C.S.L. EMS wins stay
By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban
Côte St. Luc’s volunteer Emergency Medical Services has received a three-year stay of execution as mayoral candidates Robert Libman and Anthony Housefather dicker over who is better positioned to ensure the survival of the 25-year-old institution past the deadline.
At a special megacity council meeting last Friday, councillors adopted a resolution giving Montreal firefighters the exclusive right to respond to Priority 1, or life-threatening, emergency calls. The island-wide first responder service will be fully implemented after a three-year transition period. Côte St. Luc’s Priority 1 service would be the last to be absorbed.
But the council invoked closure on CôteSt.HampWest councillor Dida Berku’s amendment to the resolution, which would have guaranteed that the Côte St. Luc EMS would always have the right to respond to Priority 1 calls. Council speaker Marcel Parent ruled that the amendment was inadmissible because it contradicted council’s vote last year to ratify a collective agreement giving firefighters the right to answer Priority 1 calls across the island.
Housefather, co-chairman of the borough’s emergency services committee, denounced the Tremblay team’s closure motion as undemocratic, but also said Libman helped doom Berku’s amendment by supporting last year’s collective agreement.
“The firefighters’ collective agreement that the executive committee ratified a year ago was a death knell for our EMS department,” Housefather said, adding that EMS will have a hard time recruiting new volunteers. “As mayor, or whatever I will be in the future, I’m going to have to go with my colleagues to the Quebec government and try our best to reverse this decision.”
But Libman said the three-year implementation period provides a window for negotiation, saying a Quebec government letter issued Friday said the Montreal government could allow a parallel service to exist if it meets the proper criteria.
“I’m confident we can seal a deal to make sure we can continue well beyond the three years,” he said.
Libman criticized Housefather and former Côte St. Luc councillor Glenn Nashen for being pessimistic about EMS’s future, and for saying recruitment might be threatened.
“EMS is very much alive and will be alive for years to come.”
Berku is less optimistic.
“We got a three-year extension, but there’s no guarantee that we can continue after the three years,” she said. “[The negotiations] are an opening.”
But EMS director Richard Edelstein said the organization has faced threats over its 25-year existence and survived.
“We have a big fight ahead of us,” he said. “It’ll be business as usual.”