Driving Mr. Coderre
Chauffeurs for mayor and executive committee cost $337,000 a year
Montrealers will pay $337,000 to three drivers to chauffeur Mayor Denis Coderre and members of the city executive committee in 2016.
The figure, which has not been made public before, emerged on Thursday after a brouhaha over the creation of an additional $200,000-a-year position to chauffeur the mayor developed at a public hearing on the city’s $5-billion 2016 budget.
A line mentioning the creation of a $200,000-a-year mayor’s chauffeur position in a breakdown of the city budget caught the attention of opposition Projet Montréal councillor Sylvain Ouellet.
“There was a line saying ‘addition of a full-time equivalent driver’ ... at a cost of $200,000,” said Ouellet, a member of council’s finance committee, which has been holding public hearings on the proposed 2016 budget all week. “So I asked, ‘Does that price include the car’?
“I get the impression that power is going more and more to Denis Coderre’s head.”
The $200,000 doesn’t include the car. It does, however, include benefits and overtime for the driver and overtime for two existing city drivers who chauffeur highranking members of city council, assistant city manager Jacques Ulysse said.
The chauffeur position is being created within the budget of the city’s real-estate management and planning department, for which Ulysse is responsible.
Coderre, like his predecessors going back at least 20 years, gets his own full-time driver who comes from the ranks of the city ’s municipal security guards.
The city has three security guards, who are members of the city’s blue-collar union and who are paid about $53,000 a year plus benefits, assigned to drive the mayor, the chairman of the city executive committee and other members of the executive committee. The latter group shares the services of a driver. However, Coderre’s designated driver this year has been one of his political staffers rather than a city employee. Ulysse explained to the Montreal Gazette that in 2015 Coderre’s driver has been paid from a budget envelope that covers the mayor’s political staff.
Coderre makes use of a chauffeur seven days a week and about 12 to 14 hours a day, Ulysse said. The bluecollar union objects to the schedule, he said, so the position was moved into the political staff budget.
In the past few years, the city has budgeted for three security guards to chauffeur the mayor and executive committee, and occasionally a temporary additional city employee, he said. The budget hasn’t forecasted overtime, so the cost of that has shown up at year’s end when the city compares what was budgeted and what was actually spent, he said.
The new $200,000 full-time equivalent position of mayor’s chauffeur will include historic overtime costs to provide a truer picture, Ulysse said.
When asked by the Montreal Gazette to tally what it costs in total to chauffeur the mayor and the members of the executive committee, Ulysse said it’s budgeted at $337,000 in 2016. And he insisted the anticipated final cost in 2015 will be in the range of $330,000, despite the new $200,000-a-year position.
But the figures don’t convince Projet Montréal. “What’s really scandalous about it is that the $200,000 is being added to the budget,” Ouellet said, noting that an equivalent amount isn’t being cut from elsewhere in the budget to reflect that chauffeur costs are merely being lumped together.
Meanwhile, the budget for political staff in the mayor and executive committee office is going up, not down, in 2016, budget figures reveal.
The budget in 2016 to pay the equivalent of eight full-time political staffers in the office of the mayor and the executive committee is $1.52 million. The budget was $1.5 million for the same number of staff members this year. Coderre’s first full year in office in 2014 saw a lower budget — $1.45 million — to pay a slightly larger staff of nine full-time equivalents.
No one in the mayor’s office would respond to the Montreal Gazette’s questions about the costs to chauffeur Coderre.
Coderre’s press attaché, Catherine Maurice, didn’t answer an email requesting comment. Instead, Isabelle Proulx-Hétu, answering on behalf of Maurice, said in an email that questions about the mayor’s chauffeur should be referred to Ulysse through the city’s corporate communications office.
What’s really scandalous about it is that the $200,000 is being added to the budget.