Valérian Mazataud Le Devoir Police officers during the 2019 tour of the Island
The idea launched by the director of the Police Service of the City of Montreal (SPVM), Fady Dagher, to charge major festivals and major events the cost of security services is causing concern among representatives of the tourism and events industry.
Martin Roy admits to having choked in his coffee when he learned of Fady Dagher's comments on Tuesday morning. President and CEO of the Regroupment of Major International Events (RÉMI) — which notably represents the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the International des Feu Loto-Québec and Osheaga — Mr. Roy describes the suggestion of Mr. Dagher.
“I’m stunned. This is a form of privatization of police services and I really wonder where it will stop. Once again, it is the cultural events that will be the first to be affected by this,” he lamented.
Monday, during the presentation of the SPVM budget before the Commission on Finance and Administration, Fady Dagher suggested reviewing the formula according to which the SPVM assumes the costs of security services during festivals or large events. The bill should instead be passed on to developers, as is done in other Canadian cities, in Toronto and Vancouver in particular, he argued. He thus wanted to reduce the use of overtime which weighs down the budget of the police force. Since the start of 2023, overtime for security services during events of all kinds has represented an expense of nearly 10 million, indicated the SPVM.
A financial burden
Costs related to security at venues are already a “huge financial burden” for event organizers and have quadrupled over the past year. the last decade for some of them, underlines Martin Roy. Especially since the creation of the Private Security Bureau in 2010, event organizers are required to hire accredited security agents at pre-established salaries.
According to him, the SPVM's management of security around events has proven itself and without this “historic compromise”, several festivals would be forced to disappear. “There have been no deplorable incidents during festivals and events in Montreal in recent years,” he emphasizes. The fact that Montreal is a festive and safe city is part of its DNA. »
For his part, Glenn Castanheira, general manager of Montreal downtown, believes that Fady Dagher is on the wrong track with his suggestion. “Making comparisons with other Canadian cities doesn’t work. In Quebec, we collectively agreed to impose onerous [municipal] taxes – we pay the highest taxes in Canada at the moment – saying that we would pay for, among other things, major free cultural events for the audience. » These events generate traffic in the metropolis and are “the envy of the whole world,” he adds.
According to him, it is legitimate to want to rethink the SPVM's financing model, but it should still be reviewed as a whole, without being limited to the aspect of major events.
Tourisme Montréal fears that by passing the bill on to event promoters, they will decide to ax their programming in order to finance this additional expense. “We risk ending up with a very poor product. For us, this is a big issue. We cannot choose between programming and security,” says Manuela Goya, vice-president of destination development and public affairs at Tourisme Montréal.
Fady Dagher’s comments also raised some concern in Quebec. “We are very concerned by the possibility mentioned by the Montreal police chief. We will wait to know the position of the City of Montreal before commenting further [on this matter],” indicated the office of the Minister of Tourism, Caroline Proulx, in an email.