Three new “non-partisan” directors have just been appointed to the Office d’habitation de Longueuil (OHL), where government supervision will be lifted in early April. Mayor Catherine Fournier hopes to “turn the page” on a governance crisis that has severely undermined the credibility of this organization.
Thus, the director general of the Center Desjardins Entreprises Rive-Sud, Bernard Perrault, the community organizer of the Comité Logement Rive-Sud, Marco Monzon, and the civil servant of the City of Longueuil, Jean Tremblay, were appointed Monday at the helm of the Office, from which the term “municipal” has also been removed. It was the Longueuil agglomeration council that approved these appointments on Monday evening.
The mandate of the first two will run until December 2023, while that of Jean Tremblay – the only one who has not gone through a public call for candidates – should continue until 2024.
The new structure of the Board of Directors will have seven members. Two are to be elected by OHL tenants, and two others have already been appointed by the Minister of Housing, Andrée Laforest. They are the government relations adviser, Hubert de Nicolini, and the communications adviser at the Ministry of Cybersecurity and Digital, Nathalie Demers.
In February 2021, Quebec placed the Longueuil Housing Office under guardianship. Minister Laforest then explained that she could not “tolerate a situation that jeopardizes the well-being of tenants and employees”. It was a report by the firm SCE that had forced the authorities to act, denouncing an “organization in a situation of war” internally, as well as a “generalized feeling of demobilization and exhaustion”, of services at “abandonment” and a climate of “distrust and suspicion”.
For the past three months, the Office has been led by a new general manager, Catherine Carré, who arrived in the wake of several months of conflict and the departure of a third of the employees. “We are looking ahead. I’m going to put my heart and my passion as a manager into correcting the situation, so that we can make it a better organization. I can’t go back to the past, but I will be there for the present and for the future,” she said on Tuesday.
Towards a way out of the crisis?
The government’s conservatorship will end on April 6. According to the mayoress of Longueuil, Catherine Fournier, the crisis at the OHL demonstrates the need to make its board of directors “tight against partisanship”. “I condemn excessive partisanship in all areas, but when it also affects vulnerable people, it’s all the more unacceptable,” she explains to The Press.
She affirms that the presence of elected municipal officials at the OHL – there were five before the supervision, out of a total of nine members – “has favored the transposition of partisan political conflicts” and this, “at the expense of vulnerable people waiting for ‘affordable accommodation’.
It’s a major change. We hope for a change in culture, which will mark a certain rupture, in short, a tradition which will be able to endure over time.
Catherine Fournier, Mayor of Longueuil
“For us, the main priority now is to restore the efficiency of the Office. He has to be able to get up from that, demonstrate his efficiency again, carry projects at arm’s length, ensure that people waiting are better supported in the process, ”she insists on this subject.
The mayor recognizes, however, that there is still “a certain trauma at the OHL”, which calls for “vigilance”. “No one is immune to problematic behavior in the workplace. We must always be vigilant, take the situation seriously when there are allegations, and not let situations deteriorate,” she warns.
Joined by The Press, Minister Andrée Laforest said she was “particularly happy that we are turning the page”. “With the new people in place on the Board of Directors, a real new and positive wind is blowing on the OHL. I thank those who have taken over the interim, ”she said, recalling having initiated the guardianship for “the well-being of tenants and employees”.
With Isabelle Ducas, La Presse