Anjou Mayor Luis Miranda says he’s sick of having his budget cut by the central city and is proposing that the borough demerge.
Miranda said he intends to collect 25,000 signatures on a petition and present it to the National Assembly, with the goal of triggering a referendum on demerging the borough.
He said on Thursday that Anjou’s operating budget has been slashed year after year despite bringing in more taxes, and there is no end in sight to the cuts.
He said that $66 million in taxes were collected in 2001, compared with the $104 million collected last year. Even so, Miranda said, he’s seen money for things such as children’s parks dwindle.
'It's got to stop'
The cuts are part of the City of Montreal’s borough budget restructuring plan, unveiled by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre in early July.
Nine boroughs, including Anjou, will have their funding decreased over 10 years, while the other 10 see budget increases. Coderre laid out a formula to adjust for historical inequalities, involving funding for 12 services including snow removal, water, parks, libraries and public health.
Miranda said the city also imposed a two per cent salary hike for public servants. That’s $400,000 a year, he said, with the borough on the hook for $220,000 of it.
Miranda is also concerned about Anjou having less of a say in its own municipal services.
"They're going to control snow removal, they're going to control parking of our local streets...It’s got to stop,” he said.
Miranda hopes his petition will be enough to trigger a referendum on the continued merger, much like the one held in 2004.
Back then, the provincial government at the time allowed towns that were forced to amalgamate to hold referendums on whether or not to demerge.
In 2004, for the vote to count, at least 35 per cent of registered voters needed to cast a ballot. Only 26 per cent of Anjou residents voted, so their vote to demerge was not recorded.
Miranda has been the mayor of Anjou since 1997.
Outremont expresses interest in demerging
Outremont Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars expressed outrage when Coderre's restructuring plan was announced.
"It's totally unacceptable," she said in July. "Is it possible to compare a park near the city centre, where there are activities almost every weekend that we have to clean up after, and a park at the end of the island? It makes no sense. We can't accept this."
On Thursday, she said she is also considering a move to demerge from the central city.
"It's a breach of contract. Never in 100 years [would] the people in Outremont have stayed in Montreal if they would have known that no one would respect them four years after and cut our budgets [by] 20 per cent," Cinq-Mars said.
However, Quebec's municipal affairs ministry said there is no mechanism in place to allow boroughs to demerge from Montreal.
A representative from the ministry said a new law would need to be created to allow boroughs to hold new referendums.
On Thursday afternoon, Coderre's director of communications Louis-Pascal Cyr told CBC News the mayor's position has not changed.
"Here is our position: The minister is clear and there will be no demerger. The petition does not change that situation," Cyr said.