 12 are being analyzed and 13 remain under investigation.
The report says that 19 of these files were related to the management of internal services and 13 complaints were related to contractual and business relationships. Ten involved inappropriate behaviour.
No additional information was provided about those files in the report, but the Suburban has covered two complaints against Pierre Anthian, one because he decided to pay homeless people to clear snow and the other because he paid a lawyer to prove that Laval could set up dynamic parking.
Now that BIEL is in its second year, Brochet says that its emphasis will be encouraging people to call its hotline (450) 575-BIEL (2435) or send investigators an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This article appeared in the Laval edition of The Suburban on Wednesday, May 13.