By Steve Connolly
I was visiting Sudbury, Ont., recently and discovered its citizens upset with their dysfunctional council, which had fired its ombudsman on account of his continuing revelations about (its) improper practices. Elsewhere, meanwhile, the mayor of London, Ont., is under investigation for fraud. And Toronto’s mayor is seen as a circus leader.
Closer to home in Quebec, Canadians are following the revelations of the Charbonneau corruption inquiry in Montreal, where mayors of several cities have resigned in embarrassment for leadership practices that may lead to criminal charges.
Most agree that relationships between municipal leaders and constituents have deteriorated. Tales of bullying, lack of citizens’ involvement, withholding of information, dishonesty, miscommunication, over- and wasteful spending, to name a few, have been prevalent.
You may not have heard of the Municipal White Paper produced by the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ); the report’s recommendations reflect the poor leadership of municipalite regionale de comtes (MRCs) and municipalities. But given the UMQ’s lack of visibility and clout (in implementation), one remains doubtful about success.
In 2011, the Quebec government – itself in disarray and continuing to download programs – recognized widespread unethical practices and decreed that 8,100 elected municipal officials attend a course on ethics, with taxpayers footing the bill. Also, when new people are elected, (they) must attend the course within six months, again at taxpayers’ expense. Even the UMQ disagrees.
Consider, we elect our constituents to represent us and they must attend a course on (i) the difference between right and wrong, and (ii) common sense. Another downloaded ‘make work’ program becoming law. Elected officials have agreed that their general bad behavior warrants the training; and saluting high, they have attended. Good grief.
Do you suppose that the deposed mayors of Montreal and Laval benefited from ethics training? Do you think that such training will benefit someone who is honest, or someone who remains dishonest? Why establish never-ending ethics training when the results cannot be measured? Courses on spending control would be far more worthwhile.
The Quebec government also demanded that each of the 1,106 municipalities develop Code of Ethics documents! It would have been far less costly and more effective if the government had developed one template for all. As of December 2012, 80 per cent had not complied.
You are probably hearing about (this) for the first time. One questions, why? Why do mayors not communicate with us? What do you know about the White Paper?
Quebec will experience municipal elections this November, with the consequence that many more officials will require ‘right and wrong’ training – on the taxpayers’ dime.
Have you noticed any difference in your municipal leaders’ behavior lately?
Ed. note: Steve Connolly is a resident of Low, Quebec.