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Revolt Against Tax Increases in Sherbrooke

on Wednesday, 01 February 1956. Posted in Social Credit apostolate

Enough of debts

Sherbrooke is one of the five largest municipalities in the province of Quebec.

Last October the city council of Sherbrooke wanted to borrow $2,800,000 for hydro-electric development.

Now Creditists (Social Crediters in French Canada) have never opposed municipal developments. But they do condemn that method of financing projects which drags the community into debt every time it moves to utilize its natural resources. For this reason they have placed themselves in opposition to the projected loan.

The Creditists aroused the property owners to the gravity of the situation and as an immediate result the council was forced to submit the loan to a referendum of the property owners.

The fight by the Creditists against this loan — not against the projected development — was pushed with vigor; in the referendum the majority of property owners (regarding both numbers and weight of property values) rejected the loan.

Enough of taxes!

Two months later, in December, the city council of Sherbrooke announced a deficit and increased the taxes. They did this without discussing beforehand with the ones who will have to pay:

a higher rate of property tax;

a new $10.00 per family tax;

a lower rate discount on payment made on time.

And in spite of these measures the budget still entailed a deficit of $129,085 ! This would seem to indicate some more tax increases next year, especially if the taxpayers meekly accept the increase brought into force this year.

But in Sherbrooke the people aren't allowing themselves to be led placidly to the slaughterhouse. For some years now Vers Demain (French Social Credit paper) has been finding its way into a large number of Sherbrooke homes. The people are coming to realize more and more that the present manner of financing public works and public services gives far more profit to the controllers of money and credit than it should.

As was to be expected, the Creditists of Sherbrooke have taken the lead in the resistance movement. The Chamber of Commerce there, which includes members of Social Credit, is following the same path.

At the meeting of the municipal council, called on December 12 to move the adoption of the budget, the mayor, Armand Nadeau, refused to allow Gaston Gendron, president of the Property Owner's League, to speak before the budget was actually adopted. Mr. Gendron is a Creditist and affirms it publicly. Nevertheless it was as the president of the Property Owners' League that he wished to make himself heard.

At this same meeting of the city council another Gendron, Ronald Gendron, well known in Sherbrooke for his activities in Social Credit, wished to submit to the mayor and the councillors a new plan for financing the municipalities. The mayor refused him permission to speak, stating that he had no desire to hear a lecture on Social Credit. According to him that would have been dragging into politics, did he pretend.

Public mass meeting

The Creditists decided to call a public mass meeting to take place the following Sunday, December 18. It was a smashing success.

The newspaper, La Tribune, of Sherbrooke, wrote the following day:

"Judging from the atmosphere at the public rally organized by the Sherbrooke Union of Creditists last evening in St. Jeanne d'Arc hall, and comprising some six hundred people, the city council will probably have to face tonight the most imposing delegation in the history of the city. Encouraged by frequent applause and enthusiastic shouts during the course of their talks, the Creditist organizers proposed to unite all taxpayers of Sherbrooke in demanding of the present city administration that it repeal the budget of 1956, which entails a deficit of $129,085.96 — this, in spite of several new sources of revenue — and to go to Quebec to demand of the Provincial Government that it adopt the financial system advocated by Social Credit."

The following Sherbrooke Creditists were speakers at this meeting: Emile Perron, Guillaume Racine, Ronald Gendron, Rolland Tessier and Roger Laverrière. Hervé Provencher, director of the Institute, was also on the program. But note well that it was the Creditists of Sherbrooke themselves who took the lead in opposing the new taxes. It was they who organized the meeting and who wrote and brought out their own circulars. It was they who for a week telephoned the mayor and the council to protest against the new budget. They likewise called other citizens to inform them of the situation and to ask their intervention. They announced to them the meeting to be held Sunday and invited all to be present at the next meeting of the city council on the evening of Monday, December 19.

The Creditists of Sherbrooke have put up a wonderful fight, the kind of a battle that, more and more, Creditists everywhere are learning to wage in their own municipalities.

The invasion of the town hall

As forecast by La Tribune's article, the meeting of the town conucil on December 19 was attended by an audience such as had never been seen before at the city hall. The above mentioned newspaper headlined the event in its issue of December 20:

"It is the general opinion that no municipal administration has ever had to face up to such an important delegation as that of last night. The crowd was so large that it filled to bursting point the council hall and overflowed into the stairway leading to it. It was even necessary to setup a loudspeaker."

According to the rules, only the councillors may speak during a session of the council. Only after the debate has ended and the decisions have been taken is the public permitted its say.

It is easy to imagine the almost uncontrollable impatience of the audience, opposed as it was to the tax increase, as the councillors arose one after another to explain why they were supporting the budget.

One of these, councillors, Léo Cadorette, flew quite off his hinges. He found the budget a thing of perfection — and everything else downright nauseating. Nauseating aso, a La Tribune article criticizing the administration about the budget; nauseating also an announcement of the Property Owners' League which appeared in the aforementioned newspaper the previous Saturday; likewise all the opponents of the budget; and as for the Creditists — they were an especially disgusting lot.

Cadorette said very little about the budget and a great deal about many other things — about practically everything, in fact, since he had reached the stage where he didn't know what he was saying. He reviewed the situation with regards to obscene litterature, the young people of Sherbrooke, the Christmas message, the peace of Christ, the Pope; he even spoke of the devil.

The audience at first was galled by Cadorette's harangue. But shortly everyone was convulsed with laughter — except, of course poor Cadorette himself who was in paroxysm of quite another sort.

After the official session of the council the mayor took the floor to denounce an advertisement which had appeared in La Tribune stating that his score as mayor up to this time was zero. He tried to convince the audience that the increase in taxes was a mere trifle for the families which would have to pay them; that if the present administration was obliged to raise tax rates it was because the previous administration hadn't done so when it shoud have. He offered to resign if the people so demanded. He protested against the telephone calls which harassed him day and night. And he was particularly bitter about the Property Owners' League and its president, Gaston Gendron.

Then the mayor yielded the floor to the public. First to speak was the president of the Property Owners' League. Then Emile Perron followed by Roland Tessier and after him Ronald Gendron. All four are Creditists.

"We are not able to pay and we don't want the budget!", concluded Donald Gendron to the prolonged applause of the entire audience.

The mayor — "In that case, what do you suggest?"

Ronald Gendron — "That the council demand of Quebec the establishment of Social Credit."

At this point someone uttered the tired, old refrain employed by those who refuse to open their minds to a new idea: "We didn't come here to talk politics!"

The mayor — "There is already an established (established by whom?) financial system. It is not for the municipal administration to change it. We must accept it."

Then, as the people continued to reiterate, "We don't accept the budget!" one of the councillors — Rousseau, by name — moved for adjournment. This motion was seconded and the council was adjourned by the mayor.

Now, the council can stand firm on its decisions, but the Creditists are standing firm on their demands. They are continuing their struggle against the increase in taxes. They will continue to exert pressure on the council to the end that it will demand of Quebec the establishment of Social Credit.

The mayor of Sherbrooke can justifiably state that it is not for the municipal council to rebuild the financial system. There's no doubt about that. What is more, no one has ever asked the municipal council to undertake the reform of the financial system. The council is only asked to request the government to make the change. This same council of the city of Sherbrooke is busy, at this very time, importuning Quebec for permission to raise a loan of $800,000 — and to do this without the approbation of the property owners. If the council is able to go to Quebec to obtain the privilege of plunging the people deeper into debt, then certainly it can go to Quebec to beg the government to free the people from strangulation by present day finance.

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