CSL not letting up on EMS
By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban
Côte St. Luc will not stop lobbying for its volunteer Emergency Medical Services to continue handling extreme emergency calls, even as the Quebec government introduced a bill last week allowing the service to do just that in perpetuity, says councillor Glenn Nashen.

The bill is part of a larger one involving the responsibilities of the Montreal island-wide agglomeration council.

“It’s still a bill, not a law,” he said Thursday. “We’ll have to keep the promotion and the pressure up to make sure the parties vote to turn this into legislation. I don’t know what issue could come up, but certainly there could be some issues on the part of some people and it’s my goal to make sure this gets legislated as it’s drafted. But the context is quite positive.” Nashen added that he does not expect opposition from the Action Démocratique du Québec and the Parti Québécois.

Mayor Anthony Housefather and Nashen were very happy with the bill. Recent lobbying by Côte St. Luc along with Hampstead and Montreal West succeeded in the preservation of police station 9 despite a recommendation to merge it with Station 11 in N.D.G.

“It’s exactly what we looked for,” Housefather said in a BlackBerry interview from Barcelona, Spain. “It’s great news. We spent 30 years building up a fantastic service and we don’t hurt anybody else by keeping it. There’s no reason we can’t have a different service from everyone else on the island. The fact we demerged gave the government the latitude to grant us this exemption and treat us differently.”

“It’s a watershed moment for us,” Nashen said. “Nothing changes in terms of what we’re actually doing now. It has to go to second and third reading in the fall. It gives a new realm of excitement to the volunteers and to the whole organization, and gives us a greater opportunity to promote the service and recruit new volunteers.”

Housefather and Nashen have been intensely lobbying the Liberal government and opposition parties in recent months to not hand over responsibility for Priority 1 calls to the Montreal fire department. Original plans, the result of a collective agreement with the firefighters union, called for Priority 1 to be transferred to the fire department Jan. 1, 2009. But earlier this year, D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman announced to The Suburban that there would be a year’s extension to Jan. 1, 2010. The fire department will be assuming first responder responsibility for the rest of the island.

Côte St. Luc has been arguing that EMS volunteers, who stabilize patients who live in Côte St. Luc before Urgences Santé ambulances arrive, can reach emergencies faster, that its volunteers receive more training time than fire department first responders, are extra sensitive to the local senior population, speak many languages and have been trained to deal with cultural sensitivities.

The city also launched an intense local campaign, setting up a saveems.com website and circulating a petition.