Montréal, September 16, 2020 – As the Finance and Administration committee tables its recommendations today after the 2021 pre-budget consultation, Ensemble Montréal councillors Alan DeSousa and Richard Guay are making their dissent public by publishing a minority report in which they denounce the Plante-Dorais administration’s lack of transparency, a botched consultation process, and solutions that do not go far enough to address the city’s financial crisis.
Their main criticism, however, concerns recommendation R-10 of the committee’s report, which proposes to “Ask the Québec government, as a last resort, for a temporary moratorium on the prohibition of deficit spending by cities.”
“In three budgets, the Plante-Dorais administration has hiked city spending by 17.6%, or almost $1 billion ($966.3 million). The solution is certainly not to give it a blank cheque by allowing it to present a deficit budget and pass the bill on to future generations. The city must reduce its expenses, which they have not been able to do in the past three years,” said Alan DeSousa, vice-chairman of the Finance and Administration committee and mayor of the borough of Saint-Laurent.
Ensemble Montréal’s elected members also find it absurd to ask the population and the committee to pronounce themselves on the future of municipal finances without having access to the city’s most recent financial report, which takes into account the effects of the pandemic. However, as the report states at the outset, “The committee made its recommendations without knowing the full extent of pandemic-related revenue losses and unforeseen expenses, and the specific measures the city undertook in response to the emergency.”
“It’s terribly difficult to propose solutions when you don’t know the extent of the problem. For months now, the administration has been hiding the city’s true financial situation. On several occasions, we asked for an economic update to measure the extent of the crisis. The only official information is from April 23, 2020. Since then, all our requests have been denied,” said Mr. DeSousa.
The dissenting members also regret that the committee, in its recommendations, refused to address solutions presented by major economic players such as the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montréal or the Urban Development Institute of Québec. These two organizations proposed economic stimulus measures in their briefs, such as a temporary reduction in property taxes for non-residential buildings in the downtown area, a proposal supported by Ensemble Montréal, which will present a motion to this effect at the next municipal council meeting.
Finally, Mr. DeSousa and Mr. Guay point out that the consultation exercise – particularly the survey offered to the Montréal population – contained serious methodological and ideological biases. “It was obvious that this survey was directing the population toward options already chosen by the administration, such as the possibility of running a deficit or asking for financial assistance from Québec and Ottawa. At no point could citizens question the administration’s past policies or demand better control of spending. Projet Montréal has once again succeeded in transforming a citizen consultation initiative into a public relations exercise,” concluded Mr. DeSousa.
To read Ensemble Montréal’s minority report (in French): bit.ly/2RsvXC7