Opposition questions ‘transparency’ of Laval’s ‘Grande Bibliothèque’ project

Demers and Boyer say too little information available yet to share with council

Although construction work on a new central branch for the City of Laval’s public library network is still far from underway, the opposition on Laval city council is already raising questions about “transparency” and questionable costs for a project slated to be built in Laval’s downtown core.

No transparency: Opposition

Seen here in a file photo, Laval executive-committee vice-president Stéphane Boyer says the city hasn’t enough information gathered on the Grande Bibliothèque project yet to reveal any preliminary planning.

During the Sept. 1 webcast of Laval city council, objections were voiced from several opposition councillors to an agenda item calling for the awarding of a 12-month contract worth a little over $313,074 to an architectural firm to produce a preliminary technical study for the future “Grande Bibliothèque.”

“There is a shortage of information,” said opposition councillor for Saint-Bruno David De Cotis. “It leaves the impression that there is a lack of transparency. Because I can understand that studies have to be done. But I am convinced that the committee members who worked on this were given a presentation and they know where the Grande Bibliothéque is going to be built.

Team work, suggests De Cotis

“They know the needs,” added De Cotis. “So we don’t need an outside consultant to tell us the functioning or technical needs. What I am asking managers at city hall is to give us a presentation with all the information that is available today. After that it will be easier for us all as a team to vote on budgets.”

De Cotis and fellow opposition councillor Isabella Tassoni, who represents Laval-des-Rapides, agreed that athough she’s the councillor for the district, even she is being kept in the dark by the Demers administration as to the details of the project.

While Tassoni, De Cotis and others said they agreed that a central library building is needed – “I want to see it in my district more than anybody,” Tassoni said at one point – she added that she found it impossible to vote even on a preliminary part of a project when the administration hadn’t provided any information on it.

Tassoni voted No

“At the end of the day, I don’t know how we can vote on something that we have no idea how it’s going to take place,” she said, adding that even though she understood the points being made by Mayor Marc Demers and executive-committee vice-president Stéphane Boyer, she saw no option but to vote against the library project contract.

St-Vincent-de-Paul city councillor Paolo Galati said he, too, supported the Grande Bibliothèque project, “except that for me there is a lack of transparency,” he added, citing the City of Laval auditor-general’s most recent annual report which noted an absence of transparency in a number of the administration’s dealings. For that reason, Galati said he would vote against the contract.

Info not ready yet, said Demers

Responding to the criticism that the project lacks transparency, Stéphane Boyer said that because planning is still in the early stages there wasn’t enough information to share at this point. Mayor Demers said the city is currently seeking subsidies from the provincial government to help pay for the project. He said that when further studies have been completed, the administration will be in a position to present an outline to all the city council members.

During the public question period, Laval resident Mélanie Guimond said that following the vandalism committed against the statue of John A. MacDonald in downtown Montreal, the City of Laval might consider denouncing such acts as they could end up also taking place in Laval. She suggested a resolution should be tabled at the council meeting to denounce all forms of vandalism being used to stifle constructive debate.

No monuments here, said mayor

While agreeing that the violent upheavals and events recently in the U.S. as well as the vandalism in Montreal shouldn’t be ignored, Mayor Demers said Laval has little in common with those incidents. “In the City of Laval, we have very few monuments honoring historic figures and so we are perhaps not as vulnerable to the type of situation that took place in Montreal,” said Demers.

“But I can assure you that all of the elected officials here tonight heard you and we oppose any manifestation of violence whether it is verbal, physical or otherwise to meet a goal. I think that the best way to win people over is by speaking and letting the facts be known.”