The Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, may have sown the seed that will cost him his job in the next reshuffle. He told the mayors to conduct themselves better before asking for more money from Quebec. Elected municipal officials are skilled politicians with long memories…
Their reaction was strong, on a day dedicated to blaming the Quebec government for the many disasters that occurred in their territory.
To suggest that cities are poorly managed when you are the Minister of Municipal Affairs is a big statement. Is it politically wise to say that? We can talk about this for a long time. Is this wrong? Oh! It’s not necessary.
This is not about pointing the finger at the elected municipal officials who are currently in office. Many are new and certainly do not bear the brunt of decades of neglect. But there are some observations to be made in the management of Quebec cities
The salaries of municipal employees are higher than those of other levels of government. I remember the data from Employee wage reporting which was published by the Institute of Statistics of Quebec last fall.
Municipal employees earn an average of 25.7% more than their equivalents employed by the Quebec government. If we include social benefits in the equation, the gap increases (brace yourself) to 34.6%!
Municipalities asking for more money from François Legault say they are in a financial straitjacket. They forgot to mention that they pay their employees almost 35% more than the Quebec government.
Municipalities also create public transport companies and intermunicipal authorities, for example for waste management. These organizations do not have a good reputation for strict management. Elected officials pay bonuses, contracts are poorly monitored, salaries are high.
When it comes to questionable governance, the cities’ budgetary priorities must be included. Montreal, for example, is crying out for help for housing and homelessness. But when the mayor announces tens of millions of investments, the money goes to cycle paths.
The cities also requested money from Quebec based on the fact that their revenues did not increase with inflation. Wait a minute! The increase in property values has reached rates that exceed inflation. Property taxes, welcome tax, everything is now calculated on the large property value.
That said, the cities are not wrong to ask for a new financial agreement based on current priorities. And the Quebec government has a duty to listen to them and find solutions.
But as Quebec and the cities negotiate the public square, one fact must be remembered. There is only one and the same taxpayer to pay. Paying in Quebec or paying in his city, he wants to get his money’s worth!