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May 2010

Meeting Ignatieff a highlight for me at FCM Conference

I recently returned from the 73rd   annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM)  in Toronto. This event is the largest annual gathering of elected officials in Canada,  as more than 1,500 municipal leaders from across country were registered. The conference itself is an opportunity for federal leaders to outline their visions for the future of Canada´s cities and communities, and seminars and panel discussions were held on local and national issues. 

The FCM has been the national voice of municipal government since 1901. With more than 1,775 members, FCM represents the interests of municipalities on policy and program matters that fall within federal jurisdiction. Members include Canada's largest cities, small urban and rural communities, and 18 provincial and territorial municipal associations.

As usual, there was an impressive line-up of speakers. This included Prime Minister Stephen Harper and opposition leaders Michael Ignatieff of the Liberals (with me below)  and Jack Layton from the NDP.  LevineIggy I had the opportunity to attend a number of excellent workshops. Two stood out for me:  Local Government 3.0: Using the web to cut costs and serve your citizens better; and  A community of cancer fighters. The former underlined the importance of using the internet and social media vehicles such as facebook and twitter. In the latter, municipalities were described as cancer prevention pioneers. While Côte Saint-Luc took the lead in the province some 25 years ago when the late Councillor Eric Helfield pushed through an anti-smoking bylaw, there all kinds of new initiatives being taken these days. This includes options like banning smoking in parks.  I took studious notes, spoke to the panellists from the Canadian Cancer Society and intend to discuss some possible initiatives with our council.

Prime Minister Harper was naturally the big draw. He received a standing ovation upon entering the room.  “There are people in this room who know how to get a pothole fixed,” said Harper. “I want to talk to you about our economic action plan and your spectacular part in it.”

Harper made it clear that stimulus spending does have a firm expiration date and cities can't expect to live on that fiscal shot of adrenaline forever.   "I know that there are some, including some here, who would like all this stimulus spending extended," Harper  said. "People can't live on adrenaline and economies can't live on stimulus. We must return to the black, not drown in the red."

Harper said the government won't extend the action plan past March 31, 2011.  "At the G20 meeting here in Toronto next month, major economies will be looking at exit strategies from their stimulus measures," Harper said.

FCM President Basil Stewart said that  as Ottawa gets ready to wind down the stimulus program, we expect to work with the federal government to put our successful partnership to work in other areas such as keeping our streets safe, reducing gridlock and fighting homelessness.

“We applaud the federal government for forging its stimulus partnership and working closely with municipalities to build projects that will put more than 100,000 Canadians back to work and strengthen our communities,” said Stewart. “These one-time investments are building on long-term federal funding delivered through the permanent federal Gas Tax Fund, the GST rebate and the Building Canada Fund.”
 Later that same day Ignatieff addressed the conference. This was my first time seeing the Liberal leader speak since the leadership convention in Montreal several years ago in which the party elected Stéphane Dion to captain their ship. While Harper spoke for only 30 minutes, took no questions and left the building immediately, Ignatieff  had a  one hour session and went beyond his allotted time in order to respond to every question from the microphone. He made a strongly partisan speech, criticizing Harper for announcing an end date to the stimulus package.

Ignatieff told municipal leaders that the federal government must treat them as equal partners, and promised to work with us to modernize Canada's aging public transit systems and put in place a national affordable housing strategy.  “Mr. Ignatieff clearly understands the serious challenges that our cities and communities are facing, and is prepared to give municipalities a place in federal policy making that matches their essential role in meeting national challenges,” said Stewart.

“Mr. Ignatieff knows that it´s time municipalities had a proper seat at the national table. He believes that our partnership with Ottawa must grow as stimulus spending ends and the federal government fights its deficit. Even when money is tight we must work together and Canada must continue investing in strong, competitive cities and communities."

Everyone in the room seemed to leave with a pretty good opinion of him. Well, we all walked across the street for a reception at Toronto’s gorgeous City Hall.  At one point my colleague, Councillor Allan J. Levine, grabbed me by the arm. “Come meet Iggy,” he said. And there he was, the Liberal leader working the crowd. Levine, who has been involved with the Liberals for many years, introduced me to Ignatieff. I complimented him for being a man of the people and navigating this crowded area.  I invited him to visit a public high school on a future visit to Montreal. He said he would be delighted.

LevineCohenJoePantelone

Levine and I also met Joe Pantalone (left), the deputy mayor of Toronto and a candidate for the top job in the upcoming November elections.  We toured the state-of-the-art council chambers as well.


During the conference I also met Gregor Robertson, the young mayor of Vancouver.
If you’d like to learn more about the conference go to www.fcm.ca.

VancouverMayr
Councillors Nashen, myself, Kovac and Goldbloom witgh Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

 


 


Sidney Margles installed as CSL Senior Men's Club President

I had the good fortune, along with Mayor Anthony Housefather and a number of members of city council, to be in attendance  May 27 at the formal installation of Sidney Margles as the new president of the Côte Saint-Luc Senior Men’s Club.

SidneyMarglesMikeShake

This was a breakfast affair and the room was packed to capacity as Ted Baker passed the top job on to Sidney, a resident of District 2 and well known for his distinguished career as a radio announcer for the former Standard Broadcasting Company. This included time at CJAD, where he gained notice for his coverage of the October Crisis in 1970 when  two cells of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ), a revolutionary organization promoting an independent and socialist Quebec, kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Quebec Justice Minister Pierre Laporte. Armed forces were sent into Quebec to help the police and the federal government invoked the War Measures Act, temporarily suspending civil liberties.  Laporte was killed.

Sidney eventually moved on to become an executive for Standard. While living in Town of Mount Royal he served as an elected councillor. His wife Merle was then executive assistant for many years for the late Sheila Finestone, Member of Parliament for the Mount Royal riding.

 

SidneyGroiup  The Senior Men’s Club is a wonderful organization. Besides their weekly Thursday morning meetings with guest speakers, they organize many outings and excursions.  Sidney has announced that on Tuesday afternoons a camera club will soon debut. And how about this? Seniors who do not know how to navigate a computer and the internet can now gain  access to beginner’s lessons at the Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library. Six 90-minute lessons will cost only $45. Email and the internet are easy to learn, but intimidating for some. This is a fabulous opportunity and something I have been advocating for years. Please note this special offer is for Men's Club members only. The regular library price is $90.


Mayor Housefather formally installed Sidney and his board into office and stated that at the next such meeting in two years, when the next president is appointed, this event will take place in our brand new Aquatic and Intergenerational Centre. As we plan for this exceptional facility, the Senior Men’s Club and the ladies Senior Social Club are being consulted every step of the way. This will be their new home, a significant upgrade from the quarters we presently rent on the second floor of the Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre. The new activity room will be about 4,000 square feet.

Good luck Sidney!


Propane tank thefts in CSL

It is the heart of the barbeque season, so what could be more distressing than having all of your hotdogs and hamburgers ready for the grill, only to find out that your propane tank has been stolen. That has been what is occurring in certain parts of Côte Saint-Luc District 2 in recent days.

Based on discussions with the victims, it appears that the perpetrators have struck as the skies drew dark. I have advised Police Station 9 and our Public Security to look out for any vehicles packing propane tanks in their trunk or the rear of a van.

 .GrillGaugeInUse

In the meantime I recommend that barbeque owners buy a chain and a lock and make the propane tank impossible for these thieves to grab.

Where is this propane tank black market? I hope the police can find out.


Another successful Spring Fair in CSL

The third annual Côte Saint-Luc Spring Fair  took place on Sunday, May 16 at and around Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park on Mackle Rd. And the weather could not have been nicer.

The Spring Fair included the Mega Garage Sale, Public Safety Day, the Public Works Carnival, and Eco-Action Day.SpringFairPublic safety

The Mega Garage Sale took  place at the covered Confederation Annex building at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park and featured  people selling items at 60 tables. To  the right UI share a moment with Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette, Public safety Director Jordy Reichson and Public Security Manager Michel Martel.

Public Safety Day took place at the parking lot of Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park and featured emergency vehicles for kids to climb into. Kids and adults were also  able to speak to police officers, fire fighters, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) lifesavers, and other members of the safety services. The Montreal police  verified car seat installations and bicycle helmets. Also, the blood service agency Héma Quebec had a a booth for people to check their blood type. There were even some old street signs for sale.  Below I am trying to coax former Sir Walter Scott Avenue resident Arlene Smilovitch to buy this one.SpringFairArlene Smilovitch

The Public Works Carnival took place next to the Public Works Building  and featured barbecue food, inflatable games for kids, arts and crafts, and more. Donations were accepted for the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

EcoAction Day took place next to the Public Works Building. Visitors  learned about recycling and curb-side compost collection, and receive free garden compost. Kids  learned about composting and how to make a zero-waste lunch.


Below, Councillor Glenn J. Nashen and family.

SprFarNashensme



Kildare Road piping work approved

At the May 10 Côte Saint-Luc City Council meeting the contract to sleeve the aqueduct on Kildare road, between Rembrandt and Merrimac, was awarded to  Les Entreprises Canbec Construction Inc. and authorizes payment of an amount not to exceed $322,191.00 plus applicable taxes.

In the winter of 2009 we had several water main breaks on this stretch. Our engineering division did a terrific job  containing the problem. We were not able to complete the necessary work last summer, which involves a complete pipe replacement. Fortunately we had a mild  winter and no incidents. Because of the heavy traffic flow  involving Bialik High School we decided to wait until next July when classes are out to do the project. We will use part of August as well, if necessary. A exit and entrance plan for motorists in the immediate area will be forthcoming.

When the construction on Kildare Road takes place, we also hope to implement some traffic safety measures near the Sir Walter Scott/Kildare corner. Several suggestions were made when I took a walkabout with residents and traffic engineer Charles Senekal last year.


Process leading to partial Mall demolition begins

At the May 10 Côte Saint-Luc City Council meeting the process that will eventually lead to part of the present Cavendish Mall facility being demolished, making way for a new housing development, began. A series of notices of motion were adopted focusing on the change of boundaries,  the modification of the city planning program, municipal works agreements  and the demolition of buildings. 

 Lauren Berenholc (pictured below),  one of our community’s finest real estate agents with Century 21 Vision, spoke on the issue during public question period. She asked Mayor Anthony Housefather what the city intended to do to attract young families  to this future development and inquired about a timeline for possible construction at the Mall.

The mayor welcomed Lauren’s intervention and indicated that when development does begin a substantial number of lots will be devoted  to single family homes and town houses. “which I hope will be in the price range for young families.”

Furthermore, the mayor noted that the city will be building a state of the art intergenerational and aqLaurenBerenholc uatic centre on Parkhaven Avenue, next to the outdoor pool. “That is only a three and a half block walk from the Mall,” he said, maintaining that this project will indeed attract young families.

As for a timeline, the mayor said that a public consultation on the Mall proposal will be held in due time. Once that occurs we will be in a better position to determine when some homes will be built there.
To reach the charming Lauren Berenholc call 514-238-2828 or email laurenlee@videotron.ca.


Poor weather does not stop VE Day Ceremony in CSL

It is not customary to have snow falling on the eight of May. But that is exactly what Mother Nature brought us this year, along with some rain and chilly temperatures. Not exactly what Mayor Anthony Housefather and members of the Côte Saint-Luc city council had in mind for our annual Victory in Europe (V-E) Day ceremony.VeteransMay9

Our Parks and Recreation Department, in conjunction with event  co-chairs Councillors Ruth Kovac and Allan J. Levine, wisely decided to move the program indoors to our Council Chambers. That is too bad, especially since we created Veterans Park only a few years ago right next door to City Hall.

It was a wise decision and we had an absolutely excellent event as a number of dignitaries joined veterans and residents for the commemoration. The master of ceremonies was Carl Garber, president of the Brigadier Frederick Kisch Branch 97 of the Royal Canadian Legion.  We all remembered Robert “Bob” Feldstein, who so proudly performed these duties for many years, Bob passed away last fall.


Victory in Europe (V-E) Day was May 8, 1945, the date when the Second World War Allies formally accepted the unconditional surrender of the armed forces of Nazi Germany. The Côte Saint-Luc cenotaph was erected in memory of those who gave their lives in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. The cenotaph was moved from the front of city hall to Veterans Park in 2007.

SamMikePolak The Royal Canadian Air Force Concert Band was superb, adding some energy to the event. Speeches were delivered by Mayor Housefather, Federal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler (having just celebrated his 70th birthday), D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman, Israeli Consul General Yoram Elron, Great Britain Consul General Patrick Holdich, United States Consul General Lee McClenny, American Legion Post 20 of Plattsburgh representative Art Magy, Rabbi Michael Wolff and Honourary Consul for the Netherlands Michael Polak. The latter noted proudly that he is a Côte Saint-Luc boy and pointed to his dad Max, a former school commissioner, Liberal MNA and Quebec judge. Both of Michael’s parents are from the Netherlands. He is pictured above with myself and Councillor Sam Goldbloom. 

It was wonderful seeing all of those war veterans in the room with us.  People like Michael Kutz, a longtime CSL resident shown with me below. They have remarkable stories to tell and we are fortunate to have them among us.

Kutz

 


 


Merging school board and municipal elections: UMQ Speaks Out

One thing that really frustrates me about Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his Liberal government is that they just do not listen to people.  The Federation des commissions scolaires du Québec (FCSQ) has been pushing for the mandates of school boards to be expanded beyond to 2011 in order for their elecions to be twinned with municipal ones in November 2013. It is a lousy idea. I have made this clear to our local MNA, Lawrence Bergman. He did not seem to give this opinion much attention. Ditto for the Minister of Municipal Affairs Laurent Lessard. His response was that they will study the matter.

It is interesting to note that the Quebec English School Boards Association has come out against twinning elections.And so has the Union of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ). So why is Charest being so stubborn? Look at his latest approval rating in the polls and it is easy to see. Did he not learn anything from the forced municipal mergers? Do not shove something like this down everyone's throat please!

School boards have been told they have until June to finalize their electoral map for  a vote that is still officially planned for November 2011. They also must do so under a lot of pressure. At the English Montreal School Board, for instance, the number of elected commissioners will drop from 23 to 10. According  legislation adopted by the government, the chairs of each board will be elected by universal suffrage.

If Charest is going to merge elections, it is not fair for him to wait until next fall to make such an announcement. Commissioners will already be getting their campaigns in order. He has done absolutely no studies on the issue nor engaged in any fruitful discussions with those who oppose it.

I am impressed with the UMQ statement below. What we need to hear are the mayors of Quebec's three lkargest cities - Montreal, Quebec and Laval - speak out. Then maybe Charest will open his ears and discard this awful idea of merging elections.

Here is the blog entry I did a few months ago explaining why such twinning is a bad idea.

Below  is the UMQ Statement

S’opposant d’une même voix à la possibilité de tenir des élections municipales et scolaires simultanées, le
milieu municipal québécois, représenté par la Fédération Québécoise des Municipalités (FQM) et
l’Union des municipalités du Québec (UMQ), enjoint la ministre de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport,
Mme Michelle Courchesne, de ne pas céder aux pressions de la Fédération des commissions scolaires
du Québec (FCSQ) pour plutôt se concentrer sur les véritables enjeux liés à l’éducation.

Devant le faux sentiment d’urgence créé par la FCSQ qui réclame une prolongation du mandat des
commissaires scolaires jusqu’en 2013, les partenaires du milieu municipal se sont réunis récemment dans le cadre du comité UMQ-FQM sur la démocratie municipale pour questionner le Directeur général des
élections du Québec (DGEQ) sur le rapport qu’il vient de produire relativement aux modifications proposées à la Loi sur les élections scolaires. Or, la rencontre, à laquelle ont aussi participé des représentants de l’Association des directeurs municipaux du Québec (ADMQ), de l’Association des directeurs généraux des municipalités du Québec (ADGMQ) et de la Corporation des officiers municipaux agréés du Québec (COMAQ), est venue renforcer les appréhensions de tous en ce qui a trait à la tenue simultanée d’élections municipales et
scolaires.

Dès sa sortie, le rapport du DGEQ a mis un bémol à la position de la FCSQ qui dit souhaiter des élections simultanées pour des considérations économiques et de participation élective. De tous les scénarios analysés, aucun ne représente une économie d’échelle. Au contraire, par rapport aux données préliminaires des coûts des élections municipales et scolaires antérieures qui se sont tenues séparément, des élections simultanées sont une option qui coûterait plusieurs millions de plus aux contribuables québécois. De plus, un examen plus approfondi du rapport permet de constater que, contrairement aux affirmations de la FCSQ, la tenue dans les commissions scolaires de Portneuf et de l’Or-et-des-

Bois d’élections partielles scolaires simultanées avec les élections municipales, lors du scrutin du 1er novembre 2009, n’a pas eu d’impact positif sur la participation électorale scolaire. Dans les deux cas, il n’y a pas eu d’augmentation du taux de participation par rapport à l’élection scolaire antérieure malgré des conditions des plus favorables. En cherchant à légitimer la gouvernance scolaire par une hausse de la participation électorale scolaire, tout indique que le gouvernement fait fi du problème fondamental qui se résume en un manque d’intérêt des citoyens pour les élections scolaires, engendré par l’absence d’enjeux importants à leurs yeux.

Selon le président de l’UMQ, M. Robert Coulombe, « la tenue simultanée des élections municipales et scolaires ne corrigerait pas le déficit démocratique du monde scolaire. Par ailleurs, elle aurait pour conséquence de créer un système électoral complexe, lourd et coûteux pour l’électeur. De plus, l’ampleur de tous les travaux d’harmonisation d’ordre territorial, légal, financier et organisationnel à accomplir pour permettre la tenue des élections simultanées est disproportionnée par rapport aux avantages que celle-ci pourrait procurer pour le citoyen. »

Pour le président de la FQM, M. Bernard Généreux, il devient primordial de recentrer le débat sur les véritables enjeux. « Qu’il s’agisse du maintien des écoles en région, d’offrir aux élèves des services de qualité afin de favoriser leur réussite, ou encore d’utiliser les équipements de manière optimale pour le grand bénéfice des citoyens, voilà autant de défis prioritaires qui préoccupent les élus municipaux comme l’ensemble de la population et qui sont malheureusement mis de côté actuellement », commente M. Généreux.

À la suite d’une réunion spéciale du Conseil des ministres tenue en fin de semaine, le premier ministre du Québec, M. Jean Charest, a affirmé la détermination de son gouvernement à réaliser des économies en vue d’en arriver à un retour à l’équilibre budgétaire. Peut-être devrait-il profiter de l’occasion pour se questionner sur les structures électives des commissions scolaires et sur le véritable rôle de elles-ci envers leurs communautés? Ce qui est certain pour la FQM et l’UMQ, c’est qu’il ne revient pas au milieu municipal d’assumer la problématique de la faible participation aux élections scolaires.

Source :
François Sormany
Directeur des communications et du marketing
Téléphone. : 514 282-7700, poste 265
Cellulaire : 514 910-7272
fsormany@umq