De Cotis motion calls on Demers to reject $50 REM surtax

Laval residents short-changed with new high-speed train, Saint-Bruno councillor claims

A motion by Saint-Bruno city councillor David De Cotis that will be debated at the November city council meeting calls upon Mayor Marc Demers to “defend the interests of the citizens of Laval” by opposing a proposed $50 provincial surtax for the REM rapid transit train system, because Laval will be getting almost no benefits, claims De Cotis.

Surtax in 450 area

According to opposition city councillor David De Cotis, Laval residents shouldn’t have to pay the REM surtax because the high-speed train system won’t be providing much service to Laval.

The tax is being proposed by the Autorité régionale de transport métropolitain (ARTM), the agency that coordinates and regulates public transit – including bus, Metro and commuter rail services – throughout the greater Montreal region.

According to the proposal, every vehicle belonging to someone living in the 450 area code surrounding the island of Montreal would be subject to a $50 additional fee on vehicle registration costs. According to a report in the Montreal daily La Presse last August, the measure would be in effect from 2021 until at least 2025.

Should take a stand

De Cotis maintains that Laval’s mayor, who was vice-president of the Montreal Metropolitan Community last year and who currently sits on the CMM’s executive-committee which introduced a similar surtax in 2019, should be taking a stand to defend Laval’s interests in public transit more vigorously, especially since Laval won’t be receiving any particular benefits from the REM when the network is finally completed in 2024, says De Cotis.

An important part of the reason for the additional $50 fee, according to La Presse, is that the REM project has gone over budget and the ARTM is in need of up to $1 billion in new funding to keep its operations rolling, while ensuring the REM also has enough money to run after it is completed.

REM is over budget

“Our concern is that because the REM is heavily over budget, the ARTM will ask the provincial government to pass this surtax onto the citizens of Laval and make them pay so that the REM can get back into the black,” said De Cotis.

“Our fear is that this tax might easily jump to $100,” he added. “Our concern is that the mayor of Laval, who was the v.p. of the CMM last year, did not defend the citizens of Laval then. And now we’re saying to the mayor: enough is enough. That is not helping the citizens of Laval.”

Short-changed, says De Cotis

De Cotis maintains that the new REM train system will short change Laval residents. While Exo’s old commuter rail lines had stations in western and central Laval that connected directly to downtown Montreal, he says the new REM will have a limited number of stations in Laval and will connect only indirectly to downtown Montreal, leaving Laval residents with almost nothing to show for any REM tax they pay.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” he said, noting that Demers also sits on the board of the ARTM. “It’s the ARTM that’s going to ask the provincial government for a car tax, and he’s supposed to be our liaison and our defender. So, we’re asking him to show leadership on behalf of Laval and say not to the REM tax.”