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February 2017

The Free Press Newspaper shuts down operations

The Free Press Newspaper, serving NDG, Côte Saint-Luc and Hampstead, prints its final edition today and we are all the poorer for this.

I would like to personally thank publisher David Price and chief reporter Isaac Olson for the excellent job they did. As a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc and the communications and marketing specialist for the English Montreal School Board, I truly appreciated their community approach to journalism. The paper was delivered to every home in its circulation area by Canada Post and dropped off at apartment buildings, condos and other depots. Price also publishes The Westmount Independent, which successfully ran the Westmount Examiner out of business.


Sadly, the Free Press did not get sufficient advertising support to keep on going. The Quebec Liberal government, in one of its infinite bonehead moves, has now given municipalities the option NOT to advertise by-laws to the public and instead do so on the web. In Côte Saint-Luc, we will not go that route. I know that in my particular district there are still many seniors? We are not there yet. Nonetheless, our Premier Mr. Couillard once again is going forward with legislation without doing any proper consultation. But I digress.

We are fortunate to have The Suburban Newspaper, which I write for. Because of its wide circulation reach, business remains pretty good. It was still nice to have two papers covering City Hall and the community. The Montreal Times has a large drop off circulation, but I have still not figured out its editorial mission. It is too bad that municipal affairs is not on its priority list. Then there is The Montreal Gazette. Just a few weeks ago I heard Tommy Schnurmacher on CJAD with Aaron Rand, predicting that The Gazette will fold up and The National Post will take over as our paper with a small Montreal section. I remain an avid reader of The Gazette print edition. But I am among a minority in that department.

The Free Press filled a void left by The Monitor, which folded in 2009. It began as an NDG paper only and expanded to Hampstead and Côte Saint-Luc. Perhaps the writing was on the wall a few months ago when Price had to let go his only sales representative and he assumed that role as well.

Isaac Olson is one terrific reporter whom I hope finds employment elsewhere. 

The newspaper business is no doubt in trouble. It is sad to see the Quebec government kicking it in the teeth.







Warm weather brings out large crowds for 2017 Winter Carnival


With Bonhomme, Mayor Brownstein, the Snow Queen, Sidney Benizri and Anthony Housefather

When it comes to the annual Winter Carnival in Côte Saint-Luc, my memories shoot back to when I was a mere toddler. I lived on Wentworth Avenue and at the time the park behind my house was the hub for all activities. My parents would take my brother and sister and I to enjoy some hot chocolate, take part in all kinds of fun games and most importantly take my photo next to Bonhomme Carnival.

As a city councillor for the past 12 years, I have had the good fortune of taking part in the planning of the event. It all kicks off with the wildly successful Valentine`s Day Dance, continues with a PeeWee “A” Outdoor Hockey Tournament and concludes the following Sunday with a wide array of programming.

With Jacqueline Mallet, Pierre Brunet and Ronald McDonald.

I was so happy to see our good friend Pierre Brunet, franchisee of nearly 20 McDonald’s restaurants, including the two in Côte Saint-Luc and Jacqueline Mallet from Manoir Ronald McDonald at the Samuel Moskovitch Arena. I joined Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Councillors Allan J. Levine, Ruth Kovac and Sidney Benizri, along with Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather and D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum, in presenting a cheque of $10,000 to Manoir Ronald McDonald. This was a record breaking year for us, bringing our grand total to $59,000 for this wonderful cause.

Presenting our cheque for $10,000 to Manoir Ronald McDonald.

Manoir Ronald McDonald is a temporary home away from home for out-of-town (more than 55 km) families of children with critical illnesses who must travel to Montreal for medical treatments. It is located on Hudson Avenue in Côte des Neiges, around the corner from the Centre Hospitalier Ste. Justine.

Presenting a trophy.

We made the cheque presentation prior to another annual tradition: the awards for the CSL Figure Skating Club. That was followed by a nice show on the ice.

Petting Maggie the horse.

It was five degrees Celsius this year and with the sun beating down it seemed warmer. This represented a mixed bag. It was extremely pleasant to walk around and the crowd was fairly large. I remember days when it was so bitterly cold nobody wanted to be outdoors. With the warmth came a lot of slush and some of our ice sculptures and other snow attractions were melting.

Serving up the pancakes.

In the Lawrence Bergman Chalet, Pierre Brunet’s team was serving up 1,300 McDonald’s pancakes. People were asked to make voluntary donations to the Manoir. Members of the Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society presented a preview song from their new show Fancy Nancy, about to debut at the Segal Centre  for three to nine year olds.

There was a dog sled, horse-drawn carriage rides, and taffy on the snow, tobogganing on the hill, face painting, snow games, public skating and more hockey games. It was so nice to see all of the young families enjoying the experience.

Congratulations to our Parks and Recreation staff for the fabulous work they did planning this event, which included signing up many sponsors.

CBC News report: Trading and giving away unused items

Community initiative in Côte-St-Luc draws inspiration from Buy Nothing Project

Facebook group helps connect people who want to trade or give away items to others in the area

Laura Elfman Ilana Grostern

Laura Elfman, left, and Ilana Grostern are hoping to encourage residents of Côte-St-Luc to trade or give away unused items for free instead of buying new. (CBC)


A new initiative in Côte-St-Luc is hoping to encourage residents to turn to their community for what they need—instead of their wallets.

Buy Nothing Côte-St-Luc is a Facebook group launched last month by Ilana Grostern. So far it has almost 100 members.

The concept, inspired by the international Buy Nothing Project, challenges residents to avoid buying new items and try to barter or trade for it instead.

"It's about the spirit of giving and receiving," Grostern told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.

Grostern said she was inspired to make the group after watching a documentary on minimalism and realizing how much she "mindlessly consumed." A friend referred her to the Buy Nothing Project, and she felt driven to make a group for her community.

"A lot of people are just sitting on things they absolutely do not need and need to find a way to get rid of," Grostern said. "And people feel good, when they give something away just out of the kindness of their heart."

Choosing not to sell

Laura Elfman has her own Côte-St-Luc Facebook group, the Côte-St-Luc Mega Online Garage Sale, with almost 4,000 members.

However, she said she now prefers to use the Buy Nothing group, going so far as to help promote it on her own page.

"What's good about this group is that we're a community," said Elfman. "Hopefully they're asking for it for a reason," Elfman said. "If they need it, it's my pleasure to give it."

Fostering a community

Every application to join the group is vetted by Grostern, to make sure that the applicant does live within the boundaries of Côte-St-Luc.

"The entire purpose of the Buy Nothing group is to focus on building your local community, and connecting locals," she explained.

Right now, the group is primarily made up of parents, who are exchanging things like strollers and children's toys. Grostern said she hopes to see that expand as the group continues to grow.

"In the established groups that have been around for a lot longer, and there's a whole mix of people from the community," she said.

The group operates on an honour system, expecting that everyone who takes part is acting in good faith.

"[We] operate on the assumption that everybody's there with the best of intentions, and not there to take advantage of anybody else."

Reitmans closes its store at the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre

A few weeks after the Pik Nik snack bar closed at the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre, the popular Reitmans clearance store has shut down as well.


"We closed the Reitmans clearance store on January 28," spokesperson Katia Reyburn advised me. "Please know that closing a store is not a decision we take lightly. Reitmans is a healthy Canadian brand that has been in business for 90 years and we’re here to stay. As a national retailer, we are regularly making decisions regarding opening, renovating, relocating and closing stores, based on the needs of the ever changing Canadian landscape. Reviewing our portfolio of stores is part of the normal course of business."

Ms. Reyburn noted that there are many other Reitmans stores in the Greater Montreal area ready to serve the Côte Saint-Luc customer: four downtown stores and one nearby at Carrefour Angrignon.

I must commend the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre for it always seems to find tenants for any empty storefronts. The former West End Gym (originally Vic Tannys) downstairs remains vacant.


St. Laurent Mayor DeSousa tells us he is optimistic about Cavendish extension

Members of Côte Saint-Luc City Council welcomed St. Laurent Borough Mayor Alan DeSousa to City Hall last week.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Alan for many years, dating back to the days when I was covering St. Laurent as a beat reporter for The Suburban Newspaper and he was attending council meetings as a concerned citizen. There was no question that he would one day be an elected official.

Mayor Brownstein and Council welcome Alan DeSousa.

De Sousa served as Councillor in St. Laurent from 1990 to 2001, following which he was elected borough mayor for four consecutive terms. He also sat as a member of the Ville de Montréal Executive for 11 years, and served as Vice-Chair. During these years, he was responsible for finance and administration, economic development, long-term planning, hydraulic infrastructures, environment and parks, as well as for sustainable development.

In the private sector, DeSousa  served as Vice-President, Corporate Finance, at BioChem Pharma, a publicly owned Canadian company. It also worked as a corporate tax specialist in international taxation at Ernst & Young. The Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec awarded him the title of Fellow in 2005. Throughout these years, his social involvement in numerous community and charitable organizations has never ceased.

St. Laurent is a huge borough and DeSousa remains the same approachable fellow I met all of those years ago. Our council often invites political colleagues to meet with us. In the case of DeSousa, we spoke about issues such as transportation and of course the extension of Cavendish Boulevard.

"Cavendish is getting to the point of political acceptance," DeSousa commented. "Right now it seems to be going on the right track. Cavendish is on the rails. We have to keep pushing it."

DeSousa is confident that phase one of the long-anticipated extension will occur in 2019-20 with a connection from Royalmount to St. Laurent.

Word has it that DeSousa will seek the Liberal nomination in the federal riding of St. Laurent- Cartierville, recently  vacated by Stéphane Dion.


JPPS-Bialik announces appointment of new Athletic Consultant, Mr. John Dore

JPPS-Bialik, located on Kildare Road in District 2, has made a very impressive hire. Their Foundation has announced the appointment of John Dore as he school’s new Athletics Consultant.

Jean dore
John Dore

Dore is the former head coach of the Concordia Stingers basketball team and prior to that head of athletics at St. George's School. He  is considered a legend in college basketball, having taken his team to the finals 13 times. He has also been the recipient of key recognition awards and honors throughout his career from prestigious university sports organizations and has led several national teams, including Canadian entries at World University Games and the Maccabiah Games.

This new position is  considered a vital, driving component of the JPPS-Bialik new Project Fit initiative. Dore will no doubt be working closely with the school's Athletics Department which was ironically previously headed by Emerson Thomas, one of his former players with the Stingers.

Project Fit, as announced in August 2016, is an all-encompassing fitness/health program for the school that includes the building of a new state of the art field right on the JPPS-Bialik school campus. As the city councillor  for the district I will be following this closely to see about how we might be able to make this accessible to the community at large when school is not in session. There is even talk about an outdoor skating rink being built.

Project Fit is also designed to offer a specialized and dedicated school environment whereby students can participate and thrive in both competitive and recreational sports activities while promoting physical education, team spirit and a healthy lifestyle. Ultimately, the schools' objective is to have all students internalize and practice health-enhancing attitudes and behaviors.

Dore’s leadership and expertise is considered essential in the positioning of JPPS-Bialik as the leading sports school in this city and his impressive track record and experience is invaluable to the Project Fit development team. I  could not agree more. They found the right man!