Municipalities need tougher ethics rules, says working group
All municipal politicians in Quebec should take an oath of ethical responsibility and disclose potential conflicts involving themselves and close relatives, says a provincial working group.
The round table report, released on Tuesday, was ordered by former municipal affairs minister Nathalie Normandeau following a series of scandals at Montreal city hall that are now being investigated by the Surete du Quebec.
The 44-page report submitted to the current minister, Laurent Lessard, has 19 recommendations. They include a suggestion that large Quebec cities, including Montreal, name an ethics commissioner -- a position that doesn't yet exist in the province's largest city.
Rough time for Tremblay
Normandeau made it clear in recent interviews that she was very concerned about allegations swirling around the administration of Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, who is seeking re-election this November. The allegations range from alleged corruption and extortion to fraud, though none of the allegations involves the mayor personally.
The latest alleged malfeasance emerged in June involving the project to replace the roof at City Hall.
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.
Sauve says he never paid the bribe.
Chief among the scandals is a $355 million water-meter contract, the largest in city history, which Tremblay suspended this spring after a firm that landed the contract was raided on allegations of tax fraud.
The mayor's former right hand man, Frank Zampino, was involved in the scandal when it was revealed that he vacationed on the yacht of the man whose firm was raided.
The friend, Tony Accurso, had been chosen to co-manage the water-meter contract along with another firm, Dessau, which hired Zampino after he left politics last year.
Zampino later quit Dessau when the connection was reported.
Several of the working group's suggestions touch on issues raised by the Montreal scandals, including:
- A code of ethics for all Quebec cities and towns covering conduct during and after a politician's term in office;
- A cooling-off period during which time recently-departed municipal officials can't work for a company that has close ties to the city or town for which they worked;
- Mandatory disclosure of personal friendships or those of family members;
- Ethics training within four months of taking office.
Montreal's deputy mayor, Michel Bisonette, told CTV News he believes a code of ethics is needed.
"An ethics code is a code of honour, it's a code of responsibility," he said.
Opposition leader Benoit Labonte agreed that a code of ethics would benefit the city of Montreal.
"It could put more elements of control in terms of ethics, integrity and transparency in Montreal," said Labonte.
But Robert Libman, political analyst for CTV News, called the idea "silly and meaningless."
"By setting up this straight jacket that will have everybody so concerned about doing anything, or put this cloud of suspicion over honest politicians, I think is a mistake," Libman said.