Swift and angry backlash against D’Arcy McGee MNA’s vote for Bonjour-Hi resolution

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By Joel Goldenberg, The Suburban Jun 12, 2019

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum voted along with fellow Quebec Liberals, the Parti Québécois and the governing CAQ in encouraging Montreal merchants to drop the “Hi” in the now-traditional Bonjour-Hi greeting.

Be sure to read below: In my opinion

The vote, proposed by the PQ, came in advance of Grand Prix weekend, when numerous tourists, including many who do not speak French, visit Montreal.

Liberal MNAs Kathleen Weil and Gregory Kelley were not present for the symbolic vote. Weil told the media she stayed away after receiving numerous complaints from constituents after voting for the same motion in 2017.

Birnbaum provided an extensive explanation for his vote on Facebook. The MNA said the wording of the resolution was acceptable to him, and it passed unanimously in terms of all MNAs present in the Assembly.

“Here is why I chose to rise for the vote….verrrry slowly,” he wrote. “English-speaking Quebecers, whether they live in Snowdon, Sillery or Sherbrooke, have a stake in supporting the protection and promotion of the French language. We are allies, not enemies in that cause— it’s time that this be recognized by all parties, as it is by ours.”

Birnbaum also contended that the CAQ government “has failed to take the slightest concrete measure to truly strengthen the place of French in Quebec — by increasing spending, as our government did, on francisation programs for new immigrants, by supporting English school boards in their constant efforts to improve French-second language programs (the CAQ plans to abolish the board), and in calling for the inclusion of all Quebecers in the legitimate and necessary effort of French-language promotion.”

There was much reaction to Birnbaum’s vote.

Harold Staviss, who with CSL councillor Ruth Kovac has been lobbying businesses to put up bilingual signs and send out bilingual communications to consumers, was very displeased.

“Do our MNAs have nothing better to do?” he wrote on Facebook. “What a joke! Three cheers and kudos to Kathleen Weil and Gregory Kelley for standing up for those that elected them. At least two Liberals stood up for their constituents. But with all due respect to David Birnbaum and Jennifer Maccarone, you let us down big time. I urge you all to show both David and Jennifer your total disgust for what they did. E-mail them, call them, use social media.”

Kovac herself sent a note to Birnbaum, which she shared with The Suburban, announcing that she is withdrawing her Quebec Liberal Party membership as well as her seat on the D’Arcy McGee riding association.

“We have discussed this issue on more than one occasion,” she added. “As an MNA, in my opinion, you are elected by the people and responsible first to them, irrespective of parliamentary duties. The 2017 backlash should have guided your vote this time. This vote was a resolution, not legislation! It is the English and multi- ethnic population that elected you, not a small Francophone town in a rural area.”

Kovac also wrote that Bill 101 and the OQLF “have never been about promoting French, but pushing for a slow and painful death of anything English.

“Having worked in different businesses before becoming a councillor, we know that it is the language of the customer that is paramount. This was an opportunity where you could have easily risen slowly or quickly with true vigour and represented D’Arcy McGee.

“I suspect that I speak for many.”

Former Côte St. Luc councillor Glenn Nashen responded to Birnbaum on Facebook

“To be inclusive, forward looking and positive… sure,” he wrote. “To respect, promote and master the French language? Absolutely. To interfere with private conversations between private business and private citizens? Not the role of our parliamentarians. As you rightly point out, French is as healthy as ever in Montreal. No need to suppress the English language.”

CSL council regular Toby Shulman wrote: “I am calling my MNA. He has lost my vote.”

joel@thesuburban.com

More:

In my opinion:

While I an upset about the motion in the National Assembly, I don’t believe that David Birnbaum’s ‘reluctant’ vote in favour makes him unworthy as a representative of the English-speaking community, as expressed by some others. Now I’m no apologist for anyone, however politics isn’t a zero sum game. I believe in measuring a leader by the overall good he or she does for the community. I’m really not pleased with David’s decision to vote in favour of this resolution. I would have preferred that he cast a vote against, as difficult as that would have been for him. It would have sent a much stronger message than rising slowly, in my opinion. But, one cannot erase the many good choices David has made as our MNA. So I do think anyone who’s upset should let him know. It is only through these many contacts that any MNA can better represent us on the next resolution. Too often people are quick to criticize on single issues, disregarding a history of achievement.

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National Assembly again urges merchants to drop use of “Bonjour-Hi” | Montreal Gazette

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Montreal Gazette, June 7, 2019 – I have great respect for my MNA, David Birnbaum, and I believe he is doing an excellent job in representing our riding. However, we differ in approach on this thorny subject.

In responding to Birnbaum’s explanation for his cautious support of the non-binding resolution in the National Assembly today, posted to Facebook, I wrote:  

To be Inclusive, forward-looking and positive? Sure. To respect promote and master the French language? Absolutely. To interfere with private conversation between private business and private citizens? Not the role of our parliamentarians. As you rightly point out, French is as healthy as ever in Montreal. No need to suppress the English language.

Montreal to debate allowing police to wear religious symbols

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Good proposal by Montreal Councillor Marvin Rotrand. Montreal should not be bullied down the road to Bill 21 without speaking up. The members of our police department should reflect the population it serves and while they have made some efforts in the last years there’s plenty more to do. We can learn from other major Canadian police forces. Good luck Marvin, in helping to develop an inclusive police service.

 

http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-to-debate-allowing-police-to-wear-religious-symbols

Montreal Gazette: Editorial: Religious symbols bill is divisive, wrong and unnecessary

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http://montrealgazette.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-religious-symbols-bill-is-divisive-wrong-and-unnecessary

Montreal Gazette: Macpherson: Selectively secularizing a land of 10,000 saints

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http://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/macpherson-selectively-secularizing-a-land-of-10000-saints

Impassioned MP Housefather vigorously defends minority language rights in House of Commons

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“Many in Quebec’s English-speaking community wonder whether anyone ever speaks up for them,” said Mount Royal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather. “I have spoken out for minority language rights my whole life and do so in the House of Commons as well.”

This video of Housefather’s back and forth with the Bloc Québécois shows just how impassioned the MP is when debating a proposed bill that would give English-speaking Quebecers in the federal civil service fewer rights to work in their language than any other civil servant in Canada.

“In this video my vision of Canada comes out loudly and clearly in both official languages,” Housefather said.

Thank you, Anthony, for always standing up for your constituents and all Canadians, especially on matters of linguistic rights and basic human rights. You are a formidable representative, a masterful spokesperson.

 

What went right in D’Arcy McGee? A Thanksgiving opinion.

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Thomas D’Arcy McGee, a Father of Confederation, may be turning over in his grave knowing that his namesake riding went from having almost the highest voter turnout in the 2014 general elections (at 72%) to almost the lowest in the province in last week’s election (at about 46.5%).

D’Arcy McGee riding also changed dramatically with the boundary shifting from its traditional Decarie eastern extremity all the way to Cote des Neiges. And despite the huge growth of 40,000 voters to 55,000 this time around, voter turnout dropped dismally from 29,000 to 25,000.

Much went wrong, to be sure. Political pundits and armchair analysts will be drilling through the numbers and issues and faux pas for a very long time. There will be no shortage of theories to understand why English-speaking voters simply stayed home in huge numbers this time around. Poll clerks have reported that ballot boxes stayed quiet throughout the day in the West End and West Island. Tumbleweeds were rolling at my voting station at the Cote Saint-Luc Aquatic and Community Centre. Not a single person was lined up at any of the tables neatly arranged for the masses who never showed up. Apparently the scene was similar throughout the day and throughout the area.

The Liberal brand was evidently on trial in this normally red riding neighbourhood. The smartly Photoshopped posters of Philippe Couillard sporting the lackluster pitch-line, “To make life easier for Quebecers,” didn’t hit the mark, at all.

So what went right?

We have re-elected our incumbent Liberal Member of the National Assembly, David Birnbaum, who deservedly garnered an impressive 74% of the vote compared to the Quebec Solidaire candidate, Jean-Claude Kumuyange at just over 7% and the CAQ’s Melodie Cohen at 6%.

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum speaks to a group of supporters at the Gelber Conference Centre

The individual makes the difference, locally.

The affable and eloquent Birnbaum is very close to his constituents and obviously appreciated at a rate that far outstrips the voters’ feelings about his party. David is very present in his constituency and cares deeply about his constituents. He is engaged in the key files of importance to the riding and very willingly representing his electors concerns in Quebec City.

While he moves from the government side where he served in high positions with great distinction to the opposition benches I am confident that David will adapt quickly to his new role and continue to represent us with determination and exuberance.

It’s always easier to be negative and to look to blame and shame. We’ve read many articles and opinions pointing fingers in the last week. You won’t hear a negative word from the mouth of David Birnbaum as he is a class act, an intellect and peace-maker, highly skilled at choosing the right words to make a convincing argument. As a new era in Quebec politics begin, I’m thankful that we have David to represent us.

I wish much success to David Birnbaum, and to the interim Liberal leader Pierre Arcand (a very fine gentleman and tremendous MNA and Minister).

Let’s hope that the old referendum turmoil stays way behind us and that our new premier is true to his election-night words of uniting all Quebecers. I extend my wishes for good governance, wise judgment, fair representation and abundant tolerance to our new Premier, Francois Legault, and to the new government.

Quebec is indeed a magnificent place and we must remain united, generous and tolerant to our fellow citizens and new arrivals and hopeful that our lives will indeed be made easier. Happy thanksgiving to all.

D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum was a real sport golfing in his Expos T-Shirt, seen here at the ACC for lunch, with my dad, George and me

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