Montreal West Mayor and ASM President Voices Concerns Over Agglo's Practices
In a significant development, Beaconsfield has heightened its legal dispute against Montreal, now seeking $15 million for what it claims are unjust expenses imposed by the agglomeration.
While Beaconsfield Mayor Bourelle underscores the financial strain on his city in a recent report by The Gazette, Beny Masella, the Mayor of Montreal West and President of the Association of Suburban Municipalities (ASM), sheds light on broader concerns and challenges faced by suburban municipalities.
Addressing the issue of the agglomeration's exercise of power, Mayor Masella remarks,
"I do consider the agglo exercising an abuse of power."
He emphasizes that while Montreal's actions may not be strictly illegal according to the letter of the law, they certainly go against the spirit of the law. Masella argues that the intent of the law is to ensure that all island residents contribute fairly to island-wide expenses, which he believes is currently not the case. He points out
the disparity in per capita payments, noting that residents of demerged municipalities pay $165 for the same basket of services that a Montreal resident pays $100 for. Highlighting public transportation as an example, Masella contends that the level of service in the far reaches of the island does not align with the higher costs borne by demerged municipalities.
When questioned about the ASM's decision not to join Beaconsfield's lawsuit, Mayor Masella explains, "We did not join Beaconsfield’s lawsuit in part because we preferred to try and reach a negotiated settlement with Montreal."
However, he expresses disillusionment, stating that despite Montreal acknowledging the broken system in November 2022, the city shows no interest in a negotiated resolution. Masella points out that with negotiations off the table, all other options are now being considered.
With the total bill now standing at $15 million, Mayor Bourelle warns that this figure could soar to $19 million next year if corrective measures are not implemented. Beaconsfield's Mayor emphasized that the alleged overpayment of approximately $4 million annually constitutes a substantial portion, accounting for 6.5% of Beaconsfield's yearly budget of around $60 million.
Regarding the provincial government's apparent lack of intervention, Mayor Masella offers insights, saying,
"Quebec is not interested in playing Solomon in this case." He lists reasons, including the fact that residents did not vote for the current government, the challenge of going against Montreal, and the potential implications for other agglomerations across the province if a solution is imposed.
In conclusion, Mayor Masella expresses frustration, stating, "It’s frustrating to continue to bang your head against the wall hoping that common sense will prevail."
He stressed the ASM's past efforts to be partners with Montreal but suggests a re-evaluation of strategy, declaring, "All options are on the table to help Montreal and Quebec 'see the light.'"
The unfolding legal battle raises questions not only about financial practices but also about the dynamics between Montreal and its demerged partners, with the ASM president advocating for a fair and equitable resolution.