Brownstein campaign for mayor picks up steam

Côte Saint-Luc mayoral candidate Mitchell Brownstein has formally launched a robust campaign in advance of the April 10 by-election to fill the void left when Anthony Housefather resigned in order to become the Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal.

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Brownstein looks over his nomination papers.

Brownstein formally resigned as city councillor for District 7 in order to allow for concurrent by-elections for both his seat and the office of mayor. Last Friday, February 27, he filed his nomination papers at City Hall with almost 2,000 signatures which represents about 10 percent of the electorate. Soon after, he and seven teams of 30 volunteers hit the streets to put up his very colourful campaign posters which now dot the city. Brochures are now being delivered to every door in Côte Saint-Luc while a door to door campaign which began weeks ago continues at a steady pace, as do regular speaking engagements.

“Although I only needed a small number of signatures, I have used the opportunity of going door to door over the last month to collect added signatures,” said the Brownstein. “I intend to continue to reach out to as many of the 34,000 residents as possible. This is just the beginning of my campaign to become a mayor who is a friend to the entire community. Even though I do not currently have an opponent I want to make sure to let Côte Saint-Luc residents know that I will always be accessible and available. I will continue to do so throughout my mandate, just as I did for the past 25 years as a city councillor.

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Councillor Steven Erdelyi sorts out some election posters.

Brownstein is supported by the entire city council, as well as Housefather and such well known local personalities as former MNA Lawrence Bergman, former Councillors Joe Panunto, Harold Greenspon, Richard Schwartz and Isadore Goldberg and businessmen Gerry Weinstein, Jean Alloul, Ariel Sabbah and Jack Dym. A lawyer by profession, Brownstein was first elected in 1990 and has been at the forefront of many important issues facing Côte Saint-Luc, Quebec and Canada. The happily married father of three has held the portfolios of Public Works and Parks and Recreation, introduced the Fun Card providing access to CSL recreational facilities at an annual nominal fee, and established the Cöte Saint Luc Dramatic Society. He actively participates in the programs and facilities the city has to offer regularly swimming in our pools and acting in the Dramatic Society productions.

The Mayoralty election is scheduled for April 10 and the Brownstein team intends to keep working for every vote.

For more information go to www.mitchellbrownstein.ca. You can also follow his campaign on Facebook.

Brownstein makes its official and launches his campaign for CSL Mayor

My friend and colleague Mitchell Brownstein formally resigned as a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc effective Monday, February 8 at 11:59 p.m.  in order to run for mayor and allow for a concurrent by-election  for his District 7 seat.

Mitchell made the announcement at the start of our monthly council meeting and received a standing ovation from the large crowd on hand. Former mayor Anthony Housefather, now our Liberal Member of Parliament, was among those in attendance.

Mitchell, wife Elaine, Anthony Housefather and supporters after his announcement.

 “As the only declared candidate for mayor who is supported by the entire city council of Côte Saint-Luc and Anthony Housefather,, I will be resigning as city councillor for District 7, ” declared  Councillor Brownstein. “ I am doing so despite not being required to resign until I file my nomination papers for mayor, which can only be done during the nomination period which will take place between February 26 to March 11. Although I would prefer to continue to serve and provide value to my fellow councillors for as long as possible, my early resignation will allow the City to have a concurrent by-election for District 7.  By holding the by-election for the new District 7 councillor at the same time as the by-election for mayor, the city will be spared the expense of holding two by-elections.  It will also allow our council to move forward as soon as possible with a new member of the team serving District 7.  This is the right thing to do.”

Councillor Brownstein   was first elected in 1990.  He has been an activist promoting issues of Canadian Unity, co-chairing the Côte Saint Luc Demerger Committee, advocating for Holocaust Remembrance, and opposing Bill 60, the PQ-proposed legislation on the charter of values.  He has held the portfolios of Public Works and Parks and Recreation, introduced the Fun Card providing access to CSL recreational facilities at an annual nominal fee, and established the Cöte Saint Luc Dramatic Society.  He actively participates in the programs and facilities the city has to offer regularly swimming in our pools and acting in the Dramatic Society productions.

Mitchell at the meeting

More than 25 years ago, when I was covering Côte Saint-Luc City Hall for the community media, I urged him to consider a run for office. I even approached then Councillor Eric Helfield, whom I know was ready to step down, to see if he'd endorse Mitchell as his successor. He agreed to do so.

Former mayor Housefather and our entire council have thrown our support behind Mitchell. He is unquestionably the right man for the job, having been involved in virtually every important dossier this city has dealt with over the past quarter century. Mitchell has pledged to lighten his load at the law firm he runs with his brother Herb (and where his son Andrew now works) in order to become a full-time mayor.

Thus far Mitchell Kujavsky is the only person who has declared his candidacy for the city council seat in District 7.

The election is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 10. Council got special permission from the Quebec government to delay the vote in order for Snowbirds to be able to take part.

For more information go to www.mitchellbrownstein.ca.


The following press release was issued today:

Côte Saint-Luc City Councillor Mitchell Brownstein has announced that he will be a candidate for the vacant mayor’s position in the upcoming by-election.

Anthony Housefather stepped down as mayor recently after being elected as the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal.  Housefather has endorsed Brownstein for mayor as have all seven other members of council: Dida Berku, Allan J. Levine, Sam Goldbloom, Mike Cohen, Steven Erdelyi, Glenn J. Nashen and Ruth Kovac.


“In stepping down as Mayor I am not leaving Cote Saint-Luc” said Housefather.  “I still live here and as the federal member of Parliament I will be working very closely with my former council colleagues as well as the other elected officials in the riding.  It is very important to me that Cote Saint-Luc remain a city that empowers and encourages each council member to succeed in their areas while having a Mayor that can unite the council and create consensus ensuring the best services are delivered to residents.  I have worked closely with Mitchell as leaders of the demerger movement and on council for the last 10 years and Mitchell is that man.  The fact that so many other talented council members who also could have been excellent candidates support Mitchell is testament to his abilities.  I firmly believe that Mitchell will deliver the same type of results that I did as Mayor and due to our close friendship I will remain very involved in advising him whenever he wants my input.” 

Brownstein is an attorney by profession and has served on city council from 1990 to 2001. He then joined Housefather, Kovac and Nashen as a co-chair of the successful demerger movement that won the 2004 referendum to reconstitute the City of Cote Saint Luc and returned to council in the 2005 election.  He was re-elected by acclamation in 2009 and 2013.  

As a Cote Saint Luc Councillor he has held important portfolios, including overseeing the two largest municipal departments, Public Works and Parks and Recreation. He founded the highly successful Côte Saint-Luc Dramatic Society, co-chaired the Aquatic and Community Centre Development Project and was one of the pioneers of the Fun Card concept.  As a long time member of the Planning Advisory Committee he was integrally involved in many development projects in the community including the OrHahayim synagogue expansion, the Hebrew Academy building, Beth Chabad, the Cavendish Mall redevelopment project and many residential projects where he put the emphasis encouraging young families to move in to Cote Saint-Luc. He was instrumental in having Hydro move the high tension wires away from the homes on Sabin Ave, that are backing onto the substation.  He played a pivotal role in the upgrading of many parks, including Nathan Shuster, Richard Schwartz,  Arthur Zygielbaum, Allan J. Levine Playground and others.

Brownstein is most proud of his being one of the leaders of the successful Canadian Unity resolution movement in 1996. Cote Saint Luc was the first city to adopt a unity resolution and was followed by more than 50 municipalities and served as a contributing factor in the Supreme Court reference and ultimate adoption of the Clarity Act by the government of Canada.

“For the past 10 years we have seen the benefits of demerger, which allows for direct taxation, control over our unions, our infrastructures, emergency medical services, and so much more,” said Councillor  Brownstein.  “Through Anthony Housefather's portfolio system each one of the councillors has excelled in their areas of expertise pursuing their passions to the benefit of the city. I worked extremely closely with Anthony these past 10 years and I believe together with our most talented Council we can continue to build one of the most desirable communities in which to live.

“Côte Saint-Luc is fortunate to be a relatively small city without a party system, allowing individuals to work together, by consensus, without having to tow the party line.  Most importantly, it allows us to speak up on behalf of our residents on issues of concern to them whether it be Canadian Unity, demerger, opposing the Charter of Values, maintaining bilingual status, maintaining post office home delivery, saving our EMS or keeping our police station in Cote Saint-Luc.”

Councillor Goldbloom said that when he thinks of Councillor Brownstein, the word “innovation” comes to mind. “I am a member of the Dramatic Society and watched how Mitchell built that from scratch,” he said. “When Mitchell has a goal in mind he does not let anything stand in his way.”

Councillor Cohen notes that Councillor Brownstein has been involved with some of the city’s most important files during his time in office. “This council needs continuity and leadership,” he said. “Councillor Brownstein has all of the right qualifications to thrive in this job.”

Councillor Berku said “Given that we just came out of a very divisive federal campaign, and since there are less than 2 years to go until the end of this mandate, it’s a good time for council to rally around one candidate for Mayor while all councillors continue to focus and pursue their areas of interest. I want to promote the best interests of the city by rallying our efforts into team governance,  minimizing tension on and off council and hopefully saving the city the costs and disruption  of a city wide midterm election.”

Councillor Erdelyi said that when he was first elected 10 years ago, it was Councillor Brownstein who provided him with a lot of important insight to the job. “I actually sit right next to Mitchell at our caucus meetings,” he said. “He is a real team player and someone I appreciate turning to for counsel. That is what I want in a mayor.”

Councillor Nashen, who presently serves as Acting Mayor, said that he and Brownstein share a common vision for the city which is why they have run on common issues in every election. “Mitchell and I want to see the rejuvenation of the city, responsible and transparent accountability,  involvement by residents and volunteers. We are concerned about environmental issues and above all are focused on public safety,” Nashen said.

Councillor Ruth Kovac said "We have worked side by side and shared common goals since 1990. One of my proudest moments was the work of our Demerger team consisting of myself, Anthony, Mitchell and Glenn, and getting our City Back. As I chair the Planning Advisory Committee, I know Mitchell has a keen interest in the development of our city. We will continue in the cohesive way we have over the past 10 years.”

Councillor Allan J. Levine, the longest-serving councillor said “As I focus on my priorities representing my district and the city, I will not seek the mayoralty. Councillor Mitchell Brownstein is announcing his declaration to run for mayor, and I intend to fully support him in his campaign. I have worked alongside Councillor Brownstein, and I believe together we can lead Cote Saint Luc in the right direction.”

Election Campaign News - Nouvelles: Campagne électorale

On October 4, 2013 I was  officially acclaimed as the councillor for District 2 in Côte Saint-Luc. This will be my third mandate. I worked very hard in the weeks and months leading up to the election.  Please follow my trail to  acclamation below by clicking on each headline. 

It is Drabkin vs. Garneau in Westmount-Ville Marie riding

The federal election race in the riding of Westmount-Ville Marie has been very colourful.

 While former astronaut Marc Garneau, who headed the Canadian Space Agency, is the Liberal incumbent he is facing star candidate Neil Drabkin of the Tories. Drabkin was the chief of staff to Stockwell Day the last five years in  the portfolios of public safety, international affairs and president of the Treasury Board.  While working in Ottawa for seven years during then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s tour of duty, he served as deputy chief of staff and senior policy advisor to Canada’s Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship, Gerry Weiner (with Drabkin below).  DrabkinWeiner

A native Montrealer and prominent lawyer, Drabkin completed his law studies at McGill University and Université de Montreal, graduating with degrees in civil and common law. He has an honours degree in political science and was admitted to the Quebec Bar in June of 1989. Prior to accepting his present-day role, Drabkin ran a highly successful immigration practice, and also served as a federal crown prosecutor.

In addition, over a four-year period, Drabkin hosted his own radio talk show on CIQC AM 600. He also hosted several cable television specials and ultimately became a frequent commentator on immigration and citizenship matters in the print media and on television.

  “The Prime Minister has asked for the support of the Canadian people to form a majority government on May 2 and I believe the citizens of Westmount—Ville-Marie want to be represented in that government,” says Drabkin. “The Conservative Government’s stellar performance in managing the economy during the international economic crisis and the requirements necessary to maintain effective recovery and create new jobs moving forward are of utmost importance to all Canadians. Now is not the time to impose punishing new taxes on Canadians. In these uncertain times, we need the certain leadership of Stephen Harper more than ever.”

 Garneau_Marc Garneau (below)  was born in Quebec City in February of 1949.   His education took place in Quebec, Ontario and England. He attended primary and secondary schools in Quebec City and Saint-Jean.  He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the Royal Military College of Kingston in 1970, and in 1973 received a Doctorate in Electrical Engineering from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, England. From 1982 to 1983, he attended the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College of Toronto. Garneau began his service to Canada as a Navy combat systems engineer on HMCS Algonquin from1974 to 1976.  He was promoted to Commander in 1982 while at Staff College and was transferred to Ottawa in 1983. In January 1986, he was promoted to Naval Captain and retired from the Navy in 1989.

 Garneau   was one of six Canadian astronauts selected out of over 4,000 candidates in December 1983. He was seconded to the Canadian Astronaut Program from the Department of National Defence in February 1984 to begin astronaut training. Marc made history by becoming the first Canadian Astronaut to fly in space as a payload specialist on Shuttle Mission 41-G, October 5-13, 1984. In 1989 he was named Deputy Director of the Canadian Astronaut Program, providing technical and program support in the preparation of experiments to fly during future Canadian missions. Garneau reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992. He completed a one-year training program until he became qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. He initially worked on technical issues for the Astronaut Office Robotics Integration Team, and subsequently served as Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) in Mission Control during Shuttle flights. With three space flights (STS-41G in 1984, STS-77 in 1996 and STS-97 in 2000), Marc Garneau has logged over 677 hours in space. In February he was appointed Executive Vice President of the Canadian Space Agency. He was subsequently appointed President of the same Agency on November 22, 2001 and left in 2005 to pursue a career in politics.

Garneau resigned from the Canadian Space Agency to run under the Liberal banner in Vaudreuil–Soulanges in 2006.  He was unsuccessful there, but won two years later in Westmount-Ville Marie.

I was asked by the Jewish Tribune Newspaper to talk to the candidates and here is what they had to say on some of the issues.

 Question: Vis a vis attacks on  Jewish institutions , such as synagogues, community centres, schools and seniors' homes,   what, if anything, would you do to push for an increase in government funding to help Jewish institutions stay safe? Would you work to increase sentences for hate-motivated crimes?

 Drabkin: There has already been substantial investment in increased security spending around Jewish community institutions funded by the Conservative government over the past three years.  What is required is a proactive approach by government that condemns anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms and makes it clear to Canadians that hate crimes against any individual or community are not tolerated in our society.  Canadian families are in favour of our increasing community safety and that is why the Conservative government has introduced substantial anti-crime legislation, notably the Truth in Sentencing Act, broadly supported by the law enforcement community.  Stricter sentencing will increase deterrence for hate crimes and other offences directed at religious and cultural communities.

 Garneau: The Liberal Party remains extremely concerned about such attacks on Jewish institutions. We are glad that the Conservatives finally made the Security Infrastructure Program permanent, after considerable delays, given how successful the pilot program was. We would maintain that program and look to grow it moving forward based on the needs of communities.

A Liberal government would examine the sentencing provisions sentences for hate-motivated crimes and would consider amendments for when hate-based motivation is an aggravating factor.

Question: Do you support the full implementation of Canada's anti-terror legislation, with equal application to all individuals and organizations deemed to be a terror threat, regardless of whether that might give rise to claims of Islam phobia? 

Drabkin: I had the honour of serving as Stockwell Day’s Chief of Staff for over five years, which included his tenure as Minister of Public Security.  Our department originated the strengthening of Canada’s anti-terror legislation and our government has been direct and forthright in identifying organizations supporting terrorist organizations abroad, labelling them as such, and moving to revoke their status in Canada, charitable and otherwise.  The Canadian government does not single out Islamic organizations for special scrutiny, but rather applies the law uniformly across all organizations as it reviews their activities within Canada.

 Garneau: We gave our support to Bill C-19 in the last Parliament, which has to do with investigative hearings and recognizance, the anti-terror measures that had been previously sunsetted. We supported these measures, and will do so again, because we feel they strike the appropriate balance between collective rights and security concerns. Our position is based on a very in-depth study done by Liberal MPs and Senators.

The Liberal Party also supports Bill S-7  in principle. We stand with the families of victims of terror who have long sought legal remedies for their losses. This legislation responds to numerous calls from victims of terror and their families for a legal mechanism with which to pursue domestic and international terrorists and their sponsors.

 We are, however, concerned about the authority granted to Cabinet to list which states will have immunity, and which could be subject to civil actions. This process could become overly politicized. Liberal MP Irwin Cotler introduced a Private Member’s Bill that closely resembles Bill S-7 but does not contain the contentious listing framework that could allow the government to target countries for political reasons.

 Question: Some say that the Liberal Party policy on Israel would not continue Harper’s strong pro-Israel stance. How do you respond? 

 Drabkin: The Liberal party has been peddling the concept of being an ‘honest broker’ in the Middle East peace process, which translated into practical terms would be a return to either voting for or abstaining from voting on anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations as they did between 1993 and 2006.  If being an honest broker means voting together with Arab states that are undemocratic and stand against Israel with the objective of undermining its continued existence, then as Conservatives we are completely against that approach.  Mr. Ignatieff only repealed his 2006 accusation against Israel of war crimes in the Lebanese conflict under extreme duress from his fundraisers – his sincerity deserves to be called into question.  The Harper Conservatives have stood steadfastly in support of Israel as the region’s only true democracy since 2006, and Prime Minister Harper was prepared to lose a seat on the UN Security Council in order to remain true to his values.  We will let Canadian voters decide if an Ignatieff government would have been as principled, but we think not.

 Garneau: Under the Liberal Party, Canada always has and always will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel. Liberals believe in the two-state solution and that true stability in the region can only happen when a safe, secure and democratic Israel exists in peace beside a viable, secure and democratic Palestinian state.

 Canada’s ultimate objective must be peace in the region. In the short term, we should aim for a reduction in hostilities, economic growth for the most vulnerable, and a de-escalation of inflammatory rhetoric. But let us also be very clear – a democratic state like Canada cannot be neutral as between a democratic state and terrorist organizations.

 Here in Canada, the challenges demand that our policy be based on the substance of the issues at play, rather than the exploitation of politics at home. Stephen Harper has polarized debate in Canada for partisan reasons, using this issue to divide Canadians. You won't see Michael Ignatieff or the Liberal Party attacking the positions of the other parties on Israel. That is because we believe the issues are too important to politicize. We don’t want our party to be alone in the defence of Israel – we want all parties to be genuine defenders of Israel, not seeking to divide our unity and our communities for partisan gain.

Question: B’nai Brith Canada has an extensive program of Affordable Housing directed at the senior members of our community.  It is presently constructing an Alzheimer Residence to care for those afflicted with dignity.  How do we best care for the vulnerable in our Society especially seniors.

 Drabkin: Affordable housing is made possible, in part, by contributions from a variety of federal funding initiatives either through direct spending or in cooperation with provincial and municipal organizations.  The $50 billion, 2-year stimulus package included funding for local infrastructure to improve the conditions of Canada’s senior population, which is growing as the boomer generation ages.  The key to helping seniors is the make sure that they stay in good health – and that is why the Conservatives have pledged to add billions of new dollars in federal health care spending when the federal-provincial health accords are renegotiated in 2014.

Garneau: The Liberal platform calls for numerous initiatives to help the most vulnerable members of our society. Of particular interest :

Our Family Care Plan will invest $1 billion annually to reduce the economic pressure on hundreds of thousands of struggling Canadian families. This will be done through (1) A new six-month Family Care Employment Insurance Benefit so that more Canadians can take time off work to care for gravely ill family members at home without having to quit their jobs; (2) A new Family Care Tax Benefit, modeled on the Child Tax Benefit, to help low- and middle-income family caregivers who provide essential care to a family member at home. We will boost the GIS benefit for low-income seniors by $700 million per year.  A  Liberal government will put in place a Canadian Brain Health Strategy in its first year in office. Its main objective will be helping Canadian families cope and it will encompass such diseases as Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis  and Parkinson’s Disease.

A Liberal government will work with provincial, territorial and municipal partners to put in place a renewed Affordable Housing Framework (AHF). The main objectives of the new Framework will be to: (1)  Reduce homelessness; (2) Maintain and renew existing affordable housing stock; and (3) Stimulate new construction of affordable housing.

New entry in Mount Royal Federal Riding

Since my profile of the Mount Royal Federal  Riding came out, a new candidate has entered the fray: independent  Abraham Weizfeld (pictured below). Weizfeld
In a press release, Weizfeld says he us for Direct Democracy, which is an innovation in Canada’s electoral and political history. His seven principles feature the Jewish voice for the reciprocal rights of the Palestinians, together with the Israelis, for peace and security.

Weizfeld says that his campaign is being supported by the Jewish anti-occupation movement the Alliance  of  Concerned  Jewish  Canadians.
"We note that the standard mode of political practice is an abuse of power." his press release reads. 

A lot of what he says is very controversial.  I guess we will have to see if he gets into one of the remaining debates.



Jewish vote is key in Mount Royal riding

Voters in the federal riding of Mount Royal have sent a Liberal to Parliament in every election since 1940. Yet given Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s strong defence of Israel and the presence of a true star candidate for the Conservatives in former Montreal city councillor Saulie Zajdel, this matchup is already garnering a lot of media attention given the fact 36 percent of the riding’s voters are Jewish.

Cotler won the riding with 55.7 percent of the vote in 2008 against a virtual unknown in Rafael Tzoubari. That is a far cry from the 92 percent majority he gained upon assuming office via a by-election in 1999.Zajdel, an orthodox Jew who served on Montreal city council for 23 years, believes that voters in Mount Royal have an historic opportunity. The riding encompasses the heavily Jewish populated suburbs of Côte Saint-Luc and Hampstead, the multi-ethnic Montreal districts of Snowdon and Côte des Neiges and posh Town of Mount Royal. Like Cotler, Zajdel acknowledged the importance of the Jewish vote but indicated there a wide variety of other cultural communities represented. While Cotler has established strong ties with these groups over the past decade as the sitting MP, Zajdel represented Côte des Neiges on city council so he has the connections as well.

“Clearly, Irwin is a quite a great man,” said Zajdel. “It is too bad I have to run against him.  Had he jumped the floor a few years ago and joined the Tories I would not be here today. The truth is, Irwin does not need to be the sitting MP to continue the work he is doing in the area o f human rights.”

The other candidates in the riding are Bialik High School teacher Jeff Itcush of the NDP, Brian Sarwer-Foner of the Green Party and Gabriel Dumas of the Bloc Québecois.    Dumas did not return calls to the Jewish Tribune as this story was going to press.


Zajdel says that when it comes to Israel, the Conservatives and Prime Minister Harper have made it clear where they stand. “We are staunchly behind Israel and the prime minister has been very consistent in his views,” he says. “That is a far cry from the wishy-washy position of the Liberals and Michael Ignatieff. Israel has a right to self defence. Our party has made that clear.”

Harper has gained praise from the Jewish community for his stand on the Jewish State. When Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand,” Harper said in a National Post interview.

“I know, by the way, because I have the bruises to show for it, that whether it is at the United Nations, or any other international forum, the easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of ‘honest broker.’”

“There are, after all, a lot more votes — a lot more — in being anti-Israeli than in taking a stand. But, as long as I am prime minister, whether it is at the UN or the Francophonie or anywhere else, Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but because history shows us, and the ideology of the anti-Israeli mob tells us all too well, that those who threaten the existence of the Jewish people are a threat to all of us.”

Cotler takes great exception to suggestions that the Liberal policy has been different and even less supportive than that of the Conservatives  towards Israel. This, he says,   resulted from some misstatements set forth in what he calls “the false Conservative flyer that targeted the Jewish households in my riding. Let me correct the record and set the record straight. First, it was a Liberal government– and not the Conservatives as the flyer maintained- that first listed Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist entities in 2002. Second, it was I as Minister of Justice who issued a ruling that Hamas could not receive funding as it has been listed as a terrorist organization – and not the Conservatives, who ordered the defunding of Hamas as they claimed. Three, it was the Liberal Party– in support of my initiatives – that has called upon the Conservatives to list the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – the epicentre of Ahmadinejad’s Iran’s domestic and international repression- as a terrorist group which the Conservatives have not yet done though repeatedly asked my me to do so in Parliament. It is the Liberal Party that has called for the bringing of Ahmadinejad to justice something I have repeatedly called on the conservative government to do and which they have not yet done. It was the Liberal Party that first called for comprehensive sanctions against Ahmadinejad’s regime – including the application of the special emergency measures act – which the conservatives belatedly and still insufficiently have responded to. It is the Liberal Opposition that has publicly endorsed both the London Declaration to Combat antisemitism and the Ottawa Protocol to combat antisemitism which the conservative government has yet to do.

“Prime Minister Harper made a wonderful speech at the Ottawa Conference to combat anti-Semitism, which I chaired, and I commended him for it but we need actions to endorse these two declarations so that we can more effectively mobilize the international community to act. We have also proposed and I did so as Minister of Justice that Canada should not acquiesce in, indulge, or validate the annual anti-Israel ritual at the UN which singles Israel out for selective and discriminatory indictment. We believe the process – which still finds the Conservative government either supporting or abstaining in some six anti-Israel resolutions to be prejudicial to Israel and to undermine the integrity of the UN. Accordingly we have proposed that Israel be treated equally before the law and that there be no more than one resolution – as for any other state- rather than the litany of anti-Israel resolutions.”
Cotler notes that he also introduced the first motion with respect to justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries. “Former Prime Minister Martin, whom I served as Minister of Justice,   remains the only Canadian PM – as Sir Martin Gilbert recently in his landmark book – to have called for justice for Jewish refugees from Arab countries. All this is intended to make the point – as Michael Ignatieff has put it but it has gone unnoticed or ignored or misrepresented by the Conservatives – that while there may be differences between the Liberals and Conservatives on matters of policy, that support for Israel is a common one – and it should not be made into a partisan or wedge issue, but one of common cause.”

Sarwer-Foner says that his party does support  Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism.  “The Green Party has a specific policy on the Israel - Palestinian conflict that calls for peace and diplomacy and an end to violence and retribution,” he said. “It should be clear that continued support and use of military or insurgency strategies will not bring about an end to the conflict. The cycle of violence, loss of life and desecration of human rights must come to an end. The Green Party of Canada believes that any effort aimed only at one side in this conflict will not end the violent responses that exacerbate human suffering. Canada's role in the Middle East should be to reduce tensions, find working solutions and uphold international humanitarian law, not to take sides in this chronic conflict. We must work towards a mutually acceptable compromise that will achieve a lasting peace between, and among, the Israelis and Palestinians.

The Green Party MPs, Sarwer-Foner  says, will  endorse the recognition of a Palestinian right to statehood within the internationally recognized borders as described in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, and support a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict that adheres to pre-1967 borders and incorporates an international plan for stimulating economic prosperity in both nations. “We call on both sides to immediately stop the killing of civilians and adhere to international law,” he says.


In regard to hate-related activity in Canada, Zajdel points out that as a former director of B’nai Brith Canada’s Quebec Region he is well aware of the expectations the Jewish community has on government. “I believe our party has already taken a strong position on this and we will continue to do so,” he said.

Adds Itcush:  “As someone who has spent most of his professional life in working with the Jewish community, issues surrounding hatred and antisemitism are my issues.  As a member of an NDP caucus I would promote and, if necessary, subsidize organizations which promote tolerance in a tangible, operationalized and substantive way. We need to promote a national initiative, in conjunction with provinces, geared towards tolerance education and rapprochement  between ethnic and religious communities. We would work with the Jewish community to dispel myths and stereotyping in the broader Quebec and Canadian communities and pressure the RCMP and all police forces in conjunction with the Minister of  Public Safety to prosecute those committing antisemitic and hate crimes in general.”

 Sarwer-Foner noted that the Green Party is all about social and environmental justice, as well as smart green economics.  “We do not have a specific policy on hate related activity,  but we are clearly against all forms of injustice, inequality and unfair treatment,” he said.   “Clearly hate crimes are intolerable when held up to these standards.  Education for peace, healing and tolerance is always a good way to combat hatred by preventing ignorance to fuel hostility towards differences. Embracing the strength of Canada's multi-cultural landscape is a central theme to all our policies on people.” 

Cotler points out that he wrote extensively on this issue as a law professor and as Minister of Justice he released the first ever National Justice Initiative Against Hate,  which dealt specifically with the need for standardized monitoring, more effective reporting enhancing the definition of hate crime, and establishing dedicated hate crime units for law enforcement purposes.”

Regrettably,” he says, “the Conservative government did not follow up on this. More recently I established the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (ICCA) whose London Declaration to combat anti-Semitism at our founding conference, and our most recent Ottawa Protocol to combat anitsemitism, both deal with the issue of hate crimes. I would urge the government to endorse our work and that includes the most recent recommendations that we have received from law enforcement officers in the course of our parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism.”


In light of the fact Jewish institutions throughout Canada, such as synagogues, community centres, schools and seniors' homes, have been attacked and threatened in recent years, the candidates agree this is a matter which requires attention. Zajdel points to Public Safety Canada's Security Infrastructure Pilot (SIP) Program to assist such communities in acquiring surveillance cameras, alarm systems, fencing and other equipment to protect their places of worship, schools and community centres. It was recently extended. “We have already shown leadership on this issue,” he said. “I have no doubt that our government would look favourably upon improving this process.”

Canada is a diverse and tolerant country. But sadly, some communities are vulnerable to hate-motivated crime, targeted simply because of their race, religion, or culture. Such violent and hateful acts damage property and pose a risk to public safety, and they place entire communities in a state of fear and anxiety. 

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Parliament passed legislation to give law enforcement the tools they need to combat terrorism.    The law expired after five years and the Conservatives have tried to reinstate key provisions. This includes “investigative hearings” – allowing a judge to order a person to answer questions or produce documents, when there are grounds to believe a terrorism offence has been or will be committed; and “recognizance with conditions” – whereby a person agrees to abide by conditions imposed by a judge, to prevent terrorist activity.

“Unfortunately, the Ignatieff-led Coalition with the NDP and Bloc Québécois has blocked these necessary measures,” the Tory platform states. “But Canadians know that the threat of global terrorism remains, and in the years since 9/11 we have seen that Canada is also vulnerable to the threat of ‘home-grown’ terrorist plots. We will reintroduce our legislation to give law enforcement the tools they need to investigate and prevent acts of terrorism, to protect Canadians and defend our country against such atrocities.

“The federal government’s most solemn responsibility is to protect the security of Canadians and defend our country against attack. Canadians know we are not immune to the threat of terrorism, and they have a comprehensive plan to counter that threat. Among other things, the Harper government has helped ensure that vital intelligence is shared and analyzed comprehensively by Canada’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies; provided increased funding to strengthen air cargo security and to improve operations of the Canadian Air Transportation Security Authority; and  developed the Federal Emergency Response Plan, and the National Strategy and Action Plan for Critical Infrastructure.To build on these actions we will develop a new National Counter- Terrorism Strategy outlining relevant laws and procedures and highlighting the means to protect our country from terrorism through effective coordination among Canada’s security agencies, all levels of government, law enforcement, community stakeholders and our international partners.”
Itcush says that as an individual who works within these institutions and has represented employees, “it would be easy for me to say, simply, that hate crimes should be punished more severely.  I believe, however, that, there must be a more "omnibus" approach in dealing with these crimes.”

Itcush notes that he would place greater surveillance of institutions at risk. Promote   tolerance education in regions where threats have been acute, call for coordinated and cooperative efforts between police forces of different jurisdictions and, if necessary, provide relief for organizations in paying for insurance premiums as the result of losses suffered due to   hate-motivated incidents.
Following recent attacks on synagogue and institutions in his own riding, Cotler reiterated his initial proposal – and that of the Liberal Party – for a comprehensive federal government security funding program for at-risk communities, rather than what he calls pilot projects where small-scale announcements have been made by the Conservative government.  “We need a comprehensive strategy here and not one that only comes into play at times of elections,” he says.


In regard to affordable housing for seniors,  Zajdel notes that his experience with B’nai Brith in this matter would serve the party well.  Itcush notes the NDP is not impressed with the recent allocations for housing in the Tory budget.”I would like to see all levels of government brought together to work to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for all Canadians,” he says. “Investment in social infrastructure makes economic sense and puts Canada on track to meet its national and international commitments to end homelessness.”

The Liberal Party held a national summit on Alzheimer’s and related ailments during the last prorogation of Parliament by the Harper government.  ‘Our platform, available on the party website,  recognizes what I have heard in my town halls and public consultations among my constituents, and which I relayed to the Conservative Finance Minister,” he says.  “Healthcare is a top priority. Indeed I have tabled a comprehensive motion for the protection and enhancement of our healthcare system and including also a specific initiative for a special federal agency to deal with the burgeoning illness of Alzheimer’s. I meet regularly with the leadership of the Cummings Centre for Seniors in my riding on seniors issues and have introduced several recent legislative initiatives in this regard. Indeed as  Minister of Justice my first piece of legislation was Bill C-2, a bill for the protection of children and other vulnerable persons.”

Cotler wishes to salute the millions of natural caregivers in Canada. “I am especially proud of the recently unveiled Liberal Family Care Plan – a central pillar of the platform - which promises government support for caregivers who provide the support and dignity to our seniors, and who themselves should be properly supported,” he says. “I recently tabled motions in support of affordable housing and wish to commend B’nai Brith both for their initiatives for affordable housing and Alzheimer’s.”

The candidates will take part in a number of debates, including one co-sponsored by B'nai Brith Canada and the City of Côte Saint-Luc on Thursday evening April 28 at Beth Zion Congregation on Hudson Avenue.


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

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

We must stop merging of school board and municipal elections!

The Quebec government appears poised to bring down legislation to extend the present mandates of
 public school boards in the province and merge their elections with those of municipalities in 2013.

Why is the twinning of school board and municipal  elections such a bad idea? My colleague Marcus Tabachnick of the Lester B. Pearson School Board shared with me some excellent points.

First of all, the board-by-board territories do not match the municipal boundaries. In addition, the ward, or riding, boundaries do not match. It is possible that people will have to go to two different polling locations to cast both sets of votes.

There is no proof that twinning actually increases election turnout results. Newfoundland has just untwinned their municipal and school board elections. Voters in our territory will just be confused. And what about available poster space?

There are more acclamations in municipal elections than in school board elections. Take my case for instance. In Côte Saint-Luc, Mayor Anthony Housefather was acclaimed as was I. Therefore, nobody in District 2 had to go vote. How would this help the two school board candidates?City Mayor, Borough Mayor, City Councillor(s), Borough Councillor(s), School Board Chairman, Commissioner, and who knows who else ? Some people could have to fill out as many as six or seven ballots!

The electoral lists do not match and for the school boards there has to be separate English and French lists.

Quebec’s Minister of Education should focus on better promoting school board elections and providing voters with more incentives to cast their ballots.

I did raise the matter with D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman. He is the chairman of the government caucus. The Quebec English School Boards Association did a follow up meeting. Will Lawrence see the light on this one? I hope so. In the meantime I would like to hear what folks like Alan DeSousa, Michael Applebaum and Marvin Rotrand think.  And how about Richard Bergeron's Projet Montréal?