Lawyers want Union Montreal funds

By Tracey Arial

Former political members of Union Montreal have quit the party and moved on, but lawyers want to use the remainder of the funds to continue representing them at the Charbonneau Commission.

Quebec’s Chief Electoral Officer Jacques Drouin officially closed the party on Nov. 12, to ensure that remaining funds go to the City of Montreal.

Eight days later, lawyers Eric Oliver and Mario Paul-Hus filed a submission to Quebec Superior court on behalf of former treasurer and official agent Marc Deschamps to keep the party active. They argue that new party leader Lam Chan Tho has been in place since Sept. 23, and that he should be able to run the party as long as is required to ensure legal representation at the Charbonneau Commission.

The impasse will be heard in Quebec Superior Court tomorrow. Case number 500-17-079861-137 will begin at 9 a.m. in Room 2.16 of the Montreal Courthouse at 1 Notre Dame East.

Meanwhile, the only politician named by both parties takes no responsibility for the decisions made since he quit last May.

“After that press conference in May, I have had no discussions with the party,” 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.”

After quitting as leader of Union Montreal, Deschamps continued representing 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 today.

Deschamps isn’t the only politician who quit and left the party behind but, as former leader, he’s mentioned in Drouin’s justification for officially closing Union Montreal on Nov. 12, summarized in a news release three days later.

“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.”

A month later, the Chief Electoral Officer said that he notified the party that their 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, Union Montreal administrators 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 cited their refusal to satisfy these demands to his satisfaction, in explaining why he withdrew official authorization of the party Nov. 12.

His ruling specified that remaining party funds be turned over to him. That should have been done on Sunday, Nov. 24.

Instead, Union Montreal lawyers responded by petitioning Quebec Superior Court to block his decision.

The judge will decide today who’s right.

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