MONTRÉAL, Oct. 14, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - After some 10 months of work and more than 12 meetings, Montréal's working committee on the status of metropolis today released a report containing 35 recommendations intended for the mayor.
In November 2014, in response to a commitment by the Québec government to significantly transform relations between Québec and the municipalities and redefine the respective statuses of Québec-capital and Montréal-metropolis, the mayor of Montréal sought to broaden the scope of his reflection on the recognition of Montréal's status of metropolis.
At the time, Mr. Coderre had asked Ms. Monique F. Leroux, Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer of Desjardins Group, to chair a committee made up of committed Montrealers intent on ensuring that Montréal could fully assume its role as an economic driver in Québec and Canada.
On behalf of all of her colleagues on the committee, Ms. Leroux acknowledged that "it hasn't always been easy for Montréal in recent years, and that's an understatement. The mayor's determination to profoundly redefine Montréal's status of metropolis and the Québec government's commitments to contribute to it constitute one of those infrequent junctures at which the city can truly play a decisive part in defining its future. That's the objective around which we've gathered. Montrealers must mobilize in an effort to allow their city to fulfil its enormous potential for sustainable social and economic development."
The committee's report is not a document by experts on municipal organization. Rather, it is the fruit of an in-depth reflection by engaged people from a wide-ranging variety of backgrounds, and it is intended to inform upcoming discussions between the city and the government of Québec.
The committee's chief recommendations are as follows:
A new partnership between Montréal and the government of Québec
Montréal has undeniable strengths in terms of its economy, culture and quality of life. That said, it must also assume specific responsibilities. It must deploy large volumes of services and infrastructures that serve not only its population, but also the population of the entire Greater Montréal area and all of Québec. This reality gives rise to budgetary issues and highlights severe limitations in its capacity to take action. The city's legislative and regulatory framework remains needlessly restrictive.
Overall, the committee recommends that a new partnership be established between the government of Québec and the city. This partnership must clearly define Montréal's role as a metropolis and establish a division of responsibilities and financial resources adapted to it.
This partnership must also give Montréal greater administrative autonomy together with an enhanced capacity to define its own governance.
An enabling law and an adapted administrative framework
Québec laws governing municipalities are particularly restrictive for Montréal as a metropolis. Too often, these texts reflect the stock phrase whereby municipalities are mere "creatures of the province." This approach serves to limit the city's powers and freedom of action to what is expressly and very specifically authorized by laws and regulations.
One of the committee's chief recommendations is to change the usual way of doing things by enacting an enabling law. Rather than list specific powers, the law, in particular, would set out areas in which the city has greater freedom of action. The law should also allow the city to take charge of certain provincial programs by adapting them to the realities of Montréal; in exchange, the city would receive its fair share of the funds earmarked for these programs. The law should also eliminate the numerous ministerial approvals, overzealous regulations and administrative controls that are counter-productive, useless and costly.
A more adapted fiscal framework
To a certain extent, the government of Québec recognizes part of the special responsibilities assumed by the Ville de Montréal. For this purpose, a series of time-limited agreements govern transfers, which reached $179 million in 2015. The negotiation, implementation and accounting under each of these agreements are complex and costly. In this regard, the committee recommends that the administration and financing of these activities be simplified and stabilized by replacing these temporary agreements with a permanent financial transfer based on a percentage of the QST already collected across Montréal territory.
In addition to these agreements, the city also assumes other responsibilities, which are assumed by the provincial government in other municipalities. Examples of such responsibilities include specialized policing services, school transportation, first responder services and food inspection. The costs of these services should be evaluated and taken into account in determining the financial transfer in the form of a percentage of the QST collected across Montréal territory.
Improved governance and an enhanced capacity to control costs
The Ville de Montréal's governance structure is relatively young, and its establishment has often sparked widespread debate. In the committee's view, an in-depth review of the city's governance is not needed at this time, though it emphasizes that such an exercise appears necessary in the medium term. That said, the committee, on the one hand, recommends an immediate increase in the capacity of elected officials to define the city's governance and management model, notably as it pertains to human resources management; on the other hand, it recommends the removal of the qualified majority of two-thirds of elected officials to repatriate to city council borough jurisdictions for a period of more than two years.
On the matter of cost controls, the committee noted the absence of a mechanism for accurately calculating the costs of municipal activities; it therefore recommends that the city establish specific benchmarks for purposes of comparing its costs with those of other major Canadian cities. In regards to the negotiation plan and framework, the committee, having followed the ongoing discussions concerning the recently announced fiscal pact between Québec and the municipalities (Pacte fiscal Québec-municipalités), limited itself to recommending a review that makes it possible to better account for benchmarking results related to municipal service costs.
The challenge of a prosperous and attractive metropolis
For the metropolis, certain areas of activity are especially critical, as they often concern both municipal and government authorities. The government of Québec has long had difficulty administering plans, programs and strategies for the entire metropolitan area, which it divided into five administrative regions and 14 regional county municipalities.
In the committee's opinion, the government should demand that its ministries plan their actions on a metropolitan basis instead of on the basis of any of the five administrative regions concerned. The establishment of a permanent ministerial committee assigned to the metropolis, along with a permanent secretariat, would also ensure improved coordination.
In addition, experiences abroad demonstrate that the success of economic development initiatives depends on unified management, supported by a clear vision and sustained by strong leadership from the mayor and the business community.
Resources available for economic development in Montréal have long been fragmented between several organizations. The municipal government is currently in the process of reorganizing several of these structures. The committee supports the continued pursuit of this initiative in order to eventually give the Montréal agglomeration a unified economic development structure that includes all its development partners and relies on collaboration from the government of Québec.
The committee also recommends that the organization responsible for unified economic development eventually be given investment capacity in conjunction with national qualified partners. This capacity should be benchmarked and financed by the city.
Montréal's territory (500 km2) is 90% urbanized. Vacant lots account for less than 2% of its total area. The rehabilitation of ageing infrastructures and (more importantly) contaminated soil poses challenges that exceed the capacity of contractors and the city to respond. The city and the government of Québec must agree on an action plan aimed at executing a vast decontamination operation in a sustainable development perspective, and the federal government would be called upon to contribute.
Montréal receives the vast majority of new immigrants. In spite of its central role in immigrant reception and integration, the Ville de Montréal receives only $1.5 million per year; by comparison, the government of Canada's transfer to the Québec government for immigrant reception and francization is no less than $340 million. For the committee, the management methods and the division of amounts received as part of the Canada-Québec agreement concerning immigration must be reviewed in order to ensure greater fairness.
The challenge of an inclusive metropolis
Like other cities, Montréal is city of contrasts where rich and poor intersect. Obviously, municipal governments cannot meet social development challenges on their own. Still, they face considerable demands in terms of front-line services in housing and homelessness. On the one hand, a strong partnership must be forged with the government of Québec, under which the city and the government agree on a pluriannual financial framework as well as means to adapt housing programs to the realities of Montréal. This partnership should also coordinate actions against homelessness across Montréal territory. On the other hand, the government of Québec and the Ville de Montréal must develop a new urban revitalization strategy for underprivileged areas.
The offer of front-line services to families and children in the most underprivileged communities relies on a host of local institutional and community-based players. Effectively reaching these populations remains a challenge. The city and the government of Québec should jointly explore local accessibility models of integrated services. These models could be inspired by services already offered in community social paediatrics and include other services offered by the city. In order to optimize the use of collectively-owned housing and improve the offer of services, the Ville de Montréal and the government of Québec should examine conditions for a mutually beneficial transfer of school buildings to the city.
The challenge of integrated sustainable mobility
The effectiveness of infrastructures guaranteeing the mobility of persons and goods is among the keys to the success of a metropolis. In this regard, most of Montréal's challenges are well documented.
The announced governance and planning reform around metropolitan public transportation is good news. For the committee, this important step must be accompanied by a new financial framework and a diversification of revenue sources.
At the same time, an effective coordination mechanism between the Ville de Montréal and the government of Québec must be set concerning the planning of the road network.
In the same spirit, the renovation of road infrastructures to create access to various intermodal platforms must be prioritized. Steps must also be taken with the government of Canada to relaunch the Gateways and Border Crossings Fund (GBCF).
A vision for economic development
The redefinition of the status of metropolis for Montréal cannot be limited to a review of the city's legislative and regulatory framework. To lend meaning and coherence to this redefinition, it is essential to develop a sustainable development vision that integrates economic, social and environmental issues.
It is incumbent upon the city, in concert with all economic players, to set out a strategic vision for its economic development. The committee sought to contribute to this exercise and spark further reflection on the future by shedding light on four specific sectors. All are vital to the success of the metropolis, and all appear to be cornerstones of a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable development. Montréal's strategy should be based on the following strengths and advantages:
- A city of knowledge and innovation
- A city of culture at the core of the digital economy
- A city of mobility and transportation convergence
- A world-class financial city
To view the Working Committee Report on the Status of Metropolis, entitled A Prosperous and Inclusive Metropolis for Sustainable Development, please go to ville.montreal.qc.ca/statutdemetropole
SOURCE Ville de Montréal
Renseignements : André Chapleau, 514 281-7229; Hubert Thibault, 418 385-2444