Lawyers want Union Montreal funds

By Tracey Arial

Former political members of Union Montreal have quit the party and moved on, but lawyers are still fighting to represent them.

They want the party’s remaining funds, which could be as high as $465,000, reserved for defending former members at the Charbonneau Commission.

“I don’t know how much money we have, and I don’t want to know,” said former leader Richard Deschamps. “In May, when we closed up the party, I said very openly that we don’t want the money beyond that needed to pay outstanding bills. It should go to the Chief Electoral Officer or the City of Montreal.”

Since Deschamps left his former party, much has happened.

After quitting as leader of Union Montreal, Deschamps represented citizens in the district of Sault St. Louis on city council as an independent. He then joined the Équipe Barbe Team–Pro action LaSalle party for the recent municipal election. He won his seat and continues to serve.

Meanwhile, former colleagues and Quebec’s Electoral Officer attempted to implement their interpretation of his final actions as leader of Union Montreal.

Jacques Drouin, Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer, outlined his version of events in a Nov. 15 press release:

“On May 9, a little over five months after having been named the party’s interim leader, Richard Deschamps notified the Chief Electoral Officer that he was handing in his resignation. He also submitted a resolution requesting the withdrawal of Union Montréal’s authorization. The resolution, however, stipulated that the party should keep certain sums in trust to provide for the party’s legal representation before the Charbonneau commission.

In June, the Chief Electoral Officer notified the party that this request to keep some funds following the withdrawal of its authorization was legally inadmissible, the AERM being clear about the obligation to hand over all of the party’s sums and assets once authorization is withdrawn.”

When they found out that money could not be set aside indefinitely if the party dissolved, administrators of Union Montreal withdrew Deschamps’ request for dissolution and requested that the party continue operating.

Drouin asked them to fulfil a number of conditions to keep the party operating. He cites their refusal to satisfy these demands to his satisfaction when explaining why he withdrew official authorization of the party Nov. 12. His ruling specified that remaining party funds be turned over to him by Sunday.

Union Montreal lawyers responded by applying to Quebec Superior Court to block his decision.

Their disagreement will be heard by a judge on Dec. 9.

Deschamps says he cares little which way it goes. “After that press conference in May, I had no discussions with the party. It’s not up to me to regulate these things after I quit. It’s a matter between the party and the Chief Electoral Officer.”

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