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Coderre administration ignored advice, skirted rules to hold Formula E race: report

Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre and his administration ignored legal advice, according to the city's inspector general.
Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre and his administration ignored legal advice, according to the city's inspector general. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

Former Montreal mayor Denis Coderre circumvented the rules in order to hold the controversial Formula E electric car race last summer, according to the city’s inspector general.

Denis Gallant, the city’s inspector general, published a scathing 40-page report into how Coderre and his administration handled the event, saying they repeatedly ignored advice and recommendations from the city’s legal team.

In his report, Gallant traces how Montréal c’est electrique (MCE), the non-profit organization created by the city to collect subsidies, was used as an “extension” of the Coderre administration — and not treated as an independent body.

READ MORE: Montreal mayor cancels Formula E over cost overruns, sponsorship woes

The report states MCE served as “nothing more than a communication channel” between the city and evenko, the production company involved as the main contractor of the event.

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“The office of the mayor put the City of Montreal in such a situation that the former, according to the facts, assumed roles and responsibilities traditionally taken on by the local promoter of the race,” he wrote.

Gallant found Coderre and his administration failed to heed several warnings from the city’s legal department, which said the non-profit should not be used as a go-between for the city and evenko.

Drivers take a turn during the Montreal Formula E Prix electric-car race, in Montreal on Sunday, July 30, 2017.
Drivers take a turn during the Montreal Formula E Prix electric-car race, in Montreal on Sunday, July 30, 2017. Garham Hughes/The Canadian Press

The electric car race held last July was widely criticized by both the Opposition and residents due to the mounting costs, the traffic closures and disruptions in the Ville-Marie borough. Coderre remained a driving force behind the event, promising it would ultimately pay off.

Only 25,000 tickets were sold for last summer’s event, which became a hot potato in the fall election campaign that saw Valérie Plante defeat Coderre.

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Evenko warned the event was ‘financially risky’

The report found that evenko “was not certain” in 2015 that Formula E would be financially successful and concluded the event would lose millions of dollars over the three-year period in which it was supposed to be held.

The company decided at the time not to act as the main promoter of the event.

READ MORE: Montreal’s Formula E run-up has drivers seeing red

“We believed from the start that this project was financially risky,” said evenko in a statement. “But the City of Montreal and the mayor of Montreal had shared a long-time vision with us.”

Evenko, at the behest of Coderre’s office, did become involved in the project as the main subcontractor.

“We chose to participate in the process knowing that sometimes, it is necessary to invest during a few years in order for such major projects to become successful.”

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The company said it didn’t act as promoter of the Formula E electric-car race, but instead as a service provider.

‘Turning a blind eye’

Montreal Mayor Plante blasted the Opposition at Montreal City Hall, accusing elected officials of “turning a blind eye” to Coderre’s handling of Formula E.

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“They outright decided to skirt around the law to accomplish their goals,” said Plante. “It’s very, very serious.”

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In January, Plante announced that the controversial event was cancelled due to cost overruns and sponsorship woes.

READ MORE: Businesses not seeing same excitement behind Formula E compared to F1

More transparency needed

In his report, Gallant called for greater transparency from the City of Montreal when it proposes and finances events like the Formula E race.

The inspector general recommends that the city put out a call for proposals in order to ensure a transparent process and to draw the interest of as many interested event promoters.

Some Montrealers were upset with mayor Denis Coderre during the Formula E weekend races.
Some Montrealers were upset with mayor Denis Coderre during the Formula E weekend races. Mario Beauregard/ The Canadian Press

In case of such an event, Gallant also recommends the city’s director general, employees and even organizations like Tourisme Montréal to be part of the process.

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Their involvement would ensure the city would benefit from their “expertise, independence and impartiality”– especially when it comes to a legal framework and awarding public contracts, he said.

— with files from The Canadian Press