The Demerger Decision: Did CSL Make the Right Choice?

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The Demerger Team, Ten Years Later: Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Peter Trent, Ruth Kovac, Anthony Housefather

The Demerger Team, Ten Years Later: Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Peter Trent, Ruth Kovac, Anthony Housefather

Powerless under the country’s constitution, Canadian municipal governments often find themselves in conflict with their provincial masters. In 2002, the Province of Quebec forcibly merged all cities on the Island of Montreal into a single municipality – a decision that was partially reversed in 2006. The first book-length study of the series of mergers imposed by the Parti Québécois government, The Merger Delusion is a sharp and insightful critique by a key player in anti-merger politics.

Peter Trent, mayor of the City of Westmount, foresaw the numerous financial and institutional problems posed by amalgamating municipalities into megacities. In his book, he presents a stirring and detailed account of the battle he led against the provincial government, the City of Montreal, the Board of Trade, and many of his former colleagues. Describing how he took the struggle all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, Trent demonstrates the ways in which de-mergers resonated with voters and eventually helped the Quebec Liberal Party win the 2003 provincial election.

As the cost and pitfalls of forced mergers become clearer in hindsight, The Merger Delusion recounts a compelling case study with broad implications for cities across the globe.

Mayor Peter Trent was the keynote speaker at the annual luncheon of the Cote Saint-Luc Senior Mens Club that took place yesterday at the CSL Gymnasium. Mayor Trent presented his case in excerpts from his book and in news clippings specifically targeting the battle that developed between two former council colleagues, then Councillor Anthony Housefather and Borough Mayor Robert Libman.

The Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Co-Chairs, Anthony Housefather, Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac and myself listened on with keen interest.

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

Trent read from the November 2001 election platform of the Borough Council made up of Libman, Housefather and Dida Berku. “We have consistently opposed the creation of the Mega-city (…) We will support the decision of residents in any referendum held by a future Quebec government to reverse the forced merger.”

Said Trent, “Housefather and Libman made the same promises. Housefather kept his!”

Trent recounted how Libman told the Montreal Gazette in October 2001, “I share the resentment, the anger, and the frustration, and I am very much against this forced merger. We are fighting this to the nth degree.”

“How much a month – and an Executive Committee membership – can change things,” Trent emphasized, in questioning Libman’s about-face on the demerger issue.

Before a full audience of CSL seniors with sharp memories of the merger years of 2001 to 2005, Trent recounted how Libman made the case for demerger only to flip-flop after his appointment to Megacity Montreal Mayor Tremblay’s Executive Committee.

“We were sold a bag of goods,” he said, stating that smaller is better in terms of controlling finances and expenses and ensuring protection against corruption. Sure there were a handful of small municipalities that were singled out for illegal practices. But these cases were caught quickly and corrected because “citizens like you, and councils like yours,” are closely watching over everything. That wasn’t the case in Montreal, he said, where corruption ran amuck for a very, very long time.

Mayor Trent went on, “Anthony Housefather is known for his intelligence. He was front and centre during the Charter of Values debate and has the respect of all of the mayors.”

Trent made the case from several perspectives how the promises of the merger did not hold up and how Cote Saint-Luc is infinitely better off now than those former suburbs that failed to demerge. Outremont controls 22% of its budget and is dependent upon handouts from the megacity, Trent stated, while CSL controls 59% of its budget.

As for your demerger choice,” Trent concluded, “Congratulations!”

For more, see Mike Cohen’s blog.

Mayor Housefather delights in results of decade old demerger

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CTV News report:

One municipality that did not miss the demerger train was Cote St. Luc, where the mayor says he is delighted with the results.

“It’s vastly different. We have far better services and much better control over our costs,” Cote St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather told CTV Montreal Friday.

He says that residents have reaped the benefits in everything from snow clearing services to new facilities.

“We built a new indoor swimming pool, we never would have had the money to do that if we were in Montreal, our sports services, we kept our ems service which would have been lost if we stayed in Montreal.”

Read more: http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/anjou-mulling-demerger-others-to-fight-cuts-from-within-1.1983737#ixzz3C7PPerZu

http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/anjou-mulling-demerger-others-to-fight-cuts-from-within-1.1983737

Bowser and Blue – 10 years after demerger

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CSL demerger co-chairs, 10 years later: Mitchell Brownstein, Anthony Housefather, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

CSL demerger co-chairs, 10 years later: Mitchell Brownstein, Anthony Housefather, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac (Photo Elaine Brownstein)

Bright sunshine greeted hundreds of happy residents of Cote Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West last Sunday at the concert marking the 10 year anniversary of the demerger from the megacity. The feature performers were political-comic-balladeers Bowser and Blue.

The mayors and councillors took to the stage to revel in regaining their cities and touted the virtues of lower taxes, better services and happier residents than during the PQ government imposed four-year mega-merger fiasco.

Mayor Anthony Housefather is joined by councillors and Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg and Montreal West Mayor Beny Masela to celebrate 10 years of demerger from Montreal mega-city

Mayor Anthony Housefather is joined by councillors and Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg and Montreal West Mayor Beny Masela to celebrate 10 years of demerger from Montreal mega-city (Photo Elaine Brownstein)

George Bowser and Rick Blue entertained in their usual, clever and witty way, poking fun at Anglophones, Francophones, Montrealers, Quebecers and Canadians. They laughed at Montreal’s state of street repairs and crumbling overpasses, the Champlain Bridge and at our various accents and unique ways of saying Bonjour/Hi to begin a conversation with strangers.

 

George Bowser and Rick Blue perform in CSL Trudeau Park

George Bowser and Rick Blue perform in CSL Trudeau Park (Photo Peter Dascal)

Last week the three communities placed blue ribbons along their main streets as a reminder of the campaign that took place a decade earlier whereby the ribbons served as a symbol for those seeking to demerge. Then Borough Councillor Anthony Housefather served with Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac and myself as the CSL Demerger co-chairs. We worked tirelessly, with an army of dedicated volunteers, in an election-style battle like we had never seen.

Mayors Beny Masela (Montreal West), Bill Steinberg (Hampstead), Anthony Housefather (Cote Saint-Luc, Peter Trent (Westmount)

Mayors Beny Masela (Montreal West), Bill Steinberg (Hampstead), Anthony Housefather (Cote Saint-Luc), Peter Trent (Westmount) (Photo Elaine Brownstein)

Despite the difficulties the Liberal government introduced to regain our cities we succeeded with a successful referendum with the yes vote placing in the high 90% range. Cote Saint-Luc and its neighbouring towns, along with a handful of other suburbs were legally demerged from Montreal to carry on as autonomous municipalities, as was the case for nearly a century.

 

CBC News

Celebrate a decade since Blue Ribbon Demerger Campaign

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Bowser June 15 2014

 

 

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

 

 

Outstanding Cote Saint-Lucer wins prestigious award

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Congratulations to Dr. Marc Afilalo, winner of the Jewish General Hospital 2013 Award for Excellence in Physician Management. Dr. Afilalo is Chief of Emergency Medicine at the JGH and one of the leading emergentologists in Quebec and has served as advisor to several Ministers of Health and Social Services.

Dr. Afilalo is also an outstanding Cote Saint-Lucer and has been a strong supporter of CSL’s campaign to recognize Paramedics in Quebec since the 1980′s. During the municipal merger era (2002-2005) faced with the prospect of losing the CSL Emergency Medical Services Dr. Afilalo organized a letter of support signed by nearly every emergency medicine physician at the JGH. This crucial support, coupled with D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman’s push in the National Assembly and strong community support from Anthony Housefather, Ruth Kovac and myself, ensured the continuation of EMS on CSL territory.

Dr. Marc Afilalo

Dr. Marc Afilalo

Dr. Afilalo was also the recipient, earlier this year of the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal which was presented to him at a public ceremony at City Hall.

Congratulations, yet again, to a truly remarkable Cote Saint-Lucer and an extraordinary leader on this well deserved honour.

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Outstanding CSLer awarded Queen’s Jubilee Medal

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Félicitations au Dr Marc Afilalo , recipiendaire du Prix d’excellence en gestion médicale de l’Hôpital général juif. Le Dr Afilalo est le chef de la médecine d’urgence à l’HGJ et l’un des principaux urgentologues du Québec et a siégé comme conseiller de plusieurs ministres de la Santé et des Services sociaux .

Le Dr Afilalo est également un remarquable Côte Saint- Lucois et a été un fervent partisan de la campagne de CSL à reconnaître les paramédics au Québec depuis les années 1980. Pendant l’ère de la fusion municipale (2002-2005) face à la perspective de perdre les Services médicaux d’urgence CSL le Dr Afilalo a organisé une lettre de soutien signée par presque tous les médecins de la médecine d’urgence à l’HGJ. Ce soutien crucial , couplé avec le support du député Lawrence Bergman à l’Assemblée nationale et un appui solide de la communauté par Anthony Housefather, Ruth Kovac et moi-même , a assuré la poursuite de SMU sur le territoire de CSL.

Le Dr Afilalo a également reçu, plus tôt cette année, le Médaille du jubilé de la reine Elizabeth II qui lui a été remis lors d’une cérémonie publique à la mairie.

Félicitations , encore une fois , à un remarquable Cote Saint- Lucois et un leader extraordinaire pour cet honneur bien mérité.

En savoir plus:

Outstanding CSLer awarded Queen’s Jubilee Medal

Mayor Housefather receives Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award

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City Council congratulates Mayor Anthony Housefather on receiving the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award

City Council congratulates Mayor Anthony Housefather on receiving the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Award

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his service to the community.

“Although there are thousands who have received this award across Canada in the past year, our mayor merits this award more than most,” said Councillor Dida Berku, who presented the award on June 5 during a reception for Côte Saint-Luc volunteers at the Aquatic and Community Centre. “He is multi-talented individual who has proven himself from young age.”

Councillor Berku highlighted his career including being the youngest councillor elected on the island in 1994, helping lead the demerger campaign (with Councillors Ruth Kovac, Mitchell Brownstein and Glenn J. Nashen) in 2005, and serving two terms are mayor of Côte Saint-Luc.

“In particular I must mention the leadership he showed in the construction of this great Aquatic and Community Centre, which was built on time and within budget and which now offers first class facility for our residents,” said Councillor Berku, who also received a Diamond Jubilee Medal last year in recognition of her community service and her initiatives in helping preserve the natural environment. “For as well as being a very accomplished athlete and champion swimmer, Anthony is recognized as a top lawyer in his field.”

The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne. The medal is intended to honour individuals who have given selflessly in service of their communities. During the year of celebrations, 60,000 deserving Canadians will be recognized. Côte Saint-Luc was invited to nominate two recipients.

Added Councillor Glenn J. Nashen, “I have worked side by side with Anthony for more than 15 years and I marvel at his energy, intelligence and ingenuity.  He is an extraordinary leader and we are very lucky to have him at the helm of our city.”

Housefather and Roy defend English-speaking cities

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Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather and Town of Mount Royal Mayor Philippe Roy appeared before the Quebec National Assembly hearings into Bill 14 this morning.  They did a stellar job at defending the acquired rights of the English-speaking communities residing in 86 bilingual municipalities and boroughs throughout the province.

The snarky language minister Diane de Courcy pressed the mayors on why they hadn’t consulted their residents (in a referendum) as to whether or not they wished to have bilingual status, suggesting the mayors spoke emotionally and not based in fact.  Such chutzpah and warped logic, to poll the majority on the rights of the minority, is to be expected from the narrow-minded PQ.  A testy liberal MNA Geoff Kelley shot back that the PQ themselves hadn’t consulted the population before they wiped out these two cities through forced mergers.  His microphone was abruptly shut off for being too smart.  Way to go Geoff!

“It concerns me that you haven’t consulted your residents,” de Courcy asked of Housefather.  “And, you haven’t consulted other areas, such as Cote des Neiges-NDG, that would probably vote to acquire bilingual status,” a very wise Housefather retorted.

Housefather went on to press his point.  “In some countries, bilingual status is obligatory in municipalities where 5% of the city’s population is a minority community. Nowhere, other than Quebec, is it prohibited to have bilingual status unless the minority forms the majority,” the mayor quipped, in reference to Bill 14’s provision that a city would lose its bilingual status if its minority language population fell below 50%.

When asked what he would propose as a way to make Bill 14 acceptable to municipalities, Housefather responded he was not prepared to negotiate away fundamental rights.  Roy stated that the autonomy of city councils must be respected as they are closest to the people, best placed to represent its residents.

While PQ MNA Daniel Breton spoke in exclusionary and divisive language the mayors described their towns as inclusive, where respect and equality prevail, as should be the case with all Quebecers.  “What do you propose we do for immigrants to make Bill 14 better?” the MNA asked.  Housefather replied, “If my parents moved to Quebec with me in the 20s, if I’ve used English as my preferred language for 90 years, and if I’m now excluded from your calculation as to who is an English-speaking Quebecer, you’re draft law is unfair!”

Housefather explained that there are three ways of classifying language in the census: mother tongue, language used at home and preferred language.  Bill 14 chooses the most restrictive classification: mother tongue.  A Quebecer is branded by the language of his or her mother, effectively reducing the English-speaking community in Quebec by nearly 300,000 individuals.

D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman was next to speak.  He said that is all of his years in elected office he had never received so many calls from constituents as he did for this bill, except against the forced mergers.  He read a letter from a local English-speaking resident of Italian origin who wrote that his family chose to live in Cote Saint-Luc because of its welcoming, bilingual environment.  None of his family are considered as English-speaking in this legislation.

Housefather too said he had not seen such fierce opposition to a draft bill, save for the mergers, in his 17 years in city hall.  Bill 14 scares English-speaking people, he said.  The message of the bill, Housefather said, is that English-speaking people are not respected.  “You’re a problem,” the bill tells us.  “We’ve evolved.  We’re bilingual.  We built our city, and we’ve been a majority in it for years!” the mayor told the commission.

The CAQ member, Nathalie Roy was only partially opposed to the bill, unfortunately.  “The CAQ doesn’t want bilingual status to be touched.  Cities need to be able to decide for themselves.  This is an acquired right of the minority community,” the MNA said.  She then asked Housefather what would happen if the bill passed?

“There would be chaos,” Housefather asserted.  “Either the city would refuse to obey the law and would fight it in court or you’d have citizens in the streets,’ the mayor concluded. “It would change daily life, the way we live.”

Thankfully the English-speaking community was represented by such fine individuals such as Housefather and Roy.  They spoke with passion and conviction and although I’m confident that bilingual status provisions of the french language charter will remain unchanged it remains to be seen if Bill 14 will be scrapped in it entirety and deposited in the trash bin of of oppressive Quebec legislative history where it rightfully belongs.

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