The leader of the opposition at Montreal city hall, Aref Salem, wants Dominique Ollivier removed as chair of the city's executive committee, saying she has lost the trust of taxpayers by spending money on trips and pricey restaurants.
"She no longer has the credibility to be the guardian of Montreal taxpayers' finances," Salem said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
A Journal de Montréal investigation published Monday looked into spending by the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) between 2014 and 2021, when Ollivier was in charge. The newspaper reported Ollivier spent tens of thousands of dollars on trips to cities like Paris, Lyon, London and Panama and enjoyed lavish meals, like a $350 oyster supper for an employee's birthday.
On Radio-Canada's Le téléjournal avec Patrice Roy Monday afternoon, Ollivier said the oyster expense "was not my best idea."
That particular trip to Paris was productive for the city, she said, but that dinner expense was a mistake and she's ready to reimburse Montreal out of her own pocket.
However, that is the only expense over the years that is truly questionable, she said, and she rejected calls to step down.
Salem, on the other hand, told reporters that Ollivier's spending is grounds for dismissal.
"It's unacceptable for OCPM executives to treat themselves to luxury trips and restaurants at Montrealers' expense," he said.
The OCPM has a $3 million budget entirely funded by the City of Montreal.
The current head of the OCPM, Isabelle Beaulieu, said Monday that all travel has been on hold as the organization begins a "complete overhaul" of its rules and practices. She also said there would be more oversight to "ensure the sensible use of funds allocated to the OCPM."
In a statement, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante called the report worrisome but reiterated Ollivier has her full confidence.
"Ms. Ollivier's wealth of experience and the contribution she makes to the City of Montreal are undeniable. She is a woman of heart and mind, dedicated to her mission of making Montreal a fairer and more equitable city for all Montrealers," she said.
Still, the Plante administration asked the office of the auditor general to open an investigation into the organization's management.
Auditor general to probe OCPM practices
In a statement, Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Andrée Laforest confirmed Montreal's auditor general's office has been mandated to review the practices of the OCPM to shed light on the matter.
Laforest said this is a worrisome situation — one that Beaulieu, as well as the OCPM's secretary general Guy Grenier, have to explain.
"I am committed to quickly analyzing the recommendations of the auditor general's report and will not hesitate to make the necessary legislative changes," Laforest said.
Beaulieu will also be called before the Commission de la présidence to give an account of her management. She says she wants citizens and elected officials to have trust in her organization's management of resources.
"The ethical governance of this institution occupies an important place and is fundamental to Montreal's democracy," she said in a statement.
"My vision is clear: to continue to innovate and involve as many people as possible in public consultations, while administering our budget prudently and rigorously."
The OCPM is mandated to hold public consultations on municipal projects or town planning.