Quebec government

D’Arcy-McGee-National Assembly Citizenship Medals go virtual very successfully

Bravo to D'Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David  Birnbaum and his entire team for doing such a first-class job with their live Zoom-focused awards ceremony.

The winners of the sixth annual D’Arcy-McGee-National Assembly Citizenship Medals competition were to be recognized at a public ceremony. Like everything else due to the COVID-19 pandemic that had to be postponed. But David and company adjusted beautifully to the "new normal" and one might make the argument that this format should be followed in future years. It was wonderful to watch. I started on my phone as I washed the dishes and finished on my laptop. In fact more than 100 people watched it live.

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David Lisbona

 Three individuals and one organization were recognized for “outstanding achievement in community involvement”. They were George Nashen, 96, in the name of surviving veterans of World War II and those who passed before them; Sima Paris, co-founder and President of the Friendship Circle; MultiCaf, a store-front community outreach and referral service in Snowdon-Côte-des-Neiges and David Lisbona, Côte St-Luc entrepreneur and initiator of an emergency food-delivery network for seniors during the current pandemic.

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Roméo Dallaire

 “This has been an unprecedented and trying time for all us but it has also brought out the very best in so many individuals and organizations in this riding,” said  David, who initiated this citizen-medal program soon after his first election in April 2014. “While the crisis around us is far from over, I think it is always the right time to recognize those who inspire us to do more and do better by our fellow citizens. Even if we can only celebrate this event virtually this year, I do hope it will lift us up at this very tough time. "

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George Nashen and his wife Phyllis.

Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire (ret’d) delivered a brief address to the Zoom gathering. His own harrowing and heroic experience during the Rwandan genocide, and his outreach efforts since retirement have made him a sought-after public speaker. His Roméo Dallaire Foundation works to inspire young people from underprivileged backgrounds to develop their leadership potential. In appreciation of Mr. Dallaire’s participation, David's office made a donation of $1,000 to the Foundation. It was only appropriate that Dallaire introduced Nashen, an extraordinary gentleman whom I have been proud to know and call a friend for many years.

David was an excellent emcee. Each recipient spoke live via Zoom. It was a flawless production. Bravo!!

You can see the entire program via video on David's Facebook page.


Strict measures must be implemented for public and private pools to reopen

Now that the Quebec government has permitted public pools to reopen, it is important to note that a great many safety standards must be met.

Our Mayor has already announced that Parkhaven Pool will reopen with many new rules.  As for those pools in condos and apartment buildings, it is by no means a slam dunk. Many have already indicated to me  they do not wish to take the risk of a COVID-19 spread. Others simply do not feel they can properly comply with the measures necessary.

I have personally gone on record that pools should not reopen this summer. It is not the water I am concerned about; rather the ability for people (especially kids) to social distance in the water; common touching of railings and chairs; the use of bathrooms; and more.

As for pools in condos and apartments, I am still seeking clarification as to whether they are included in Premier Legault's reference to "privately owned pools" in this article.

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There will have to be fewer people in the pool under new guidelines.

 

The Institut National de la Santé Publique du Québec (“INSPQ”) has published a document for condominium associations and apartment building owners to prepare for the eventual reopening of their swimming pools. These preventive measures must be implemented before owners and tenants can use the pools in order to respect the government measures on physical distancing and hand hygiene. The preventive measures notably include:

  • Measures should be put in place in order to respect physical distancing of at least two (2) meters at all times, inside or outside the pools, such as:
  • Limiting the number of pool users at one time;
  • Distributing tickets to users for a specific period of time to use the pool;
  • Have a guard at the entrance of the pool at all times during opening hours to control the number of users who enter;
  • Ensure that all chairs are placed at a minimal distance of two (2) meters;
  • Installation of marks of the ground in strategic areas to enforce physical distancing measures;
  • Promote hand washing inside the facility, such as installing hand sanitizer dispensers or hand washing stations inside and outside the entrance of the pools;
  • Ensure users shower with soap for at least one minute before entering the pool;
  • Prevent access for users who have contracted the COVID-19 virus or show symptoms of the virus;
  • Ensure proper ventilation for indoor pools in order to control the concentration of contaminants in the air and therefore, update ventilation systems as per industry standards, if necessary;
  • Close all areas where physical distancing of two (2) meters is not possible or where there is poor ventilation by establishing physical barriers such barricades or tape;
  • Locker rooms should only be used to go to the toilet and allow for only a limited number of people to use the locker rooms at the same time;
  • Distribute a triage questionnaire to all pool users to detect COVID-19 related symptoms and explain to users the risks of using the pool;
  • Have a guard at the entrance of the pool at all times during opening hours to remind users of these measures;
  • Installation of signage indicating these measures;
  • The usual measures to ensure the quality of the water must be rigorously applied as per the Regulation respecting water quality in swimming pools and other artificial pools; and
  • The usual measures for cleaning and disinfecting must be rigorously applied for all surfaces including but not limited to locker rooms, showers, washrooms, water fountains, doorknobs, pool ladders, diving boards, etc. The hiring of additional staff/personnel may be required to ensure proper cleaning.

In order to respect the abovementioned measures, condominium associations and owners of apartment buildings may have to purchase the necessary equipment or incur certain expenses, such as but not limited to:

  • Hand sanitizer dispenser or hand washing stations;
  • Pictograms to be placed on the ground such as arrows and lines;
  • Printing of signage indicating the abovementioned measures;
  • Printing of triage questionnaires and information flyers;
  • Upgrade in ventilation systems; and
  • Hiring of additional staff/personnel to survey and ensure the abovementioned measures are respected;

The City urges condominium associations and owners of apartment buildings to follow these guidelines and asks that serious and responsible personnel be appointed to implement these procedures. If these procedures can’t be realistically met, the shared swimming pools should remain closed.  

Furthermore, please note that a pool operation permit is still required and the present letter will be included in any permit that is issued by the Urban Development department. The following clause will also be added to any permit that is issued:

“The condominium association or owner of the apartment building confirms that he has read the attached letter and will abide by the terms and conditions provided therein.”

Finally, the City will be actively encouraging the DSP to enforce the abovementioned measures through the guide of their top senior bureaucrats.

Should condo and apartment buildings managers have any questions, we ask that they contact the DSP by email info.ccsmtl@ssss.gouv.qc.ca or by phone at 514-842-7226. If you do not receive an answer within a reasonable delay you may contact  your city councillor.

A huge thanks to Assistant City Clerk Jason Prevost for  all of his work on this  file!


Introducing my new podcast: please tune in

For many years now I have thought about starting my own podcast. 

Now it is a reality at : 

https://soundcloud.com/themikecohenpodcast. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-mike-cohen-podcast/id1508770681

On your iPhone or iPad go to  the Podcasts folder and in the search engine type in "Mike Cohen Podcast" and subscribe.

 

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I graduated from Concordia University's Broadcast Journalism Program in 1985 and a future in radio or TV was definitely on my radar screen. Yes, I was able to get some freelance assignments. Mitch Melnick,  then  with CJAD, gave me my first taste in the business when he arranged for me to do some post game reports at Montreal Expos games. A number of years later, I served as the Montreal correspondent for The FAN all-sports radio in Toronto and for two  years co-hosted the Expos pre  and post game shows on the old CIQC Radio 600 (a successor to the old CFCF Radio). It  was a blast. Meanwhile, as the then national director  of communications for Canadian Jewish Congress I became an official spokesperson and did countless interviews. That continued  in 1999 when I joined the English Montreal School Board as communications and marketing specialist, a position I still hold today. Responding to media inquiries is a huge component of this job. From time to time I also get to  do a sports radio bit on TSN 690 with the likes  of Tony Marinaro and Matthew Ross.

In 2005 I was elected to city council in Côte Saint-Luc. I started this blog as a way to regularly communicate with my constituents. Last September my colleague, Councillor Oren Sebag, started his own podcast. I think that was the wakeup call I needed to launch mine. My intent is to draw from the people I interact with via my three main jobs: the EMSB, city council and as a writer for a number of publications, notably The Suburban. During the present COVID-19 pandemic,  interviews will be done by phone. As such the podcasts will not have a lot of bells and whistles attached, but I do hope to  chat with different players in the field under the three hats I wear. I greatly look forward to the day when I can go on location.

My first interview is with the Liberal MNA for D'Arcy McGee David Birnbaum. David and  I go back decades. We first met when he was  the communications officer for the former Protestant  School Board of Greater Montreal and I was a reporter for The Suburban.It was David,  in fact, who recommended me for my job at the EMSB.  I thought it would be interesting to get his take  on the COVID-19 pandemic. How does it impact local MNAs? Is the CAQ government doing a good job? Where does the Liberal leadership race stand? Will Bill 40, the school board reforms, be enacted on time? Please give it a listen and stay tuned for more.

You can click on this direct link: https://soundcloud.com/themikecohenpodcast/an-interview-with-darcy-mcgee-liberal-mna-david-birnbaum.

and this one  for my interview with Anthony Housefather: https://soundcloud.com/themikecohenpodcast/anthony-housefather-interview  

 

 

 

 

 


David Birnbaum to cross the floor and join the CAQ? April Fool's

With Quebec Premier François Legault’s  popularity at an all-time high given the way he has handled the COVID-19 crisis, D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum has decided to cross the floor. He will leave the Quebec Liberal Party and join the Coalition avenir Québec and second Christopher Skeete as one of the Premier’s point-men on anglo relations.

Talks between Birnbaum and CAQ officials intensified as he lobbied for  the installation of a COVID-19 Testing Center at the Quartier Cavendish in Côte Saint-Luc.

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David Birnbaum

 

“I think my constituents will be well served by this decision,” said Birnbaum.

Birnbaum said he is confident that with his presence on the team, the CAQ will withdraw the Bill 21 secular law and Bill 40 abolishing school boards. “François Legault has proven during this crisis that he is the Premier for all Quebecers,” Birnbaum said. “I am proud to now be standing by his side.”

Birnbaum added that when this pandemic crisis comes to an end, he is confident Legault will help push  through the Cavendish Boulevard extension.

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Premier Legault

“Premier  Legault is practically our neighbor,” said Birnbaum. “He lives in Outremont  and understands our community very well.”

In fact Birnbaum will accompany Legault this Saturday for a visit to the Quartier Cavendish Testing Centre. “If only I could have bought him a smoked meat sandwich at the Deli Boyz,” he said.

The liaison between the Birnbaum-CAQ talks was none other than  former Quebec Premier and noted flip-flopper Philippe Couillard, whom we are told will be named the province’s delegate general in New York City when this is all over.

Birnbaum has also asked that the name of his riding,D’Arcy McGee, be changed to Côte Saint HampWest – something he says Legault supports. We contacted one-time MNA and Mayor Robert Libman, who was so upset to hear about Birnbaum’s decision that he intends to bring the Equality Party back for the 2022 election.

And folks, one more thing: it is April 1 and a time when we are stressed out and overwhelmed I hope you can see the humour in this April Fool’s joke. David Birnbaum has been doing an outstanding job for us  and rest assured he will always remain a Liberal.

 


Coalition of elected officials at all levels join to oppose Bill 21/Coalition d’élus de tous les paliers de gouvernement contre le projet de loi 21

 A coalition of mayors, city councillors, school board commissioners, and representatives at the provincial and federal level announced today their intention to oppose Bill 21, An Act respecting the laicity of the State, which was recently tabled by the Quebec government.

The coalition of elected officials announced the Rally for Religious Freedom will take place on Sunday, April 14, 2019, from 11:30am to 1 pm in front of the Bernard Lang Civic Centre at 5801 Cavendish Blvd. in Côte Saint-Luc. The public is invited to attend to show their opposition to Bill 21.

Quotes

“Yes, ensuring the neutrality of the state is vitally important. That ensures the equality of all but this awful bill will do exactly the opposite. It will tell some Quebecers that they are not as equal as others. What a terrible message! This bill is unfair, it is unworthy of the Quebec that I love and is effectively illegal when applied to the Quebec and Canadian Charters of Rights. Together, we will use all means legitimately available to oppose it.”

- David Birnbaum, Member of Parliament for D’Arcy-McGee and Official Opposition Critic for Indigenous Affairs

“We intend to work together across jurisdictions to oppose Bill 21. The proposed law discriminates against a number of those people we represent and seeks to treat those who wear a cross, kippa, hijab or turban as second class citizens.”

- Anthony Housefather, Member of Parliament for Mount Royal

“We intend to speak out and defend a value we hold dear–that of ensuring all Quebecers can excel in the professions of their choice, irrespective of their religious beliefs.”

- Mitchell Brownstein, Mayor of the City of Côte Saint-Luc

“Bill 21 violates both the Quebec and Canadian Charters of Rights and Freedoms as well as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We have a moral obligation to fight this law in every way we can. It discriminates against religious people and limits their job opportunities."

- Dr. William Steinberg, Mayor of the Town of Hampstead

“Bill 21 will institutionalize discrimination for certain jobs in the public service making Quebec the only jurisdiction in North America where candidates who might be entirely qualified, indeed the best candidate, will be barred on the basis of their deeply held religious believes. Quebec's civil service already lacks diversity and the message this Bill sends is that minorities are unwelcome. It flies in the face of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and what most Quebecers believe that we are a welcoming society where people can be proud of their descent and heritage while being proud of being Quebecers. Clearly this Bill targets Jews, Sikhs and Muslims and as more Quebecers realize it, support for this odious legislation will collapse.”

- Marvin Rotrand, Councillor for Snowdon district of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (Montreal)

“We must speak out against this legislation together. We stood united against the former PQ government’s Charter of Values in 2014 and I am comforted to see we will do so again. What the government is asking us to do goes against all of the values we teach our children.”

- Angela Mancini, Chair of the English Montreal School Board

Quick facts

 

Une coalition formée de maires, de conseillers municipaux, de commissaires d’école et de représentants de différents organismes provinciaux et fédéraux a annoncé aujourd’hui son intention de s’opposer au projet de loi 21, la Loi sur la laïcité de l’État déposée récemment par le gouvernement du Québec.

La coalition d’élus a fait savoir que le Rallye pour la liberté religieuse se tiendra le dimanche 14 avril 2019, de 11 h 30 à 13 h, devant le Centre municipal Bernard Lang au 5801, boulevard Cavendish à Côte Saint-Luc. La population est invitée à participer pour manifester son opposition au projet de loi 21.

Citations

« Oui, il est essentiel de garantir la neutralité de l’État afin d’assurer l’égalité entre tous, mais cet inquiétant projet de loi fera exactement le contraire. Il indiquera à certains Québécois qu’ils ne sont pas aussi égaux que d’autres. Quel horrible message !  Ce projet de loi est injuste, il est indigne du Québec que j’aime. En fait, il est illégal selon les chartes québécoise et canadienne des droits et libertés. Ensemble, nous utiliserons tous les moyens légitimes à notre disposition pour nous y opposer. »

- David Birnbaum, membre de l’Assemblée nationale pour D’Arcy-McGee et Porte-parole de l’opposition officielle en matière d’affaires autochtones

« Nous avons l’intention de travailler ensemble avec les divers paliers de gouvernement pour nous opposer au projet de loi 21. La loi proposée est discriminatoire envers un certain nombre de personnes que nous représentons et elle a pour effet de traiter ceux qui portent une croix, une kippa, un hijab ou un turban comme des citoyens de deuxième classe. »

- Anthony Housefather, député de Mont-Royal à la Chambre des Communes

« Nous avons l’intention de nous faire entendre et de défendre une valeur qui nous tient à cœur : faire en sorte que tous les Québécois puissent exceller dans les professions de leur choix, peu importe leurs croyances religieuses. »

- Mitchell Brownstein, maire de la Ville de Côte Saint-Luc

« Le projet de loi  21 viole à la fois la charte québécoise et la charte canadienne des droits et libertés, ainsi que la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme des Nations Unies. Nous avons l’obligation morale de combattre cette loi par tous les moyens dont nous disposons. Elle est discriminatoire envers les personnes ayant des croyances religieuses et elle limite leurs possibilités d’emploi. »

- Dr William Steinberg, maire de la Ville de Hampstead

« Le projet de loi  21 institutionnalisera la discrimination pour certains emplois dans la fonction publique, faisant du Québec la seule juridiction en Amérique du Nord où des candidats parfaitement qualifiés, voire les meilleurs, seront exclus en raison de leurs convictions religieuses profondes. La fonction publique québécoise manque déjà de diversité et le message de ce projet de loi est que les minorités ne sont pas les bienvenues. Cela va à l’encontre de la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne du Québec et de ce que la plupart des Québécois estiment être une société accueillante où les gens peuvent être fiers de leur descendance et de leur patrimoine tout en étant fiers d’être Québécois. Il est clair que ce projet de loi cible les juifs, les sikhs et les musulmans et à mesure que les Québécois en prendront conscience, l’appui à cette loi odieuse s’effondrera. »

- Marvin Rotrand, conseiller du district Snowdon de Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (Montréal)

« Nous devons nous prononcer contre ce projet de loi ensemble. Nous nous sommes unis contre la Charte des valeurs de l’ancien gouvernement du PQ en 2014 et je suis rassurée de voir que nous le referons. Ce que le gouvernement nous demande de faire va à l’encontre de toutes les valeurs que nous enseignons à nos enfants. »

- Angela Mancini, présidente de la Commission scolaire English-Montréal

Faits en bref


Let's Chat Facebook page transforms into West End Politics

Almost two years ago, before the 2017 Côte Saint-Luc municipal elections got into  full gear, a new Facebook page called Let’s Chat was created by local activist and businesswoman Marissa Sidel. It attracted a lot of attention, with residents airing their gripes and candidates chiming in. Some others  pages  like   Côte Saint-Luc Families and CSL Unsensored also materialized.

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Marissa Sidel

Upon the election of the new council, Our Public Affairs and Communications Director Darryl Levine launched CSL Ideas. We already had a general city Facebook page with general updates and information.

After the election Let’s Chat  CSL expanded to become Let’s Chat CSL, Hampstead Montreal West 2.0. Then last week the page was taken down by Facebook. Initially Marissa tried  to revive it as Let’s Chat 3.0. It seems the  page got caught up in a spam folder algorithm and the name needed to be changed.

Marissa has now introduced West End Politics, aiming  for a broader audience and mandate. “This group is meant for discussion surrounding local issues in the West End,” she notes. “The West End constitutes CSL, NDG, Hampstead, Montreal West and TMR. All issues are welcome to be discussed. The purpose of this group is to be a citizen led conversation about anything that affects the West End. The group is for the people and by the people."

Working  alongside Marissa is her brother and business partner Noah, a former journalist, communications professional, political candidate and most recently an active voice for the Edinburgh Elementary School community in Montreal West. What’s refreshing about this page is the fact it will not just focus on municipal issues in CSL, Hampstead and Montreal West, but we will hear about the provincial and federal level and yes the school boards.

"There’s a lot we can do as a group of people. I’m a little tired of the  'we have no lights on Cavendish and Kildare' posts."

I have been active on Facebook for years, with personal and political pages. In addition, I am an administrator or moderator for the English Montreal School Board, the CSL Trap Neuter Return program, CSL Central Bark, Montreal Food Scene and Carré Union. 

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Anthony Housefather

Besides  members of our city council, Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal Anthony Housefather and D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum are frequent posters to these local pages.

Housefather is thriving in his role as our representative in Ottawa and this week he posted a video of his impressive  back and forth with the Bloc , who have proposed a bill that would give English-speaking Quebecers in the federal civil service fewer rights to work in their language than any other civil servant in Canada. “In this video my vision of Canada comes out loudly and clearly in both official languages,” Anthony stated on his Facebook page. You can see it here is you have access to Facebook.

With a federal election set for October, West End politics will no doubt be occupied with that topic.

 

 

 


D'Arcy McGee Medals to be handed out June 19

David Birnbaum has introduced a variety of excellent and out of the box ideas since becoming our Liberal Member of the National Assembly for D'Arcy McGee  just over four years ago. He is a lock to be re-elected in October.

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Birnbaum

The D'Arcy McGee Medals honour outstanding achievements in community involvement and the previous three ceremonies have been excellent affairs. David has worked with his predecessors, Lawrence Bergman, Robert Libman and Herbert Marx to select the winners and they have been right on the money each time.

On Tuesday June 19 (7 pm)  the 2018 winners will be unveiled at a ceremony at Ashkelon Gardens behind Côte Saint-Luc City Hall

(5801 boul. Cavendish Blvd.). This will be followed by a cocktail, with musical entertainment provided by the École secondaire St-Luc Jazz Ensemble. In case of rain, the ceremony will take place in the Council Chamber of City Hall.

David wishes to invite members of the community to attend. I am anxious to hear who the recipients are.  


Up to $1 million in provincial funding announced for the Samuel Moskovitch Arena

David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy-McGee and Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education and to the Minister responsible for Higher Education, and Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein today announced up to $1 million in funding from the provincial government for the upgrade of the Samuel Moskovitch Arena. The funds are designated for major modifications to the arena’s refrigeration system.

‘’This major investment by our government in a treasured and important Côte Saint-Luc facility is excellent news,” Mr. Birnbaum noted. “The numerous benefits associated with regular exercise, physical activity and leisure are obvious, and I’m pleased that our citizens will be assured of a first-class upgraded infrastructure that fully responds to their needs. This grant clearly demonstrates the importance our government places on healthy and safe physical activity.”

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Mayor Brownstein and David Birnbaum.

Mayor Brownstein noted that he is pleased with this further example of effective collaboration between the provincial and municipal sectors. “This upgrade is important to our community, to our families who use the arena for a host of sports and recreation activities. We’re proud of our extensive parks and recreation programs, and pleased to have a valuable partnership with our provincial government in strengthening that offer.”

“Thanks to this grant, Quebec’s regions are benefitting from quality arenas and curling clubs. By prolonging the lifespan of our sporting infrastructures, we allow the population to access these modern and safe facilities to practice sports,” said Education, Recreation and Sports Minister Sébastien Proulx.

This project is among the 27 across Quebec that received funding, for a total investment of $17 million.


MNA Birnbaum to chair Liberal caucus of Montreal

Bravo to our D'Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum who received a well deserved promotion  from Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.

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Already the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education, Recreation and Sports and the Minister Responsible for Advanced Education,  Sebastien Proulx, Birnbaum has been named chair of the Liberal Caucus of Montreal.

This caucus includes all the Liberal members serving the ridings of the island of Montreal. Birnbaum succeeds the member for Jeanne-Mance-Viger, Filomena Rotiroti, who was appointed chair of the government caucus during the last cabinet shuffle.

"I am honored by the confidence my colleagues have placed in this important position, particularly in the lead-up to the upcoming elections," said Birnbaum. "Montreal is the engine of Quebec's development and its successes are victories for all Quebecers. I look forward to our group playing an active and visible role in promoting solutions to the key issues of concern to Montrealers. "

Birnbaum has acknowledged the constant and effective leadership of outgoing President Rotiroti over the past eight years. He indicated that he wanted to follow her example by working in partnership with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and the City of Montreal, Martin Coiteux, the Prime Minister and all government partners.

"Our Montreal caucus can and must be a vital force in supporting positive policies and initiatives for the Island of Montreal ," said Minister Coiteux."I am confident that Mr. Birnbaum will be a positive catalyst in his role as chair of our caucus."

The caucus is looking forward to meeting the new Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante in the coming weeks.

In my opinion Birnbaum should have gotten the new Ministry of Anglo Affairs portfolio, which went to Kathleen Weil. 

 

 


Premier Couillard charms his audience at packed Côte Saint-Luc address

It is pretty rare that we see the Premier of Quebec come to speak in the City of Côte Saint-Luc. But this finally did occur on May 12 as Philippe Couillard addressed a standing room only crowd at our Aquatic and Community Centre on Parkhaven Avenue.


Credit is due to our incredible Men`s Club and of course the Member of the National Assembly, David Birnbaum, who made this happen. As event emcee and District 2 resident Sidney Margles pointed out that when Couillard was just the new  Quebec Liberal Party leader he  was slated to address this same group at the urging of Birnbaum`s predecessor, Lawrence Bergman. Something came up at the last minute and his appearance had to be cancelled. The Men’s Club has 560 members and counting.

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The Premier shakes hands as he enters the room.

This time everything worked out just fine. The Men`s Club began distributing reserved tickets a few weeks ago. When I arrived, there was a strong police presence around the building. Couillard did get to the ACC a little late and like a born campaigner he entered the room by shaking as many hands as possible.


One thing I must say about our Premier, who by profession was a former professor and neurosurgeon. He speaks both languages so beautifully. While many of us are upset with the significant budget cuts we incurred early in the Liberal mandate and the gutting of the health system, Couillard has this audience eating out of his hands from the get go. He began with some humour, alluding to the massive flooding in different parts of Quebec and the fact he decided to visit an aquatic center. He drew applause immediately when he announced “I will do this speech in English so we can all follow.” He also introduced Greg Kelley, son of Native Affairs Minister Geoff Kelley, as his new point person for Quebec's English-speaking community. “Anglophone liaison officer,” is the exact title. I met Kelley after the talk. He’s 31 and presently bunking with his parents in Beaconsfield. He formerly worked in the office of government House Leader Jean-Marc Fournier.


Couillard drew cheers again when he previewed his upcoming trade mission to Israel. “This will be my third trip there. It is the first time a Quebec Premier has gone.” More than 100 Quebec business persons and leaders will accompany him. “Why are we doing this?” Couillard asked rhetorically. “Israel is a start-up nation and an example to follow.”

Couillard mentioned the fact that both Air Canada and Air Transat have direct flights from Montreal to Tel Aviv. He also laughed that when he is in Israel, so will controversial US President Donald Trump.


“Since elected our government is doing exactly like we said we’d do; putting our financial house in order.”

The Premier gave a ringing endorsement for federalism. “Some people are telling me that I cannot be a Quebecer and Canadian. We will stand tall for a strong Quebec within Canada.”


Couillard expressed pride about his government’s job creation program. He also pointed to the investments made at the Jewish General Hospital. “This is a hospital that serves all communities,” he said. “My (late) father was treated there in oncology. So was Mr. Parizeau”


Couillard asked, “How do we build our economy in such an unstable world?” He referred to the three pillars: advance manufacturing, exports and entrepreneurship. “You need a strong educational system to build a proper economy,” he said.


Couillard spoke very excitingly about the planned 67-kilometre, $6 billion electric-train system which will connect downtown Montreal with the South Shore, Deux-Montagnes, the West Island and Trudeau airport. “This will be the equivalent of Expo ’67 in 2017,” he said.


Rather than a straight question and answer period, Margles said that members were asked to submit queries. From the 40 or so obtained, he chose to share a few with the Premier related to assisted living for seniors, the availability of family doctors, special needs children, the sale of marijuana and the Quebec Electoral Commission’s decision to merge the Outremont and Mont Royal ridings and change the boundaries of D’Arcy McGee.


Couillard said that he turns 60 in June so he is sensitive to issues related to seniors. “We are devoting significant dollars to seniors,” he acknowledged. “We have many more doctors than we did before – hundreds of new physicians and they are staying in Quebec.”


As for access to family physicians, Couillard said that right now there are 600,000 people more who have this option compared to 2014.


Turning to the sale of marijuana, which will become legal in Canada in July 2018. “An easy thing for me to say that at first glance I think there is merit to the idea,” said Couillard. “It is now controlled by the black market. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. My biggest concern is public health. Smoking pot is probably not good for your lungs. Young people now are smoking a product that is much worse than the hippy days.”


Couillard also wished to clear up a myth that the province is going to make a lot of money on this. “If to price it too high you will send people back to the black market,” he remarked. “If you price it too low, you will increase consumption.”

As reported in The Suburban, Couillard explained that it was decided years ago to enable the independent, non-partisan Quebec Electoral Commission to decide on riding changes "to remove petty politics and partisanship from the issue. The only way for us to act on [riding changes considered to be unjust] is to change the criteria on which the commission bases itself to make decisions, and for this we need to change electoral law. I'm not ruling this out. We're going to have significant discussions. I know legal recourse has been tabled by the community here on this, and people should exercise their rights. That's something that should be done."


Mayor Brownstein concluded proceedings by thanking the Premier for coming to Côte Saint-Luc and particularly the ACC, which the provincial government contributed one-third of the cost.


Also on hand for Couillard’s speech were provincial cabinet ministers Kathlee Weil, Pierre Arcand and Francine Charbonneau, Mount Royal Liberal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, CSL councillors Sam Goldbloom, Ruth Kovac, Allan J. Levine, Dida Berku and myself and English Montreal School Board Commissioner Bernard Praw.