No doubt all that is expected from me is to speak of Westmount and the opportunities and dangers that lie ahead of us. I am no expert in municipal affairs. That area I leave to my friend Peter Trent for whom I have a lot of time. He is a first class mayor.
While I first suggested (a few days after the referendum) partition and then later a City State for Montreal and while I oppose any appeasement (I believe I demonstrated that often enough), I am not in favor of beating drums and so I am against formal resolutions. Better to do what one has to do in silence and to strengthen the City defenses against what I consider a fascist opponent feeding on the same kind of quasi religious fervor on which all fascists feed (be it the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany of fascist Italy, etc.). A Parizeau, a Bouchard should never be underestimated and, despite lullabies, should never put one to sleep. Emotional fervor rarely is the friend of rational discourse. Worse, logic never reached a fascist or, the same, a Communist. The logic of those with an inferiority complex; the logic of those who are envious no more than the logic of the pampered has little middle ground and little regard for common sense - that rarest of virtues.
So here we are one of the richest communities in Canada; possibly the best educated and possibly the fairest-minded in Quebec and Canada. We have a wonderful community today. Gone are the days of Anglo prejudice toward those of other backgrounds, religious or racist. We have diversity in Westmount today and I sincerely believe a great sense of unity. Whatever your ethnic or religious background, Westmount is open to you. Discrimination if it exists is not noticeable anymore. It is a friendly place. Whether one thing or another, we are in the same boat and we like our boat. We enjoy excellent City Government and even today dogs, cats and squirrels enjoy our City. I do not notice any Protestant, Catholic or Jewish problem. I see no French, English, Italian or Irish problems. Our streets are safe and out citizens friendly.
The danger, however is manifold:
- -We have a City of Montreal which is broke and could be better administered. Its tax base is eroding to off-island and to the suburbs on the Island.
- -We have a Montreal region which is little liked by the Regions and Quebec City out of fear, envy and what not, despite the fact that Montreal pays the taxes and creates the jobs in the Province. However, that doesn't make you liked. We have a phobia against ethnics (that's us) by a percentage of francophones both in and outside of Montreal. We voted for Federalism which in a fascist's mind is a sin. We stand in the way of 'Une Nation'.
We are also a happy island within an island which suffers from huge unemployment and has not improved its standard of living for years - non-competitive due to excessive unionization, over-Governed and over-taxed.
- -There is the danger that the political climate and the excessive taxation in the Province and on the Island will further lead wealthy people and corporations to leave. Moreover, the more we become absorbed into Montreal in the plan of a mega city, the less Westmounters will feel at home in Westmount. Thank God we are not alone in this on the Island of Montreal.
These dangers are real.
Money is an important item in all of this. We feel we pay too much, but those who want to merge us into Montreal feel they can extract yet more and so does Quebec City as it feels it needs to give us back less of what we pay them in taxes.
I still believe that the need to be low-cost and efficient is foremost. This applies to Westmount. It applies to Montreal. It applies to Quebec City.
An enormous roadblock is the combination of an excessive Quebec Civil Service; bloated by excessive unionization in Quebec compared with the USA or the rest of Canada. The result: the highest municipal salaries in North America; a measure of feather-bedding and excessive number of programs most of which are inefficiently run.
In Westmount our municipal salary costs remain excessive as they are for all Montreal communities. Our management is good but it can be better. Our management is excellent compared with most other island governments including Montreal itself.
I believe that economies can be effected by voluntary joint programs with other communities. Say joint purchasing of goods and services. There are enormous economics of scale. You don't need amalgamation for them. I have also believe that the closer Government is to the voters, the more the voters feel they have a say. Thus, many things can be done cheaper and better on the local level. These should remain so. There is place for local police, local fire brigades, yet also cooperation with neighbors. The MUC, a good idea, has led to higher not lower costs as it created bureaucracies and caters to big union power (Montreal Police, etc.).
Volunteer activity is important and cheap. A mega city where the individual and his neighbors gets lost does not encourage this. Far from it. Quebec has threatened to manage the Montreal museums from Quebec City. How many Montrealers would make gifts; attend museum balls; act as guides; amis du musee, etc. under that kind of regime? Very few!
Thus some things must remain local, while cooperation can cut costs. Diversity is more human and fun that 'big brother knows best!'
We must oppose having our way of life wrecked my mega city or the current Quebec financial mess. We must look beyond those horizons. Communities are more human than a mega city. Many of the good elements of a mega city can be implemented by cooperation. Mega City has nowhere near the accountability which exists in a city made up of happy communities. Mega city has far more crime.
The idea of a counsel of all the Montreal communities makes no more sense than a corporation board with more than 12 directors. All you get is politics and inefficiency. Yet you can have efficiency in a Government department or a Government institution. My 9 year stay as Vice-Chairman of the Quebec Pension Board proved that. We won citation after citation for efficiency.
Good Government is nothing other than having excellent management which leads to enthusiasm, realism and a sense of a job well-done. We do not have that in Government in Quebec or in the City of Montreal today. The MUC too remains bloated. We have too many people working for Government and too few are productive. Our government Unions distort this further. Excessive accumulated debt; excessive deficits and excessive taxes have not yet been truly tackled in Quebec. IT is not in cuts of service only, but in cuts of activities that can be privatized; in reduction of union power and in bureaucracy that solutions exist. Quebec is far too politicized; fixed on power in Quebec City; far too hostile to the productive job creative sector to make reality prevail in the near future. Yet we must persevere in fighting for efficiency as it will come either in a managed way or else through more unemployment and hardships.
In Westmount we must streamline our costs further and set an example for the Province of what can be done. Enough major decisions makers live in our City. They should be heard outside. We must all remain highly alert that we do not lose the wonderful community that today is Westmount. We must sensitize our citizens to this and make sure we remain vocal, constructive and alert. We did it for the dogs in Westmount we can do it for Westmount in Quebec.