The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

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Press release: The Board supports the Municipal Reform Bill

The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
Supports the Municipal Reform Bill

The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal Supports the Municipal Reform Bill - Generally speaking, Bill 170 meets the expectations expressed by the Board of Trade, and leaves the door open to improvements in certain areas

Montreal, November 16, 2000 - “Bill 170, tabled yesterday by Louise Harel, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Greater Montreal, is a step forward for metropolitan Montreal,” stated the President of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal today. According to Normand Legault, “Joining forces in this way will lead to greater integration of local strengths and more harmonious economic and social development for Greater Montreal.”

The Board of Trade feels that creating larger municipal entities should result in greater political leadership and give the metropolitan region a more powerful voice among the roughly 350 major cities around the world—and particularly among the 40 or so North American cities that we compete with to attract investment and stimulate economic growth.

Bill 170, as the Board sees it, falls somewhere between Montreal Mayor Pierre Bourque's vision of “One Island, One City” and the recommendations put forward by Louis Bernard, appointed by the Quebec government to study the issue. The Board considers that although it creates a single city on the Island of Montreal, this approach will still give communities the control over local services that is what really counts on a day-to-day basis for taxpayers.

At the same time, Bill 170 gives the central city control over the services necessary to strengthen its cohesion and leadership. The formula proposed in the Bill creates a municipal council of 71 members, which is still reasonable and manageable.

Back in 1962, the Board of Trade had suggested the creation of a single city in Montreal, with 20 to 25 boroughs holding considerable authority over local public services. More recently, the Board stated that it would support the creation of a new city in Montreal, subject to certain criteria:
- simpler organization than that proposed in the Bernard Report;
- maintenance of local borough powers;
- protection of acquired rights of bilingual cities;
- centralized taxation powers;
- clearly defined authority of the new city over cultural development matters;
- centralized management of fire-fighting services;
- exclusion of water management from local borough powers.

The Board feels that Bill 170 meets all these criteria. The Metropolitan Community has exclusive authority over water management, a rational choice. The Metropolitan Transportation Agency will report directly to a higher level of government, an acceptable situation in that it will avoid the squabbling caused by intermunicipal management.

Finally, the Board of Trade is concerned about labour relations issues. It feels that the Bill sets reasonable standards in this respect. It hopes, however, that the transitional committees working on the creation of the new cities will place even greater emphasis on strictly controlling wage expenses, which constitute over 70% of municipal budgets.

Longueuil: the best choice of a name for the South Shore?

The Board of Trade also feels that creating a new city on the South Shore of Montreal is likely to add to the vitality and competitiveness of this metropolitan area. Borough governments will allow local residents to retain at least some influence over the urban environment where they have chosen to live.

Although Longueuil is the most populous city in this new agglomeration, however, using its name to designate the new city could convey the erroneous impression that Longueuil is swallowing its neighbours, which is not the case. The transitional committee in charge of setting up the new city will have to take an open-minded approach in discussing this matter.

“Overall, the Board is in favour of the bill tabled by the Minister, and supports its aims: to modernize, simplify and re-energize the political structures in the Montreal region, and to give the metropolitan region greater leadership. It is a move that calls for considerable courage on the part of the Quebec government, and we endorse it,” concluded the President of the Chamber.

The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal has more than 7 000 members. Its mission is to be the leading group representing the interests of the Greater Montreal business community.  The objectives are to maintain, at all times, relevance to its membership, credibility towards the public and influence towards government and decision-makers.

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