Montreal Clamps Down: Major Overhaul in Spending on Dining, Bonuses, and Executive Perks

Montreal Clamps Down: Major Overhaul in Spending on Dining, Bonuses, and Executive Perks

In a major policy shift, the City of Montreal, including the borough of Park-Extension, is poised to transform its financial management approach. New regulations targeting restaurant expenses, alcohol consumption, and executive bonuses are set to be implemented city-wide from next month. This comprehensive reform signals the end of discretionary executive spending and the practice of awarding bonuses.

Prompted by the excessive spending scandals uncovered by the Bureau of Investigation this fall, these changes aim to bring a new era of fiscal responsibility across all boroughs, reflecting the community-focused ethos of areas like Park-Extension. Serge Lamontagne, the general director, unveiled these significant reforms during the latest executive committee meeting, setting a precedent for a more accountable and transparent governance structure in Montreal.End of Discretionary Expenses

Beginning January, city executives will lose their annual “functional expenses” budget, which previously amounted to several thousand dollars. This fund was primarily allocated for employee recognition and engagement activities, such as Christmas or farewell parties. However, these events are not expected to be completely scrapped. Instead, funds will now be distributed per unit, based on employee numbers, allowing employee committees to oversee their management.

The abolished discretionary fund was previously criticized for its lack of oversight, leading to questionable expenses. A notable instance involved the former president of the executive committee, Dominique Ollivier, who justified a $347 oyster dinner in Paris as part of this fund.

Stricter Rules on Meal and Alcohol Expenses

The city is also clamping down on expenditures for meals and meetings. No exceptions for alcohol reimbursement will be allowed, except during protocol activities. This decision follows revelations about the taxpayer-funded wine served during a meal for Mayor Valérie Plante and guests in Vienna. Moreover, any hospitality expenses exceeding $100 will now require prior approval and cannot be charged immediately to the City’s credit card.

Elimination of Performance Bonuses

Starting in 2024, Montreal’s city executives will no longer receive performance bonuses. The last of these bonuses will be paid in the spring of 2023, marking an end to an annual expense of around $7.8 million. This move comes after the Plante administration faced criticism for awarding a double bonus to compensate for the year 2020.

Additionally, new executives will not receive a car allowance, and existing allowances will be reviewed for relevance.

Ongoing Review and Savings

These reforms are part of a broader review aimed at refining spending directives. While the potential savings are not quantified, these measures are seen as steps toward fiscal responsibility, especially after a 4.9% average increase in residential property taxes for Montrealers.

Mayor Plante emphasized the importance of responsible spending, stating, “We wanted to show how important Montreal taxpayers’ money is and we want to spend it well.”

The opposition party, Ensemble Montréal, welcomed the end of performance bonuses but pointed out contradictions in the mayor’s earlier defense of the double bonus. Opposition leader Aref Salem urged the administration to clarify these inconsistencies.

In summary, the City of Montreal is taking definitive steps to curb unnecessary spending and ensure fiscal responsibility in the wake of public scrutiny and budgetary challenges.