Public Market walkout: fear for personal safety prompts six directors to quit
The entire Board of Directors of Montreal's Public Markets has resigned.
The individuals involved said in a resignation letter written last Friday that it was out of fear for their personal safety.
A letter informing stakeholders of the fact was sent to merchants and the city of Montreal by Isabelle Laliberté, the director of the non-profit corporation that runs the markets.
The city of Montreal owns the Atwater, Jean Talon, Lachine and Maisonneuve markets, as well as several smaller markets throughout the city, but they have been administered by a non-profit group for more than 25 years.
The mass resignation comes at a time when the corporation overseeing the markets was working with Montreal to change how they are governed.
According to Montreal executive committee member Robert Beaudry, the elected official dealing with the matter, the six board members had been facing a lot of resistance and pressure from some vendors over these proposed changes.
The changes called for five of the board's nine seats to be filled by people who do not have a stake in the markets.
In April the corporation put out a call for candidates with a strong sense of governance and ethics as well as people with strategic marketing, public relations, human resources, and leasing and commercial law skills to join the board.
The board for that organization was composed entirely of merchants from the markets and Beaudry said that created a conflict of interest.
"Those who are on the board also receive services from the corporation. So that's a situation it's not quite normal in a community organization and we want to change that. And the general manager of the corporation agreed with that and the board also agreed with opening places to people from the community to avoid a conflict of interest," said Beaudry.
In recent years vendors at Jean Talon market have been complaining that their sales declined after the city removed parking spaces.
Beaudry said the city wants to improve the relationship with the merchants and help them succeed, but also needs better information on how they're being run.
He added Montreal plans to hold a public assembly in the next few days to begin finding new board members, and to direct spending.
Beaudry also confirmed that the Market Corporation is willing to break leases with merchants if they are unwilling to accept more oversight.
Meanwhile police are investigating any possible pressure made on board members.