No one who was squashed under the great forced municipal merger steamroller of the last Parti Québécois government (in which Louise Harel and Pauline Marois were important figures) can feel comfortable when the subject of mergers comes up again.
Imagine delivering us into the hands of Montreal’s municipal political parties! With all their
fundraising improprieties! We were competing with Pierre Bourque whose fundraising hijinks were common knowledge.
Even though it is 12 years since the mergers and even with all the corruption information coming out of the Charbonneau Commission justifying our reluctance to be part of Montreal’s political scene, it is still very clear how our municipal politics changed in 2000.
Of course Gazette West Island blogist, Victor Schukov isn’t seriously suggesting that Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue and Baie-d’Urfé should join forces. He knows how different the two communities are. Why would they merge? They were part of the same territory once and there was good reason to become independent. So, why merge?
To solve all Ste-Anne’s main street agony? What would be in that for Baie-d’Urfé? The residents of Baie-d’Urfé don’t have to worry about a decaying retail culture and the influence of thousands of rowdy students on a residential population. Why team up and use Baie-d’Urfé’s non-residential tax base to buy solutions? And anyway most of that tax base goes straight to the Montreal Agglomeration.
Should we have tried earlier to merge our small towns at the end of the island or all the towns of the West Island? The emergence of the Montreal Urban Community in 1970 took place in the context of Montreal’s battles with its police but, in retrospect, it was just a prelude to the creation of the mega-city in 2001.
One West Island strategy was simply to band 250,000 people together to make a West Island town capable of standing up to Montreal and Quebec. The local business development agent, George Nydam, always argued in favour of this merger and he had good reason. It was hard for him to muster all the West Island towns, all so different, when he needed support in his battles with Montreal and Quebec. In fact, West Island towns were in competition for industrial and commercial development.
I know Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue would never have agreed to a voluntary West Island merger. And I remember Russell Williams, our then dynamic MNA, arguing robustly in favour of a West Island merger with Maria Tutino before she became mayor of Baie-d’Urfé.
There actually was a serious proposal for a merger of the three end-of-the-island towns (Baie-d’Urfé, Ste-Anne and Senne-ville) just before the merger legislation passed in Quebec City. George MacLeish, mayor of Senneville, and myself came to the same conclusion at the same time and actually appeared before a session of Baie-d’Urfé town council with the suggestion that we might try one mad, last-ditch merger proposal to the government. I had talked to a bureaucrat working on the forced merger legislation and he had told me that his team was really keen on the idea of “boroughs,” but then there was the problem of language: Ste-Anne has French status.
But Baie-d’Urfé council had already decided to make a Charge of the Light Brigade, led by the brilliant and eccentric Quebec City jurist, Guy Bertrand. They were prepared to spend $1 million on the cause.
I sat through every day of the case our towns made against the Quebec government.
Neither Guy Bertrand nor Julius Grey made any impression on the bench. We lost miserably.
No wonder no one wants to talk about mergers.
Bill Tierney is the former mayor of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. email@example.com