Bloc Montreal's Holness calls for more powers, cut of QST for Montreal

Bloc Montreal says it will campaign to give a cut of the provincial sales tax to Montreal, in part to finance free public transit service during rush hour.
Linda Gyulai • Montreal Gazette Publishing date: Aug 19, 2022  

A vote for Bloc Montreal in the fall provincial election would be a vote for Quebec to share a cut of the provincial sales tax with Montreal, levy a $5 congestion fee on non-resident vehicles entering the island and finance free public transit service during rush hour , the party announced on Thursday.
“Bloc Montréal was created to represent Montrealers at the National Assembly and to advocate for more fiscal and political autonomy (for the city),” party leader Balarama Holness said at a press conference in front of the downtown Montreal offices of the Quebec premier on Sherbrooke St. W.
Holness, who ran for mayor of Montreal in last year's municipal election on a platform calling for Montreal to become a bilingual city-state, said his new provincial party's fiscal plan proposes to leave 20 per cent of Quebec Sales Tax (QST) revenue generated on the sale of goods and services in Montreal with the city.
The tax revenue injection, which the party estimates at $2 billion a year, plus an estimated $500 million in annual revenue that would be generated by the congestion fee, would raise Montreal's $6-billion municipal operating budget to $8.5 billion.
The additional funds would finance free rush-hour public transit between 6 am and 9 am and between 3 pm and 6 pm, Holness said. The extra revenue for Montreal would also help finance construction of social housing and sports and recreation facilities, infrastructure repair and more after-school programs, parks and green spaces, he said. Most of these are financed at least partly by subsidies from the provincial and federal governments, but the financial autonomy afforded by a piece of the QST would mean the city could address its pressing needs without having to wait on the higher levels, he said.
The congestion fee also jibes with Bloc Montreal's environmental policy, which calls for achieving carbon neutrality by 2040, Holness said. He was surrounded by some of the 11 candidates announced by his party so far.
Earlier this week, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante presented her pre-election wish list, calling on the provincial parties to commit in the coming campaign to provide a new fiscal pact for Montreal. Her demands include a cut of the QST for Montreal.
In the 2018 provincial election, Coalition Avenir Québec Leader François Legault campaigned on a promise to give municipalities in the province a point of QST, which he pegged at $1.3 billion. The other party leaders had made a similar promise. A year after he was elected premier, Legault said he hadn't meant “one point of the QST” but rather “the growth of one point” of the QST — worth about $132 million a year.
Legault is expected to call an election for Oct. 3 by the end of August.
Janusz Kaczorowski, a professor and researcher in family medicine, epidemiology, psychology and sociology who plans to run as Bloc Montréal's candidate in the Saint-Henri—Sainte-Anne riding, said provincial legislation passed in 2017 that grants Montreal greater autonomy and powers over social housing, tackling homelessness and integrating immigrants is “a bit of paper tiger because there is no fiscal backing.”
The CAQ government, Kaczorowski added, is asking the federal government for more powers and autonomy for the province.
“We're doing exactly the same thing,” He Said. “We're not asking for Montreal to become a city-state but (to have) greater fiscal and political autonomy.”
Bloc Montréal's recurring message has been that Montreal is the economic and cultural engine of the province, but CAQ policies benefiting the regions and its legislation curtailing minority rights, including Bill 96 and Bill 21, disproportionately and negatively affecting Montreal.
“We feel that Montreal needs that presence at the National Assembly,” Kaczorowski said. “(It) needs to have its voice.”





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