Denis Coderre counters criticism “Everything is transparent”

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Incumbent mayor Denis Coderre dismissed as “urban legend” a lengthy Radio-Canada report released Monday morning in which journalists, civil servants, union members and elected officials contended that his administration strictly controls the message coming out of city hall by punishing or chastising those who speak out of turn, and has blocked or threatened journalists who publish stories that paint it in an unflattering light.

“I asked myself if this was electoral spending on the part of my opponents when I saw that,” he said.

“There has never been as much media availability granted. We have news releases almost every few hours. There has never been as much transparency. … It’s certain we have to verify the facts when you want information that is factual.”

The Radio-Canada report cited the experiences of numerous civil servants, employees and journalists who said Coderre was strict about controlling information. Most did not give their name for fear of reprisals. Journalists reported being blocked from press conferences or threatened that access would be cut off because he did not like an article. Union leaders told of employees who were sanctioned and received letters in their file because they denounced city policy in the media. Some journalists reported difficulties getting interviews with civil servant experts since Coderre was elected. A member of Coderre’s communications department said all questions had to be vetted by his political cabinet, which caused delays.

Coderre said that was untrue.

“There is no culture of repression, everything is transparent. You know exactly what is going on. The proof is that you have access to contracts. We’ve never had as much open data.

“It’s certain there’s some friction sometimes, but that’s completely normal. You have a job to do and we have a job to do.”

“There is no undue pressure. We don’t ask people systematically to report to us — it’s not true. It’s an urban legend. Do you think we control 28,000 employees? But we do want to assure that you have an adequate response, yes.

“Is it the role of elected officials to respond to the large issues of the day? Yes, and that’s what we do.”

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