Côte-St-Luc voters will choose between incumbent Mitchell Brownstein and former mayor Robert Libman.

Longtime Côte-St-Luc resident Carole Blank says she’s “happy with everything” about life in the west-end municipality of more than 34,000 – a community with more than two dozen parks, an enviable aquatic and community centre complex, a stellar library and an almost even split between rented and owned dwellings. Although there are many older residents, the median age of 45.7 has dropped from 49 in 2016.

Côte-St-Luc residents, along with voters in other municipalities, go to the polls Nov. 5 to elect a mayor and council; in Côte-St-Luc, seven of the eight council seats are being contested. In the run-up to the election, the Montreal Gazette stopped by the Eleanor London Côte-St-Luc Public Library to get a sense of issues important to residents.

Keren Shemesh, who was browsing at the Cavendish Blvd. library with her son, 18-month-old Max Blauer, said she’d like to see more private daycares in Côte-St-Luc, particularly those with spaces for children under the age of two.

Pleased as he is with the facilities and “how everyone is friendly,” Miguel Laliberté said he wouldn’t mind a few small tweaks, like more late-night buses and parking signs he could interpret more easily.

For Julio Laufer, who with his wife, Dorothy, was waiting for a tablet class to start, traffic and the state of the roads are issues. Had the long-talked-about (and recently approved) Cavendish Blvd. extension from Côte-St-Luc to St-Laurent been in place connecting the two dead ends of Cavendish, the commute to his Côte-de-Liesse-area workplace would have been considerably shorter.

The condition of the roads and the long-promised Cavendish extension are issues for CSL residents Dorothy and Julio Laufer. (John Mahoney / MONTREAL GAZETTE)

Bernard Arbitman also wants to see the extension built – “There’s no quick exit now from Côte-St-Luc except for the Cavendish underpass,” he said – and would like overnight parking on city streets permitted. Currently it’s not.

Côte-St-Luc voters will be choosing between the current mayor and a former one. Incumbent Mitchell Brownstein, acclaimed as mayor in 2016 when longtime mayor Anthony Housefatherresigned after winning the federal seat in Mount Royal for the Liberals, had served as a city councillor since 1990. A lawyer by profession, he calls himself a full-time mayor – the kind of politician who gives out his personal cellphone number to constituents.

Traffic and parking are the issues for CSL resident Bernard Arbitman, who was reading a newspaper at the Eleanor London CSL Public Library, Tuesday October 17, 2017. (John Mahoney / MONTREAL GAZETTE)

Challenger Robert Libman, an architect and urban planner, was a provincial MNA from 1989 to 1994 and mayor of Côte-St-Luc from 1998 to 2005. He returned to private life and opened his own architectural consulting firm but returned to politics in 2014 and won the nomination in Mount-Royal for the Conservative Party of Canada; he was defeated by Housefather in the 2015 federal election.

There is substantial overlap in their platforms and both candidates consider reducing taxes, seeing through the Cavendish extension, improving roads and relocating and redeveloping the CP rail yards among their top priorities.

For resident Matthew Ross, whose home borders on the yards, their relocation is “my Number One issue.” Aside from advantages for the city linked to redevelopment of the area, which constitutes virtually a third of the municipality’s territory, Ross said he would welcome an end to the noise and odours generated by the yards.

CSL resident Carole Blank, checking out books from the Eleanor London CSL Public Library, says she is “happy with everything” in her municipality as residents prepare to vote for a mayor and councillors in the Nov. 5 municipal election. Tuesday October 17, 2017. (John Mahoney / MONTREAL GAZETTE)

Despite their agreement on issues, a seemingly personal rivalry between the candidates has become evident. Each has levelled insults against the other on Let’s Chat CSL, a closed Facebook group for residents. And during a recent television debate moderated by Jamie Orchard of Global News, the two interrupted each other, talked over one another and traded barbs.

One issue that has garnered media attention involves Libman’s role as in-house architect coordinating new projects with Olymbec, a real-estate company that owns parcels of land on the site of the future Cavendish extension. Brownstein has said this creates a potential conflict of interest. In fact, the land in question in the eventual corridor has already been reserved for expropriation – and was reserved before Libman entered the race.

As mayor, he said he would recuse himself in the event of a zoning issue or development project in Côte-St-Luc in which a potential conflict existed, “to be perfectly transparent … and to avoid perceived conflict.” But the Cavendish extension is not such an issue, he said, “because it is a done deal.”

“There is no conflict and will not be a conflict,” Libman wrote in his Let’s Chat CSL post. “It’s already reserved. I’ve been pushing this project for the past 15 years, well before I ever started working as an architect with Olymbec. Let’s stick to the issues in the campaign and let the democratic process unfold fairly and with respect for all candidates.”

Both mayoral candidates are seasoned politicians and each has his supporters. Turnout for municipal elections in Quebec tends to be low: Fewer than half of those eligible voted in the 2013 municipal elections, although that’s slightly more than voted in previous elections. But as one Côte-St-Luc councillor observed: “I think the good news about all this is that we will get a strong voter turnout. And that is good for democracy.”

sschwartz@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/susanschwartz

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