Westmounters Bamboozled

The good people of Westmount have been bamboozled. And I am not amused.

The City of Westmount has passed its 2014 budget, but I am convinced they did not follow provincial law in doing so.

What’s at issue is the question of whether the city should provide citizens with proper notice, and whether city council should provide citizens adequate opportunity to examine the budget in advance of it being voted upon.

In my case, on or about January 23, I phoned Westmount’s City Clerk’s office and was informed that city budget documents were not available for viewing until Feb. 4. Later, I discovered that — according to an agenda posted on the city’s website — the budget was to be considered on Jan. 27.

It made no sense that the city would not provide the budget for citizens to review in advance. Yet, that is precisely what happened. I was only able to see the $95 million budget summary 5 minutes prior to the council meeting.

The charade was completed when citizens’ question period was permitted only after the budget had been adopted. At this first opportunity, I questioned the city’s practice only to be informed that this is their standard operating procedure. Poppycock, I thought.

Upon arriving home I researched the applicable provincial law, the Municipal Code of Quebec. Here is what it says:

“At least eight days before the sitting at which the budget or the three-year program of capital expenditures is to be adopted, the secretary-treasurer must give public notice thereof.”

Public notice is rendered meaningless if the municipality does not provide eight days advance access to documents.

In my opinion, the City of Westmount did not comply with provincial law in order to pass their budget and bypass citizen input.

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