Since the 1950s, Montreal has seen itself dispossessed of its title as Canada's metropolis through a series of Canadian political, provincial and, yes, Montreal, decisions.
To this effect, we can cite the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which diminished the role of ferrying in the Port of Montreal and its economic contribution; and the Mirabel Airport, which divided and weakened airport activities to Toronto's benefit.
The elected officials at Montreal's City Hall hold many interesting projects for improving services for the population. However, financing solutions do not support the proposed projects. No one dares affirm the need to levy more taxes on taxpayers; and no one speaks clearly on the gas tax, the port and road tolls, nor the tax by kilometers traveled. No one proposes a way of straightening out public finances without increasing taxes; and above all, beyond the projects, no one proposes a vision for Montreal for the mid and long term.
A large part of the expenses of the City cannot be cut back. Furthermore, the City is in such a state that important investments are required in the short and mid term, without which the exodus of households will accelerate, infrastructure will continue to deteriorate, and services will be reduced. Montreal is at a point where it would be more realistic to increase revenues rather than reduce expenses.
Therefore, the solutions to carry forth must rest first of all on the increase of revenues, while controlling expenses and investments.
So, the City should start with assets, goods and services that are more expensive than profitable. This does not mean abandoning them by organizing an immediate sale. Rather, it is necessary to articulate the modes of partial or total transfer that increase revenue and reduce maintenance and financing expenses.
The following could be put into effect through different modes, on a case by case basis, like the Biodome, for example:
- A public-private partnership through the exploitation of a public service, like the Biodome, for example;
- The privatization of a service with fees paid to the City for using it. The Boulevard Pie-IX bus line is one example. This exists elsewhere in the world. It is necessary to include a form of tariff control in the agreement;
- Quebec's transfer of the Olympic Stadium for a dollar, followed by the development of infrastructure through a public-private partnership in order to eventually welcome a major league baseball club;
- The sale of an asset to a partner, with certain conditions in order to ensure the healthy management of Montreal's heritage;
- The federal government's transfer of the Port of Montreal and its spaces in order to make its use profitable;
- All other hybrid solutions made up of a combination of these options, with the constant objective to include the participation of the City and protect the public interest to a high degree.
A review of the assets, goods and services offered is upon us. The objective of this process should be the maintenance of a body of sufficient goods and services under the control of the municipal administration, with profitable business solutions allowing for increasing revenues without taxing the taxpayers.
Several elements are still to be defined, notably the feasibility of certain proposals, but the options that we have before us are unavoidable.
What is certain and factual is that a city without a vision or plan is at the mercy of organized crime, which has its vision, its own plan, its business lines and projects, from which some profit to the detriment of the public interest. Thus, the revenues of urban development, profits and surplus go into the pockets of individuals at the cost of the community. We must reverse this situation.
What economic challenges has your city faced and how were they resolved? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments area below.
Original article, originally published in French, here.
Credits: Data and images linked to sources.