Côte des Neiges–Notre Dame de Grâce is first in size but last in funding, deplores Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery, after Montreal tabled its 2021 budget last Thursday.
Montreal’s most populous borough is being neglected by the centre city through insufficient transfers and “dead last” in terms of per capita funding, she says, with local priority projects excluded from the budget. “I cannot support a budget in good conscience that is so clearly inequitable and discriminates against our borough. There is no doubt CDN-NDG is not getting its fair share of city funds.”
Since boroughs were created in 2002, CDN-NDG has suffered from chronic underfunding, says Montgomery, and the gap remains. For 2021, the city allocated $401 per resident of CDN-NDG for the operating budget, covering recurring expenses such as salaries, park maintenance and programming in community centres. Other boroughs, she says, receive on average $548.40 per resident.
“In 2017, I ran on the promise to fight for Côte des Neiges–Notre Dame de Grâce and to address the underfunding of our borough. My values haven’t changed. I am disappointed that again this year, Projet Montréal has broken its promise to end the underfunding of CDN-NDG… Unless there are substantial amendments to give CDN-NDG its fair share, I feel obliged to vote against this budget.”
NDG councillor Peter McQueen said there is great news in the budget for small businesses, a five percent tax reduction for small local businesses in 2021. “This is the third year in a row that we are lowering their taxes and decided to go even lower because of the horrible 2020 they have suffered due to Covid,” said McQueen in a social media post.” Additionally, “the lowered tax rate applies to the first $750,000 of commercial evaluation, up from $500,000 two years ago.” McQueen says this will help on streets like Sherbrooke and Monkland, where often there are three or four storefronts in one big building, as opposed to just one storefront on the ground floor of a triplex like in Verdun, Sud Ouest, Plateau, etc.
Chronic underfunding was a central push for the founding by Alex Montagano and Neal Mukherjee of the first borough-specific party Equipe CDN-NDG. “Once again, CDN-NDG has the distinction of receiving the lowest per capita operational and investment budget in the city,” says Montagano.
The budget “is an embarrassing indictment of this council’s failure to defend CDN-NDG interests…” he says, adding with a “ridiculously small budget it is incapable of fulfilling its primary mandate of delivering basic services. Clean and safe streets and parks, removing of waste and snow removal.
Montgomery laments the slow progress on funding for work in the Hippodrome sector, which will only begin three years from now. The extension of Cavendish Boulevard is a requirement for redeveloping the Hippodrome lands and the majority of investments in this key infrastructure project are only planned for after 2026. These delays threaten the creation of a new neighbourhood and the promise of 6,000 housing units. “Without the Cavendish extension, we break our commitment to the province of Quebec, and we are killing the hopes of Côte des Neiges residents who have serious housing needs.”
Montagano wants to see more attention to basics. “This administration is telling us about all these expensive new projects, while forgetting to take care of the basics. It classifies 40% of our roads as ‘bad’ or ‘really bad’, 35% of the water we pump gets lost in the ground before it even reaches our taps, and now they’re talking about cutting garbage collection to once every other week. Before we start taking on more responsibilities, we should make sure our basics are covered.”
“Do you know that 34.8% of the ten-year investment plan (PTI) will be financed by debt? Montreal is already up to its eyeballs in debt. A credit rating cut is coming. Plante and Dorais are going to have to explain themselves to Bay Street again.” Montgomery did vote for the budget at the borough level however, after Snowdon councillor Marvin Rotrand challenged her to vote against, not that it would stop the centre city from adopting the budget he said, “but they can try to meet us by trying to improve the budget so that it can respond to our needs.”
“If we don’t vote for it, it will go downtown and I’m fearful that we will lose control of what pittance we have control over,” she replied, adding “we are underfunded, but there are some good projects in this budget and I want to see them go ahead.” The budget passed borough council with Côte des Neiges councillor Magda Popeanu, Peter McQueen, Loyola councillor Christian Arseneault and Montgomery voting in favour, leaving Rotrand and Darlington’s Lionel Perez opposed.