Catherine Fournier taken at fault for her election expenses

Catherine Fournier found at fault for her election expenses< /p> UPDATE DAY

Longueuil Mayor Catherine Fournier's party failed to report expenses for its big fundraising evening with well-known comedians during the 2021 election campaign, and is now facing sanctions of Elections Quebec. 

On October 27, 2021, in the middle of the municipal election campaign, the Coalition Longueuil party organized a great show of force: an evening of humor at the Théâtre de la ville de Longueuil, in a hall that can accommodate more than 900 people. 

Qualified as “the most heated evening since the start of the pandemic”, the show featured comedians Stéphane Fallu, Simon Deslisle, Martin Petit and Mario Jean, as well as candidate Sylvain Larocque, himself a comedian .  

By scrutinizing Coalition Longueuil's election expenses report, our Bureau of Investigation discovered that the expenses related to this evening had not been declared to Élections Québec as they should have been.  

This is in contravention of the Quebec Elections Act.  

According to figures provided by Coalition Longueuil, the costs related to this evening total $6,803.09.  

If this amount had been entered in the expense report sent to Élections Québec, Mayor Fournier's party would have committed another offence, namely exceeding the limit of expenses allowed by law, which was set at a little more of $157,000.  

The party admits an error 

Informed of our findings, Ms. Fournier's party first pleaded that these expenses did not have to be declared.   

“In fact, no revenue-generating activity should be included in a return of election expenses,” said Véronique Lalande, former president of the party.  

However, this is false, Élections Québec has confirmed to us twice. 

“Costs associated with political activities held during an election period are election expenses, with the exception of the cost of food and beverages served on occasion, when this cost is included in the admission price paid by the participant” , underlines the spokesperson, Gabriel Sauvé-Lesiège.  

After a second series of questions, Coalition Longueuil finally changed its mind and pleaded an honest error. 

“We have to admit that this is indeed an error in the interpretation of the rules by our official agent at the time, an error made in good faith. We will make a request to amend our return of election expenses accordingly,” explained Ms. Lalande by email.  

The party will have to prove that the error was made inadvertently, specifies Élections Québec .

It was also after our questions that the party added an amount for the fee of well-known comedian Mario Jean to its accounts. However, the party claims to have no invoice.

Ms. Lalande did not respond to our repeated requests for an interview with Catherine Fournier.  

Correction to come

She assures that the spending limit will be respected, because the party withdrew nearly $4,500 for expenses that were not ultimately made and for election signs that have been stolen.  

“For the corrected expense report, everything is still in the hands of Elections Quebec. The requests for corrections were requested by Elections Longueuil,” said the head of Coalition Longueuil. 

No request for corrections had yet been received, however, Elections Quebec told us last week.

“They had astronomical means”

The elected representative of Saint-Hubert, Jacques Lemire, the only member of the official opposition in the City of Longueuil, says he is not surprised to hear that Catherine Fournier's party could have exceeded the spending limit allowed by law.&nbsp ;

“I'm not surprised. They had astronomical means, he says about the 2021 election campaign. But there are still limits to respect.  

Mr. Lemire says he doubts an honest mistake for an expense as large as the costs of a major show. 

“You can't forget an expense like that. It may be [they didn't know it had to be declared], but I doubt they didn't. They had a good team and a big team. “, he judges. 

The elected official with 25 years of experience recalls that when he had an official agent during elections, he hammered at him that everything had to be accounted for and declared. . 

“He told me that we had to declare everything we did in connection with the campaign. And he didn't want to pay anything that wasn't declared,” he says.

Impact on the campaign 

According to Mr. Lemire, the Fournier team's great comedy show gave them “a lot of visibility”. 

“It played a role in the campaign. There were a lot of people and there was a lot of recruitment of members for the party. During the campaign, they had the wind in their sails. »

In addition to winning the town hall, Coalition Longueuil won 13 of the 14 council seats for which the party presented candidates.  

Mr. Lemire being the only elected official to have been able to stand up to him. 

Recall that Mrs. Fournier's party did not present candidates in the Greenfield Park sector, after having made an alliance with a party local. 

Evening expenses

  • Rental of the Théâtre de la Ville: 4584, $05 
  • Technical Director: $839.32 
  • Stamp of Martin Petit: $344.93
  • Stamp of Simon Delisle: $344.93 
  • Stéphane Fallu's fee: $344.93
  • Mario Jean's fee: $344.93 

Total: $6803.09 

What the law says&nbsp ;

  • Municipal political parties must disclose to Élections Québec each expense incurred for their election campaign. This ranges from the purchase of signs, to the cost of postage, through the rent of the electoral premises.  
  • Each candidate has a maximum amount that he is allowed to spend, depending on the number of voters.
  • If candidates win at least 15% of the votes, they can be reimbursed 70% of the costs.
  • The official representative of a party who allows the ceiling on election expenses to be exceeded or who submits a report with false declarations is liable to fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000.  
  • However, fines can be waived if a judge decides the error was made in good faith.

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