November 22, 2006 15:15 ET

City of Montreal: Review of Programs, Operations, Services and Activities-Proposals for Improving the Quality of Services Provided and for Boosting the City's Performance

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 22, 2006) - Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay and Frank Zampino, chairperson of the city's executive committee have released the results of the city's Review of Programs, Operations, Services and Operations that was announced last May. As previously noted this exercise was aimed at refocusing the city around its essential mission, improving service delivery and generating recurring financial flexibility.

Three key findings

Some 2,300 activities were reviewed and three major findings emerged out of this effort. This first was that while there has never been any doubt over the fact that the very large majority of activities administered by Montreal stem from its municipal and metropolitan missions, it was necessary to re-evaluate operating procedures to ensure they provide maximum efficiency at minimum cost for all Montreal taxpayers. (Montreal's metropolitan role includes its responsibility for the water supply and sewage systems, street maintenance, cleanliness, recycling, snow removal, safety, public transit, libraries, parks etc).

"While we have already found means of boosting efficiency major negotiations must be conducted with our union partners, out of the greatest respect for our employees and our collective agreements," said Mayor Tremblay.

The second finding was that the Montreal administration has, over the years, included among the services it provides a certain number of activities that warrant re-examination, either because the city is not the organization best suited to providing such services or because the activity simply does not fall under the city's jurisdiction.

The chairperson of the executive committee cited the Louis-Dupire greenhouses as one example of this phenomenon. Flower production currently costs Montreal's taxpayers $2.1 million a year, without considering the $2 million that would be needed to restore and to upgrade the associated buildings. The city will save nearly $500,000 by buying these flowers from outside vendors. "Is the municipal government responsible for ensuring the presence of flowers throughout the city? Absolutely! But is it the city's job to grow them? No! Particularly not if the costs of doing so are higher than the costs of buying them," said Mr. Zampino.

Certain other services for which Montreal has assumed responsibility do not fall within the scope of municipal functions as they are understood to exist in Quebec. Montreal is currently, for example, the only city in Quebec responsible for food inspection. Furthermore, this service falls under the responsibility of the Quebec government.

"When we instituted the program review we hoped to answer the following question: "Can we generate recurring savings by revising our operating procedures?" Our third finding is that we can. Short-listed proposals will generate some $300 million in financial flexibility within three years. These savings can be achieved through a series of initiatives including the reduction of city jobs by attrition, the abandonment of certain activities previously administered by the city, a marked tightening up of our management procedures and certain negotiations with the Government of Quebec," said Mr. Tremblay.

Possible attrition of 1,000 positions, including 250 managerial jobs, within three years

"The merger process, followed by the demerger of 15 municipalities and the creation of the urban Agglomeration, have generated much additional work for our staff. The activities review has been an opportunity to take stock of our best practices and to upgrade our operating procedures. This additional burden will be reduced as our business procedures are harmonized. We will meet this goal through natural attrition, rather than by laying off employees who are now serving in permanent positions," added Mr. Zampino.

This process is already underway, as a hiring freeze was announced over the summer. These cutbacks will result in various internal transfers of labour to ensure the best possible assignment of available resources, in compliance with applicable rules.

"By drawing on best management practices, we will streamline the management structure and increase the number of employees being supervised by each manager from 9 to 13. We also intend to optimize our resources so as to further enhance direct services to residents, while eliminating activities that do not fall within the city's essential mission," said Mr. Zampino.

Key discussions with Quebec: the city's mission, equity for Montrealers and revenue sharing

In the course of this exercise, the activity review steering committee examined those responsibilities that Montreal has assumed for historical reasons or because of its status as a metropolis, but that fall under the authority of the Government of Quebec elsewhere in the province. While agreements in certain cases do provide for total or partial recovery of cost, the city must in others bear the full responsibility of such activities and must contend with legal obligations for which it receives little or no assistance from the Quebec government.

"This situation is unfair to Montreal taxpayers who must in such instances pay twice: once through their property taxes for services dispensed by Montreal and a second time through their Quebec income taxes for similar services provided elsewhere in Quebec. This situation is prejudicial to Montrealers and must end. That is why I will be meeting with the Premier of Quebec to discuss possible solutions to these issues," said Mayor Tremblay. The following are some examples of subjects that will be discussed:

- Level 5 specialized police services (including terrorist prevention, street gang prevention, crowd control at major events, etc.).

- Support and equipment for elite athletes.

- Immigrant reception activities.

- School transport.

- Food inspection.

- Handling of domestic violence complaints by the Municipal Court, rather than the Court of Quebec.

- Monitoring of industrial air emissions.

If the city and Quebec are unable to reach an equitable and lasting solution, the city may reassess its involvement in some of these sectors.

"We certainly have no intention of taking unilateral action to deprive citizens of services to which they are entitled, but to arrive at an equitable agreement with Montreal taxpayers, who must pay an annual bill of over $50 million for such services," said Mr. Tremblay.

Two issues pertaining to fairer revenue sharing will be presented to the Government of Quebec: non-payment by the Palais des congres of property taxes ($8 million per year) and the economic impact of major events held in Montreal. In the latter case, the city receives no portion of the financial benefits generated (some $75 million per year), although it provides goods and services worth $5.2 million (street closures, security, cleaning, etc.).

"These events not only contribute to Montreal's reputation but also to that of Quebec as a whole and draw visitors from far and wide. While this is part of our role as a metropolis, we do not believe that Montrealers must sustain these kinds of operations that serve to generate significant revenues for the Quebec government, without receiving equitable benefits," the mayor added.

The city also intends to discuss with the Quebec government the possibility of billing unsubsidized private promoters for the actual costs of security services for holding large events and is seeking a legislative amendment to that effect.

Two major issues to be negotiated with the unions

As the city administration completes the preparatory work for the upcoming collective agreement negotiations and it has already informed the unions of its intention to include important elements of work organization into these discussions. To refocus on its mission, improve the quality of services and reduce operating costs, the city plans, amongst other things, to:

- Revisit all provisions regarding snow removal, as well as garbage and recycling collection with a view to increasing flexibility and productivity.

- Call on non-profit organizations more frequently to provide services and products in parks and at sports and recreational facilities.

- Review the payroll preparation process.

- Allow boroughs, currently served by the municipal garage, to choose more cost-efficient maintenance outlets for their rolling stock.

Given their impact on the management of human resources and the terms of the collective agreements, some of these measures and others will be subject to negotiations. "Refocusing on our mission is essential to developing our city, improving direct services to citizens and reaching financial integrity.

We are confident that we will succeed in sharing these objectives with our union partners," said Mr. Zampino.

Several measures will come into effect with the 2007 Budget

Beyond the elements to be included in the discussions or negotiations, the executive committee decided to implement some 80 recommendations resulting from the review, at the tabling of the 2007 Budget. Dozens of other measures are to be implemented in the boroughs, including group purchases, pooling of CSST billing follow-up, etc. These measures aim to improve how services are provided and reduce costs throughout the territory.

Among these recommendations are the following:

- Merge arson investigation teams at the Service de police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) and the Service de securite incendie de Montreal (SSIM), to avoid duplication and improve customer service.

- Transfer to non-profit organizations assistance services for disaster victims throughout the territory.

- Require that private libraries become affiliated with the municipal library network, to facilitate promotion and accessibility, under penalty of losing city grants.

- Transfer parking control teams to the SPVM, to improve coordination and traffic flow, especially at rush hour.

- Introduce a computerized ticket-issuing system to speed up processing and reduce the use of paper, contestations and delays in municipal court.

- Charge a property tax to business owners whose premises are inside Metro stations, for improved tax equity.

- Hold the activities of the Week-ends du monde and Fete des enfants on a single site, to reduce operating and logistics costs.

- Reduce to a strict minimum recourse to outside consultants to negotiate the upcoming collective agreements.

- Collect charges paid to cellular phone companies that bill their clients 9-1-1 user fees, while they do not contribute in any way to financing that service.

"These are examples of measures that represent part of the budget problem for corporate services and the boroughs, and for which we will be introducing complete solutions at the tabling of the budget," said Mr. Zampino.

Ongoing improvement process at the city and borough levels

The review process will follow its course to ensure that the city and the boroughs will continue to refocus on their basic mission and ascertain measures to improve services, as measures are adopted by elected officials. A team dedicated to managing labour mobility and supporting employees affected by attrition measures will also be implemented beginning in January 2007.

"This is the largest operation Montreal has ever seen, requiring several months of work and exemplary cooperation from managers, employees and elected officials. I thank them all. This operation has one goal: To give Montreal taxpayers the best possible services, as efficiently as possible and at the best possible cost," said Mr. Tremblay.

Contact Information

  • Christiane Miville-Deschenes