CSL candidates go at it on Global

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Côte St. Luc mayoral candidates Mitchell Brownstein and Robert Libman debated the issues last Thursday on Global TV’s Focus Montreal, hosted by Jamie Orchard.

Libman praised Côte St. Luc as an “incredible municipality.

“But I don’t believe we’ve achieved our full potential, we can do a lot better with the right leadership,” he added.

 Brownstein said that since he became mayor a year and a half ago, “I negotiated a deal with the City of Montreal whereby Côte St. Luc will be paying $4.8 million less for essential [island-wide agglomeration] services, reduced our debt by $4 million and we’re running a surplus of $1.9 million in 2016. I settled collective agreements with our three unions.”

The debate dealt with the most prominent issue in Côte St. Luc for the past 50 years — the long-awaited Cavendish Blvd. link with St. Laurent. Libman said he ended the longstanding impasse prompted by former Mayor Bernard Lang’s opposition.

“In 2000, I developed a consensus that I proposed to the Quebec Transport Ministry and the municipalities in the surrounding area were in agreement with us,” he said. “The City of Montreal created a project bureau with a $5 million budget at the time, public studies and environmental tests were prepared and ready to go for the extension to be completed in 2010, and 15 years later, it’s still not there. We need someone with an urban planning and architectural background that I have to really push this file forward.”

Brownstein said the ceding of the Hippodrome land from Quebec to Montreal last June for a housing development has a condition that the Cavendish extension “must go forward.

“It didn’t happen by itself. As soon as I was elected, I made a commitment I would push Cavendish forward, and I met with Montreal executive committee chairman Pierre Desrochers. We had a meeting with our MNA David Birnbaum, four ministers came, and all the five mayors — everyone was committed to moving it forward. I met with CP and CN for the first time together in my office. The result was that Minister Carlos Leitao announced with Mayor Denis Coderre that there will be an extension…”

“That was the biggest non-announcement,” Libman began, before both spoke over each other.

“If Robert [was going to] to move it forward, he would have been able to do it when he was on the Montreal [megacity] executive committee, but now he can’t do it at all,” Brownstein countered.

‘That’s when we announced it,” Libman responded. “The file was going to go ahead, and 15 years later it’s still sitting on the backburner.”

Brownstein then said Libman is a lobbyist for the development company Olymbec, “and there is a reserve on a piece of land owned by Olymbec that is required for the Cavendish extension. He will have to recuse himself from the whole debate!”

“This is so typical of this whole campaign,” Libman said. “All of the allegations, ridiculous comments…”

Orchard asked if the Olymbec land is under reserve, and if it is required for the extension.

“A piece of land owned by Olymbec has been reserved by the City of Montreal, but it doesn’t affect what I do…” Libman said.

“Would you have to recuse yourself from that debate?” Orchard asked.

“To be perfectly transparent, just to avoid any perceived conflict, perhaps I would, but it’s not even necessary, I’ve spoken with ministry officials about that,” Libman said.

Last week, Libman told The Suburban that while he is registered as a lobbyist, “I have no choice —every architect and urban planner that meets with city officials has to do that.”

At another debate at the Or Hahayim Synagogue Brownstein raised the issue of remerger as a “possible” threat. “The threat is not imminent,” he said, “But there have been Mayors who have told me that they’ve heard discussions of the possibility. I wouldn’t want to say more because I don’t want it to happen. I heard it at the municipal level. Certain people at the municipal level would like that to happen.” Brownstein declined to reveal further details.

Libman said Brownstein’s contention is a “scare tactic. “I have tried over and over again to bring issues to the fore that affect Côte St. Luc residents going forward regarding taxation, urban planning challenges, infrastructure and roads, transparency and creative programs for our city and he hasn’t advanced a single idea,” the candidate said. “All he does is try to spin the 15-year-old demerger tale and shy away from the real issues.”

Watch the debate here.

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Suburban exclusive: Remerger threat still exists: CSL mayor

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Suburban exclusive: Remerger threat still exists: CSL mayor
CSL council candidates watch the proceedings at Or Hahayim Synagogue.

An underlying threat still exists that could see demerged municipalities again merged into the Montreal megacity, as took place between 2002 and 2005, says Côte St. Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein.

Residents in municipalities like Côte St. Luc, Hampstead, Montreal West and Westmount voted to demerge in 2004.

“There is still, and always, a threat of remerger, there is always that threat,” Brownstein told an election event at the Or Hahayim Synagogue. “It’s still spoken about at the higher levels, and there are those who believe we would be better off as part of the City of Montreal. So if you want a mayor who, I guarantee you, will fight to keep us independent no matter what, vote for me.”

Brownstein made the statement during a mostly French-language election event Sept. 26. Also on hand were mayoral candidate Robert Libman and nearly all of the candidates for council seats. Demerger was a central topic of the evening. Brownstein was a demerger leader and Libman opposed demerging because of the conditions involved in Quebec’s Bill 9, which he said would not give municipalities sufficient powers and independence

Later, The Suburban asked Brownstein for more details on his contention.

“The threat is not imminent,” the Mayor said. “But there have been Mayors who have told me that they’ve heard discussions of the possibility. I wouldn’t want to say more because I don’t want it to happen. I haven’t heard it from the provincial level. I heard it at the municipal level. Certain people at the municipal level would like that to happen, and I guess they would have to go to the province to push it forward.”

Brownstein declined to reveal further details.

Asked about the issue, Libman said all he heard was from going door-to-door, that Brownstein “told them I want to re-merge Côte St. Luc with Montreal, which is completely false.”

“I never said that,” Brownstein countered.

We also asked Councillor Dida Berku what she has heard.

“There’s kind of a movement at the City of Montreal with regard to centralization of power,” she said. “Mayor Coderre centralized a lot of power with regard to snowclearing. I don’t feel it in terms of remerger. But the mayors are nervous about it, yes — maybe they have information… Who knows? If the PQ came back to power, we don’t know what would happen.”

The election event as a whole was feisty, especially when audience members asked questions — it was akin to an in-person version of the frequently fractious debates on the Let’s Chat CSL Facebook page. Accusations ranged from cyberbullying to overlong vacations to opportunism.

Moderator Charles Barchechath moderated the event with strictness and humour, keeping council candidate statements to two minutes and audience involvement to questions on local issues.

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In my opinion:

The possibility of remerging with Montreal is a very scary thought. Cote Saint-Lucers don’t want it. 90% voted to leave Montreal Mega-City. Why would we risk returning to this position that would weaken our glorious city?

Want to ensure that we stay the great suburban city that we are today? Want to have complete confidence that your elected representatives stay the course and speak out loudly and keep their promises on this thorny issue? Vote Mitchell Brownstein for Mayor and Glenn J. Nashen for City Councillor of District 6.

Trusted Leadership and Proven Experience.

CSL election battle intensifies over 2004 demerger vote

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The Côte St. Luc election race just heated up greatly, all over the position of some current incumbents during the lead-up to the 2004 demerger referendum.

The demergers of municipalities whose residents voted to do so took effect Jan. 1, 2006.

As The Suburban reported last week, CSL mayoral candidate Robert Libman criticized incumbent Mayor Mitchell Brownstein for, during the latter’s campaign, denouncing Libman for his stance on the mergers. Libman said last week he did not oppose demergers per se, but the Charest government’s Bill 9, “which would have stripped us of clout and political power and forced us into a ‘taxation without representation’ straitjacket.’” The law was since changed. Brownstein countered that Bill 9 gave Côte St. Luc and others the opportunity to demerge.

Libman also contended that incumbents Dida Berku, Mike Cohen and Allan Levine supported Côte St. Luc remaining in the megacity. Brownstein replied that Cohen and Levine voted for demerger.

Berku says she was majority leader in the megacity, but still signed the register, enabling people to vote in the 2004 referendum. Cohen told us that he worked as a communications consultant for the Côte St. Luc-Hampstead-Montreal West borough, and remained neutral. He signed the register and voted in the referendum.

Levine said he signed the register, opposed the stripping of powers from the demerged cities, and “personally supported demergers,” saying it benefits services for residents, such as Emergency Medical Services, in the current City of Côte St. Luc.

That’s where we were last week. But this story has taken on a couple of new twists.

•••

Last Wednesday morning, Libman sent The Suburban a 2004 flyer counselling a vote against demerging, which he said was circulated a week before that year’s demerger referendum.

In it, there’s a picture of then-former councillor Allan Levine, and the following quote: “I believe that a unified City of Montreal is the best way to solve the Cavendish extension issue, the preservation of Meadowbrook Golf Course and the protection of our Emergency Medical Services. That’s why I am voting NO.”

We contacted Levine and sent him a copy of the 2004 flyer. In one of a series of replies, he described it as a “cut and paste that I never saw nor wrote!”

In a second reply, Levine said that the reference in the flyer to EMS “is totally absurd as the City of Montreal uses their fire department [as first responders], which would have killed EMS.

“I knew it then and EMS is my passion, as is Meadowbrook We as a demerged city fought and won to preserve EMS. And this is a major reason why demerger was so wonderful for Côte St. Luc. Also, I never favoured a direct Cavendish-Cavendish link so the claim on Cavendish is ridiculous! Finally, as a demerged city, we have been able to preserve Meadowbrook.

“So the flyer was obviously not my quotes!…We had this discussion 16 years ago and a few times since and my reply was and remains, always the same. Never authorized and never said! What I do say is that ‘demerger was the best thing to happen to Côte St. Luc.’”

We then contacted Libman for his reply to Levine’s response. The mayoral candidate sent us the entire flyer, which includes quotes from several Côte St. Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West residents.

“I don’t do ‘cut and paste’ jobs, or fake endorsements. I found [the flyer] in a demerger document from 2004,” Libman told The Suburban. “A lot of people were very concerned about Bill 9, as [Levine] obviously was, because he cares about his community.”

Libman also responded to Cohen’s statement to us last week, that he never publicly took a position on the demerger issue and remained neutral.

“Emails from Mike Cohen at the time agreeing with my position also expressed similar sentiments and concern about the impact of Bill 9 on our city,” Libman said. “People who looked at the structural and taxation aspects of Bill 9, allowing Montreal to tax us directly, were very concerned. In our hearts everyone was for demerger, but in our heads, Bill 9 was an attack on municipal governance and taxation.”

We then asked Cohen for a reply.

“I was hired by Robert to handle all media relations for the borough,” the District 2 councillor said. “He was my direct superior and as such he corresponded with me a lot during the referendum period and I completed work he assigned to me. I am sure there are some points of view he had I agreed with at the time, and the same goes for Anthony Housefather, whom as a borough councillor at the time communicated with me regularly as well.” (Housefather was a leader of the de-merger movement).

“But I was not an elected official nor was I part of a pro or anti-merger team. I had no choice but to stay out of the public debate. I did sign the register because I believed in the importance of the public deciding on our future. Once I saw the results, it was clear to me that the will to stay in Montreal was not there. It is for that reason I voted to demerge, but I kept that personal as I still had to work with Robert for another year and a half. Anthony Housefather felt confident enough in me to support my candidacy in 2005, go door to door with me and ended up becoming a very close friend.”

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In my opinion:

The irrefutable FACT is that Anthony Housefather, Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac and I co-chaired the demerger campaign and succeeded in getting our city of Cote Saint-Luc back.(There’s plenty of posts on that subject right here on this blog).  Had we not done so, CSLers would be voting in the Montreal elections this Nov. 5, would be sending all of our tax dollars to Montreal, would have no life-saving volunteer service, would have lost our police and fire stations in CSL, to mention just a few examples.

I have no interest in risking being remerged into Montreal. Don’t you agree?

You can rest assured that Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and I (not to mention Councillor Ruth Kovac and others) will fight tooth and nail to ensure that Cote Saint-Luc remains its own proud and independent city with excellent services and close proximity to its residents.

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

Mitchell Brownstein announces plans to run for re-election

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Global News Montreal

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein formally announced that he will be throwing

his hat in the ring and will be running for re-election in this year’s November elections

On Friday morning, current mayor of Côte St-Luc, Mitchell Brownstein, announced that he was putting in his candidacy to run for another term as mayor of the city.

At the Elna Bistro press conference, Brownstein made the announcement with the support of six city councillors present and with statements read from two other city councillors who were unable to attend.

He was also supported by Anthony Housefather, member of Parliament for Mount Royal, Lawrence Bergman, former minister of revenue, and Peter Trent, former mayor of Westmount and former president of the Association of Suburban Mayors.

“Mitchell has the capacity of reuniting people and this characterizes his strong leadership skills,” city Coun. Sidney Benizri said.

When Trent spoke, he mentioned that he had originally written a speech that focused on Brownstein’s accomplishments but since he learned yesterday that another candidate would be running, he decided he needed to speak about Brownstein’s potential opponent.

“I didn’t want to use the L-word at that point,” Trent said.

“But then yesterday, I discovered that Mr. Robert Libman has decided to put his toe in the water to see the temperature with regard to running again as the mayor of Côte St-Luc.

And I thought it was important that I give some context to this rather strange desire on the part of Mr. Libman to come back.”

Trent said that during 2002 and 2004, he led the de-merger movement.

“And my comrades in arms were Anthony Housefather and Mitch.”

Trent placed his hand on Brownstein’s shoulder as he spoke.

“I have seen them fight for their city which I think is important that potential electors realize,” Trent said.

Trent explained that five weeks before the 2001 election, Libman thought the mega-city would be a “bureaucratic monster” and that Libman was “completely against it”.

But, Trent said, then he changed his mind.

“From then on, he became the biggest cheerleader for the mega city, to the point that when we managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and have a chance at de-merging, he actually argued against de-merging,” Kent said.

According to Trent, the de-merger is the most important thing to happen to Côte St-Luc.

“You can judge a person’s character on how they behave during a tough time,” Kent said.

Trent added that Brownstein has the capacity to “do the right thing when times are tough” and that history has proven that Brownstein can stay the course and fulfils his promises.

Housefather said that you can tell a lot about a man from what he does when the chips are down, and told a story about how Brownstein lifted him – and others – up.

Housefather reminded the crowd about how difficult it was to bring the de-merger to life back then.

“There was not an incentive from the government for us to de-merge,” Housefather said. “They put a process in place that was exceptionally difficult.”

He explained that at the time the symbol used to support the concept of a de-merger was a blue ribbon and told a story about how, one weekend, they all went out and put up blue ribbons on both public property, and the private property of those who requested it, across the city.

He said he was shocked and discouraged when he heard that then-mayor, Libman, was on the news opposing the ribbons and had Public Works crews out taking down all their blue ribbons.

This year, his first year as mayor, they ran a surplus of over a million dollars, he says, but with the Association of Suburban Mayors, they were able to negotiate a deal with Montreal where the city of Côte St-Luc will be paying $2.4 million less, phased in over three years, in order to support island-wide services.

“That is really who I want to be as mayor,” Brownstein said at the press conference when it was his time to speak.

“Someone who could create consensus, who can work together for what the people want.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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

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