MUNICIPALITY OF PONTIAC – A more than a year long legal battle between former councillor Eddie McCann and the municipality/Elections Quebec came to an end, January 25. Both parties received word that the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld a May 11 court decision that removed McCann from council and disqualified him from running in any election for four years, effective from January 1, 2015. McCann’s appeal was heard October 25 at the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montreal.
According to Mayor Roger Larose, the municipality is more than happy to “turn the page on this saga that has lingered for too long”; “Just like the citizens of our municipality, I deplore the waste of time, energy and money caused by Mr. McCann’s obstinacy in running as a candidate despite the numerous warnings he received from the Chief Electoral Officer,” continued the mayor.
Larose is not surprised May 11th’s decision was upheld: “the law is the law. If you change the rules for one person, you’d have to change the rules for the entire system.”
However, the “saga” could continue; the municipality may seek compensation from McCann for the legal fees incurred during the entire process. “We have a resolution on the table. We will see what council decides,” said Dominic Labrie, the municipality’s communications officer. Given that the municipality was required to pay for McCann’s legal expenses under the municipal code, according to Labrie, the cost of the file to taxpayers amounts to over $100,000.
According to McCann, the punishment he received is too severe; “it doesn’t fit
the crime in this case. I’m guilty of paying my own bills … I’m not sorry for what I did!” The ruling makes him ineligible to run in November 2017’s municipal election and leaves the Ward 2 seat vacant.
With less than a year left until the general municipal elections, Labrie told
the Journal it is not mandatory to host a by-election. “It’s council’s decision, but we have to wait for final notice of the vacancy from the Commission Municipal du Quebec before making a final decision,” he concluded.
McCann, who previously served as mayor until Roger Larose’s election in 2013, won a by-election for Ward 2 (Quyon) late in 2015. Over a year following the 2013 election, McCann was notified by Elections Quebec that he had not accounted for all his campaign debts by the deadline, December 31, 2014; the letter said he would therefore be ineligible to run for council for four years, effective from January 2015.
After speaking to Elections Quebec to sort out the matter, McCann said he had received permission to run in the by-election. During a council meeting in December 2015, a majority voted for a motion to ask the municipal lawyer to
consult with Elections Quebec regarding the legality of McCann occupying the seat.
The case was heard May 11, 2016 where the judge ruled against McCann because he exceeded the legal contribution limit for election campaigns by over-donating to himself by a couple thousand dollars.