Montreal may reverse planned tax hike in light of citizen frustration
Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay takes "a few days off"
Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay's Union Montréal party said Thursday the city is ready to reconsider the property tax hike announced on Tuesday, to ease Montrealers' mounting frustration over allegations of corruption at city hall.
"It's very clear that citizens are frustrated," said Michael Applebaum, who chairs the city's executive committee. "They feel that they've been robbed with everything they've seen at the commission."
"I asked the city's director-general and the finance director to start preparing different scenarios, to see if there's a different way to present to budget that would be accepted by the population," said Applebaum.
Earlier this week, the city released its proposed budget, which contained an average tax hike of 3.3 per cent.
Mayor Gérald Tremblay laid out the proposed spending plan on the same day that Martin Dumont, a former organizer for Tremblay's party, testified at the Charbonneau inquiry into corruption that the mayor was aware of illegal party financing as far back as a byelection campaign in 2004.
Increasing pressure to for mayor to step down
The city announced Tremblay would take a few days away from the intense scrutiny until Monday.
Applebaum said this was a "normal," but other members of city council disagree.
Mayor of the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough and Vision Montréal member Réal Ménard said Tremblay has no choice but to step down.
"He fight, he try to save his own integrity but now there's a new information and no people will believe Mr. Tremblay didn't know what was the real situation regarding the financial situation of Union Montréal," said Ménard.
François Legault, the leader for provincial party Coalition Avenir Québec, said Tremblay needs to answer to the allegations.
"He owes us some explanations. And staying at home, we're sure we don't get these explanations soon. So I think, right now, we can't afford this kind of situation in Montreal and in Laval," said Legault.
Former head of the anti-collusion squad and CAQ member at the national assembly Jacques Duchesneau shared a similar opinion and said the mayor had lost his legitimacy.
On Wednesday, Frantz Benjamin, a member of Union Montréal announced he would be leaving the party in light of the allegations made at the inquiry.
Benjamin was elected in 2009 in the Saint-Michel district and said he never witnessed any wrongdoing at city hall.
He said the vast majority of elected officials at Union Montréal are honest and urged Montrealers not to lump them all in the same pile.
Following her inaugural address at the Quebec National Assembly, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois told Radio-Canada she thinks Tremblay needs to reflect on the situation.
"I will talk to Mayor Tremblay. It has not been done yet. However, what I say to Mayor Tremblay is that he needs to have a deep moment of reflection and give explanations about the revelations we've been hearing at the commission," said Marois. "His credibility is undermined, but, the decision is his. I can understand that citizens are appalled. I am too from what I hear."
The PQ has tabled anti-corruption Bill 1 when it sat at the national assembly today.
If Tremblay waits until Nov. 3 before leaving his position, city council would choose a replacement without having to launch a general election.