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20th of October 2018

Canada



Schukov: Montreal’s aggl-ogre is a wonky system

Demerged West Island municipalities shouldn't anticipate significant reforms to the Montreal agglomeration system: Schukov

Montreal West Mayor Beny Masella (centre), Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle (right) and other suburban mayors speak to reporters after the agglomeration council approved a budget increasing contributions by independent municipalities on the island of Montreal by an average of 5.3 per cent on Jan. 25, 2018. Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette

Let’s call it the aggl-ogre; the suffix originating from the hulk-sized beast that eats people for lunch. Of course, we associate ogres mostly with fairy tales and folklore, however if you were to compare their trappings with that of an agglomeration you would be surprised to see how well it all fits.

Like its mythical counterpart, the aggl-ogre has a disproportionately large head (substitute with ROM — the Rest of Montreal), an insatiably voracious appetite (substitute with taxes), and a strong (ROM) body (substitute council). So, instead of eating humans, the aggl-ogre avails itself of West Island coffers like they are a smorgasbord of personal chips and dips; kinda’ like the old USSR (motto: We like your money.) exploiting its many satellites from Latvia to Kazakhstan.

I refer to the recent West Island Gazette article Suburban mayors continue push for agglomeration reform by Kathryn Greenaway: “Association of Suburban Municipalities (ASM) president Beny Masella said the goal is to present the next government with a plan for agglomeration reform.”

First, let’s do the dance:

Present a plan for reform? Why would Big Sister M want to change its presently advantageous feudal system? What is the motivation? What is the WI’s bargaining chip? If things do not become more equitable, will the WI separate? There is no room to even bluff. Temptations to compare to Quebec’s last referendum pitches in trying to separate from Canada are too funny to circumnavigate. I picture a narrow referendum YES loss and a prominent WI mayor holding a glass of Scotch and blurting on national TV, “We lost because of increases in bus fares and lack of ethics.”

Now, let’s do the math:

The ASM represents 15 demerged municipalities. Demerged municipalities pay approximately 50 per cent of their operating budgets to the aggl-ogre. (I don’t know if it is collected in a back room and stuffed in the socks of collectors.)

The cash equivalent of chickens, cattle and pork goes into a deep well intended (they say) for shared services like transportation (Are you kidding me?) and police (Why not break back up into small town parts and call up the QPP or RCMP?) and firemen. (Didn’t the towns have their own fire departments not eons ago? That’s research, I wouldn’t know.)

Now, the Big Sister cake must have icing and cherries on top so the ASM pays another fixed lump of $8 million a year to the “development of the downtown core.” (Huh?)

Like a wonky basketball score, ROM councillors score 87 (per cent of the agglo) and suburbs 13 (per cent.) So, the effectiveness of the West Island in voting on where the money goes: Goose egg.

Suburban mayors continue to scream bloody murder over paying for what can in theory be sunk into gold faucets in the ROM mayor’s washroom, but in reality may be less transparent.

Masella, as the article goes on to say, doesn’t want an all-out war with Montreal. That makes sense since the West Island has nothing to go to war with. He says he wants “a solution both sides can live with.” Again, where is the carrot or nuclear threat of walking away from the table? You can spend all day kicking Big Sister in the chin under the table when she can’t even feel it.

Remember the Golden Rule: He who hold the gold, rules.

The ASM wants reform and a say in the island budget. I want a train set for Christmas. Guess which one happens.

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