Montreal suburbs cry foul after decree cementing transfer payment equation

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Money sent to the agglomeration council, the body that funds services like public transit, police and firefighters, is a bone of contention.

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Quebec’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs has removed any incentive for Montreal and island suburbs to sit down together to negotiate changes in the way municipalities are billed for island-wide services, the Association argues. suburban municipalities.

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A ministerial decree published in the Gazette officielle on Wednesday makes permanent what was to be a temporary equation used to calculate the annual transfer payment from each island municipality to the agglomeration council, the body that funds services like public transit and the Montreal police and fire departments . But unlike a previous decree, the new decree does not force Montreal and its suburbs to discuss a new basis for calculating who owes what.

“It’s disappointing that the minister basically decided to wash her hands of everything and, as far as I’m concerned, she threw the demerged municipalities under the bus,” said ASM President Beny Masella, Mayor of Montreal West, about Thursday, Minister of Municipal Affairs Andrée Laforest.

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Masella, who was recently confirmed for another term as president of the association representing the 15 demerged suburbs, said the decree does not prescribe any time limit “and no impulse or burden on Montreal to sit at the table. negotiations with the suburbs “.

The deadlock between Montreal and the suburbs over funding comes down to the way the two parties define “fairness” in billing for agglomeration services.

The administration of the mayor Valérie Plante affirmed to defend the principle of financial equity between the municipalities “rich” and “poor”, which was at the base of the demergers of 2006.

ASM says basing transfer payments is unfair entirely on a municipality’s total property value – or what the provincial government calls its “fiscal potential”. T he calculation of what each municipality, including Montreal, owes to the agglomeration should also take into account the quantity of service consumed, he said.

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Elsewhere in Quebec, municipalities are billed for water and public transit service based on a mixture of real estate value and consumption, while the police service bill takes into account the size of the population, a Masella said. Montreal pays a tonnage-based dumping fee to the landfill where all of the island’s waste is transported, but then charges the suburbs based on property value, regardless of how much waste it produces, has he declared.

The suburbs estimate they would send about $ 158 million less to the metropolitan area per year as part of their proposal to consider user-pay. However, Montreal would pay an additional $ 158 million.

In a decree last year, the government of Prime Minister François Legault imposed a deadline of August 31 in Montreal and the island suburbs to agree on a new formula. However, the deadline came and went without a deal.

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The suburbs claimed earlier this year that Montreal was showing bad faith by not negotiating. The Plante administration said the suburbs were looking for ways to pass more costs on to Montreal.

The new decree indicates that the ministry is ready to examine “all other consensual solutions between the city of Montreal and the ASM”. However, the absence of an order or deadline “eliminates any need to negotiate with us,” Masella said.

“It was up to the municipalities concerned to come to a new agreement,” Bénédicte Trottier Lavoie, spokesperson for Laforest, said in an email.

“The discussions that took place did not result in a satisfactory alternative for the parties. In this context, we have renewed the formula in place. That being said, if the parties continue their discussions and agree on a new way of calculating, our government will act quickly.

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Montreal, for its part, affirms that the new decree of the ministry is reasonable and fair.

“We welcome the decision of the Government of Quebec,” said Marikym Gaudreault, spokesperson for the mayor’s office for the executive committee, in an email.

“We consider it a good long-term solution that respects tax fairness in the agglomeration. That being said, we remain open to dialogue with the (demerged municipalities). We are going to continue our good collaboration with them for a sound management of the agglomeration.

Masella said he had had an introductory meeting with Dominique Ollivier, the chairman of the city’s executive committee in Plante’s new administration, but that they had not yet discussed any cases.

The decree comes as the Plante administration is preparing to table the Montreal 2022 budget on Wednesday, which includes the agglomeration portion. Suburbs will then learn what they will be billed for agglomeration services next year. The agglomeration payment represents about half of the local budget of a suburb.

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  1. Montreal and its island suburbs deadlocked on cost sharing

  2. “It's time for us to sit down,” said Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella, who chairs the Association of Suburban Municipalities.  “This is what the government wants us to do.  This is what we want to do.  Montreal is talking about wanting to do it, but in the meantime, they are still not at the table with us.

    Stop stalling and let’s have a deal, say the suburbs in Montreal

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