A few weeks before next year’s budget is to be tabled, Ensemble Montréal is denouncing the Plante administration’s financial mismanagement. Since they took office, Montréal taxpayers have been saddled with at least one billion dollars in cost overruns on various major projects. The Official Opposition believes this waste of money behind closed doors must stop, and they’re calling for greater accountability and transparency.
An increase of $300M for the Centre de transport (CT) Bellechasse, $66.1M on the City Hall restoration, $350M for the wastewater ozonation unit, $97.4M for the organics processing centres in Saint-Laurent and Montréal-Est and $100M for information technology: these are just some of the bills Montrealers must pay because of the Plante administration’s lack of rigour and planning. And these amounts will continue to rise, as all these projects are still in progress.
Though these infrastructure improvements are essential to the metropolis, Ensemble Montréal deplores the fact that the cost increases, sometimes more than 100%, as in the case for the ozonation plant, are approved behind closed doors and without a public assessment of the real expenses. In most cases, it has taken multiple briefings, plenary sessions, access to information requests and media pressure to get the word out to citizens.
These cost explosions are even more deplorable because many of them could have been avoided if the administration had vision and budgetary discipline. In the case of the CT Bellechasse, for example, doing simple, more detailed studies before digging the underground garage could have limited the financial damage. The situation is similar in I.T. where, after switching from Lotus Notes to Google in 2019, Projet Montréal has finally decided to migrate to Microsoft. This is a $50 million expenditure, plus considerable amounts to train employees on the third software platform in five years. This, even though the Official Opposition initially advised the administration that Google was not suited to Montréal’s needs.
Ensemble Montréal believes better accountability and a public report on real expenses are necessary so that this loss of control does not compromise essential projects for the present and future generations. And let us not forget that Montréal already carries on its shoulders a significant gross debt of $11.6 billion, now 20% higher than when Projet Montréal took power.
“The administration’s lack of accountability and transparency in managing expenditures is unacceptable in 2022, amid the onset of a recession. Montrealers have the right to know where every dollar is being invested, especially when taxes are going up,” said Aref Salem, Leader of the Official Opposition at Montréal City Hall.
“The fact that Projet Montréal decided to act as urban planners and budding architects in the CT Bellechasse file has resulted in the bill rising to $600 million to date. This is absurd, and it’s even more absurd that we learn about these cost explosions through the media,” said Christine Black, the Official Opposition critic for transit.
“The administration talks about making the metropolis a 21st century city. But Montréal taxpayers are paying tens of millions of dollars for archaic two-tiered computer systems, project delays, and lack of planning. Costs are exploding and no one seems to be in charge,” said Abdelhaq Sari, the Official Opposition’s I.T. critic.
“For the past few years, the same story of cost increases for the future ozonation plant just plays over and over. Initially costed at $210 million, the price is now floating between $700 and $800 million, and more calls for tenders are underway. Unfortunately, it is Montrealers who will have to pay the bill” said Alan DeSousa, the Official Opposition’s finance critic.