Local winners can inspire outsiders
June 22nd 2007
Local winners can inspire outsiders
BY DON WEDGE
Municipal laws are often turgid documents – whatever emotive denunciations they may inspire within Big Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and others closely affected by them.
Although it was understandable that Tremblay fumed over the reforms the Charest government proposed last week, there are plenty for others to celebrate.
Bill 22 documents the planned changes. At the bottom of page 5, is this reference to the present law governing the Agglom:
“28.1 ….the component of public security consisting in first responder services on the territory of Ville de Côte-Saint-Luc … is under the responsibility of that city.”
That key sentence frees Côte St Luc’s famed Emergency Medical Service (EMS) from being buried in Big Montreal for ever and allows the volunteers to continue their acclaimed service.
It epitomizes one of the worst faults of the forced mergers and the botched demergers: they were not designed to take the best the Island could offer and make it available everywhere, but rather to force down the quality of services.
The Montreal firemen’s’ union is effectively the arbiter of the Island-wide service which only now is being introduced. Presumably it will denounce the government’s proposal.
Comparisons for firemen
Citizens everywhere – not just Côte St Luc – should support the government. The firemen could adopt some statesmanship on the issue, too.
Competition between the two methods of working could provide a healthy challenge.
The unveiling of Premier Charest’s belated proposals came on the same day as an Agglom council meeting. Tremblay did not take his seat and half of his nominees also were missing. CDN-NDG Mayor Michael Applebaum was in De la Savane Park, part of his series of location meetings with borough citizens!
Presumably, if the suburban mayors could boycott meetings to protest Tremblay’s budget, it was OK for the Big Mayor and his acolytes to ignore the painful questions of the suburban mayors.
Steinberg gets non-answer
It didn’t stop them. Hampstead’s Bill Steinberg received an answer to his request for the split between spending on the city and the suburbs, but quickly realized it was not for the year he had asked! So he asked again.
Standing in for Anthony Housefather, Dida Berku scored a coup by persuading Tremblay’s deputies to withdraw proposals to charge 10 per cent more for the water they supplied last year to Côte St. Ham-West and six others.
“It was a perfect example of the need for the proposed Secretariat,” Berku pointed out afterwards.
“No explanations for the increase were given in the documents supplied to councillors last week. That happens too often. So we asked Jean-Francois Leclaire, the Montreal bureaucrat responsible.
Berku challenges increase
“He told us that he could not give the information. He said: ‘Ask at council’” Berku reported. “I was outraged.”
Every taxpayer should be outraged, too, including all Montrealers.
Centre City councillors must approve all such proposals prior to the Agglom. That they did so without full explanations was a glaring example of Montreal’s blind spending, a big reason why more reforms are needed.
Tremblay’s business experience must tell him that big cities promote that kind of inefficiency. The background of his executive committee chairman, Frank Zampino – an accountant, who was the long-time mayor of the very efficient City of St. Leonard – must confirm that diagnosis.
Applebaum’s food fund
Even the PQ partly recognized it by creating the boroughs. But the forced mergers brought no new money to the Island. As I pointed out last week, CDN-NDG borough has been under-funded from the start and must look for its own solutions.
It is not widely known that the Tremblay administration will no longer fund food banks, a service for which Côte des Neiges district councillor Francine Senécal is responsible.
For many borough residents, including school-children who rely on municipally funded meals, this would be very bad news.
Anxious that the local community show that they can overcome such setbacks, Applebaum plans to create a Mayor’s Foundation to raise funds privately and ensure local food banks do not go out of business because of downtown’s budget cutting.
• Don Wedge’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.