Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

Popular financing: mayors say no to ; François Legault

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The president of the Union of Quebec Municipalities, Martin Damphousse

The Canadian Press

Ending popular financing of political parties as suggested by François Legault would harm municipal democracy, according to the presidents of the two major associations of municipalities in Quebec.

The president of the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ), Martin Damphousse, and his counterpart at the head of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities (FQM), Jacques Demers, reacted to the idea of ​​giving up funding popular, launched by the CAQ leader on Thursday, and even that of legislative changes in this direction.

The CAQ has been shaken for two weeks by the controversy surrounding its fundraising methods: the opposition accuses CAQ deputies of having dangled access to ministers in exchange for a $100 donation to the party, messages obtained by The Canadian Press suggest.

MM. Damphousse and Demers have no problem with a councilor, a mayor or a citizen contributing to a party's fund.

We are deviating from the real subject, […] it is not popular financing that is problematic, declared Mr. Demers in an interview with The Canadian Press.

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Donations from individuals are absolutely necessary so that new candidates on the municipal scene can make themselves known, otherwise, the old parties and existing candidates will have a major strategic advantage, argued Mr. Damphousse, who is also mayor of Varennes.

Everyone is unanimous on that, he argued.

If nearly half of mayors contribute to the CAQ fund, as a report from The Canadian Press revealed, it is not because they otherwise have difficulty meeting a minister. That is not the problem, maintains Mr. Damphousse.

I never had an access problem. I have never needed to contribute to a party fund to meet a minister.

A quote from Martin Damphousse, president of the Union of Municipalities of Quebec

The problem is rather the wording of the CAQ requests which is clumsy, he deplores – something which the CAQ even admitted, nevertheless indicating that it had done nothing illegal.

We cannot dangle a privilege by baiting municipal elected officials with a minister in a financing cocktail – the law prohibits contribute to a party with the intention of obtaining compensation.

Mayors felt uneasy thinking that they had to pay to meet a minister, continued Mr. Demers, who is mayor of Sainte-Catherine-de- Hatley.

There must not be an impression that #x27;we have to pay to meet a minister in order to move a file forward.

A quote from Jacques Demers, president of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities

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Jacques Demers, president of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities (FQM). (Archive photo)

You do not obtain a privilege by contributing or participating in a fundraising activity, insisted Mr. Damphousse .

On the other hand, are there a lot of [municipal] elected officials who take advantage of it [by going to fundraising cocktails] to make themselves known and advance issues that are important to them? #x27;is perfect for them, there is no risk in that, he nevertheless added.

The minister Bernard Drainville admitted last week that municipal elected officials discussed their files with him during fundraising activities, while the general director of the CAQ rather affirmed that the exchanges between the minister and the mayors were of the order of brief conversation, sprinkling.

Mr. Demers believes that municipal elected officials take part in their MP's fundraising activities because they want to know what the government is going to do for their municipality.

The presidents of the UMQ and the FQM both contributed to the CAQ.

They are the ones who, as representatives of all of Quebec's municipalities, negotiated the very last fiscal pact signed last fall with the CAQ government.

Will this undermine their independence or the appearance of impartiality?

In my opinion, not at all, replied Mr. Damphousse. It would be incredible if it were, Mr. Demers also replied.

The president of the UMQ says he does not consider himself a CAQ activist. He wanted to contribute to the campaign of the CAQ candidate and today Minister of Families, Suzanne Roy, who was his predecessor at the head of the UMQ.

She is my MP, my colleague and my personal friend. This is not linked to future meetings with ministers. This has nothing to do with it.

A quote from Martin Damphousse, president of the UMQ

No, I do not consider myself a CAQ activist, replied Jacques for his part Demers saying he had already contributed to the PQ and the PLQ when they were in power.

I like it to hear what these parties are going to do for our county. There is no obligation for anyone to take out a membership card, which I don't do, anyway.

Mr. Damphousse contributed $200 to Ms. Roy's campaign in 2022, an election year in which a citizen was entitled to contribute an additional $100 to the allowed annual maximum of $100. He repeated by contributing $100 in 2023.

Mr. Demers, for his part, paid $100 to the CAQ fund in 2023, but in 2019 and 2017, he gave $100 to the Liberal Party (PLQ).

Monday, The Canadian Press revealed that 503 Quebec mayors and prefects out of 1,138 had contributed to the CAQ's electoral fund since the last municipal elections of 2021, for a total by almost $100,000.

In messages obtained by The Canadian Press, CAQ MPs invited municipal officials to cocktails, offering to meet a minister in exchange for a $100 contribution.

The opposition parties accuse the CAQ of having set up a financing scheme that targets municipal elected officials, which the CAQ have denied.

Two CAQ deputies, Sylvain Lévesque and Louis-Charles Thouin, are the target of an investigation by the Ethics Commissioner of the National Assembly, Ariane Mignolet. Québec solidaire also asked her to investigate two other CAQ elected officials, Gilles Bélanger and Yves Montigny, but she deemed the request inadmissible.

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Prime Minister François Legault announced this week that the CAQ will renounce receiving private donations, and is asking other parties to do the same. (File photo)

Mr. Legault considered that the opposition's attacks called into question his integrity. Upset by the revelations, he announced Thursday that his party would renounce individual contributions from citizens and invited his opponents from other parties to do the same, which they refused.

The head of government even raised the possibility of changing the law in this direction, while admitting that it would take the support of oppositions to change legislative provisions that affect democratic rules.

Municipal elected officials have the right to contribute to the financing of parties, like any citizen.

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