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Press pause: Recap of recent scandals at city hall

Posted by Braden / June 16, 2010

20100616-council.jpgThis is Claude Dauphin, the president of council. He didn't do anything wrong, though.

Over the past three days, Montreal's city council held their final session before the summer recess. Transparency was a big theme, after the recent scandals around how the city awards big contracts.

Here's a recap of the situation, Midnight-Poutine-style - time for some delicious, high-fat political commentary.

Accusations of foul play and favouritism in the way the city awards utility and construction contracts have plagued Tremblay's office for the past few months, with the Gazette's extended investigation of the water meter contracts.

More recently, the auditor general, Jacques Bergeron, released a report pointing out "great irregularities" in the $100 million contract with Telus to refurbish the municipal phone system. CBC reported that, as of late May, the project was "20 percent over budget. And only 11 percent of the work has been completed." The contract seemed sketchy enough that the police got called in to investigate. The plot thickened when it came out that Louis Roquet, the director general, leaked confidential portions of the report to Telus before it was officially published.

The question of today's special meeting of council was: who notified the police? Tremblay claimed he alerted the police first; Bergeron said that no one had brought it up at the time of his report.

The same report called the contract between the Montreal police department and the security firm BCIA into question due to a conflict of interest between the chief of police and one of BCIA's main shareholders.

At council this week, Tremblay's majority party didn't seem too keen on increased independent observation of government. They voted down the opposition's motions for a provincial inquiry into municipal corruption, and to increase funding for the auditor general's office.

Marvin Rotrand, the leader of the majority and one of the longest-serving city councillors, said that the party is committed to transparency, but that the current accusations of collusion are exaggerated. "It's a period of hysteria in Quebec's history," Rotrand told me after this morning's special session of council, when the auditor general fielded councillors' questions. "Everyone's saying that everyone's corrupt, everyone's calling for a public inquiry all of a sudden, and there's not a shred of evidence."

Tremblay's most recent step toward transparency: the creation of the position of controller general to review the way big contracts are handed out.

Other council highlights:
-A $350,000 loan to expand Montreal's hybrid bus fleet
-Both opposition parties called for a moratorium on taser use
-A heated twenty-minute dispute about decorum after Mile End Councillor Alex Norris removed his tie

20100616-norris.jpgNorris, after the offending tie had been restored.

All images are stills from city council's new live stream - a much more comfortable way to view the proceedings than from up in the press gallery.

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