Official opposition ‘very concerned’ about Montreal’s finances

The official opposition at city council says it is “very concerned and very preoccupied” about the state of Montreal’s public finances under Valérie Plante‘s leadership.

“I would qualify this budget as a budget with a lot of makeup: a lot of lipstick, a lot of mascara and a lot of powder,” said Alan DeSousa, mayor of Saint-Laurent.

“A budget that when you remove the makeup, it’s a pretty ugly budget, a scary budget, even an explosive budget.”

He argued the city’s debt is ballooning and out of control, including increasing the number of employees and the cost of many projects.

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DeSousa pointed out that, in 2004, a policy was put in place stating the city’s debt should never exceed its growth revenue — something he says all past administrations since 2004 have followed.

“It would appear that it’s Christmas for the Plante administration,” said DeSousa, noting the city’s debt is now estimated at 112 per cent of its gross revenue.

“We see it in the spending and we see it in how much they’re putting it on the credit card, but unfortunately it’s going to be Montrealers who are going to have to pay the bill in January.”

On Nov. 8, Plante presented her municipal budget of $5.7 billion, focusing investments on the economy, environment, housing and mobility.

The city also revealed its three-year capital works program of $6.4 billion.

“This budget will make a difference in the lives of our citizens today and for the generations to come,” Plante said at the time.

City councillor Lionel Perez insisted Plante’s administration has been unable to “control its spending” — stating that there has been a $500-million increase in expenses over the last two years.

“It’s basically using the credit card to be able to pay for the groceries and eventually it catches up. We have to pay the bill,” he said.

“They want to borrow and and borrow to be able to pay for its promises.”

Perez also mentioned that 533 new employees have been hired.

“That’s 2.5 per cent of all employees in one year. That’s never been seen before,” Perez said.

Residential property tax increases across the Island of Montreal, Nov. 8, 2018.

The opposition is proposing the following budget amendments:

  • Abolish the augmentation of the water tax, as well as the new tax related to the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), which oversees public transit ($48.5 million).
  • Eliminate costs related to the creation of the bureau of the pink line ($1 million) and instead use that to create an office for the eastern tramway.
  • Invest in the existing road network ($105 million), broken down as $45 million in 2019, $30 million in 2020 and $30 million in 2021.
  • Invest in the local road rehabilitation program ($45 million), broken down as $5 million in 2019, $20 million in 2020 and $20 million in 2021.

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