By Robert Frank
Laval Mayor Marc Demers bridled last week at Quebec government cuts to cities that total more than a half-billion dollars during the past two years.
Quebec City’s latest $300 million in cuts in support to the province’s cities comes on top of last year’s $235 million chop to municipal support payments, he reminded in a joint statement together with the mayors of Gatineau, Trois Rivières, Longueuil and Saguenay.
The mayors protested that the cuts are simply a way to make provincial politicians look good, rather that a means to achieve real savings.
“If we again have to raise taxes to pay this shortfall, the same taxpayers will have to pay out,” the mayors said. “Bottom line is that cities are responsible for 58 per cent of Quebec public infrastructure, but only receive 8 per cent of taxes collected.”
Quebec’s move echoes the Ryan reforms of 1993, when then-Municipal Affairs Minister Claude Ryan forced municipal taxpayers to take on expenses for infrastructure that had hitherto been paid for by the province.
As a result, many small towns throughout Quebec can no longer afford the eye-watering cost of replacing major infrastructure.
The mayors complained that while the federal government has lowered its goods and services tax by 2 per cent and the Quebec government has trimmed income tax, the province is forcing cities to hike property tax.
“Laval had a $112 million surplus as of Nov. 7, 2014, but the city also faces a pension
deficit of $264 million,” Mayor Demers reminded. “Those surpluses belong to Laval residents and is needed for overdue investment in the city’s crumbling infrastructure.”
He added that the $5 million cleanup cost after a single spring snowstorm could eat up a third of Laval’s annual budget surplus.
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