Saint-Lazare adheres to law for blood drive funding
The Town of Saint-Lazare administration* is defending its decision to not sponsor future Héma Québec blood drives held in private businesses.
“In terms of organization for a blood drive, it involves a lot of town resources,” said Communications Director Geneviève Hamel of the administrative and public works employees who translate and distribute documentation, arrange for advertising and social media updates, and hang and remove signs on public roadways.
“We’re happy to do that for non-profit organizations but not if a private business is using public funds.”
The business in question is Bar Chez Maurice whose co-owner, Richard Chartrand, is also the elected
councillor of District 5. The establishment has hosted an annual blood drive for over 25 years.
“I always had the collaboration of the City of Saint-Lazare,” Chartrand told The Journal. “This year, they said, ‘No more.’”
Chartrand said what he found particularly upsetting was that he heard the news from Héma Québec via a telephone call on March 12, rather than from the town’s administrative office.
“I would have preferred if they would sit with me and discuss it and try and find a solution,” Chartrand said, adding the news was only relayed to him through an email after he’d heard the news from Héma Québec.
Pay to advertise
Hamel said donors at the Chez Maurice blood drive were given incentive coupons to return to the bar at a later date and that’s what had become a particular issue.
“Chez Maurice advertises their shows,” said Hamel. “They can pay to advertise this event (blood drive) just like all the other companies do.”
Chartrand contends he does not profit off the event as the bar is not selling alcohol while the blood donor clinics take place and he covers the meal expenses of the volunteers.
Some residents have expressed their disappointment to The Journal, including Alan Nicol who wrote, “What does facilitating the collection of blood have to do with municipal politics? I would imagine that anyone receiving a blood transfusion does not care how, or where the blood was collected, they are just grateful that many generous, caring people helped them get the blood which they need.”
Illegal according to Cities and Towns Act
Hamel said according to the provincial Cities and Towns Act, the municipality – by law – cannot use public funds, including mobilizing municipal workers, to support a private event, even if it is for a good cause. And in supporting the Chez Maurice blood drive initiative, the town risks setting a precedent of providing manpower for fundraising events sponsored by other private, for-profit enterprises.
“We have an excellent partnership with Héma Québec,” said Hamel, noting the town contributes additionally to three other blood drives every year for which it also foots the bill for the volunteers’ lunch expenses.
“We do this for the collective good because it’s a social responsibility. But we can’t think of any other large town who takes blue collar workers, while there’s water in the streets, to go and help a blood drive in a private company.”
Future blood drives uncertain
At this point, Chartrand said he’s not sure if he’ll host more blood donor clinics in the future.
“I understand if retirement parties are not held at (Chez Maurice) because of a conflict of interest,” he said. “But being in conflict of interest for a blood donor clinic – I don’t understand. You cannot be so regimented with something that’s a good cause. It’s people’s lives we’re talking about. You have to be more human than reglementary. That’s my opinion.”
Last week’s blood drive at Bar Chez Maurice still attracted a good turnout with 184 donors according to statistics released by the Town of Saint-Lazare.
Mayor Robert Grimaudo declined to comment on the issue. Director General referred The Journal to the town’s communication department.
*In the print version of this story, it was indicated the decision to remove the blood drive funding was from the councillors. It was, in fact, from the Town of Saint-Lazare administration. The Journal regrets the error.