By Robert Frank
Laval city council was surprised last week when Quebec Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau threatened to withhold $9 million in provincial grants to the city and instead give it directly to residents.
Moreau’s ultimatum ramped up his campaign to strong-arm Laval, as well as sister city Longueuil, into slashing spending.
“The administration of [Mayor] Marc Demers was quite surprised by this degree of intervention on the part of the minister,” executive committee vice-chairman David de Cotis told The Suburban. “He had been silent for the last two months.”
De Cotis said in an interview that the city had been eager to get together with Moreau to work out a deal.
‘The mayor had invited the minister to meet to negotiate a win-win agreement for Laval citizens,” he explained. “Then we were hit by a bombshell when the minister spoke out publicly to say that he would no longer honour the financial pact that he had signed with members of the Union des municipalités du Québec.”
“We’re astonished and not at all sure where the minister is coming from,” de Cotis added. “We made our budget according to the agreement, and it has to be respected. When Mayor Demers signs a pact, he delivers and he expects the same from the minister.”
The Liberal party had been riding high in Laval since last year’s provincial election, when it rode astride deep dissatisfaction with the Parti Québécois to sweep all six ridings on the island.
Moreau’s threats last week put that political capital in peril.
“The mayor is standing his ground,” de Cotis insisted. “He’s not going to be bullied by anyone.”
“It was Laval citizens who voted him to power,” he added. “They gave him a clear mandate.”
By the time that this week’s edition of The Suburban went to press, Moreau had fallen silent, possibly indicating that the Liberal government intends to backtrack on the threats.
“We’re still analyzing the data,” Moreau’s policy advisor Jean-Félix Lévesque told The Suburban in a telephone interview from Quebec City. “No decision has been made.”
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