ON THE BATTLE-FRONT IN 1951
In March 1951, the budget of the city of Montreal called for an increase in the assessment on property, in the water rate and in the business tax. These three different taxes met different reactions, according to the class of taxpayers affected by each one of them.
But Social Crediters did not delay in making known their steadfast opposition to any increase in taxation, in whatever sphere.
A resolution voted by the Montreal Social Credit group was sent to every member of the municipal Council, stating the reasons for their opposition. They insisted that when the city diverts one quarter of its annual budget to the service of the present financial system, further taxing of the citizens is just further robbery, even if legallized. They also reminded the Councillors that none of them had mentioned an increase of taxation as part of their program in the electoral campaign which had taken place only three months before.
Social Crediters did not confine their work to this collective motion against the proposed increases. They contacted the Councillors personally by letters, in delegations and by phone. They took note of the attitude expressed by each one of them, and could compare it with his vote as given on the 14th of March. This vote registered a majority in favor of the increases.
It is interesting, five years later, to read the reports printed in the Social Crediters' French organ, Vers Demain of April 1st, 1951.
This 1951 battle by Social Crediters was not entirely lost. The percentage of the increase was lowered, and the battle itself was a fine training for future encounters.
ON THE BATTLE-FRONT IN 1953-54
The next great occasion came in December 1953, when an evaluation roll was made known to the ratepayers of Montreal. This roll was to be the basis for the taxes on property for the three following years. It showed an average increase of 30 per cent over the previous roll, and much above that in specific instances.
The Social Credit group of Montreal was the first to protest energetically against this new raid on private property. Thousands of phone calls and other means of expressing their opposition were used with increasing momentum. The Property Owners' League of Montreal also took a stand against the new roll. And so did the recently organized Civic Action League, of which the president was Mr. Pierre Des Marais, not then in the administration of the city. Mr. Pierre Des Marais signed a vigorous circular of the League, in which he qualified this evaluation roll as a "general hold-up" of the community. He did not mince his words in laying the blame on the municipal administration. He pressed all property owners to send to the estimator's office of the city, without delay, a formal notice of contestation of their new evaluation.
In the face of mounting opposition and of 35,000 complaints filed with the estimator's office, the Mayor of Montreal, then Camillien Houde, called for a special meeting of the Councillors, for the purpose of seeking a repeal of this new roll. This was done. But, according to the charter of the city, the rejection of the new roll had to be ratified by an act of the Private Bill Committee of the Provincial Legislative Assembly.
A delegation of the City's Council, with its Mayor and Executive, went to Quebec for that purpose. Social Crediters also had their own delegates to accompany the official delegation of the city.
Mrs. Gilberte Côté-Mercier, co-founder and directress of our Social Credit movement, took the occasion before the Committee, to mention Social Credit as an effective solution to the financial problems of Montreal and other municipalities. This did not convince the Prime Minister, Mr. Duplessis, nor the other members of the Private Bill Committee, but it was good publicity.
There was unanimity, however, in returning to the previous roll for taxation purposes, until something better could be placed before the city. In the meantime, the executive council of Montreal was authorized to draw, needed money from the reserve fund into which the city is bound to make annual contributions for debt-redemption purposes.
So, this battle was won. The former roll was maintained for two years. The ratepayers of Montreal saved some 9 million dollars, owing mostly to prompt and intrepid action by Social Crediters.
ON THE BATTLE-FRONT IN 1955-56
In October 1954, a general municipal election swept most of the old administration from the city hall, A relatively young lawyer, Mr. Jean Drapeau, was elected to the Mayoralty. The Civic Action League came in force into the municipal Council, and its president, Mr. Pierre Des Marais, was elected president of the Executive, that is, head of the administration of the city.
Fourteen months later, in December last, 1955, a new rol of evaluation was terminated, and each property owner in the city was notified of the new evaluation of his property.
This was even more injurious than the much decried roll of 1953. This time, the increases ran to 35, 40, 75, 100 per cent, even more in several cases.
The 1955 "hold-up" definitely surpassed the 1953 one so virulently denounced by Mr. Pierre Des Marais. But this time, Mr. Pierre Des Marais was in the saddle, and he was the first to champion the new roll. With him, were Mayor Drapeau and the Councillors from the Civic Action League a complete reversal of their stand of 1953!
But Social Crediters are unshakable in their attitude. Their opposition to actual and potential increases in taxes is based on principles. And principles remain, even if abandoned by former defenders.
Social Crediters fought against the increased valuations of 1953, when Asselin ruled at the city hall. They fight with no less energy against the higher valuations of 1955, when Des Marais rules at the city hall. Others may cringe or change sides, Social Crediters do not.
The enemy of Social Credit is neither Asselin nor Des Marais; the enemy is the financial tyranny, and this is the same today as two years ago.
The valuations are made known in December, and the contestations by property owners must be filed at the latest on December 31. But the rate of taxation will be known only three months later, in March, when the city's budget is placed before the Council. This creates a source of confusion for the ratepayers. They are told in December that although the valuations are higher, the rate may be lowered in March so as to compensate and leave the amount to be paid at, or about, the same level. But experience, in all cities and towns, shows that the rate is never made so low as to annul the effect of the valuation increase.
in December 1953, Mr. Des Marais did not advise property owners to let the roll have its way and preserve their energy to demand a lower rate in March. The "hold-up" he condemned was the higher valuations, and he was right. Why does he sing differently this year? Do we elect men to power to corrupt them?
The Property Owners' League of Montreal has entered the fight against the new roll. In spite of all the organized publicity made before hand to prepare the population to swallow the new roll as a beneficent measure, in spite also of the weight of the Civic Action League in favour of what it criticized in 1953, and in spite of the discouragement which deters many when the same fight has to be repeated, more than 25,000 contestations were registered at the city hall by property owners.
A number of Councillors forced the Executive Council to convene a special session of all Councillors, for the purpose of considering a motion asking to repeat the same procedure as two years ago, when the Bill of Montreal would come before the Private Committee Bill at Quebec.
This special session of the Councillors lasted three days. A number of speeches, stuffed with arguments, were made by opponents to the new roll. Few voices were heard in favour of it. But when the vote was taken, of the Councillors present, 48 voted to accept the new roll, and 35 to ask for its rejection.
However, the analysis of this vote shows that the majority in favour of the roll is due to non-elected Councillors. In Montreal, the Council is composed of 99 councillors, 33 of whom are elected by property owners, 33 by both property owners and tenants, and the other 33 are named by associations. Most of these associations do not pay taxes; and several of them represent big interests (Manufacturers' Association, Board of Trade, etc.).
If only the votes of Councillors elected by the population were taken into account, the new roll would have been defeated that day.
Social Crediters continue their fight against what they consider an attack on private property. As was done two years ago, a delegation of Montreal Social Crediters will accompany, at their own expense, the official delegation of the Montreal Council before the Private Committee Bill at Quebec, on February 7.
Whatever the result, Social Crediters do not consider this battle as the end of their war against the "legalized robbery" of taxation. Taxes must be brought down. Taxation on property should be the first to disappear.
Nor do Social Crediters only criticize and oppose. They present an alternative to the taxation system: the establishment of Social Credit. This would also help solve the everyday financial difficulties, not only of municipalities and other public bodies, but of families and individuals as well.
And that is why individuals, families, municipal councils and other public bodies should all unite in one voice to demand Social Credit from their Provincial Government for the Province, from the Federal Government for all Canada.