Mayor Plante's 1st budget sure to pass Wednesday, despite opposition criticism

Montreal's opposition is calling for changes to the first budget put forward by Valérie Plante's Projet Montréal administration. But with a majority on council, the budget is likely to pass Wednesday without significant changes.

Ensemble Montréal demands changes to budget, including smaller property tax hike, money for merchants

Benoit Dorais, chair of the executive committee, and Mayor Valérie Plante pose with a copy of their administration's first budget. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Montreal's opposition is calling for changes to the first budget put forward by Valérie Plante's Projet Montréal administration.

First and foremost, Ensemble Montréal — formerly Équipe Denis Coderre — wants contentious property tax hikes to be reduced to no greater than the increase in the cost of living, as Plante promised in her electoral campaign.

But Plante isn't having it.

The budget is sure to be adopted with or without the opposition's support, since Projet Montréal has a majority on council. Beyond that, the mayor says her party wouldn't be in this situation if not for her predecessors.

"We're in this situation because of you," Plante told interim Ensemble Montréal leader Lionel Perez, referring to the $358-million hole her team discovered in the budget the day after its election victory.

Discussion heats up

The discussion between the two leaders got heated during council Monday, with Plante telling Perez: "Your outcry over the last few weeks doesn't impress me much."

Perez, in turn, accused Plante of not holding to her campaign promise that the tax increases would be adjusted according to inflation.

The average tax increase for homeowners is 3.3 per cent. The rate of inflation is projected to be 2.1 per cent, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

Ensemble Montréal's Lionel Perez (left) and Alan DeSousa detailed their recommendations Monday morning. (Radio-Canada)

Plante held fast, despite recent criticisms coming from residents in demerged municipalities who say their taxes are being increased unfairly.

In addition to the tax reduction, Ensemble Montréal also suggested that a $10-million fund be created to give financial support to merchants in construction zones to help mitigate any loss of business.

"Our concern is that the merchants will spend money and not be compensated and be reimbursed for that, so we think that it's useful to have this $10-million fund," said St-Laurent borough Mayor Alan DeSousa, who also serves as the party's finance critic.

In an interview with CBC Daybreak Monday, DeSousa said the suggestions were not about partisanship but about helping the mayor stick to her campaign promise by finding alternate ways to present a balanced budget.

Council to vote Wednesday

Earlier Monday, the city's permanent finance committee, which includes representatives of the demerged cities of Westmount and Beaconsfield, voted to recommend the adoption of the budget.

Four of the 12 members voted against the budget's adoption: Beaconsfield Mayor George Bourelle, Westmount Mayor Christina Smith, DeSousa and his fellow Ensemble Montréal councillor, Richard Guay.

City council will vote on the budget Wednesday.

With files from Sean Henry, CBC Daybreak, Radio-Canada's Jérôme Labbé, Julie Marceau