SQ police overbilling and future of Soulanges Canal dominate MRC briefing
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC Prefect Jean Lalonde (left) and Director General Guy-Lin Beaudoin discuss the overbilling of SQ police services within the region and its ambitions for the future of the Soulanges Canal.
The continued overbilling of Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police services in the region and the future of the Soulanges Canal were two major items that dominated a press briefing held by representatives of Municipalité Régionale de Comté (MRC) de Vaudreuil-Soulanges last Thursday, March 23.
The SQ overbilling has become such a contentious issue that the MRC adopted a draft resolution at their regular monthly meeting on March 22 calling on the provincial government to reimburse overpayments made by the MRC that totalled $5,361,770 in 2016 alone.
MRC Director General Guy-Lin Beaudoin called the extra billing “outrageous” and out of proportion to what the MRC is actually required to pay which is 53 per cent for SQ services compared to the 80 per cent that has been charged by the provincial government for the past five years, which totals $29,362,835 in overpayments.
For Beaudoin and Jean Lalonde, MRC Prefect and Mayor of Très-Saint-Rédempteur, the over-billing presents an additional financial strain among some of the 23 municipalities that comprise the MRC because any amount above the 53 per cent limit that is charged to the MRC is non-refundable by the province.
MRC asking for cap in policing fees
Lalonde said that in 2002 the MRC and provincial government had an equitable arrangement which split the cost for the SQ evenly at 50 per cent. Two years later, the contribution from the MRC rose to 53 per cent. “We are asking the Government of Quebec that all the overpayments above 53 per cent that have been made previously by the MRC are retroactively refunded to us and that future contributions made to the SQ by the MRC are capped at 53 per cent,” said Lalonde.
The MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges is one of two MRCs in the province that are considered affluent because of their overall high property valuations which have resulted in higher charges for SQ services as a way to subsidize other MRCs that have less revenue in their coffers. Lalonde also pointed out that the government is unfairly equalizing the cost of SQ services for certain regions and is another reason why its contribution should be capped at 53 per cent for its population as a whole.
A copy of the resolution will be sent to all the province’s MRCs, the 23 municipalities within Vaudreuil-Soulanges, Lucie Charlebois, Liberal MNA for Soulanges and Minister for Rehabilitation, Youth Protection, Public Health and Healthy Living, and Marie-Claude Nichols, Liberal MNA for Soulanges and Deputy Government Whip.
The MRC is calling on the provincial Ministry of Transport to begin working together to revitalize the Soulanges Canal. Lalonde said the structure continues to deteriorate with time and it’s essential that some sort of action be taken to preserve the canal and utilize the 100 hectares of surrounding land to turn it into a viable tourist attraction.
YLJ FILE PHOTO/CARMEN MARIE FABIO
A popular site for cyclists and rollerbladers, parts of the Soulanges Canal that stretches from Pointe-des-Cascades to Coteau-Landing have fallen into a state of disrepair.
Lalonde said the MRC has been studying many European cities with canals that have managed to successfully integrate them as part of their infrastructure. He feels that a similar approach can be taken with the Soulanges Canal that runs through Pointe-des-Cascades, Les Cèdres, Coteau-du-Lac and Les Coteaux.
While all other canals fall under federal domain, jurisdiction for the Soulanges Canal was transferred to the province in 1963. Lalonde said the revitalization of the Lachine Canal by Parks Canada which was reopened to pleasure boating in 2002 is a perfect example of how a revitalized Soulanges Canal could bring substantial benefits to the region with help from the transport ministry.