Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau has given an ultimatum to the cities of Laval and Longueuil: reduce taxes or receive less money from the provincial government.
The stern words come two days after the municipalities tabled their annual budgets, which contained significant hikes for taxpayers starting in the new year — even though both cities have surpluses.
“It’s taking people for morons,” Moreau said.
In Longueuil, the average tax hike for residential property owners will be 3.9 per cent — twice as high as last year's increase.
In Laval, homeowners will see an increase of 3.2 per cent.
Both mayors said Monday that part of the reason for the tax increase was because the Couillard government cut $300 million in transfer payments to Quebec municipalities.
“I don’t want mayors in Quebec to do politics, justifying their tax increase on the back of the government,” Moreau said, adding that their decisions are ridiculous.
Laval has a surplus of $117 million while Longueuil’s is $10.7 million.
Moreau is ordering Longueuil Mayor Caroline St-Hilaire and Laval Mayor Marc Demers to re-think the 2015 tax increase.
“If they don't do that, we'll reduce the transfer between the government of Quebec and the municipalities of Laval and Longueuil, to an equal amount and we'll reimburse the taxpayer.”
Moreau said the municipalities should be reducing their spending rather than placing the burden on citizens.
Laval Mayor Marc Demers said the money from the surplus belongs to Laval, and it’s not there to fix Quebec's budgetary problems.
“Yes there is a surplus. It’s to invest in infrastructures that have not yet been completed, which citizens have paid for a long time but never got the service. That money has to go to those infrastructures,” Demers said, adding that he will not respond to intimidation and he will not go back on his decision to raise taxes.
Longueuil Mayor Caroline St-Hilaire said on Twitter she would not comment Wednesday.
St-Hilaire said she was focused on the funeral service of former Habs "gentleman" Jean Béliveau, and that she would respond tomorrow.