We, the undersigned, Georges Bourelle, Mayor of the City of Beaconsfield, and Alex Bottausci, Mayor of the City of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, as members of the Committee on Finance and Administration, as representatives of the cities related, submit a minority report setting out our comments and recommendations in response to the recommendations of the Commission in the document entitled “Pre-budget consultation 2021”.
Georges Bourelle Mayor – City of Beaconsfield
Vice-President – Committee on Finance and Administration
Alex Bottausci – City of Dollard-des-Ormeaux
Member – Committee on Finance and Administration Hereby, we submit, as representatives of the Association of Suburban Municipalities (AMB), a minority report in response to the recommendations made by the Standing Committee of the Agglomeration Council on finance and administration. Due to the last minute negotiations by the representatives of the majority, we are forced, with regret, to reject all of the recommendations proposed by the Commission as a whole. It is not cheerfulness that we should react in this way, since there is a series of recommendations with which we were nevertheless in agreement.
Unfortunately, the final recommendations betray the spirit of camaraderie that had developed throughout our work. We are particularly disappointed because of the lack of consideration that the representatives of the majority have shown to the proposals of the representatives of the linked cities.
Very cavalierly, the recommendation ensuring that linked cities’ quotas would not grow beyond inflation was withdrawn at the very end of the talks by majority representatives, a gesture that is welcomed as a real slap in the face of the linked cities.
Commissions in the pay of the mayor’s office and the executive committee
We note that the work of this commission, in its finality, serves more to convey the political orientations of the majority rather than to leave to the members of the commission the care to work and to think in complete independence and in complete freedom. On its face, this commission has become one more instrument for the majority in the municipal council in order to confirm its political orientations.
In our opinion, it is necessary for the reader of the Commission’s recommendations to understand very clearly that this document in no way constitutes a consensus of all the members of the Commission. Rather, the recommendations reflect the consensus of the representatives of the mayor’s team, leaving the proposals of the other representatives on the sidelines.
The Commission missed an excellent opportunity to be a useful vehicle in the thinking of the members of the executive committee. The reality is quite different; it is the bonzes of the mayor’s office and of the executive committee who dictated to its representatives the main lines of this report of the Commission.
A budget consultation process to review
While the AMB welcomes the administration’s initiative to consult the population, it nevertheless strongly criticizes the consultation process put in place under the current framework. The city administration will have to revamp it completely if it wants to achieve convincing results that can truly measure the popular will. Furthermore, we consider that the questions submitted were oriented in such a way that it was impossible to draw valid conclusions about the needs of our fellow citizens.
Moreover, the AMB considers it inconceivable that the consultation was carried out only in French, which potentially excluded a large part of the population, both within the city of Montreal as well as on the territory of the related cities of the agglomeration. , among which thirteen municipalities have bilingual city status.
In this sense, we support the Commission’s recommendations R-2 and R-3.
Budget 2021: getting back to basics
Overall, the recommendations expressed by the Commission do not fully take into account the new reality with which we must all work. It is imperative to return to the intrinsic responsibilities of municipal activity, in particular by putting development projects on hold in order to focus on maintaining and consolidating our achievements while supporting the economic recovery of the metropolis.
Unfortunately, the various recommendations seem to ignore the new context created by the pandemic. The guiding principles proposed in the 2021 budget are scattered all over the place, when we have to get back to basics. This is what our citizens expect of us.
Taking this reality into account, the linked cities urge the Plante-Dorais administration to table a budget focused on basic services for the citizens of the agglomeration, taking into account the extremely fragile economic environment for our traders and our sectors. strategic (aeronautics, digital technologies, financial services, etc.).
We also believe it is useful to recall that the linked cities have great discomfort at the idea of allowing, even temporarily, the filing of a deficit budget. It would set a dangerous precedent that should be avoided at all costs, out of respect for the thousands of citizens who have had to make difficult choices in the past year. We have access to a panoply of options that allow us to reduce the pace of our spending or dip into our accumulated surpluses rather than “shoveling the problem forward”, to use the expression of the president of the Union des municipalities of Quebec, Suzanne Roy.
Quota growth in linked cities must be below inflation
As we stated at the outset, the AMB is deeply concerned that the Commission has deliberately chosen to set aside the following recommendation:
“Contain hikes in city quotas linked to inflation. ”
For us, this is an unacceptable rebuff which unfortunately suggests that it is the cities linked, through their quotas, which will have to unfairly assume the budget increases in 2021. We also wonder how he Montreal administration will be able to promise a budget below inflation for its citizens, but it will not be able to do the same with its partners in cities linked in the agglomeration portion of the budget.
This situation, if it were to occur, will be an even more glaring demonstration of the inequity of the quota system whereby the linked cities contribute far too much compared to their demographic weight.
2. Aim to return to a balanced budget
In R-4, the AMB is rather of the opinion that the Commission is scattered in its guiding principles. Rather, we invite the agglomeration of Montreal to channel its efforts by refocusing its actions on the essential. Rather, we propose to emphasize the following guiding principles:
Maintaining assets deemed essential
R-5 and R-6 seem too generic to us and need to be improved. In our opinion, the City of Montreal and the agglomeration of Montreal should aim to deposit an operating budget without increasing spending. The amounts available must be the same as in the 2020 budget, taking into account the cuts already announced earlier this year.
With regard to R-7, we invite the Plante-Dorais administration to table a budget in which the property tax increases will be below inflation for the citizens of Montreal. We also believe that linked cities should not experience quota growth beyond inflation. This is a fundamental aspect if the representatives of the City of Montreal wish to maintain a harmonious relationship with its partners in related cities.
AMB’s response to R-10 regarding the Quebec government’s request for a moratorium on the deficit ban
Considering that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has already expressed a refusal to allow cities to run a deficit;
Considering that such a power could set a dangerous precedent;
Considering that there are already discussions between various municipal stakeholders and the government for financial compensation due to the pandemic and that there are already confirmed financial commitments;
Considering that the deficit for the year 2020 will only be known in 2021 and that it will have to be absorbed only in the 2022 budget;
Considering that the city of Montreal’s debt capacity is greater than its own Debt Management Policy;
Considering that the City of Montreal can use its financial reserves;
Considering that the City can reduce its operating and capital expenditures;
Considering that the City can increase its revenues by increasing its taxes and fees of all kinds;
In this context, the AMB cannot support the idea of asking the government to lift, even temporarily, the ban on cities making a deficit.
Regarding the financing of the SPVM in R-11 and R-12, the AMB cannot subscribe to a recommendation that suggests, directly or indirectly, a general decrease in the SPVM’s operating budget. Most of the contribution to this service goes to pay the police officers who provide security in our territory.
In our opinion, our cities are not receiving the appropriate service for the level of quotas imposed on us. Our citizens expect to receive quality basic services, that is to say, an increased presence in our streets and parks, thus making it possible to maintain a sense of security for all.
However, the AMB recognizes that the city center (and its adjoining neighborhoods) is characterized by particular challenges due to its high population density, socioeconomic inequalities and the concentration of illegal activities that require SPVM targeted interventions that put much greater pressure on these resources.
In this context, the AMB will support any claim made by the City of Montreal in these steps within the framework of the consultations on the police reorganization of the Ministry of Public Security so that it recognizes a “metropolis effect”, for which the government of the Quebec must contribute.
3. Stimulate economic recovery
With respect to R-14, we believe, as we indicated in R-4, in the importance of refocusing our efforts on the skills essential in the delivery of municipal services. Thus, the municipal administration should prioritize investments that ensure asset maintenance and stimulate economic recovery. Furthermore, it is imperative that the targeted work does not further weaken the economic recovery of traders. In our opinion, only the maintenance of the water service infrastructure as well as the roads and buildings should be identified by name in the municipal objectives of the agglomeration.
In R-16, the AMB does not want to specifically analyze Montreal’s desire to close the gap. It seems possible to achieve such an objective by reducing the contribution of traders by increasing that of citizens or by forgoing income.
The AMB would like to reiterate that it expects an in-depth review of the service cost-sharing regime so that it is much more equitable between all related cities. Currently, a large portion of quota funding is provided by applying a coefficient of 2.68% to the commercial and industrial sectors, causing significant inequity for all of our cities.
We would like to remind you that the last ministerial decree of the Minister of Municipal Affairs invited all the cities of the Montreal agglomeration to submit an agreement before August 31, a date that has since expired. Despite the will expressed in many respects by the AMB, and following various discussions, there has been no significant progress in reaching an agreement to resolve the problem of inequity that disadvantages all cities. linked.
With regard to R-16 and R-17, we fundamentally believe that economic recovery must be in tune with local actors and that they must be involved in the coordination of works so as not to further weaken the capacity. revival of the latter. The City must take note of the dissatisfaction expressed by several associations of merchants and adjust its planning upstream with the parties involved.
Finally, we would like to address a recommendation that was addressed throughout our discussions and which was dropped at the very end of the process. This is a proposal for the cash payment strategy for fixed assets which suggested “to decrease, if necessary and temporarily, the cash payment for fixed assets to balance the operating budget.” ”
In our opinion, any strategy involving a decrease in the cash payment of fixed assets must necessarily be accompanied by an equivalent reduction in investments in the three-year capital program (PTI). Otherwise, if the sums released are transferred to balance the operating budget, this will increase the fragility of the City’s finances by increasing its debt.