The “courage” to tax

The “courage” to tax
The “courage” to tax

I can already hear some loud cries: well, the urban columnist, without a car, wants more taxes! Pro-Merchant! Anti-self!

No.

Nobody objectively wants to be taxed more. But once we have said that, what solution do we propose?

I am the first to give credit to the opposition parties Québec first and Équipe Priorité Québec when a criticism hits the mark, raising a contradiction from the Marchand administration.

But on Tuesday, the day after the announcement of the mayor’s desire to take advantage of a tax on registration from January 2025, both Claude Villeneuve and Patrick Paquet were not convinced.

They pulled in all directions: too much deployment of àVélo, uncontrollable RTC spending, subsidies, or even this famous $33,000 recognition dinner for the Capital Transport Network brought back by Claude Villeneuve.

We understand the image: the RTC spends while the mayor adds a tax for public transportation. But to cite an activity at $18 per employee as a reason for chronic deficits? Be serious.

“It’s over”

The head of Équipe Priorité Québec (EPQ), Patrick Paquet, for his part predicted a very dark future for Mayor Marchand. “Quebec, city of cars, will put him in his place.”

Or again: “The mayor is really isolated. It’s over. I don’t see how he could be re-elected.” Nothing less.

Patrick Paquet says he found 10 million to cut only in the decision-making summaries presented to council on Tuesday, including various agreements or subsidies.

We salute the effort. At least ÉPQ has put forward a solution, but these potentially saved amounts remain abstract and non-recurring.

However, the reality is there: the Legault government is sending contradictory signals on its real desire to promote public transport, transport companies are weighed down by deficits, municipalities must diversify their income.

The two opposition leaders are right when they deplore not knowing the amount of this future tax. But one must be in bad faith to fail to say that the City of Quebec, like the others, was pressed for time to give its response.

The municipalities had to notify the Automobile Insurance Company before May 31 of their intention to use this power obtained in December to start taxing in January 2025. As this must be submitted to the vote at the next council and that the notice was served at Tuesday’s session, the time window was closing.

The City also had no choice but to set an amount – here provisionally $10 – while it assessed the amount and said what exactly it would be used for. The real annual tax will be known in September.

There remain so many unknowns to determine the amount: what the CDPQ Infra study will say for the structuring transport project in Quebec, performance audits ordered by the Legault government, how much the government will invest in public transport, lark.

But we agree, it would be rather surprising if the tax remained at $10.

The amount collected will be added to the $30 already collected since 1992. That’s 32 years. We can hardly speak of abuse.

Marchand assumes

>>>>>>

Bruno Marchand fully assumes his decision, speaking of a “tax for the community” (Jocelyn Riendeau/Le Soleil)

One thing is certain, Bruno Marchand fully accepts his decision, speaking of a “tax for the community”. He maintains that it will provide better public transportation service and, through the strip, “more space on the roads for motorists.”

Montreal, Laval and Gatineau have also announced that they will benefit from a tax on registration. Elected officials from Trois-Rivières will debate it in the coming weeks.

If deciding to tax is “political suicide” as Patrick Paquet illustrated, there won’t be many mayors left next year…

The latter also estimated that Mayor Marchand “lacks courage” by taxing rather than finding expenses to cut.

“I call him a bad manager who doesn’t want to be re-elected,” said Mr. Paquet.

Maybe.

But courage is also, sometimes, that of daring to make unpopular decisions in an election year.

To respond to this column, write to us at [email protected]. Some responses may be published in our Opinions section.

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