Residents and mayors of demerged cities rally for change on municipal budget, agglomeration council

More than 250 people of Montreal's demerged municipalities gathered at Pointe-Claire city hall Sunday afternoon to protest Mayor Plante's proposed budget tax hikes. 

For the 15 demerged cities, including Baie D'Urfe, Beaconsfield, Kirkland, Cote-Saint-Luc, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Dorval, Hampstead, Kirkland, Dorval Island, Town of Mount Royal, Montreal East, Montreal West, Pointe-Claire, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Senneville and Westmount, the new budget brings tax hikes that are almost double what they were in recent years.

These demerged cities represent 246,000 residents on Montreal Island, who contribute around 50% of their municipal taxes to the Agglomeration, which nears $410 million. 

Rally organizer and founder of the West Island Blog Rhonda Massad said she isn't happy with the tax increases.

"The taxation for the demerged municipalities has gone beyond what's palatable," Massad said. 

West Island resident Chris Eustace isn't impressed with the new administration's first budget.

"It seems to increase year by year, apparently a promise was made and a promise has not been kept and that was not to raise the taxes," Eustace said.

Mayor Plante came out last week in defense of her election promise and said she did not break her promise.

While demerged city representatives who spoke at the rally said they are hoping the Plante administration revises the budget, the Mayor told CTV last Monday that there aren't plans to do so despite the criticism.

Ralliers were also calling out to the provincial government to change the structure of Montreal's Agglomeration council.  

St-Anne-de-Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa said she wants it to be more democratic.

"As it stands right now, it is not democratic," Hawa said. "It is taxation without representation."

Demerged cities hold 13% of the votes on the Agglomeration council, while Mayor Plante and city councillors retain 87%.

Some residents believe they don't have a voice in the council.

"They're very quick to take our tax dollars but they are very slow to respond to our inquiries," Glen Malfara said. "That's not the way democracy works. Democracy should be if you're going to be taxed, you should have a say on where that money goes," he said.

The same was echoed by another Pointe-Claire resident.

"I hope that we get a better deal out of the Agglomeration in terms of where our money's going and what it's doing," Ken Gosselin said. 

Demerged city residents aren't allowed to vote for the Mayor of Montreal, which, for Massad, is another way that they don't have a voice.

"I would like the chance to vote for a person that's going to be spending $410 million of our money," she said.

Because of the proposed tax hikes, most of these demerged municipalities will owe a few million dollars more, which Massad said will compromise their city services.