Martin C. Barry
Action Laval, the city’s second opposition party, is demanding Mayor Marc Demers return a portion of the $42 million the city got back from corrupt Vaillancourt-era contractors to Laval’s taxpayers in the form of a residential tax freeze over the next two years.
During a press conference held at Laval city hall last week, Action Laval city councillor Michel Poissant said that three years ago Laval’s auditor-general noted in her annual report that the City of Laval had significant surpluses and that the Demers administration should be setting out a plan on how to use them.
They want tax freeze
“Basically, that’s where things still stand,” he said. Poissant and Councillor David De Cotis are among the Action Laval councillors who signed an open letter calling on all members of Laval city council to support a resolution they drafted demanding the tax freeze.
In addition to the $42 million, Action Laval says the City of Laval is also sitting on what they claim is $555 million dollars in surpluses. “This is a clear indication that the citizens of Laval have been overtaxed the last couple of years,” said De Cotis.
Belongs to citizens
“The recovered $42 million which was linked to corruption and collusion under the administration of Gilles Vaillancourt is not Marc Demers’s money,” he added. “It is the money of citizens. $42 million dollars was recovered and yet they don’t stop raising taxes at a rate higher than real inflation. The money must be given back to the citizens of Laval.”
While Laval has completed some costly projects in recent years, including Place Bell costing the city $200 million alone, De Cotis and Poissant maintain the City of Laval’s financial position is strong. They estimate a tax freeze would mean up to $300 less on the average residential tax bill over two years.
Less debt, more surplus
“The City of Laval has the lowest debt among the largest cities in Quebec,” said Poissant. “So we have more surplus, less debt. And this is what was presented internally by the management to all the officials last week. These are also figures that you can find in the city’s financial statements.”
While noting that Action Laval’s demand targets the city’s half-billion dollar surplus, De Cotis said the party is focusing primarily on the $42 million because it is above and beyond amounts stated in the City of Laval’s last budget.
“We can take that amount or a part of that amount to give a tax break to the citizens,” he said. “It belongs to them. They overpaid taxes for so many years. It would be a nice gesture from the city to freeze the taxes over the next two years.”
‘For the citizens,’ said De Cotis
As De Cotis acknowledged, Laval implemented property tax freezes in 2013 and 2014. He dismissed a journalist’s suggestion that tax freezes go over well with taxpayers and win support from property owners. Laval residents will next be voting in municipal elections in late 2021.
“We’re not doing it for the voters – we’re doing this for the citizens,” De Cotis insisted. “They’ve paid that money. And freezing taxes for two years won’t push the city into bankruptcy. We have half a billion dollars in surplus.
“We estimate it would cost around $5 million a year. So that’s $10 million the city could put aside to give tax breaks to the citizens. They deserve it: it’s their money. It does not belong to Marc Demers or his administration.”