Merger disillusion reshaping Montreal politics

By Rhonda Massad

Ten years ago, 19 former Montreal suburbs bought into the bigger is better vision. Today, those same boroughs see smaller as better and are rushing toward the exit. In contrast, the 15 demerged municipalities have learned to work together in unison and gradually their voice is growing stronger.

After they left the mother ship and went back to acting on their own, they regained control of the basic services that are most important to residents such as snow-clearing, garbage collection, recycling, recreation programs, libraries and public security.

Meantime, some of the 19 merged municipalities are spinning away from Montreal in disappointment. The current proposal to change the proportion of funds that are allocated to the boroughs grates on some, because they see it as reneging on the promise that they would retain local autonomy.

Today, the association of suburban municipalities march firmly with Westmount Mayor Peter Trent acting as president and Baie d’Urfé mayor Maria Tutino acting as Vice President. The agglomeration council monthly meetings remain frustrating to the 15 demerged cities, since they pay a hefty bill and get little in return. With other cities threatening to demerge, however, their clout is rapidly increasing. They had to work hard to prove themselves to their constituents.

For example, earlier this year they proved their ability to opt out of Montreal’s proposal to handle the fight against the emerald ash borer centrally from downtown. The grass really is greener on the other side.

Forcing Montreal at long last to grapple with its systemic problems will ultimately benefit every resident of the island, demerged or not.
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