In front of the Parliamentary Commission, the Commission d’accès à l’information du Québec is recommending that more organizations fall under the Access to Information Act, but these recommendations do not go far enough for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). Specifically, CUPE is not only asking that all public organizations fall under the Act, but also entities such as non-profit organizations and public-private partnerships, whose activities may create financial risks for taxpayers.
“Despite these new recommendations, non-profit organizations (NPOs) and public-private partnerships (PPPs) would be excluded from the Access to Information Act,” said Danielle Lamy, CUPE legal counsel, in a presentation to the Parliamentary Commission. “In fact, they are often extensions of public entities. Since these are private entities, they are not subjected to the transparency required by public organizations. This makes no sense.”
“NPOs, for example, manage activities or public facilities (arenas, sport centres, etc.) that were constructed thanks to loans guaranteed – sometimes at 100% – by municipalities. The cities then rent the facilities on behalf of their citizens for a specific length of time and cost. These NPOs’ vocations are public, but their actions are private (despite the presence of municipal administrators), which means taxpayers do not normally have access to their financial statements.
In the case of PPPs, these are associations between a public body and a private-sector business for the concept and development of public work. To finance the project, the private entity then gets a loan that the public partner promises to reimburse 100%.
“The final statements (revenues and expenses) are not accessible to citizens, even if governments committed themselves to spending huge amounts,” said Marc Ranger, assistant director of CUPE responsible for the municipal sector. “We are asking for common sense in this matter: full transparency in order to achieve better management of public funds.”
With more than 111,000 members in Quebec, CUPE is present in 10 sectors: social affairs, communications, education, energy, municipalities, Crown corporations and public-sector organizations, air and urban transportation, the mixed sector as well as universities.
Danielle Lamy, union advisor, cell 514 793-7122
Lisa Djevahirdjian, CUPE Information SCFP, cell 514 831-3815