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Montreal, Thursday, December 7, 2000 Taking advantage of the Building Code reform of Quebec, on Tuesday, November 28, the Municipal Council of the City of Montreal adopted an important amendment concerning its manner of issuing construction permits, which means it will no longer verify a plan’s compliance to the Building Code before issuing a permit for any type of building.

Conflicts of Interest Expected

“This change was passed practically unnoticed, although it will have a major impact on the safety of citizens, firemen and construction workers. Contractors, architects and all the other parties involved in a building construction project are now literally being asked to police themselves.

“It’s easy to imagine the many conflicts of interest that could result from such a measure, as well as the temptation for contractors to use cheaper materials of inferior quality, with all the consequences that such practices would have on building safety, not to mention the costs involved in correcting non-compliant designs after the fact,” stated Daniel Papillon-Demers, President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees of Montreal (SFFM-CUPE-QFL).

A Little Historical Reminder

“We expect to bring up this issue tomorrow, during the study of the budget of the Economic and Urban Development Service. The people who made this decision are perhaps unaware of the origins of the construction codes and their methods of application and supervision of compliance commencing at the planning stage. So we intend to refresh their memories.

“The City of Montreal was one of the very first to draw up a construction code and to provide supervision in its territory. Already in the 20’s, a Permit and Inspection Department had been established, an essential service in a city such as Montreal. Have we forgotten that, prior to this, half the City of Montreal was devastated by a major fire and that City Hall itself had been burned to the ground? All citizens have an interest in seeing that minimum regulations are established and respected in this field,” added Mr. Papillon-Demers.

A Matter of Safety First!

“The inspection of pouring concrete foundations, timber frameworks and fire walls has already become an occasional event, even though this practice permits the detection and correction of errors which could cause structural weaknesses, often very expensive to repair in later years: land subsidence, foundation problems, crooked floors or inadequate separations which promote the rapid propagation of a fire.

“Currently, when verifying plans, the employees responsible for issuing permits look for errors or omissions which could affect the structural quality or safety of a building. They then suggest possible solutions to the designers (architects, engineers or technologists). The employees assigned to issuing permits are specialists in building codes and safety. With the inspectors, they contribute to reducing the number and extent of disasters, as well as helping to avoid costly repairs caused by construction defects,” explained the union president.

False Savings

“If the City of Montreal believes it will save money by adopting this measure, it is sorely mistaken. The paltry savings achieved will be canceled out, and more, by the additional costs which the Fire Department will have to assume, and by the foreseeable increase in building insurance premiums. Citizens also risk seeing their premiums increase.

“We therefore formally ask Montreal to reconsider its decision, on behalf of the safety of the citizens. We firmly believe that it is in the public interest to ensure that some 150 applicable standards in the building codes are respected. This requires a pre-construction intervention, by experienced employees who issue permits and who have developed skills and acquired specific knowledge to perform their job,” concluded Mr. Papillon-Demers.



Daniel Papillon-Demers (514) 842-9463
Louis Cauchy (514) 384-9681, extension 270