MRC Prefect and Vaudreuil-Soulanges mayors speak out against SQ police overbilling
By John Jantak
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
The Municipalité Régionale de Comté (MRC) de Vaudreuil-Soulanges is calling on the provincial government to find a more equitable way to fund SQ police services within the province.
The 23 municipalities that comprise the Municipalité Régionale de Comté de Vaudreuil-Soulanges (MRC-VS) and the MRC itself are again calling on the provincial government to intervene and impose a more equitable payment system within the provincial MRC network to fund province-wide police services provided by Sûreté du Québec (SQ).
As initially reported in The Journal in August, 2016, the 23 towns all passed a motion at their respective municipal council meetings in support of the MRC to pressure the provincial government to reimburse funds reportedly overpaid for policing services. At that time, it was calculated to be $28.5 million for the years 2011-2016 inclusive.
The MRC-VS is one of six MRCs within the network that is overcharged for the SQ services they receive. The excess amount collected is used to help other, less affluent MRCs throughout the province that have insufficient funds pay for their SQ services.
For MRC-VS Prefect Patrick Bousez, who is also mayor of Rivière-Beaudette, his stance regarding the overpayments are the same as both prefect and mayor – ‘they’re unfair.’
“We get the feeling we’re paying way too much. I’m not saying the quality of service isn’t good. We’re just paying a lot of money,” Bousez told The Journal during a telephone interview December 18.
“When the government says they split the bill 50-50, that’s not really the truth. We’re actually paying 112 per cent of the bill and the government refunds what is overpaid from that amount that exceeds over 80 per cent. We’re overbilled $7 million a year for our entire MRC. They ask the richest MRCs to pay a certain amount for the poorest ones,” said Bousez.
The overpayment is then reimbursed to back to the MRC the following year which then redistributes the money back to the municipalities that overpaid.
PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK
The MRC-VS says we are currently being overbilled $7 million annually for policing services.
Bousez said the provincial government should impose equalization payments throughout the MRC system instead of overbilling the six richest MRCs to help pay for SQ services for the poorer MRCs.
“The province is making interest on that money,” said Bousez. “It comes from our citizens. The richest MRCs have to pay their share to the poorest ones which doesn’t make any sense. If we’re supposed to pay up to 80 per cent of the cost because we’re richer than other MRCs, then stop billing us for the amount that exceeds it. Our citizens are paying their taxes to the other municipalities on money that has already been paid.”
For Rivière-Beaudette, which has a population of about 2,400 residents and has one of the smallest territories within the MRC-VS, its contribution for SQ services has been pegged at over $200,000 for 2021. “This isn’t fair. This isn’t the way it should be done. We all should pay the same price. This is a lot of money that has been budgeted for the SQ next year,” said Bousez.
Municipalities speak out
“The problem we always have with preparing our annual municipal budget is that we don’t know how much money we will get back for what we overpaid for the SQ for last year. We hope what we get back will be the same amount as last year because if it isn’t, it will have a big impact on our budget. I agree with the other mayors. We’re paying too much for SQ,” said MRC Deputy Prefect and Pincourt Mayor Yvan Cardinal.
“It’s always a big increase,” added Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon. “The cost is not being controlled. We’re trying to work on it on within the MRC system. To have only six MRCs pay for SQ services for the poorer MRCs is nonsense. This is a provincial matter. I don’t understand why someone in Vaudreuil-Dorion has to pay for someone in Gaspésie or Lac St. Jean.”
“When it comes to what our municipality and our MRC pay to the SQ, we pay more than our share,” said Saint-Lazare Mayor Robert Grimaudo. “We’re compensating for those MRCs that are unable to pay the SQ for the full service they require. I understand that a certain sharing of wealth is necessary in our society, but it’s over the top when it comes to our MRC.”