Our farmer is closer than you’d think

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Judy Hagshi and Jeremy Nashen at Lufa Farms rooftop nursery near Marché Central

Lufa Farms is an agricultural company located in the Ahuntsic-Cartierville neighborhood of Montreal. It is reputed to have built the world’s first commercial greenhouse on the roof of a building. The company’s first Montreal greenhouse began operations in early 2011.

Covering an area of 31,000 square feet, Lufa Farms produces vegetables year-round without synthetic pesticides, capturing rainwater, and recirculating irrigation water. The company delivers more than 10,000 baskets per week.

Lufa Farms rooftop nursery grows a wide variety of produce capturing and recycling rainwater and irrigating the plants through drip technology

Lufa Farms’ relies on a direct-to consumer business model, which minimizes the transport of food. Unlike traditional greenhouses, Lufa Farms recreates several microclimates to provide the quality and productivity of cultivars. According to the founder of Lufa Farms, Mohamed Hage, “If we were using the roofs of 19 shopping centres in Montreal, we could make the city self-sufficient.”

My family signed up to receive a weekly basket of fruit and vegetables four years ago through the Cote Saint-Luc Public Library. After a pause of a few years, my wife Judy, decided to rejoin a few weeks ago. Lufa Farms’ members are called “Lufavors”.

The happy Lufavors: Phyllis, Glenn, Nicole, Nathalie, Jeremy and Judy

We attended yesterday’s open house in their rooftop nursery near the Marché Central. My family took part in the study tour learning all about their operations and distribution system. Did you know that your average fruit and vegetable travels 2500 kilometres until it gets to you. The produce is cultivated long before you consume it and is transferred via refrigerated trucking, stored in refrigerated warehouses and is redistributed to your grocer before you ever see it on their shelves. By comparison, Lufa Farms picks your personalized order from the vine overnight and it’s generally in your kitchen within 12 hours!

Big, fresh and delicious

 

From vine to your kitchen in 12 hours!

An vibrant micro-economy has sprung out of this venture with small artisan producers partnering with Lufa to bring their products directly to its member’s table through the Lufa distribution network.

My wife and kids select our weekly basket online and we pick up our order at the library, just a short walk from home.

It couldn’t not be easier, fresher, more educational and interesting with new foods to explore all while we support our local producers right here in the Montreal area.

 

 

 

 

 

Traditional transport from the farm still on display

 

Nathalie and her ‘Bubs’ Phyllis getting ready for Halloween cooking

 

 

 

 

 

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Battle heats up in Côte Saint-Luc

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The race is heating up in Côte Saint-Luc with clashing personalities battling it out for mayor.

Incumbent Mitchell Brownstein is seeking a second term.

He’s being challenged by former mayor Robert Libman who is trying to get his old job back.

 

WATCH: The former mayor of Côte Saint-Luc has decided to run for re-election, but as Global’s Tim Sargeant reports, Robert Libman is a registered lobbyist. This has incumbent Mayor Mitchell Brownstein questioning his rival’s true interests.

Global News Report

Côte Saint-Luc mayoral candidate’s vow to extend Cavendish raises possible ethical concerns

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Robert Libman plays down lobbying work for Olymbec, company that stands to profit from proposed link

By Sarah Leavitt, CBC News Posted: Oct 05, 2017 7:30 PM ET

Robert Libman was mayor of Côte Saint-Luc between 1998 and 2005 and is now in the race to win back that post.

Robert Libman was mayor of Côte Saint-Luc between 1998 and 2005 and is now in the race to win back that post. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

 

 

As a mayoral candidate for Côte Saint-Luc, Robert Libman is promising to “champion the Cavendish extension,” but as a registered lobbyist, he is also representing a real estate company with land in the area of the proposed link.

That may place him in a conflict of interest if he wins the election, according to one expert, who suggests Libman could be forced to recuse himself from decisions involving the long-planned extension of Cavendish Boulevard.

Libman is an architect and an urban planner.

According to Quebec’s Order of Architects, any architect who solicits governments, for instance, seeking building permits or zoning changes, must register as a lobbyist.

Libman denies his relationship with the real estate company, Olymbec, places him in a potential conflict of interest.

Incumbent mayor Mitchell Brownstein has sought to draw the media’s attention to those ties.

Olymbec owns two plots of land on the corner of Dalton Road and Cavendish Boulevard  north of the railyard that cuts the boulevard in two.

Filings with the Quebec Registry of Lobbyists indicate Libman stands to be paid less than $10,000 to lobby municipal officials for building permits allowing Olymbec to build on the land.

Olymbec plots on reserve

In June 2016, the City of Montreal put the two vacant lots, which cover nearly 17,000 square metres, on reserve, to prevent Olymbec from developing or expanding the properties while plans to extend Cavendish Boulevard are worked out.

In October 2016, the city’s executive committee approved a resolution to negotiate with Olymbec to buy one of the lots.

“It’s not even a conflict,” Libman told CBC News. “The City of Montreal reserved land in the corridor where the Cavendish extension is going to go.”

“The fact that Olymbec happens to own the land next to it, it doesn’t make a difference. I’ve pushed for the Cavendish extension since 2002. Nothing has changed there.”

Olymbec land

The land owned by Olymbec is within the area highlighted in red, an area which will be impacted by the Cavendish extension. (Google Maps)

Michel Nadeau, the executive director of HEC and Concordia University’s Institute for Governance and Public Policy, points to the Elections and Referendums Act for regulations concerning conflicts of interest.

Section 361 reads:

Every member of the council of a municipality who is present at a sitting when a matter in which he has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest is taken up for consideration shall disclose the general nature of his interest before discussions on the matter are begun and abstain from participating in the discussions and from voting or attempting to influence the vote on that matter.

Nadeau says those rules apply within the municipality to which the official belongs, but they also apply to interests involving other municipalities.

Public governance expert Michel Nadeau says for a candidate to be fully transparent, voters must be made aware of lobbying that candidate has done for any organization.

“As a mayor, you should work full-time for the voters or the citizens of your city. To vote, to take the interest of the citizens, this interest could be in conflict with the neighbouring cities,” Nadeau said.

“You should not have any financial, legal or contractual commitments with the neighbouring cities because of business activities.”

Libman says he is aware of the rules and has been in touch with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs to go over issues of conflict of interest.

“If there’s ever an issue that might be perceived as a conflict, there are rules that govern conflict of interest, and I would recuse myself in any such case.”

Lobbying ‘miniscule part of my work,’ Libman says

However, Libman downplayed his lobbying work.

“I don’t lobby at all,” he said, before adding: “That’s a minuscule part of my work.”

“I’m an architect. Because I meet with cities, because I make a request for zoning changes or building permits, I have to be on the lobbyist register, like other architects are.”

But lobbying records show that Libman has six active lobbying mandates from Olymbec, including for the properties on Cavendish.

In five of those mandates, Libman was paid less than $10,000 in each instance.

Among those is a mandate in which he was to be paid less than $10,000 to lobby Côte Saint-Luc to place rental signs in a vacant property on Westminster Street.

In the sixth mandate, Libman is to be paid between $10,000 and $50,000 for lobbying on behalf of Olymbec’s interests in a massive redevelopment project in Montreal North.

Olymbec is owned by Derek and Richard Stern. Derek Stern helped organize Libman’s 2014-2015 campaign for the Conservative nomination in the federal riding of Mount Royal.

He won the nomination but lost the 2015 election to Liberal Anthony Housefather.

Robert Libman promises

In his list of campaign promises, Libman says he’ll work to ‘ensure the completion of the Cavendish extension,’ despite what could be a conflict of interest. (Robert Libman)

Transparency concerns

Libman, who was mayor of Côte Saint-Luc between 1998 and 2005, says he signed on to the lobbyist register in 2010 with the goal of full transparency.

Much of his work as a lobbyist involves approaching different cities and boroughs in attempts to change zoning designations, to seek permission for development or demolition or to request bylaw changes.

There are no laws directed specifically at lobbyists running as candidates for elected office, but Nadeau said it’s important they be fully transparent about their work.

“The electors should know this candidate is a lobbyist for any organization,” said Nadeau.

Libman does not mention his work as a lobbyist on his campaign website.

With files from Jonathan Montpetit

News video at 5:45

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.

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.

N

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

Berku slams STM response to bus stop request

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Launch of the 262 Golden Shuttle in CSL, Oct. 2010. L-R: Charles Senekal, Manager, CSL Engineering, Beverly Akerman, Past President, CSL Senior Social Centre, Sidney Margles, President, CSL Senior Mens Club, Cllr. Michel Labreque, President, MTC/STM, Cllr. Dida Berku, Cllr. Allan Levine, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, Tanya Abramovitch, CSL City Manager

Côte St. Luc Councillor Dida Berku criticized the Montreal bus authority for declining to add an additional bus stop on the 262 Or (golden) shuttle, which travels from Côte St. Luc’s Mackle Road to Carrefour Angrignon in LaSalle.

Seniors generally use the shuttle.

Berku said residents of St. Patrick Square, in her district, started a petition to get an extra stop, near the Wal-Mart store in a power mall area across the street from Carrefour Angrignon. The shuttle also goes to Quartier Cavendish, the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre and the commercial area of Montreal West.

“The residents sent the petition, Charles Senekal from our Engineering Department has been talking with the STM for a couple of years on this subject, simply to add the one bus stop,” Berku explained. “The bus driver understood this. It’s far for the residents to walk from Angrignon to Wal-Mart, and back.”

Golden Shuttle 262

 

The STM responded last month that the authority is reflecting on the issue, and cannot add the one stop at this point.

“They will advise us when they do further studies,” the councillor said. “I want to publicly denounce the STM for what I consider to be an extremely bureaucratic and very narrow approach to the problem, as we’re trying very hard to just provide good service to our seniors.

“Extending the 262 by one stop would not be such a great demand. We will continue to lobby the STM and do everything possible to get this extra stop.”

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