Section 204 of the provincial law on municipal taxation exempts places of worship and any other religious infrastructure from paying property taxes.
Montréal is home to more than 900 places of worship and religious buildings . These are exempt from property taxes.
In search of new revenues to reach a balanced budget in 2023, the Commission on Finance and Administration recalled on Tuesday the fiscal inequity represented by the provincial exemption from the municipal tax on places of worship on the territory of Montreal.
Montréal is home to more than 900 places of worship and religious buildings, which represents a considerable shortfall in terms of revenue for the agglomeration, especially in a context of urbanization. economic and inflation uncertainty. Property taxes remain the City's main source of revenue.
But Section 204 of the provincial Municipal Taxation Act exempts places of worship and other religious infrastructure from paying property taxes.
That's why the The City's Finance Commission believes that this portion of uncollected property taxes should be reimbursed by the province.
“Considering that the decision comes from the Government of Quebec and that it totals more than 180 million dollars for the municipalities. I consider it extremely relevant to claim compensation for Quebec's decision. »
—Pierre Lessard-Blais, President of the Commission
The Chairman of the Commission and Mayor of Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Mr. Lessard-Blais, is asking Quebec to make up for these revenue losses estimated at more than $30 million in 2022. According to him, this government exemption is contrary to the principles of state secularism and to all the decisions recently taken by the government of François Legault on the subject.
The land exemption granted to religious institutions dates back to the 18th century, when they offered many social services to the population. The mission of places of worship has changed, but the exemption remains.
And despite the adoption of Law 21 on the secularism of the State, filed in 2019 by Simon Jolin-Barrette, no questioning of article 204 of the law on municipal taxation has been mentioned. Quebec nevertheless compensates the municipalities for taxes not collected from schools, universities or hospitals.
The administration of the City has said that it welcomes the recommendations of the Finance Commission with a large opening. These will be analyzed as part of the 2023 budget plan and the Working Group on Montreal Taxation.
“We have demonstrated our great ambition to build the future of Montreal, which we want greener, fairer, more accessible, while enhancing its heritage. We are aware that this future brings many budgetary challenges for cities. »
— City administration statement
Contacted by Radio-Canada, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing reacted Tuesday afternoon to the Commission's request. He considers that the discussions surrounding taxation will take place within the framework of the exchanges for the next fiscal pact.
We invite the City of Montreal to inform us of its requests and, as usual, we will analyze everything, wrote Minister Andrée Laforest's office.
Pierre Lessard-Blais, mayor of the Mercier borough– Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, with the Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante
The Commission's recommendation does not suit the opposition to the City of Montreal, however. She was notably criticized by the mayor of Saint-Laurent and member of the Ensemble Montréal party, Alan DeSousa, who considers that a simple request for compensation, under the exemption, for a search for income is too much. easy.
“It does not do justice to the value of institutions in our society. This is purely accounting exercise.
—Alan DeSousa, Opposition Critic for Finance at the City of Montreal
It's just about a recommendation, recalled the president of the Commission, Pierre Lessard-Blais, who does not dispute the exemption from taxes for places of worship, but asks the provincial government for a reimbursement of these amounts, in the same way as the schools and health establishments.
The Commission also presented its Montreal Strategic Plan 2030 and highlighted the; importance of finding a fair, equitable and inclusive balance between the maintenance of infrastructures, services to the population and the imperatives related to the acceleration of the ecological shift.
The Office of the Archbishop of Montreal has told Radio-Canada that he will not comment on the case until a decision is made.