March 28, 2017
Municipal leaders band together to fight Quebec Electoral Representation Commission’s senseless decision
March 27, 2017
Elections, Events, Jewish Community, Language, Montreal, Published Opinion, Quebec Beryl Wajsman, D'Arcy McGee riding, Marvin Rotrand, Mike Cohen, Mitchell Brownstein, Mount Royal riding, Outremont, Russell Copeman, Ruth Kovac Leave a comment
By Councillor Mike Cohen | 23 Mar 2017
As a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc, I always appreciate opportunities to work together with other elected officials in neighbouring municipalities. Such was the case on March 21 when the borough of Côte des Neiges-NDG spearheaded an energizing public meeting at their Community Centre to protest the senseless decision arrived by the Quebec Electoral Representation Commission. This unelected body, which answers to absolutely nobody, inexplicably reversed its February 7, 2017 second report on the electoral map that proposed to maintain the Mont Royal, Outremont and D’Arcy McGee ridings without any change. When the next provincial election takes place in October 2018, Mont Royal and Outremont will be merged and D’Arcy McGee unnecessarily larger in size.
Snowdon Councillor Marvin Rotrand and Suburban Newspaper editor Beryl Wajsman led the charge, first with a press conference and then with this impressive public meeting. Rotrand was joined at the head table by Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, TMR Councillor Erin Kennedy (representing Mayor Philippe Roy), CSL Councillor Ruth Kovac (representing Mayor Mitchell Brownstein) and Outremont Councillor Mindy Pollak (representing Mayor Marie Cinq Mars) English Montreal School Board Chairman Angela Mancini spoke, with Vice Chair Sylvia Lo Bianco, Commissioner Julien Feldman and Parent Commissioner Joanne Charron in attendance. Allan J. Levine, Dida Berku and I were the other CSL councillors on hand. I saw several of my constituents.
If the Electoral Map had been adopted by Members of the National Assembly, I am certain that the passion and clear facts set out at this meeting would have resulted in an about face. Regrettably, there is nothing elected officials seem to be able to do. In fact, Mont Royal and Outremont are represented by cabinet ministers Pierre Arcand and Helene David. One of them will have to find a new place to run or retire.
I spoke to lawyer Peter Villani after the meeting and we both agreed that the Electoral Representation Commission still has an opportunity to correct this terrible wrong, admit it made a mistake and allow the status quo to prevail.
The room was packed, something which elated fireball Rotrand. “The large attendance we witnessed speaks to the public interest in opposing the loss of representation that our communities will suffer if the map decreed by the Electoral Representation Commission stands,” he said. “The meeting essentially came together in a very short time so I believe the turnout reflects a broad consensus in our part of the island.”
Now unless the Commission shows some class, this decision will have to be fought in court and initiated by citizens. Ideally, an injunction can be sought. Wajsman has taken the lead by collecting funds for an eventual contestation and former NDG-Lachine Liberal Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings stepped forward to set up a blue ribbon panel. Jennings was chosen by the Quebec English School Boards Association to do the same when the provincial government tried to push through Bill 86 – aimed at abolishing elected school commissioners. The government backed off and they did so because they answer to the public; the Electoral Representation Commission simply marches to the beat of its own drum.
Each of the boroughs and municipal councils in the area has or will soon adopt a motion in opposition to the electoral map. All feel that the Commission’s map will mean a serious loss of representation for their citizens, lacks respect for natural communities and does not provide the effective representation that the electoral law indicates must be the basis of any final decision.
The mayors have shared a legal decision written last September by Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens, Dean of the University of Montreal Law School, which indicated that the Commission’s proposal of 2015 to merge Mont Royal and Outremont and change D’Arcy McGee was highly questionable. As the Commission’s final decision has reverted to the 2015 plan, the mayors feel the Commission’s proposal will not stand up to a legal challenge.
“We are strongly concerned about the diminished political weight of the island of Montreal,” said Copeman, a former Liberal MNA for NDG. “Our political weight has been reduced in every riding redistribution since 1992 which merged Westmount and Saint-Louis. We have lost four ridings over the decades.
“The merger of Mont-Royal and Outremont creates a very large riding which is expected to see robust demographic growth over the next five years which we anticipate will take it over the legal maximum number of voters allowed by the electoral law.”
The Commission proposes to maintain 125 electoral ridings in the National Assembly with the average number of voters being 48,952 per riding. The electoral law allows ridings to be as much as 25 percent more or less than the average, a maximum of 61,190 or a minimum of 36,714 voters. This legal disparity of up to 24,476 voters or up to a 69 percent legal difference of voters per riding gives some voters in Quebec far more power than others.
While the mayors believe such a disparity in number of voters per riding should only be allowed in the rarest cases, there are many examples in the map of small ridings in the 37,000 to 40,000 range while many others approach the upper limits. Ridings like Duplessis, Dubuc, Rousseau, Megantic and Nicolet-Betancour all have far fewer voters than Montreal ridings such as Nelligan, Saint Laurent, Robert Baldwin or the new D’Arcy McGee or merged Mont Royal – Outremont which have between 55,000 and 59,000 voters each.
“Worse of all is that the Commission proposes six ridings that are exceptions to the law beyond the Iles de la Madeleine, the only exception the law actually permits,” says Mayor Brownstein. “These ridings including Abitibi-Est, Abitibi Ouest, Bonaventure, Gaspe, René Levesque and Ungava have between 26.8 and 44 percent fewer voters than the electoral map average and are below the legal minimum of voters. How do we explain to voters that D’Arcy McGee will now have boundaries that will no longer resemble its historic territory and have 56,245 voters while Gaspe, a riding that will have fewer voters in 2018 than at the 2014 elections, will have a Member of the National Assembly with only 30,048 electors?”
The mayors note that the new map cuts the large Filipino community that had real clout in Mont Royal in half with a large part of the community residing west of Côte des Neiges Road shifted to D’Arcy McGee. The large Orthodox Jewish community in the former Outremont riding is also diluted with those living east of Hutchinson moved into Mercier.
Councillor Kovac presented a strong statement from Mayor Brownstein at the public meeting. Natural communities should be kept together in order to give minority groups a stronger voice,” she said. And yet helping natural communities is not what has happened in the commission’s report. We have the worst of both worlds – they are removing representation from the island of Montreal, making ridings bigger, and breaking apart natural communities. Maybe we don’t need the exact same strict equality rules as they have in the United States. But can we at least apply the same fairness as they have Macedonia, or Yemen, or Belarus?
“When you increase the size of a riding like D’Arcy McGee, you weaken the voice of its natural communities. Allophones, Anglophones, Italian, Filipino, Jewish communities and others will no longer have as strong representation as they did when the riding of D’Arcy McGee was of a reasonable size. Further Mount Royal brought one more vote to the National Assembly for these communities and other minority communities. As the largest city in Quebec continues to grow its voice should not be weakened. It’s up to Quebecers to raise our voices, open their wallets, and help challenge in court decisions that hurt our community. I sincerely hope the Commission reverses its decision without the need for a legal challenge.”
I agree completely with my esteemed colleague and friend Cllr. Mike Cohen in this excellent resume of this past week’s meeting over local electoral reform. We must not remain silent in the face of this injustice to our linguistic and cultural communities. Thank you to our local elected officials for speaking up on our behalf, spearheaded by Cllr. Marvin Rotrand and supported by editor Beryl Wajsman.
March 26, 2017
March 24, 2017
Montreal Gazette, Mar. 24, 2017
In its $46-million lawsuit against the city of Montreal, real-estate developer Groupe Pacific charged Thursday that the city used high infrastructure costs as an excuse to block construction of its 1,600-unit project and save the Meadowbrook golf course as green space.The city engaged in “disguised expropriation” to preserve the Lachine portion of the golf course, lawyer Martin Bernard said. Groupe Pacific is requesting damages to cover the profits it would have earned had the project been approved.
Taking the stand in Quebec Superior Court near the end of the two-week trial, Bernard began his closing arguments in the two-week trial in Quebec Superior Court by outlining his client’s interactions with city and Lachine borough officials in 2007-2010.
Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific, a subsidiary of Groupe Pacific, purchased the land in 2006 for $3 million.
In 2010, as protests by concerned citizens and environmental group Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook escalated, executive committee member Alan DeSousa announced the city would not support the project because the cost of installing infrastructure, like additional access roads, sewage and water systems, were excessive.
In 2013, the company discovered that the city’s estimates for putting in services like water, sewage pipes and a railway overpass to ensure access for emergency services ranged from $60 million to $150 million.
“The city of Montreal behaved in a manner that exhibited bad faith and acted contrary to the principles of balanced procedures,” Bernard argued. “It failed to work with care and diligence, to follow its own regulations, or to work transparently.”
The city’s demand that access lanes be created to the south of the project, necessitating an overpass over train lines costing as much as $125 million, were exorbitant, Groupe Pacific argued. As well, the city has since indicated its support for converting the space into a public green space, Bernard said.
In its defence, the city’s lawyers argued that Groupe Pacific purchased a piece of land bordered on three sides by train lines, with only one narrow access route cutting through the de-merged municipality of Côte-St-Luc. Installing 1,600 residences would involve extensive sewage and water-main installations, and because the city cannot force a neighbouring municipality to install additional roads, the only option was to install a costly overpass on land to the south belonging to the city. Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook has argued that all residences within the development would be within 300 metres of the Canadian Pacific switching station located alongside, in contravention of federal guidelines.
It would take the city 50 years to recoup its infrastructure investments, far longer than the maximum 10 years its financial services department considers acceptable, city lawyer Eric Couture said.
“The city of Montreal refuses for now to invest the necessary sums in this project that is not profitable for public finances,” the city wrote in its defence statement. “Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific can continue to manage the golf course which is permitted under the current zoning. … Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific is thus not the victim of a disguised expropriation.”
It added that if Groupe Pacific deemed the city was negotiating in bad faith, it could have contested that point in Superior Court, as opposed to requesting damages.
Groupe Pacific’s demand of $46 million is “clearly exaggerated,” the city said in its defence statement. City lawyers will conclude their closing arguments Friday.
Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
March 22, 2017
March 21, 2017
Reporting by Jordy Reichson, Director, CSL Public Safety
We are fortunate in Cote Saint-Luc to work together as a team, along with police, fire and ambulance, all to improve the level of care that we offer our residents.
Here, EMS, Urgences-santé, the Montreal Police (SPVM) and Public Security work together to care for a woman who was hit by a car while crossing Kildare. The scene was secured while the patient was immobilised and transported to hospital.
The pedestrian appears to have been crossing when the red hand signal was illuminated and the driver did not see her until it was too late.
This should serve as a reminder to all – motorists, cyclists and pedestrians – to obey the lights.
March 20, 2017
|In Côte Saint-Luc we are very proud about how we handled snow clearing
by: Cllr. Mike Cohen
Posted: 18 Mar 2017 02:59 PM PDT
As we continue to dig out from the biggest snow storm the Montreal area has seen in years, I would like to applaud the work done by the City of Côte Saint-Luc`s Public Works Department.
I have received a great deal of kind comments from residents in regards to how well we handled the snow clearing. In fact, most of the Montreal media praised the work we did on the main roads. Please understand that this is a very difficult task and I was among the motorists on the Thursday morning stuck trying to get past the underpass on Cavendish. It was unavoidable and inconvenient, but later in the day all cleared up
“It was an emotional day for many residents,” Public Works Director Beatrice Newman reported to city council. “Please help us help your residents understand why things appear to be a certain way while in the background, the city is working fervently to provide safe passage-ways in the city.”
The light on Guelph Road broke Thursday morning and stayed green. This meant that Westminster stayed on a red light. Traffic began to build up, employees rushed to help traffic. Public Security directed traffic and electricians worked on determining and fixing the light. “Things like this happens when there are drastic changes in weather,” Ms. Newman said.
Cavendish Boulevard was congested, southbound. Our snow removal operations provided clear roads for our residents, but unfortunately once they hit CSL Road and Cavendish, they were faced with congestion. NDG kept their side of Cavendish at one lane. Therefore, our three lanes had to squeeze into their one lane. “Et voilà, major traffic accumulation on Cavendish and CSL,” Ms. Newman explained.
Fleet was at one lane from our city right through Hampstead. The objective at first is to clear the road with one lane for access. Then approximately 24 hours later, the blowing began. “We cannot start our operations earlier in the morning or traffic issues would be inevitable,” said Ms. Newman. “Only one lane would still be available in this case. We must consider the safety concerns first. This was not a regular snow storm. This was a blizzard with white out conditions, dangerous road conditions and more. We must have patience. Close to 40 centimeters fell and the process to remove it all will not be quick, we must work efficientlyand safely.”
We had five teams working all day Thursday, five sidewalk cleaners, five loader/blowers, five 10 wheelers, five walkers and two salt trucks remained to follow the contractors as they salted the roads once the contractor blew the snow. Once snow falls on the asphalt we secure it with abrasives.
Two teams worked at the municipal buildings and one worked on our special calls such as snow blown accidentally on personal walkways, emptying public garbage, etc. One employee was stationed at the snow dump on Marc Chagall in District 2, which now looks like an Olympic ski hill.
The balance of the areas around Yavne, Merton and Maimonides schools were done on Friday.
We are working hard to do our best in operations and customer service.
“In Public Security, our agents have seen their call volume go up by a factor of 2.5,” explained Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson. “Our agents have responded with professionalism and tact despite trying circumstances, horrible road conditions and lots and lots of snow. They have always kept the safety of our residents at the forefront and I have been impressed by their ingenuity and dedication.
“Our Dispatch Centre has been flooded with calls and complaints about everything from traffic to snow removal to cars blocking driveways. Despite being screamed and sworn at, they have maintained their composure and professionalism.”
Mr. Reichson noted that while we did not activate our emergency plan, we kept it close at hand. We ensured that our evacuation routes remained as accessible as possible and were prepared to activate elements of the plan as required. “Despite what some residents have posted online, our response has been as strong and efficient as it can be,” he said. “ This was not just another storm, but rather an opportunity for our employees to shine and from what I have seen, all have risen to the occasion.