Letter to the editor 6, Jan. 19, 2017

Dear Editor,

The mayor and majority of St. Lazare councillors have just included more money in the 2017 budget for another Au Galop ‘festival’ bringing the total spent over three years to just under $2 million, plus whatever has been purchased and classified as ‘infrastructure for the town’ that may have been bought expressly to be used during the Au Galop festival. Councillor Marc-André Esculier was the only one to oppose the budget allocated to the Au Galop expenses.

The issue of no feasibility study ever being made for Au Galop, and the fact that taxpayers never voted for its significant expense or approval, has been raised at numerous council meetings and in the media, but with no response or satisfactory conclusion from the mayor or councillors.

We now have two years (2015 and 2016) of experience plus financial returns to properly evaluate Au Galop...

  • Cost for three years of Au Galop ... just under $2 million.

  • Return on investment for the taxpayers ... Zero.

  • Benefit to store owners in St. Lazare ... Questionable, as many local residents do not go shopping during this festival.

  • Benefit to local hotels ... Zero. There are no hotels in St. Lazare.

  • Benefit to local food vendors ... Minimal, as most food vendors at Au Galop were not from St. Lazare.

  • Total benefit to charities approximately $80,000 over two years.

  • The mayor has told us that “Au Galop puts St. Lazare on the map” and may attract new businesses or homeowners to the area.

St. Lazare is one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, so why does St. Lazare need to spend approximately $500,000 per year - after year, after year - to attract new residents? With such a fast growing community, businesses will move to St. Lazare if they determine that there is potential profit to be made.

Would Mayor Grimaudo and all the councillors be ready to stand behind the results and expenses of Au Galop by putting out a well-publicized notice for a vote, and then organizing a vote as to whether there are more than 500 St. Lazare residents willing to sign a ‘contestation’ because they do not want Au Galop to continue?

The funds for this repeated expense would be better spent improving our sewers, roads, water treatment, local landslide resolution, local tree-cutting to avoid more power outages etc. rather than satisfying the egos of a few, and entertaining a questionable number of non-residents.

I have talked to a number of St. Lazare residents and very few said they attened the Au Galop events, which may account for some of the empty seats.

Surely taxpayers have the right to give their opinion in a public vote on such a significant and repetitive expense, when the council has just adopted a 1.8 per cent base rate increase per year in municipal taxes for every household.

No doubt next year’s base rate for municipal taxes will increase significantly when the $10 million town hall is accounted for.

Recently approved 1.8 per cent base rate increase in municipal taxes on the 2017 budget of $28,375,500 = $510,000 per year?

Joanne Ackland

St. Lazare

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