With Montreal’s streets a mess of construction and roadwork, overtime payments to police officers directing traffic have ballooned to $15 million over the last 18 months.

Of that, $5 million is from OT paid over the first six months of 2017, which is $1.4 million more than was paid out in all of 2014.

With the number of construction hot spots increasing over recent years, those overtime payments have similarly shot up, from $4.4 million in 2014 to $8.1 million in 2015, to $10 million last year.

Canadian Taxpayers Federation Quebec Director Carl Vallee said the expense is impossible to justify.

“It’s a number that could not possibly be defended because that’s work that could be done by somebody else,” he said. “Why would we have men and women in uniform who have had exhaustive training do non-meaningful work like that when it could be done by somebody else at a lower cost?”

SPVM Chief Philippe Pichet and other city officials have suggested hiring civilians to direct traffic could be one way to cut costs in the past but the collective agreement between the Police Brotherhood and the city has specifically prohibited just that.

However, the city and the union are currently negotiating a new agreement and, while details have not been released, the traffic issue is expected to be addressed. 

The city is reportedly pushing to have police cadets control traffic lights and perform other traffic management duties at a much lower cost, although Mayor Denis Coderre would not confirm those reports.

"We addressed a series of things. We reached an agreement. We'll see if the members of the union support it and I'll be more than pleased to talk about it afterwards," said Coderre.

The opposition at City Hall would prefer to have non-police officers directing traffic, but Valerie Plante said the real problem lies elsewhere.

"The way I see it is to address, to go at the root of the problem, which is a mismanagement right now of all the roadwork. We need to be better at it. We need better planing, better communications," said the Projet Montreal mayoral candidate.

Police are expected to vote on the contract agreement on Thursday.