Action Laval accused of abusing city council’s question period

Council critics allege party used nearly a third of 90-minute period

Martin C. Barry

Action Laval, the official opposition party in Laval city council, was heavily criticized during the Aug. 8 council meeting by partisans of the governing Mouvement Lavallois as well as the Parti Laval, which is the “unofficial” opposition.

Abuse alleged

Both parties allege that over the last few council meetings, Action Laval has been abusing the right of citizens to ask questions during question period by systematically sending Action Laval election candidates to the microphone, cutting into the amount of question period time available for regular residents.

According to Parti Laval leader Michel Trottier, Action Laval “monopolized 25 of the 90 minutes available to citizens once a month,” he said during the council members’ period for making statements. “So I would just like to say that it would be important to respect that period reserved for citizens 90 minutes each month. It’s a question of respect. That’s all.”

Mayor deflects criticism

Despite the admonitions, again this month a succession of Action Laval candidates came up to the microphone to raise questions on a variety of issues. The party’s leader, Jean-Claude Gobé, was among the first people to come up to the microphone.

After criticizing Mayor Marc Demers for his “lack of influence and lack of credibility with the provincial government” in a number of dossiers, Demers fired back with both barrels.

“With comments like that, it seems very apparent that the electoral campaign time is approaching,” said the mayor, while maintaining that over the past few council meetings, Gobé spent his time at the microphone talking, but without asking very specific questions.

Mayor Marc Demers answers questions during the Aug. 8 Laval city council meeting.
Mayor Marc Demers answers questions during the Aug. 8 Laval city council meeting.

Party reacts to criticism

In a statement Action Laval issued following the council meeting, the party defended its tactics, claiming the mayor “bullies the candidates of Action Laval,” while questioning Action Laval’s motives for asking questions.

“Tonight, at City Council meeting, Mayor Demers and Independent Councilor Michel Trottier criticized Laval residents for asking questions at the city council on the pretext that they are also candidates for the upcoming election,” said the opposition party, while adding that Gobé “rejects Demers’ antidemocratic reaction.”

“Marc Demers used his role as mayor to ridicule his opponents,” said Gobé. “It is totally inappropriate for the institution of the Mayor’s office to reproach members of an opposing party for addressing the municipal council during its sittings.”

Says ML also asked questions

Gobé and other members of his party also pointed out that the ML itself, including Demers, were asking questions at Laval city council meetings since at least 2009 – four years before they were voted into power. “Either the mayor has a very short memory, or he is of extreme bad faith,” added the opposition party’s leader.

A large chunk of time during question period was taken up by homeowners of an area in western Laval near Jolibourg Park in the district of Laval-les-Îles. They are up in arms over the City of Laval’s decision to install several large construction trailers and to asphalt a previously grassed-over area in the park for the next two years in order to facilitate the reconstruction of bridges serving Île Pariseau, Île Bigras and Île Verte.

Maintaining that neither he nor anyone else on city council was informed by the bureaucracy of what was going on, Mayor Demers denied one of the residents’ claims that he refused to visit the site.

Jolibourg Park controversy

“It seemed to me it would be better to get some answers first before proceeding,” he said. While insisting that the integrity of the park is important, Demers went on to say that “we have the challenge of having to build four bridges – two temporary and two permanent.”

And pursuant to the appearance during last month’s council meeting of a large delegation of residents living near a stretch of Lévesque Blvd. West where a developer wants to build a new 25-storey residential tower, a number of people from the same crowd were back this month.