Martin C. Barry
Officials with the City of Laval have come up with a way to put that $10 million they succeeded in reclaiming from disgraced former mayor Gilles Vaillancourt to good use.
Beginning next year, $600,000 in annual interest will be paid out to community groups in Laval that deal with children and adolescents from infancy up to 17 years of age. However, because 2017 is already half over, the payout this year is just $300,000.
Mayor Marc Demers made the announcement at city hall last week with four of the five newly-appointed members of a new consultative committee that will be responsible for making recommendations on how subsidies from the fund should be allotted.
The committee’s members are former Olympic diving medallist Roseline Filion, former City of Laval civil servant and lawyer Lynda Tousignant, women’s business networking executive Eve Dalphond, Laval Families owner and editor Luigi Morabito, and former City of Laval culture and leisure activities department employee Jean-Pierre Tessier.
“We are pleased and honoured that these persons of great quality willingly accepted to watch over the Place-du-Souvenir Fund, a tool which will allow us to give back to young Laval residents the money they would otherwise have had if it had not been skimmed off by corruption, ” Mayor Marc Demers said during an announcement made at Laval city hall on June 19.
Support for the young
According to Demers, the idea behind the creation of the new Fonds Place-du-Souvenir was that all children and teenagers in Laval should be able to count on the support of their families as well as the local community as they mature and develop into adults.
“We will directly be supporting Laval’s youths by intervening in four key areas,” added Demers. “We will be joining the fight against poverty and social exclusion. We will also be encouraging academic perseverance and success in school. We will be facilitating the social integration of young immigrants. Finally, we will be encouraging access to cultural activities, since the democratization of access to culture is a value to be shared.”
According to the city, the fund will be administered at no cost by the city’s retired employees committee, with a set rate of investment return of 6 per cent. The choice of name was quite deliberate, said the mayor, pointing out that the money in question was successfully claimed back by Laval from former mayor Vaillancourt who is currently serving a prison term after being found guilty of collusion and corruption while in office for around two decades.
Opposition is negative
Laval city hall’s two opposition parties, Action Laval and the Parti Laval, reacted negatively for the most part to news of the fund’s creation. Both parties maintain that the timing – some five months before the next municipal elections – makes the fund look as though it was motivated by partisan interests.
“I have no problem with the overall goal of the fund, just the way the money is being used,” said Parti Laval leader Michel Trottier, who didn’t agree with the city’s choice of fund committee members. Trottier noted that two of the members, Lynda Tousignant and Luigi Morabito, are listed in public records as having made donations in recent years to the Mouvement Lavallois/Équipe Marc Demers.
They say election’s coming
“I have reason to doubt the integrity of the decisions which could be made,” Trottier said regarding the committee’s work. While the mayor said he was announcing the creation of the Place-du-Souvenir Fund now so that students returning to school in the fall could draw benefits from it, Trottier added, “I think it’s just an electoral announcement made before the elections.”
Action Laval leader Jean-Claude Gobé declined to single out anyone chosen to sit on the committee, although he concurred with the Parti Laval leader’s view that the announcement was motivated by electoral interests. “This is an election year,” said Gobé. He suggested that the organizations destined to receive the funding are being used by the city administration “to generate political capital for themselves.”