It’s unusual to praise someone who gets you fired from a job. But that’s what this post is about. Praising a man who, notwithstanding my abrupt departure from the office of the MNA for D’Arcy McGee, has contributed enormously to the constituents of this West End riding.
Back in 1994, after I served two years in the Cavendish Mall offices of then Member of the National Assembly Robert Libman, a little-known Lawrence Bergman swept to power in the general elections as the new liberal MNA. Such is life in politics and despite loving my full time job as Chief of Staff it was time to vacate the office and make way for Lawrence to move in to the locale that had once housed former MNA Herbert Marx.
Lawrence quickly learned his constituency by attending community events, meeting one-on-one with community leaders and dealing with important dossiers representing us in Quebec City. So devoted was he to his community that he often transcended his immediate borders of the riding to take up matters of importance to the greater Jewish community as well as advocating for the Jewish General Hospital where I’ve worked as Director of Public Affairs and Communications for the past 13 years.
Crucial to the progress of the JGH’s new critical care wing, Pavilion K, was the contribution of Lawrence Bergman who provided valuable insight for years into ways in which the hospital’s many strengths could benefit Quebec’s healthcare system. Mr. Bergman has helped the JGH better understand how to work more closely and efficiently with the civil service to bring Pavilion K to life.
For his accomplishments Mr. Bergman merited the hospital’s highest recognition, the Distinguished Service Award, an honour he accepted “with deep humility” in 2012, adding that he is just “a little link in the chain of success,” compared to healthcare professionals who save lives every day.
Born and raised in Montreal, Mr. Bergman earned his law degree from the University of Montreal in 1964. He became a Member of the Board of Notaries in 1965 and after being elected to the National Assembly in 1994 he continued to practice as a notary until 2003. He served in government in various senior capacities, notably as Minister of Revenue from 2003 to 2007, and as Chair of the Government Caucus from 2008 to 2012.
Once elected, Mr. Bergman became fully aware of what he calls “the culture of excellence” at the JGH. Ironically, the hospital is not in his riding, but since it serves most of his constituents, he quickly became involved as an advocate on its behalf. I recall at an event marking the launch of the paediatric psychology building on Cote Saint-Catherine Road that Mount-Royal MNA Pierre Arcand, the actual representative of the hospital neighbourhood declared tongue in cheek, that Bergman was so adept at representing the hospital’s needs that the area should be ceded to D’Arcy McGee.
On the Cote Saint-Luc scene my most memorable work together with Lawrence was saving our remarkable, all-volunteer Emergency Medical Services. With the mega-municipal mergers in 2002 Montreal planned to shutter our life-saving organization, known throughout the region as a model volunteer first responder service. Having joined as a young recruit out of high school back in 1980, EMS became a passion of mine. 20 years later, having devoted a significant part of my life to this organization any suggestion of closing it down and handing over the service to the Montreal Fire Department was unimaginable, perhaps even worse than the idiotic mergers themselves.
I worked tirelessly with Ruth Kovac, Anthony Housefather and Lawrence Bergman to consolidate community support and draft the necessary resolutions. Lawrence worked feverishly at the National Assembly and eventually presented a special law for Cote Saint-Luc that received consent and paved the way for EMS to be saved. Countless lives have been touched profoundly over the last decade because of Lawrence’s critical intervention.
So too was his interest in working with City Council to ensure the necessary funding for the Aquatic and Community Centre. This project could not have happened if it were not for the vision and political leadership of Lawrence Bergman and Anthony Housefather.
He is also noted for, and proud of, convincing the National Assembly to adopt a day, each and every year, marking Yom Hashoah, a day of remembrance for the Holocaust.
Lawrence’s lists of accomplishments for D’Arcy McGee, the Jewish community and all Quebecers is significant and will become political lore and be remembered for generations.
I take this opportunity to thank Mr. Bergman for all this on behalf of my family and my constituents. Indeed, thanks to his success in 1994 and my new career orientations, I too was pushed to new heights and accomplishments. I wish him much happiness and good health as he enters this new stage. And I know, given his love for his community, we will be seeing him around and involved in new capacities for a very long time.
May Lawrence continue to be an inspiration to the community and as he so often cited the words of the sages, may he too go from strength to strength.
Read more on Mike Cohen’s blog