What about Good Government?

Many commentators have asked “what’s wrong with Bill 78?”

My answer: Division III: the entire section about “peace, order and public security.”

It reads:

A person, a body or a group that is the organizer of a demonstration involving 50 people or more to take place in a venue accessible to the public must, not less than eight hours before the beginning of the demonstration, provide the following information in writing to the police force serving the territory where the demonstration is to take place:

(1) the date, time, duration and venue of the demonstration as well as its route, if applicable; and

(2) the means of transportation to be used for those purposes.

When it considers that the planned venue or route poses serious risks for public security, the police force serving the territory where the demonstration is to take place may, before the demonstration, require a change of venue or route so as to maintain peace, order and public security. The organizer must then submit the new venue or route to the police force within the agreed time limit and inform the participants.”

What is a demonstration? Does it include soccer games, church processions and neighbourhood get-togethers? Is this up to the police? Does it depend whether neighbours complain? Does it matter if all the participants wear a red square? What about a green square?

On Friday, the government was proposing that this section cover any group of 10 people or more. As that was being discussed, I worried about whether I should prepare reports of four different events for police for last weekend alone. Now I’m wondering whether volunteer organizers of every other event my family participates in have to be reported to the police.

It seems clear to me that this law gives too much power to the police, who don’t have the resources to implement the section anyway. This is another example of Quebec’s legislature passing layers of laws that no one knows how to implement.

Another problem with this section of Bill 78 is that it hints at Canada’s historic preoccupation with “peace, order and good government” and yet misses the most important of the three for legislators to fix.

You don’t have to know much to see that “good government” is a problem in Quebec. Yesterdays Charbonneau Commission into construction practices is the first sign of problems.

“The Quebec government created this commission of inquiry — which is totally impartial and independent, well-removed from any political considerations,” said Justice France Charbonneau, who will run the inquiry. “Nobody can tell (the inquiry) what to do, whom to interrogate or how to investigate.”

Except that the inquiry only gets to look at issues within the last 15 years and only within the terms of the documents that established the commission. I’m discovering, through research, that many of the problems over land use began as far back as the 1980’s. Hopefully, all the documents used by the Commission will be publicized so that freelancers like me can expose the roots of the problem.

A second hint of trouble was the arrest last Thursday of former Montreal politician Frank Zampino. The former politician worked closely with Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay until he left politics in 2008. Zampino is alleged to have leaked insider information to Paolo Catania of Construction Frank Catania & Associates Inc, who was also arrested last week.

“There’s no doubt that this affects the credibility of elected officials and, in this case, most acutely, of municipal officials,” said Tremblay.





To follow the Charbonneau Commission on Twitter, use the hashtag #CEIC.

To read some English translations of French media and government documents about the student protest, check out the website http://translatingtheprintempserable.tumblr.com/.

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Tracey Arial

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Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.

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