August 25, 2014 6:40 pm

Bill 3 hearings: Longueuil wants more flexibility

QUEBEC CITY – Hearings into Bill 3 continued on Monday with the mayor of Longueuil taking the stand. Caroline St-Hilaire said she approves the government’s plan to overhaul municipal pension plans — for the most part.

St-Hilaire was one of the few mayors who expressed reservations about the bill. She joined the mayors of Laval, Gatineau and Trois-Rivieres in wishing Bill 3 wasn’t so rigid.

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The mayor of Longueuil told the committee in charge of studying the legislation she doesn’t like the minister’s wall-to-wall approach. There are eight different types of pension plans in Longueuil, with accumulated deficits of $150 million, and the mayor said they need tailored solutions. Cities, she said, need more time and space to negociate with their employees.

“We are convinced that if we have a negotiated solution, it’ll be that much better, for employees and taxpayers alike,” she then told media.

Municipal Affairs Minister Pierre Moreau promised to soften his bill, and perhaps include an opting-out clause and allow unions more time to repay past deficits. But core elements of the bill, such as 50-50 deficit sharing and cuts in indexation will remain.

“We’re open but we’re not open to change on the principle of the bill itself, and we’re still willing to listen to other solutions that would reflect what we think on the basic principle of the bill,” said Moreau.

Moreau added Bill 3 could become law as early as September or October. Hearings wrap up this week and the clause-by-clause study could begin in the next few days, before the opening of the parliamentary Fall session.

Union spokesperson Marc Ranger concluded on Monday the accelerated speed of proceedings is proof the dice are loaded against them.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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