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February 2014

CJN profile on District 2 resident Howard Liebman

Here is a nice feature story in the Canadian Jewish News on District 2 resident Howard Liebman and why he will not seek the Liberal nomination in Mount Royal.

Irwin Cotler's 'wing man'
 David Lazarus, Staff Reporter,

 MONTREAL - Howard Liebman uses the term wingman in describing his role as Liberal MP Irwin Cotler's chief of staff in the sense that he has been by his side - almost literally - for a decade.

 But the term also points to the Howard Liebman few would recognize: the ardent aviation buff who worked his way through McGill University law school as a flight attendant.

 When Cotler, as justice minister in 2004, called Liebman at his corporate law office at Stikeman Elliott to offer him the chief of staff job, he did not think twice before accepting it.


 "He told me it would only be for a year or so," Liebman remembers, since Cotler did not initially anticipate seeking a second term.

 But Liebman realized that the job, as interesting as it would be to be working for one of the world's best known human rights activists, would not come without sacrifice. His position would certainly not be as lucrative as his professional law career, there would be less family time, and his main role would be to serve in the background.

 But it is a price, Liebman made clear in an interview, that he has been more than willing to pay and does not regret for one second.

 "I would not have had it any other way," he said.

 Liebman has spent the last 10 years in full personal and professional service, and in support of Cotler, whom he still often refers to as "professor" and whom he considers his icon, mentor and father figure.

 During their decade together, rarely has one been seen without the other, and the relationship has evolved into a warm, collegial and deeply abiding friendship despite their 33-year age difference (40 and 73).

 Liebman has accompanied Cotler on visits all over the world, and they have often been in the room together when meeting with world and NGO leaders, politicians of all stripes, and when engaging in public diplomacy.

 Liebman also has handled the logistics of trips, and tried valiantly to keep up with his boss's energy level - "which I still cannot do," Liebman jokes.

 At home, Liebman has represented Cotler in the multicultural Mount Royal riding constituency office in Côte des Neiges. He is often seen filling in at community events Cotler could not attend, and serves as the riding's ombudsman, intervening on constituents' behalf on immigration and refugee issues (and others) on a regular basis - even when the phone rings at 2 a.m.

 That particular responsibility, Liebman said, has been his "least known and most important role" in terms of his own public service.

 Liebman has also made it a point to stay active within the Jewish community, especially with students, who call him regularly at the riding office for guidance and advice.

 While at McGill, Liebman was very active at Hillel and in the Jewish advocacy issues of the day. While Cotler was never Liebman's professor at McGill, he was fully cognizant of Liebman's interest in community and public service, and that was one of the reasons Cotler called him when naming his staff.

 So close, in fact, have Cotler and Lieb­man become that both issued major announcements on the same day, Feb. 5: Cotler's was that he would not run in the next federal election, while Liebman's was that he would not seek the Mount Royal Liberal party nomination, as it was speculated he might do, because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

 "I cannot escape the many sacrifices my wife [Heather] and three young sons have made these many years," he said in his announcement.

 He told The CJN: "I received a lot of encouragement and support to continue [Cotler's] great work, but the reality is that Heather and the children made incredible sacrifices."

 Cotler acknowledged that he was indeed grooming Liebman to succeed him, but that he fully understood and supported his decision not to run for political office at this time, given his still-young age and the many potential years of public service that lie ahead.

 "He has been the best chief of staff there could be," Cotler said.

 Once Cotler leaves politics, which is expected to be sometime in 2015, Liebman said he would be looking to build on his decade of experience in government, law and business "to make best use of my skills  for a new and exciting chapter in my life."


Long time Solomon Schechter chief Hamerman to step down; Erdelyi given top job

One of the leading figures in the Montreal Jewish day school system over the past three decades has decided to retire. Dr. Shimshon Hamerman announced last week that he will be  stepping down as Head of School at the end of the present academic year at Solomon Schechter Academy. His successor will be Steven Erdelyi, only mid-way through his first year as principal but an experienced and highly regarded young educator who also serves alongside me as  a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc.


Steven Erdelyi and Shimshon Hamerman.

Dr. Hamerman said that his  retirement plans have been in the works for close to three years. “I served the school for over three decades and now it is time to hand the reigns of leadership to a new generation to lead the Academy,” he said. “I want to thank the thousands of parents who entrusted their children, their most precious possession to my care and the care of my teams of professionals. My wife, my children and grandchildren were beneficiaries of my career in the service of the community.   They also paid a heavy price for it because when you work for the public you give up much of your private life.”

I wish to give a lot of credit to Erdelyi.  He began his teaching career in the public system specializing in math and Science at Marymount Academy, moving on to Westmount High School as a vice-principal and then as principal of Hampstead Elementary School. When Solomon Schechter came calling, Erdelyi had been given the extra duties of trying to get a new public high school in Côte Saint-Luc off the ground. For now, that project has been placed on hold.

So, we are witnessing a very rapid rise for Erdelyi. He is one of the brightest people I know, with every fact one would need on the history of Côte Saint-Luc safely tucked away on his IPad. 

I know I speak on behalf of the entire CSL council in wishing him well in this new challenge.


Addressing the Côte Saint-Luc Men's Club

It is always a pleasure for me to address the Côte Saint-Luc Men's Club, as well oiled a machine as you will find headed by president Sidney Margles. While many of their members are presently enjoying the life of Snowbirds in Florida, they still bring in a pretty impressive crowd for the winter.

I was there wearing my different hats: city councillor in CSL for District 2; communications and marketing specialist for the English Montreal School Board; and columnist/features writer/blogger for The Suburban, The Jewish Tribune and a number of other publications. I asked Syd Wise, long time educator and school commissioner for Côte Saint-Luc to join me.

It was nice to see former Mayor Bernard Lang and former city councillor Henry Marcovitz  in attendance.  The meeting began with a summary of the last gathering, a preview of programs to come, a bowling league update and some jokes by Mr. Margles.

I took to the stage first, sharing with the members the new portfolios  Mayor Anthony Housefather has assigned to me: Library and Culture and Animal Protection. This goes along with Sponsorship, which I maintain and some special events like  the CSL Golf Classic and Maisons Fleuries.


At the Men's Club on the left with Sidney Margles, Harvey Stoliar and Syd Wise.



Looking out into the audience, I urged members to consider adopting a cat. We have many gorgeous/homeless kittens looking for families. They do make the greatest of pets. No need to walk them.   They do their business in a litter box and you can leave them food to aportion as they wish on a given day.

I told the members about Inspirations, a special needs newspaper I publish with great pride. The extra copies I brought were all scooped up and there is now interest to have our managing editor back with some experts to talk in the spring.

There is a provincial election coming and I expressed my deep concern over Philippe Couillard's performance as leader of the Quebec Liberal Party. I remember just a couple of years back, then Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand addressing the Men's Club. His fellow MNA Lawrence Bergman brought him along. Lawrence was right on in supporting Bachand for the Liberal leadership when Jean Charest stepped down. Had more Liberals followed his actions, I believe Bachand would have given the PQ government a run for their money.

I concluded on Bill 60, the Quebec Charter of Values, expressing my shock and dismay how such racist legislation could end up becoming the springboard for the PQ to be on the verge of a majority government.  The EMSB took a courageous stand, thanks to the initiative of Syd Wise. We declared that we would never implement such a Charter, forcing staff to remove religious symbols, be it a kippa, hijab, a star of David or a crucifix. I was in Quebec City for the hearings on Bill 60, when Minister Bernard Drainville tried his best to bully Chairman Angela Mancini. He did not succeed. We stood tall.

School board elections will take place next November and  I think it is now clear why people need to go out and vote. The EMSB proved how we are much more than a school board; we are a representative body for the entire  English community.

Syd Wise stepped to the podium next and explained why he felt the EMSB could not remain silent in this debate. He precipitated the original strongly worded resolution condemning Bill 60. Later on, he proposed the motion which declared that if Bill 60 is ever adopted, the EMSB would not apply it."If we did not stand up, then  who would?" he asked rhetorically.













The SPCA continues to be an excellent partner

As part of my expanded Animal Protection portfolio on Côte Saint-Luc City Council I met with Alanna Devine, the director of Animal Advocacy for the Montreal SPCA

Let me say from the start how fortunate animal lovers are to have someone such as Alanna in office. I have worked with her since the start of our Côte Saint-Luc Cats Committee more than three years ago and she has been extremely helpful. A lawyer by education, she handles media relations, public outreach, government relations and any complaints surrounding cruelty to animals.

Alanna was very pleased to learn that Mayor Anthony Housefather had created a specific portfolio dealing with Animal Protection. I will work with her to try and encourage other municipalities in the province, or at least the island of Montreal, to do the same thing. If we are successful, I would like to host a Municipal Animal Protection Summit at our City Hall.

One of the issues Alanna wants to resolve with the City of Montreal is legislation to prohibit horse-drawn carriages. That is not something which really touches upon Côte Saint-Luc, but if we can assemble a suburban coalition of Animal Protection councillors we can support her.  New York's new Mayor, Bill de Blasio, wants to remove horse-drawn carriages from the city. In The Verge Online, he called them "inhumane" and "not appropriate for the year 2014." A petition signed by more than 4,500 people called for the horses to be replaced by electric replicas of vintage cars, something de Blasio called "a cleaner, safer, wiser, more humane alternative that will be very appealing to tourists.

Kiwi, Mallory Moreau, Alanna Devine and myself.



Pet stores are also on Alanna’s agenda. Toronto and Richmond (B.C) have passed legislation banning the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores. The Montreal SPCA would like municipalities to restrict pet stores from  selling dogs, cats and rabbits that only come from shelters, humane societies and certified breeders.They also must be sterilized. The borough of Verdun has already done so. At the present time we have only one pet store in CSL and that is Aqua Tropicale at Decarie Square. While this store generally sells fish, turtles and birds, I have seen cats in cages there. Management promised me that these were homeless cats and my research indicated this was correct. If we can take some of the homeless cats we rescue and find them good homes via a pet store I am okay with that.

We also spoke about urban wildlife and a question which comes my way often: how to get rid of animals like raccoons and skunks from one’s property. She cited companies like Skedaddle Wildlife,  which can remove these animals humanely.

The poisoning of animals remains a problem in society and this something that I have very sadly been witness to with cats in our community. It is something the SPCA wants to take on more aggressively and I am in their corner.

When I left the building I visited some of the dogs and cats available for adoption (there was even a pig).  Staffer Mallory Moreau introduced me to Kiwi, a German Shepherd that was rescued from a puppy mill. Someone who works at the SPCA fell in love and adopted him.

The City of Côte Saint-Luc, like all municipalities, has a contract with the SPCA. At our February 10, 2014 council meeting we signed a new agreement for 2014.

Winter Carnival 2014 in Côte Saint-Luc: Wonderful Weather Enhances Experience

I have been to many Côte Saint-Luc Winter Carnivals in my lifetime. In fact, when I was a mere toddler my parents would take me to Wentworth Park (now called Kirwan) behind my house. That was the hub for activities in those days and I just loved the experience.
Taffy on the snow.
Well, the Winter Carnival has been based at our flagship Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park for decades and on February 9, 2014, the weather conditions for this time of year were ideal. As a result we had one of strongest turnouts in years.  There was a free pancake breakfast, dog sled rides, ice sculptures, taffy on the snow, horse  carriage rides, curling on ice, face painting and more. Not surprisingly, our theme for this year was the Olympics. It all began on February 5 with a hockey tournament and concludes on Saturday, February 15, with our Winter Carnival Dance.  
Nobert Kids
Police Station 9's Marie-Christine Nobert joins me in pancake distribution.
The traditional Côte Saint-Luc  Figure Skating Club Exhibition packed the Samuel Moskovitch Arena, with performers of different ages putting on a sensational. Mayor Anthony Housefather and members of council were invited to center ice to present trophies.
All Côte Saint-Luc Winter Carnival events were free except for public skating on February 8 and the Valentine Dance.Proceeds from the former and donations at the pancake breakfast will go to Ronald McDonald House. A total of $4,500 was raised this year.
Presenting an award at the conclusion of the Figure Skating Show. (Randi Weitzner photo)
Sponsors of the event included McDonald’s (Pierre Brunet Franchise), Domino’s Pizza, the Montreal police (SPVM), CPA Côte Saint-Luc, Holiday Inn, Côte Saint-Luc Minor Hockey Association, École culinaire Loblaws (Cavendish), Canteen Samuel Moskovitch, Harrow, The Suburban, Métro, Jumbologo, and Trophées Pointe Claire. Photography by Randi Weitzner and Bianca Roberti-Even.







Presenting our cheque to Ronald McDonald House. (Randi Weitzner photo)


CSL adopts $65 million 2014 budget

Congratulations to Côte Saint-Luc City Councillor Dida Berku, Treasurer Ruth Kleinman, City Manager Tanya Abramovitch and their team for putting together a stellar 2014 budget.

Traditionally the budget is adopted in December. However, we cannot do so until the Agglomeration Council has gone through its process. That was delayed due to the November elections.

Our $65 million budget is significant in that the average increase in taxes for single family homes is 0.9 percent, equal the Canadian rate of inflation.


With Councillors Glenn J. Nashen and Dida Berku. 


Councillor Berku has overseen each one of our budgets since we demerged from the Montreal mega city. That responsibility now transfers to Councillor Steven Erdelyi. As Mayor Anthony Housefather noted, the entire council had a hand in preparing this budget as we went through several drafts over the last few months. Since we all have portfolios, it was our responsibility to ensure our assigned areas were on the right course. Thanks to an excellent management team, we came through with flying colours.


“We adopted a budget that controls costs and maintains all our public services across the city,” Mayor Anthony Housefather said.
. About 42.8 percent of all taxes collected by Côte Saint-Luc are transferred to the island-wide regional government, which funds services such as police, fire, and public transit. 

 The property tax bills will be sent to homes in mid-February. The deadline to pay property taxes has been set at March 28 for the first installment and June 27 for the second installment.

 “As a responsible city administration sensitive to the financial constraints of our taxpayers we made every effort to meet our target and hold the tax increase to less than 1 percent – with no increase in water tax – all in line with the increase in the cost of living,” said Councillor  Berku. 

 Budget and tax highlights include the following:

  • Average increase in taxes for single-family home valued at $572,300: 0.9 percent
  • No increase in water tax and non-residential tax
  • Increase in revenues (due to growth in property roll): 1.46 percent
  • Revenues from property taxes: 86 percent
  • Revenues from local improvement taxes: 0.22 percent
  • Revenues from compensation in lieu of taxes: 2.48 percent
  • Other revenues (eg, program fees, memberships, etc.): 11.3 percent
The three-year capital expenditures plan was adopted at a public meeting on December 16, 2013. Approximately $8 million in capital expenses is anticipated in 2014.

I have included our powerpoint presentation which takes you through the budget highlights.

Download 2014 Budget Presentation - Public Final Version 6

Neighbourhood Police Station 9 honours two volunteers

Commander Marc Cournoyer of neighbourhood Police Station (PDQ) 9, physically situated in Côte Saint-Luc District 2 at the corner of Cavendish and Kildare,honoured two volunteers by awarding them a Certificate of Merit.

Denise Cartier from the Fédération de l’âge d’or du Québec (FADOQ) was thanked for the many conferences she gave to the local  senior population while Jessica Znaty was recognized for her role in "Le soccer, la vie" of PDQ 9 and "Le mondial de soccer” of the Montreal Police Department.


The commander and the two volunteers were accompanied by officers Vincent DeAngelis and Marie Christine Nobert, at the left of the picture.