The official opposition to city hall, Ensemble Montréal, which has been dragging a considerable debt for years, seems to have difficulty paying suppliers and collaborators for services rendered before and during the last municipal election campaign, in 2021.

The former party of ex-mayor Denis Coderre would have a bill of $ 34,000 outstanding since September 2021, for video capsules shot by OBox, in the spring and summer of 2021.

The party’s former official, Jonathan Cohen, also says he had “difficulties” with his remuneration, for his work before and after the election period. However, he refuses to say how much the party owes him.

Another employee, who requested anonymity, also revealed that she had difficulty obtaining reimbursement for certain expenses incurred in the context of the electoral campaign. The party owed him about $1,000. Half was refunded to her the following year after numerous requests from her, she says, but she gave up claiming the rest due to the hardships she had suffered.

Ensemble Montréal maintains that all election expenses were reimbursed to the employees and that its official representative was remunerated. With regard to the OBox invoice, we explain that we are waiting for “proof that the invoice has been approved by the official representative of the party”.

“We’re not here to cross the world,” says Jean-François Kacou, director general of the party since last February.

The official opposition party, whose interim leader is Aref Salem and which has 37 elected officials at city hall and in the boroughs, ended 2022 with net liabilities of $429,600, according to its financial report. .

Among his debts, a sum of $130,600 is owed to 36 individuals, including several party elected officials or former elected officials, who made loans ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 each, the financial report indicates. The majority of these loans date back to 2017, but some date as far back as 2014. The party pays interest to the lenders (usually 6%), but in most cases no principal is repaid. The party also has $488,000 in bank loans.

Ensemble Montreal’s financial statements also show accounts payable of $62,500. Which does not include the $34,000 bill from OBox.

OBox has done several contracts for Ensemble Montreal, including photos of candidates for the 2021 election posters, for which the company was paid.

She also shot video capsules where candidates, including Denis Coderre, introduce themselves or wish voters a happy national holiday. It is this contract that has not been paid.

“The material was shot before the election period, in anticipation of the campaign,” explains OBox founder Robert Boulos, who sent his invoice on September 10, 2021 to the party’s official agent, Jonathan Cohen. The electoral campaign was officially launched on September 17.

The agreement was reached with former party general manager Sébastien Lachaine, says Mr. Boulos, who provided us with several emails detailing the planning for this shoot.

However, Mr. Lachaine “does not recognize these invoices”, says Jean-François Kacou today. He himself was not at the party at the time.

Mr. Lachaine declined to answer our questions for this report.

According to Jonathan Cohen, who served as the party’s official agent during the 2021 campaign, the problem with the contract for the video clips is that it was made before the official campaign kicked off. “Services rendered for the election, but outside the election period, are not reimbursable” by the DGEQ, he said in an interview.

However, at the DGEQ, it is specified that election expenses are those incurred for goods and services that will be used during the election campaign. “It’s not important when the order was placed or when it was paid for. What we’re looking at is the use,” said DGEQ spokesperson Julie Saint-Arnaud.

Election expenses entitle you to a reimbursement of up to 70%, up to a certain maximum. During the 2021 election campaign, Ensemble Montréal spent 1.4 million, while the maximum allowed was 1.6 million.

It is not clear whether the video clips shot by OBox were used after the campaign was launched.

Former official Jonathan Cohen says “it’s been a tough campaign,” but says all vendors have been paid.

But for expenses incurred before and after the campaign, “there were difficulties in paying, including for myself,” he says. “It’s possible that there were delays or non-payments, I know for a fact that was my case. »

Another contractor who worked during the election campaign said she had great difficulty getting reimbursed for bills totaling about $1,000 for travel and communication expenses, for which she had provided receipts. At his insistence, the party eventually reimbursed him $500.

“I know there were financial difficulties, but I had provided all my bills,” she said, on condition of anonymity because she still works in politics.

While the main opposition party tries to pay off its debts, Mayor Valérie Plante’s party, Projet Montréal, is swimming in surpluses. The ruling party’s accumulated net assets were estimated at $557,000 as of December 31, 2022, according to its latest financial report. Projet Montréal raised approximately $200,000 in donations and membership fees last year, while Ensemble Montréal received $128,000 from the public. Projet Montréal spent roughly the same amount as its opponents during the 2021 election campaign, namely 1.4 million.