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In response to Quebec’s Bill 109 (Municipal Ethics and Good Conduct Act), CUPE is calling for clear rules and a common code of ethics for all municipalities.

CUPE is concerned that the bill relies on self-regulation and that, under the pretext of respect for municipal autonomy, the government has decided to let municipal representatives define their own rules. CUPE understands the government’s desire to empower municipal representatives but does not share its optimism about the virtues of self-regulation.

In a submission to the Parliamentary committee (French only), CUPE argues that the government should impose a single code. It also asks for tougher regulations on conflicts and expressions of interest.

Speak out or keep silent?

For CUPE, the least satisfactory part of the bill directly involves municipal employees. There is no mention of any situation in which the code of ethics might conflict with an employee’s job standards.

Take, for example, an employee working at a water treatment plant where the supervisor asks for the disinfection of pipes to be less frequent than is required by established procedures. The employee would inevitably face the difficult moral dilemma of choosing between two apparently contradictory obligations: respecting the principles of the code of ethics and complying with a specific request from a superior. Faced with the superior’s unreasonable demand, what choice would the employee have? Speak out or keep silent?

CUPE represents about 70 per cent of all municipal employees in Quebec.