Mayors of bilingual municipalities on the Island of Montreal feel their cities have been forgotten.
The members of the Association of Suburban Municipalities say it speaks volumes that Premier François Legault failed to mention bilingual cities as one of the institutions important to anglophones.
“They choose to live in our cities in order to be able to enjoy our recreational facilities and ask questions in English and get their tax bill in English, read signs they can understand,” said Mitchell Brownstein, mayor of Côte Saint-Luc, one of the bilingual cities.
During Legault’s inaugural speech Tuesday, in which he outlined his government’s priorities, he spoke of schools, colleges, universities, hospitals and the media as institutions important to the English community.
He did not mention bilingual cities.
“And it is a major omission,” Brownstein insisted from his office.
He and the other mayors in the association believe it proves the government is disregarding their municipalities.
“This just goes to show that they’re not paying attention to us,” said Beny Masella, president of the association and mayor of Montreal West. “The system is broken.”
The mayors say Legault’s omission is also bad timing.
It comes on the heels of a new decree that requires demerged cities to carry 18 per cent of the cost of City of Montreal services, though they account for just 12 per cent of the population.
“The way this whole system was construed just doesn’t work anymore,” Masella argued.
All except two of the 15 demerged cities on the island have bilingual status.
Legault says he doesn’t understand the fuss over his speech since the bilingual status of the towns is still protected under Bill 96, the proposed legislation to amend Bill 101.
“The towns who would like to keep the bilingual status, they only need a vote,” the premier told Global News.
The council vote would happen every decade.
Mayors, however, believe that threatens the exemption that allows municipalities to use English.
They note Legault specifically mentioned hospitals and schools in his speech even though they are already protected, and hope the omission isn’t indicative of the premier’s mindset.