Martin C. Barry
A refusal by the Laval mayor Marc Demers’ administration to release some recent survey results has prompted Laval’s second opposition party to denounce the mayor’s actions as “partisan,” “secretive” and contrary to residents’ interests.
Debate was muted
The claims stem from a Laval city council public meeting on Sept. 10 when the 21 city councillors had been expected to express themselves on the City of Laval’s new parking policy for the emerging downtown area.
However, according to Action Laval, the results of a major public consultation conducted by the city among residents and service users from the downtown core area were not available.
City invoked privilege
The administration maintained at the time that the results couldn’t be immediately revealed to council members as the results contained privileged information that could jeopardize municipal revenues.
As a result, former Laval city councillor for Laval-des-Rapides Pierre Anthian filed a complaint with the Quebec Information Commission which mediates aspects of access-to-information issues.
Judge criticizes city
In a ruling issued on Sept. 25, the commission ruled that the City of Laval should make public the results of the survey as there was nothing in the survey the commission could find which could compromise the city’s interests.
“As the only municipal councillor for the downtown sector, I can’t get over that the results of a survey regarding the development of my own district have been deliberately hidden from me,” said Action Laval city councillor Isabelle Tassoni, who represents the downtown district of Laval-des-Rapides.
Out of the loop
“What’s even worse is that no one ever asked me to participate in the process, while at the same time the survey was paid for by Laval’s taxpayers,” she added. “This sort of initiative is supposed to be neutral without political bias.
“This deliberate attempt to deprive me of crucial information simply because I am not in Mr. Demers’ camp is harmful to my capacity to completely represent the people of my district,” said Tassoni.
‘Culture of secrecy’
“A culture of secrecy has taken over the Demers administration,” said Action Laval city councillor for Vimont Michel Poissant who leads the party caucus on city council. “As is his habit, the mayor deliberately chose to get around the rules in order to leave the elected officials in the dark for his own political advantage.”
“The mayor has in a way been very dishonest to try to withhold this information from elected officials and from the citizens of Laval,” said Action Laval city councillor for Saint-Bruno David De Cotis, formerly the executive-committee’s vice-president.
‘Partisan,’ says de Cotis
“This is a partisan survey from the mayor of Laval for the Mouvement lavallois,” claimed De Cotis. “Because he can take this information for his own personal use or the party’s personal use, whereas us as elected officials we don’t have access. But more than that, one other question we ask is what other information are they hiding from us?”
Action Laval city councillor for Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Paolo Galati said he agreed that the Demers administration’s withholding of the survey results is symptomatic of a secretiveness unbecoming the leadership of a city like Laval and an indicator of partisanship.
Demers ‘hiding,’ says Galati
“He’s hiding stuff,” he said of the mayor’s attitude. “If you want to be transparent then things like this would not happen. This is a hundred per cent partisan. The judge who rendered the decision said it: She said we should have been entitled to see everything.
“They’re holding things back for partisan reasons and it doesn’t make sense,” he insisted. “Especially in a city like Laval where corruption has been in the spotlight for the past several years. They say they’re going to be transparent and then this happens. I say it shows their true colours.”