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Montreal police union boss wants province to take over operations

Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay is seen after attending a meeting with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone in London, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008. The Montreal representatives traveled to London for the meeting on Thursday to make a case for saving the Canadian Grand Prix. The Canadian GP, which draws an estimated US$80 million (euro60 million) per year in revenues and economic spinoffs to Montreal, was dropped from F1's 2009 calendar this month and replaced by a race in Abu Dhabi.


The boss of Montreal's police union wants the province to take over running the city's police force because the 4,600 officers who enforce the law have lost confidence in beleaguered mayor Gérald Tremblay.

The mayor, who controls the City Hall committee that oversees the force, has "zero credibility" since allegations of corruption were aired recently at a public inquiry, said Yves Francoeur, president of the Fraternité des policiers et policières de Montreal.

Mr. Francoeur said the officers represented by his union, which has been at loggerheads with the city in pension negotiations, face daily questions from citizens about how they can enforce the law when their political overseers are being accused of ignoring it and accepting kickbacks. The union head asked the province to step in.

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"We need to preserve the image of our officers," Mr. Francoeur told reporters on Tuesday. "The credibility of the Tremblay administration is now zero. It no longer has the credibility to run the police force."

Mr. Tremblay sent out his city hall lieutenants to offer a defence on Tuesday. Claude Trudel, the head of the public safety committee, said the union leader has vastly overstepped his mandate.

"I am completely outraged to see a police officer with such experience could so easily convict people. He condemns the political class based on one allegation, uncorroborated. It's completely irresponsible," Mr. Trudel said.

Mr. Tremblay's political party, Union Montréal, was stung last week by testimony at the Charbonneau commission, where former construction boss Lino Zambito said the party skimmed 3 per cent off most major construction projects in the city. (The inquiry will resume next week.)

A former senior member of Mr. Tremblay's inner circle, Frank Zampino, is facing corruption charges. The mayor and party executives have denied the allegations against the party, which have not been proven.

Richard Bergeron, the head of opposition party Projet Montréal, who is planning to push a non-confidence motion directed at the mayor later this month, said there is no practical means to force the mayor out before the next civic election in 13 months.

The police union and representatives of other city workers have been deadlocked with the administration over plans to reduce the city's contribution to pension benefits. Police officers are among the most expensive of the unionized workers. The city currently pays 70 per cent of pension contributions, and wants to reduce the portion to half.

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In August, the city threatened to have a settlement imposed. At the time, Mr. Francoeur told a local newspaper that Mr. Tremblay "had wasted Montrealers' money [by giving] 20 to 35 per cent to the Mafia."

Police management stayed out of the fray on Tuesday, saying in a brief statement that officers have the necessary independence to enforce the law.

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