2019 city budget: Spending is out of control, Montreal opposition says
Spending is out of control at city hall, the opposition Ensemble Montréal party charged Tuesday in a critique of the 2019 budget, which will be adopted Wednesday by city council.
It’s unacceptable that expenditures will go up by 4.3 per cent under the budget, after going up by 5.2 per cent in 2018, opposition leader Lionel Perez said at a news conference.
He announced the opposition would vote against the budget unless the Valérie Plante administration agrees to three amendments: to forgo a one-per-cent increase in the water tax, increase spending on road repairs, and cancel the creation of a project office for the proposed Pink Line métro extension.
His colleague Alan DeSousa, the vice-chairperson of the city’s finance and administration committee, went even further, comparing the budget to an ugly face covered in makeup.
“I would qualify this budget as a budget with a lot of makeup, a lot of lipstick, a lot of mascara, a lot of colour. But when you remove the makeup, it’s a pretty ugly budget, a scary budget,” he said.
Plante said she had no intention of backing down on the budget and chided the opposition for using sexist language to criticize it.
“In 2018, can we please get away from using words that are a bit sexist?”
“In 2018, can we please get away from using words that are a bit sexist?” she said to reporters at city hall.
“The opposition are the only ones who are ready to vote against this budget, while it’s been well received by businesses, community organizations and environmental groups,” she said.
Speaking for suburban municipalities on the island, Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle said the budget was a vast improvement over the 2018 one and praised the Plante administration for opening up lines of communication with the suburbs.
But Bourelle said independent municipalities are concerned that the pace the city has set for repairs to water mains and sewers is too slow.
DeSousa raised an alarm over the city’s growing indebtedness, saying the debt will rise to 112 per cent of revenues in 2019, whereas previous administrations had held the line at 100 per cent of revenues.
Perez called on Plante to give up on the Pink Line for now, since the Coalition Avenir Québec government has indicated it will not support it. Instead of opening a project office for the project, Plante should open one for the east-end tramway promised by Premier François Legault, he said.
He also criticized the city for adding the equivalent of 533 full-time employees to the civil service in one year, noting that previous mayor Denis Coderre had reduced the civil service by 850.
Perez said tenants will suffer under the budget since taxes on apartment buildings with six or more units will go up by an average of 4.1 per cent. Added to last year’s increase of 5.4 per cent in that category, taxes on apartment buildings will rise by more than 10 per cent in some boroughs, he said.