Council dissidents sound warning on proposed City of Laval Charter changes

Mayor denies modifications would have anywhere near the feared impact

Council dissidents sound warning on proposed City of Laval Charter changes
Martin C. Barry

In spite of assurances by Mayor Marc Demers that changes he is seeking for Laval’s municipal charter won’t lead to abuses by his administration, a group of opposition city councillors is urging Quebec not to allow the changes – even though the government already has for five other large municipalities.

Councillors’ denunciation

In their letter addressed to Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest, Laval city councillors David De Cotis (Saint-Bruno), Michel Poissant (Vimont), Isabella Tassoni (Laval-des-Rapides), Aglaia Revelakis (Chomedey), Paolo Galati (Saint-Vincent-de-Paul) and Daniel Hébert (Marigot) said they were “denouncing” Mayor Marc Demers’ attempt to modify two clauses from Laval’s charter.

Although four of the group are disaffected former Mouvement Lavallois members, Revelakis is the sole remaining elected member of Action Laval on city council.

‘Too much power’

“While analysts of municipal politics agree that the present Charter of the City of Laval gives too much power to the executive-committee, the new version which allows the executive-committee to make its own internal rules will go even further,” they said, noting that the City of Laval was placed under trusteeship six years ago as its political and administrative situations spun out of control.

“When the city was placed in trusteeship, the trustees saw that this Charter had allowed Gilles Vaillancourt to act outside the scrutiny of the municipal council. It should be recalled that the executive-committee is presided by the mayor and that the councillors who sit on it are appointed by him. He could thus govern without the Council intervening.

No to additional powers

“It is for all these reasons that we are asking you to take a stand against any modification of the City of Laval’s Charter which would give additional powers to the executive-committee, some of which already caused considerable harm to Laval residents in the past,” added the councillors.

In a statement responding to the letter, Mayor Marc Demers maintained that there appeared to be confusion as to the extent of the impact the requested changes would make.

“At this time, these powers are delegated through the adoption of a by-law by a vote of simple majority,” said Demers. “The proposed modification would be such that this delegation by by-law would require a vote by 2/3 of the members of the municipal council. This would not significantly increase the powers of the executive.”

Other cities have the same

According to the mayor, the change the city wants made to its charter would allow the executive-committee to pass an internal by-law delegating certain powers to senior administrators. At the same time, he noted that some of this power currently exists in the municipal charters for the cities of Montreal, Longueuil, Lévis, Gatineau and Québec.

While pointing out that officials with the City of Laval are currently working on a new version of the municipality’s charter, Demers said that in the meantime city council needs to be able to pass internal by-laws allowing it to delegate certain powers.

In an interview with the Laval News, De Cotis, who publicly split last year from the mayor and the Mouvement Lavallois, said the dissident group’s current demand comes following a refusal by Demers to explain the charter amendments during the last city council meeting.

‘Blank cheque,’ says De Cotis

Council dissidents sound warning on proposed City of Laval Charter changes

“He’s asking for a blank cheque, asking the Legault government to approve modifications to the charter that would allow executive-committee members to really pass any by-law they want, and in a sense create their own government within the executive-committee,” claimed De Cotis.

Although De Cotis didn’t know of any administrative abuses committed in the five other cities since they received the powers being sought by Laval, he said the city’s well-documented history of corruption and administrative abuse should serve as enough of a warning to refuse the charter change request.

For her part, Aglaia Revelakis told the Laval News she agreed with the other councillors that Demers was being unreasonable by not disclosing exactly what changes he wanted to make to the city’s charter. “We don’t know what they’re planning to change,” she said. “So why would we vote for something when we don’t even know what we’re going to be voting for?”