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More on demergers

So Knave thinks I’m wrong about the demerger issue:

Of course, I don’t think that suburbs have the right to exist in the first place, especially since they spent their time screwing over the downtown core.

Today’s Gazette contained an op-ed about the myths on demergers, including pretty much what Knave just said:

On the other hand, demerger backers need to understand that support for the new big cities is rooted in a concern for equity and social justice.

This is the “greedy suburbs don’t want to share” idea, and it is, to say the least, incomplete. It ignores the fact that old urban structures, such as the Montreal Urban Community, entailed a fair bit of “sharing.” And in the case of Montreal, it also misses the point that if it’s sharing with the suburbs we want, we need to bring the prosperous sprawl of off-island suburbs into the mix.

As a suburbanite at heart (if not by current address), it irks me a little to hear well-worn stereotypes about the “rich suburbus” screwing over the “poor city”.

It’s an easy myth to believe: blame all of downtown’s problems on the “rich, English west island” and everyone’s happy. It’s like the eternal leftist popular solution of taxing the rich more. Nobody likes the stereotypical Westmount millionaire, and most voters will warm to any idea that seems to make that guy pay more and them pay less.

However, the gripes are pretty baseless when you get down to it. Suburbanites use the roads? Sure we do. But we don’t have the advantage of wonderful public transit like you downtown folk. And off-island suburbans use the city’s facilities just as much as on-island ones. So why should the on-island suburbs foot all the bills?

If it’s financial sharing that everyone wants, fine, sharing is easy to implement without steamrolling over democracy and forcibly merging cities against the will of over 95% of populations of certain former municipalities. What next? Toronto has more prosperity than Montreal so let’s forcibly merge them? The United States has more cash than Canada so let’s forcibly merge them?

If certain municipalities were managing their local services and funds more efficiently than Montreal, that’s no reason to punish them. And creating larger levels of bureaucracy only ever creates problems. As it has here. The main one of course being that suddenly, the unions are huge and are wielding enormous amounts of power. More union power equals higher wages which leads to higher taxes. It doesn’t take an economist to figure this out.

So there’s my rant on the demergers, for anyone who was interested. And while the road ahead is still long and challenging, I hope that merger foes can pull this off and win back the cities that were stolen from them.

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Knave 05.19.04, 5:40 AM

    it also misses the point that if it’s sharing with the suburbs we want, we need to bring the prosperous sprawl of off-island suburbs into the mix

    I agree completely. Merging the island was a good first step, but the South shore and North Shore are still milking the free cow, so to speak. I see no reason not to force them into a financial sharing agreement as well.

  • segacs 05.19.04, 2:36 PM

    Financial sharing is possible without taking the drastic step of merging. It existed before the merger. It could exist after the demerger. But there’s no reason to strip all local powers and services away from the municipalities and pool them in a giant overpaid bureaucracy.

  • Earl 05.19.04, 5:49 PM

    My favorite Robert Libman quote:
    “the City of Montreal is a mess, inefficient, undemocratic, impersonal, bureaucratically bloated, poorly run and hostage to its unions”.
    That was in 2000. Now he’s got a new job, salary and singing a different song.

  • Daniel 05.20.04, 6:46 PM

    Another reason for mergers is to facilitate city-wise planning. Case in point is the Cavendish extension which has been held up for years because of Cote-St-Luc’s selfish obstination. Another example would be the traffic lights on fleet rd that only came to be once Hampstead and CSL merged.

    Decisions for the entire city area need to be made by a level of governement that works on that level as well. The MUC certainly didn’t (it was just an ineffective, unelected and unfairly distrubed conglomeration of mayors and mtl city councillors), and since I don’t think that people would like another level of governement (e.g. American style county), a merger was the only other choice and should have included Laval and the South Shore.

  • segacs 05.25.04, 4:49 AM

    The opposition to the Cavendish extention has come mainly from Robert Libman… the merger’s newest best friend. He’s still opposed to the extention, by the way.

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