Boyer lashes out at Quebec for underfunding Laval’s police services
Martin C. Barry /
Martin C. Barry
While acknowledging $20 million in supplemental funding from Quebec Public Security Minister François Bonnardel to beef up Laval’s understaffed and overworked police department, Mayor Stéphane Boyer said earlier this week that he couldn’t resist taking a few jabs at the CAQ government for failing to support policing in Laval as much as it does in the City of Montreal.
In its more than $1.05 billion budget for 2023, the City of Laval named public security at the top of a list of three priorities it would be focusing on this year (the others being housing and the environment).
The $20 million non-recurring sum announced by Bonnardel during a press conference at Laval’s interim city hall last Monday morning will be allocated by Quebec over a period of five years.
City to hire more recruits
The money will allow the City of Laval to immediately hire 20 new officer recruits at an entry-level salary that will be more than $20,000 per year higher than the current amount rookies are paid at the outset.
While the City of Laval pays for its police services through annual property tax contributions, Laval has been begging Quebec at least since the onset of the Covid pandemic – when there was a surge of violent and firearms-related crimes – to boost the province’s contribution towards a war on organized criminal activity.
“We feel certain that with the addition of these new policemen and policewomen, they will be able to fight these crimes,” Bonnardel said after announcing the government’s contribution, while adding that the amount allotted was a reflection of “the reality in Laval.”
Less funding, same problems
Mayor Boyer complained publicly last year before about Quebec’s response, while noting the discrepancy between the amount of supplemental funding for police that the public security ministry gave the City of Montreal, compared to a far smaller sum allotted to Laval.
Last Monday, perhaps with a heightened sense of urgency, the mayor renewed the appeal, seemingly oblivious to the possibility he might be risking the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s wrath by openly embarrassing its public security minister.
“I cannot hide that I am not fully satisfied,” said Boyer, after describing some of the grislier incidents which took place in Laval over the past 2-3 years, including the brazen mid-day shooting of an underworld figure at a Pont-Viau restaurant frequented by families with children, as well as a wave of extortions and arson attacks on restaurant operators.
‘Unjust to citizens,’ Boyer says
Saying that the crime situation in Laval is no different from the one in Montreal regardless of population differences, Boyer noted that Montreal had previously received $60 million in additional funding for police from Quebec.
“So, to announce a year later a sum three times less is too little too late, but mostly unjust for our citizens,” he said, pointing out that Laval’s budget for police rose 20 per cent annually over the past three years and is expected to continue in this direction in 2024. “The life of a Lavaler isn’t worth less than that of a Montrealer,” he added.
Invited by journalists to react to the mayor’s criticisms, Bonnardel was unapologetic and had little to add to what he’d already said, while Sainte-Rose CAQ MNA Christopher Skeete said he was aware of the policing challenges facing the City of Laval.
‘Overdue and not enough’
Sona Lakhoyan Olivier, the opposition Liberal MNA for Chomedey in the Quebec National Assembly, attended the Public Security Ministry’s announcement.
She said in an interview that she had recently written to Mayor Boyer after hearing accounts from local business owners who have been complaining about a notable rise in crime, including a drastic rise in shoplifting, widespread loitering and open drug use.
“One pharmacy is reporting losses of $10,000 a week for shoplifting,” she said, referring to one of several businesses along Samson Blvd. whose owners have been impacted. While acknowledging that the $20 million from Quebec is welcome, she also called it “overdue and not enough.”