Birnbaum backs a winner: Anglade good choice for D’Arcy McGee

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Glenn J. Nashen, MNA David Birnbaum, Nicole Nashen and Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade

D’Arcy McGee Member of the National Assembly David Birnbaum has come out on the winning side having backed Dominique Anglade for the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party. Birnbaum was one of the first to throw his support behind Anglade when she launched her campaign to become leader of the QLP. Well, seems like he made a good choice. This week Anglade was chosen as leader when contender Alexandre Cusson dropped out of the race.

Back in January, Birnbaum invited both candidates to meet with a select group of representatives from D’Arcy McGee. As one of his invitees Birnbaum graciously extended the invitation to my daughter, Nicole, a student in Community and Public Policy at Concordia University. Nicole and I had the opportunity to put questions to both Anglade and Cusson and to have a private and informative chat with them as well.

I put the following question to both: “We are so fortunate in D’Arcy McGee to have been represented by outstanding MNAs, dedicated to our constituents and faithfully representing the party. It’s not an easy task given the history of the English-speaking communities and the QLP, where many feel that our communities have been taken for granted. What will you do differently than your predecessors at the helm of the party to truly build bridges as well as to unify Quebec and Canada?”

Anglade responded that she believes in a modern, open and inclusive Quebec. She seemed more attuned to the history and reality facing Quebec’s English-speaking communities than Alexandre Cusson, former Mayor of Drummondville.

“Montrealers and those in the regions need to meet one another to rebuild the Quebec family,” Anglade said.

While Anglade and Cusson appeared early on to come from opposing corners, the metropolis and the regions, we were left with a favourable impression that Anglade had a better overall grasp of the landscape, in particular as it affects our communities.

Cusson, however, spoke candidly that he doesn’t like the “us” used by Quebec nationalists which leave out those who do not espouse their political doctrine. “I want us all to be ‘us’,” he said. “We’re all in this together. We have to respect all communities. We must be an example, here in Quebec, to ensure that Francophones in the Rest of Canada are also respected.”

Nicole and I were impressed with Cusson’s youthful energy and promotion of a federalist philosophy within the QLP. We think that he would make an excellent addition to Anglade’s team in the next provincial election, helping her in her mission to bridge the gap between Montreal and the regions.

Of course, we also believe that Anglade must include David Birnbaum as her point man for the English-speaking communities, not to mention his vast experience in other aspects of community. His eloquence, intelligence and charm make him an obvious choice for Anglade to keep close as she assembles her team. And that would be good news, of course, for all of D’Arcy McGee and Quebec.

MP Anthony Housefather says government learning and adapting

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Housefather interviewed by Mike Cohen in new podcast

Click above to hear Mike Cohen’s podcast

Mike Cohen has posted his second episode after last week’s launch of his new podcast series. Focusing in on local personalities and issues the series began with an interesting interview with D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum.

Cohen’s years of professional journalism have transitioned smoothly into broadcast as his flair for asking interesting questions and connecting with the average citizen shine through.

Anthony Housefather, MP, in the Hall of Honour, Parliament of Canada (Nov. 13, 2015. GJ Nashen photo)

This week’s episode with Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather looks at the efforts of the local federal representative to parliament amid the Covid-19 crisis and measures enacted by the federal government.

Housefather has done a spectacular job of communicating with thousands of constituents on a daily basis with essential information on the pandemic from a local and national perspective. He provides government and resource information and links. His staff have been engaged with constituents round the clock and seven days a week since the outset.

You can listen in on Mike Cohen’s podcast and will soon be able to subscribe on your favourite podcast platform.

OQLF suspends French language requirements amid pandemic

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Quebec’s Tongue Troopers are making headlines again

In an ironic twist of fate, the much maligned language cops have determined that doctors and nurses don’t have to pass French test to work in Quebec during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What a relief during a period where we’ll grab on to anything that offers relief.

Did we need a crisis for such a sensible solution? When this is all over will we have so many extra medical personnel that language restrictions will make sense again?

We’re desperate for help so we’ll take what we can get. When we return to normal why not use the opportunity to modernize restrictive, coercive policies? How about positive and encouraging language guidelines and free French-language instruction for all?

Our global economy favours multilingualism over nationalism. Quebec is very well positioned economically, culturally, geographically and linguistically to rebound with gusto. It’s time for outdated language policies to be re-imagined in a post-Covid-19 Quebec.

Read more in MTL Blog.

Mike Cohen launches informative, local podcast

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Congratulations to my friend Mike Cohen on launching his very first podcast. He had planned this out for many years and, “Now it is a reality,” he told me (available at https://soundcloud.com/themikecohenpodcast).

His first episode features a timely and interesting interview with the very engaged Liberal MNA for D’Arcy McGee, Mr. David Birnbaum. Mike thought it would be interesting to get Birnbaum’s take on the COVID-19 pandemic: “How does it impact local MNAs? Is the CAQ government doing a good job?” As well as other questions such as, “Where does the Liberal leadership race stand? Will Bill 40, the school board reforms, be enacted on time?”

The pandemic and self-isolation have created an opportunity for Mike to reach out to his interesting contacts and connect them with his readers of his many newspaper columns and blogs, this time listening in on his very own “station”.

Mike is a graduate from Concordia University’s Broadcast Journalism Program. He has had assignments through the years on CJAD with post game reports on the Montreal Expos, as Montreal correspondent for The FAN all-sports radio in Toronto, the Expos pre- and post game shows on the now defunct CIQC Radio. He served as national director of communications for Canadian Jewish Congress and went on to join the English Montreal School Board as communications and marketing specialist. From time to time he still does a sports radio bit on TSN 690.

Happier, pre-social distancing days with my friends Mitchell Brownstein, Mike Cohen and David Birnbaum (2018)

Mike has been a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc since 2005.

Mike tells me that he intends to have more episodes follow on a regular basis, “drawing from the people I interact with via my three main jobs: the EMSB, city council and as a writer for a number of publications, notably The Suburban.”

Mike Cohen presiding at a 2010 city council meeting with Ruth Kovac and Mitchell Brownstein

Mike told me that, “During the pandemic,  interviews will be done by phone. I do hope to chat with different players in the field under the three hats I wear. I greatly look forward to the day when I can go on location.”

Newly elected Councillor Mike Cohen, 2005

Mike’s podcasts will soon be available on Apple Podcast. For now you can find him on his Soundcloud channel.

Who’s your guardian angel?

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Quebec Premier Francois Legault has thanked “Guardian Angels” repeatedly during his daily press conferences. Emergency responders have paraded by local hospitals, sirens wailing, as a signal to the personnel inside, technicians, orderlies, nurses, doctors and auxiliary staff, that they are appreciated and honoured for their professional and personal efforts during these difficult days. Social media posts thank those working in long-term care facilities and rehab centres for caring for the elderly and the infirmed, restaurant staff for take-out and delivery and truckers and grocery store workers for keeping essential supplies flowing.

We all have our guardian angels. Mothers, fathers, neighbours, caregivers, friends and volunteers.

To be sure, these have not been easy days and weeks for many who are dealing with loneliness in their isolation, job layoffs, financial hardship, and health problems. Others are busy just trying to care for their families and dealing with emotions of physical isolation or boredom or lack of routine. And yet others, sadly, tragically, are grieving the loss of loved ones.

For my family, like many of you, we are trying to stay healthy of mind and body, positive in thought and good humoured.

Family online Shabbat Shalom

Yet we are concerned for our parents, 96 and 91 years of age, living independently at home, thankfully with a wonderfully dedicated caregiver. Daily check-in calls and video chats and tumultuous gatherings for the Passover Seders and welcoming Shabbat on Zoom and care packages lovingly left at the door by sisters-in-law, brothers and my wife provide comfort and relief and closeness in a less than completely satisfying way. They are happy and mostly healthy and for that we are thankful and anxious to be together, really together, soon.

Jeremy in class

Our kids are busy with online classes, music lessons, homework and studying, and friends by phone and video, Netflix parties and Tik-Tok and just hanging out together. Thank God they get along!

How to get through another day at the office from home and keep the family safe and fed and clean and sane? A concern facing us and millions of others.

How I enjoy our almost-daily walks (10,000 steps, my new record!) with my co-quarantined brother and kids along with a couple of neighbourhood friends – our family on one side of the road and theirs on the other – and playing outside with my son. How many menu items can we invent from our “Passover Pandemic Pantry” that we stocked to overflow weeks before anyone thought of hording toilet paper? And thankfully, there are wonderful friends that have delivered fresh produce as we have isolated ourselves for more than three weeks from the rest of the world.

Judy between deliveries, on call for Family Med OB-GYN at the Jewish

And most of all we miss our own Guardian Angel, my wife, Judy, who has lived apart from us for more than three weeks. As a physician at the Jewish General Hospital she has kept our family safe, like so many other doctors, by physically secluding herself from her children and husband. The risk of infection is too great, so Judy and so many of her colleagues in healthcare, have taken unprecedented steps to safeguard family while focusing their care on their patients. We all worry when they head in to the hospital and are relived to hear that they have returned home and feel just fine, other than exhausted.

We are so proud of her for her dedication to her patients and for the sacrifices and we pray that she remains safe, that all Guardian Angels remain in good health. We love and miss her and are anxious for this to pass and to be reunited as a family.

No, these are not easy days. But we are fortunate that this isn’t a man-made war. It’s not a natural disaster that will demolish homes. This isn’t civil strife or political upheaval. We are directed to stay home, to wash our hands and to stay apart from others. Who knew that something so simple could be so hard?

Thankfully, we all have our Guardian Angels watching over us and things will get better!

It's not too late to prepare

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Emergency preparedness has been in my DNA for decades. From the Ice Storm, power failures, home fires, apartment evacuation and underpass floods, I have been involved in every wide-scale emergency and disaster in Cote Saint-Luc since first joining the Emergency Measures Organization in 1979.

This gives me an interesting perspective on emergency preparedness given the COVID-19 pandemic facing us all.

Even though I am not involved in Cote Saint-Luc’s planning efforts this time, I have been neck deep (and at times over my head) during the past 10 days heading up communication efforts for the West-Central Montreal health authority, which includes the Jewish General Hospital as well as Cote Saint-Luc’s Mount Sinai Hospital Centre, Maimonides and CLSC Rene Cassin. More on that in another post.

We’re still early into the pandemic in Canada. The dire situation that we have watched unfolding in China, Italy and heading toward us over the past two months is an advanced warning. And it’s still not too late to prepare.

Premier Francois Legault is doing an excellent job communicating daily with Quebecers, together with Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda and Health Minister Danielle McCann

Fortunately for us in Quebec and throughout Canada, our political, healthcare and emergency preparedness leaders have taken this matter very seriously. So much so that many of us were lulled out of complacency and frightened into taking action (and needlessly panicking and emptying store shelves of toilet paper and other supplies).

Snowbirds started packing up early to get back to Canada. Travellers cancelled vacations. Crowds started diminishing as entertainment and sports venues began shutting down. Schools closed. Recreation centres, tourist centres and gathering points started shutting down. Entry to Canada to non-Canadians became sealed except for essential services.

We’ve learned new vocabulary in a matter of days. Social distancing. WFH (work from home). Flatten the curve. Sneeze into your sleeve or elbow.

Everything has changed overnight. And it’s not going back to what it was anytime soon. So what to do?

If you haven’t begun preparing, there’s no time like the present. No need to panic-shop since our supply chain is well intact. Having an adequate supply of non-perishable food, medicine and household goods is a basic necessity at the best of times. Now, it’s even more important as a result of quarantine or self-isolation (be it for reasons of illness, return from travel or as a precaution for your family).

It will be vital to the overall health of those around us and all across the country to heed the warnings and to prepare. It’s not too late.

COVID-19: Côte Saint-Luc activates state-of-emergency power to help stop mass gatherings

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The City Council of Côte Saint-Luc declared a state of emergency effective today at 3:30pm, which is a power granted to cities under the Civil Protection Act.

The Act states that: “A local municipality may declare a state of emergency in all or part of its territory where, in an actual or imminent major disaster situation, immediate action is required to protect human life, health or physical integrity which, in its opinion, it is unable to take within the scope of its normal operating rules or of any applicable emergency preparedness plan.”

This state of emergency is coming into effect based on Cote Saint Luc’s special demographics including having the highest percentage of seniors in the province, many snowbirds returning from abroad, more places of worship than any city of our size and numerous hospitals and senior residences that need our protection.

The City is taking this step to limit the number of social and religious public gatherings to a maximum of 10 persons and as such, the City is asking Public Health Authorities and the Montreal police department (SPVM) to enforce this rule on its local territory. 

The top priority of a city is the health of its population. 

The state of emergency will allow Côte Saint-Luc to ask Public Health Authorities to use their powers to stop all events and gatherings of more than 10 people with the assistance of the SPVM. The state of emergency will last for a 5-day period and can be renewed should the Quebec Ministry of Public Security so authorize. 

We understand that in the coming three weeks, there are many weddings and celebrations planned before the onset of Passover followed by the seven weeks of the Omer, where weddings and celebrations cannot take place according to the Jewish tradition. While we understand that people have made plans and invited guests, we cannot take the risk of allowing large gatherings in our community at this time. We are confident that the residents will understand and support this effort.

Resolution to declare a local state of emergency due to COVID-19 in the territory of Côte Saint-Luc (PDF)

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