Saturday, November 07, 2009

CUPE calls for public inquiry into Quebec municipal sector:
There have been numerous scandals over the awarding of municipal contracts, and I expect that this will be an ongoing thing until the end of our present economic system. The following article from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) says how they think the whole system of municipal politics in Québec should be reviewed in light of the recent scandals in the city of Montréal. In the recent municipal elections in Québec the Union Montréal (UM) retained control of the city of Montréal. The major opposition party, the `Vision Montréal`(VM), campaigned on an anti-corruption platform but were caught with their pants down. as their own party was hit with a corruption scandal shortly before the Nov 1 elections. The final electoral confirmed the UM as the leading and controlling party in Montréal, and the VM as a weakened second. The more or less leftist`party Projet Montréal (PM) came third but increased its vote significantly. Such a party, however, is obviously no more resistant to corruption in the long term than other parties. `Leftist/greenoid parties may actually be more susceptible should they ever attain power. That's life.

Alll that is neither here nor there. The important point is that government corruption is hardly restricted to the city of Montréal. It is a constant across municipalities in Canada, and is also very much present in provincial and federal government contracts as well. The call from CUPE is echoed in a more expansive way at the Fagstein blog where the blogger calls for a much wider public inquiry into municipal politics in Canada. Government, by its very nature is corrupt, but it would be wise to make as much of it as possible transparent and to put as many restrictions on it as possible. Here`s the article from CUPE.
In the wake of municipal elections plagued by scandals and allegations of corruption, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents the vast majority of municipal employees in Quebec, is demanding that the Charest government take immediate action to clean up municipal affairs regulations, notably those governing the project bidding process and party financing.

“It is critical that we restore municipal public and parapublic services to their rightful roles. It is clear to us that making legislative changes to the way municipality’s award contracts is not enough,” asserted CUPE Quebec director Michel Poirier. “We have to be able to justify the contracts awarded to external firms and establish the necessary safeguards to foil any attempts at implementing a system of cronyism or patronage.” According to the union leader, while it is imperative to restore sound contract awarding and municipal management practices, the methods announced thus far are insufficient and serve only as a smokescreen to keep those truly responsible from being identified and avoid a public inquiry into the municipal sector.

The minister has already announced a meeting in Quebec City to discuss ethics and the contract-awarding process. CUPE has asked to be included in these discussions. “We want to be there; we have a unique and vital perspective on the issue. Our 25,000 members have an inside view of what’s really happening with the contracts for snow and garbage removal, IT systems, and water meters.”

Municipalities are among Quebec’s biggest suppliers of contracts of every kind. “Given this, the least that should be done is to make sure these contracts don’t result in kickbacks and handouts to friends of the system. In recent weeks, public services have been shown to guarantee us fair prices, transparency, and accountability. What we need now is for the contracts awarded to external firms—and there’ll always be such contracts—to be above all suspicion as well,” added Michel Poirier.
Party financing to be reviewed
In the same vein, CUPE is also calling for changes to be made to the regulations on municipal political party financing. According to CUPE, this is often the source of contract allocation scandals. “Anonymous donors, companies that pay employees to make contributions to parties, $1,000-a-plate dinners, and the ability to hide the origin of 20% of funds raised—it’s all nonsense! Beefing up rules to promote popular and transparent financing is a critical first step toward cleaning house in municipal politics,” the director of CUPE Quebec concluded.
If anyone is interested in an anarchist analysis of Québec's municipal elections I can suggest the article 'Ville de Québec: L'opposition sera dans la rue' at the Voix de Faits blog. En Français évidemment.

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