By Isaac Olson
Loyola district councillor Jeremy Searle has come out strongly against spending on Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebrations.
At the start of the February 13 borough council meeting, Searle said spending $300 million on the anniversary is “great if you like flushing money down the toilet and you’ve got a big enough toilet.”
He held up little buttons that, he says, the Montreal government bought for 25,000 municipal employees. He looked over at the row of municipal workers in mock surprise and said, “Oh God, none of them are wearing them this evening. Shocking, eh?”
“We do know that these little things, that are, by the tens of thousands, going directly into the garbage, cost the taxpayers more than $100,000,” said Searle, noting NDGers spend an average of $5,000 a year on property taxes. “I’ve tried, they’re impossible to actually put on.”
In a later interview, Searle said it costs $750,000 per kilometer to repair roads and sidewalks. That means, he said, the city could instead totally repair 400 kilometers of road and accompanying sidewalks for the price of the celebrations.
“As it happens, the entire borough of Côte des Neiges—NDG, which would be Quebec’s 6th largest city in terms of population, has a total of 228 kilometers of roads and sidewalk,” said Searle.
That means, instead of a celebration, the borough could have “every inch” of road and sidewalk repaired across the borough and still have 172 kilometres leftover for elsewhere, he said. When asked how the city should celebrate the 375th, Searle said “you don’t celebrate it. Nobody is interested.”
Meanwhile, borough mayor Russell Copeman says planning and public consultation for these celebrations began under former Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay’s administration. There was an extensive consultation done by Montreal’s public consultation office (OCPM), he said.
“I think we do have a reason to celebrate,” Copeman said. “A lot of the monies invested are going to be for legacy projects. Which is to say, they are going to remain for Montrealers for decades afterwards.”
Searle has so far voted in favour of two motions related to this celebration, Copeman noted. Searle voted in favour of setting aside $100,000 of surplus, Copeman said. That money was designated to go to groups celebrating the city’s 375th birthday. He also voted in favour of the most recent $7,000 to Playmas Montreal, said Copeman, noting that money is being pulled from the $100,000 budget and is going to the group’s anniversary celebrations.
“It seems to me, a little bit disingenuous to criticize the celebration of the 375th downtown and then to support all the spending locally because it is for local groups,” Copeman said.
NDG district councillor Peter McQueen says his party, Projet Montréal, has voted against most of the 375th spending, such as the bridge lighting, granite stumps in Mount Royal Park and the new amphitheatre on Ste. Helene Island. Regarding the buttons, McQueen agrees they are being thrown in the trash, but his party has not verified the exact cost of the buttons.
|Loyola district councillor Jeremy Searle holds up 375th celebration buttons during the February 13 council meeting. Photo: Isaac Olson|