How about a Minister of Animal Welfare?

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Mike Cohen is a masterful communicator and a novel idea generator. Here Mike gets impressive publicity on his passion for animal welfare and a major plug for his outstanding annual Cats Concert.

Would you like to see a Minister of Animal Welfare?

 

Quebec election: A councillor calls for new ministry of animal welfare

 

‘There are so many municipalities with different laws on pets, but the provincial government needs to take leadership,’ says Mike Cohen.

Côte-St-Luc councillor Mike Cohen and Nancy Reich with twins LuLu and MiMi, whom she adopted from a litter born to a feral cat. DAVE SIDAWAY / DAVE SIDAWAY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Mike Cohen has a big beef with the major provincial parties: “They are not really addressing the needs of thousands and thousands of constituents.”

Namely, cats and dogs.

Cohen, the Côte-St-Luc city councillor responsible for animal protection, has a soft spot for pets, particularly cats. But he laments that while the provincial parties have made billions of dollars of promises to two-legged constituents in this election campaign, they have talked precious little about animal welfare.

For the last eight years, Cohen has been at the forefront of Côte-St-Luc’s Trap, Neuter, Release and Adopt Program, which has successfully dealt with the plight of nearly 500 feral cats in the community. To raise funds for the program, the Côte-St-Luc Cats Committee, which Cohen founded, will be holding its annual benefit concert, featuring the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra, Oct. 9 at the Syd Wise Auditorium.

Cohen estimates that Côte-St-Luc alone is home to many thousands of homeless cats. “And that doesn’t take into consideration all those that die daily.”

“So, do the math and draw conclusions about the number of feral cats as well as homeless dogs throughout the province,” says Cohen, who started the Côte-St-Luc Dog-Owners Committee this year.

“I think it’s insulting that provincial governments over the last many decades have basically thrown these animals under the umbrella of the minister of agriculture. That ministry has sort of been responsible for animal welfare, but has achieved only limited success.”

Cohen’s concern is shared by the Montreal SPCA. In July, the Montreal SPCA mandated Léger Marketing to undertake a poll assessing the importance of animal welfare to Quebec voters. The survey determined that 72 per cent of Quebecers felt it was “very important” or “somewhat important” for candidates to address issues affecting animals during this election campaign.

So in August, the Montreal SPCA sent out a questionnaire to the main political parties to learn more about their positions on several animal welfare issues.

“All the parties to which the Montreal SPCA sent its questionnaire — apart from the Quebec Liberal Party, which refused to participate — seem to recognize the importance of animal welfare issues in the eyes of voters, as all of them state that this is an issue of great importance,” Sophie Gaillard, director of animal advocacy at the Montreal SPCA, notes in her analysis.

“Yet only two parties suggest concrete measures to improve animal protection in Quebec. The Coalition Avenir Québec and the Parti Québécois both responded to only a small number of the questions submitted. Only Québec solidaire and the Green Party of Quebec took the time to answer the questionnaire in its entirety and seem to have given these issues serious thought.”

Québec solidaire wants the Montreal model — requiring pet stores to source animals for sale from shelters — to be expanded throughout the province. As well, it’s against the permanent chaining of dogs and no-pet clauses in residential leases.

Green Party concurs on the latter two issues but would also like to ban the sale of all cats and dogs in pet stores and on the internet, and to impose mandatory sterilization on pets with the exception of small, family-scale breeders.

Cohen isn’t surprised by this seeming lack of interest on the part of three of the major provincial parties and suggests that the situation will only change when pet owners and other concerned citizens speak up and force politicians to address animal welfare issues.

“Animal advocates have been shunted to the side, but the time will come when the situation with homeless cats and dangerous dogs will reach epidemic proportions here and something will have to be done,” Cohen says. “There are so many municipalities with different laws on pets, but the provincial government needs to take leadership and have laws that bring all the municipalities together.”

He concedes his passion for pets hasn’t been a lifelong affair.

“I honestly didn’t like cats 23 years ago, but they came as part of my marriage,” he says. “I’ve since had four cats and they’ve been like humans to me.

“How many other voters out there feel the same way? Yet we have no idea how the provincial party leaders feel about pets — if they even have them. We haven’t heard them bring this up during the campaign. So I’m calling for the next Quebec premier to appoint a minister of animal welfare. Time has come for an animal program with some teeth.”

Maybe claws, too.

AT A GLANCE

The annual Côte-St-Luc Cats Concert, featuring the Musicians of the World Symphony Orchestra, takes place Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Syd Wise Auditorium, 5785 Parkhaven Ave. Tickets: $15. Reservations: http://bit.ly/catsconcert.

bbrownstein@postmedia.com

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Inspirations magazine: O Noir, an eye-opening experience

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From Inspirations magazine, Fall 2018 | Click to enlarge

See the full edition of Inspirations

 

To see all my reviews click the link at the top of the page

D’Arcy-McGee: Plus rouge que rouge

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Archives MétroDavid Birnbaum est le député qui a été élu avec la plus forte majorité en 2014.

À l’approche des élections générales du 1er octobre prochain, les candidats s’activent dans leur circonscription. Tout au long de la campagne, Métro vous propose un aperçu des enjeux de chacune des circonscriptions de l’île. Aujourd’hui: D’Arcy-McGee.

Élu en 2014 par une majorité écrasante de 92% des voix, le député libéral de D’Arcy-McGee, David Birnbaum, est un des candidats du Québec dont la réélection est le plus assurée. «Ma communauté est exigeante, assure-t-il, on ne parle pas de vote aveugle.»

Pourtant, à une exception près, cette circonscription a voté à toutes les élections Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) depuis 1966.

Elle est composée d’électeurs principalement anglophones (48%) et regroupe une des plus fortes communautés juives du Québec. C’est aussi une circonscription plus diversifiée au point de vue ethnoculturel depuis le redécoupage électoral de 2017.

Finalement, si le revenu moyen des ménages y est beaucoup plus élevé que dans le reste de la province, le revenu médian y est beaucoup plus bas, signalant une grande disparité économique dans cette circonscription qui regroupe Hampstead, Côte-Saint-Luc, mais aussi une partie de Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, d’Outremont et de Westmount.

Pour M. Birnbaum, l’immigration – et son avantage économique dans un contexte de pénurie de main-d’œuvre – est un des sujets les plus importants de la campagne. «Il n’y a pas de grande différence entre la CAQ et le PLQ, sauf sur le plan de l’immigration. On est fondamentalement différents là-dessus, parce que pour nous, l’immigration est une richesse», lance-t-il.

Son opposante de la Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ), Mélodie Cohn, défend quant à elle la proposition de son chef de réduire le nombre annuel d’immigrants accueillis au Québec. «François Legault a beaucoup de formation à ce sujet-là. C’est pourquoi il a pris cette décision-là», explique cette gestionnaire en marketing. Elle qui s’est déjà présentée aux élections municipales dans Côte-Saint-Luc fait valoir que la CAQ ne cherche qu’à offrir «une meilleure qualité de vie» aux personnes immigrantes.

Mme Cohn se positionne fermement comme la candidate des familles. Elle cite la maternelle 4 ans et le retour du financement public de la fécondation in vitro, retiré par le ministre libéral de la Santé, Gaétan Barrette, en 2015. «Même quand j’étais candidate au municipal, les gens me disaient que ça coûtait cher d’attendre que l’enfant ait cinq ans pour l’envoyer à la maternelle. Pourquoi ne pas le faire dès l’âge de quatre ans?» demande-t-elle.

Le candidat de Québec solidaire (QS), Jean-Claude Kumuyange, d’origine rwandaise, affirme de son côté que la priorité pour sa circonscription réside dans deux enjeux. «Environnement et logement. C’est la base de tout», insiste cet agent de recherche à l’Université du Québec à Montréal. «Il faut construire de nouveaux logements sociaux et rénover des logements existants», ajoute-t-il.

S’ils ont chacun leur cheval de bataille, l’enjeu du bien-être des aînés les anime tous. «Nous avons beaucoup investi dans les soins à domicile, parce qu’on oublie trop souvent que 96% des aînés sont autonomes, explique David Birnbaum. On veut du répit pour les proches aidants et s’assurer que le nombre croissant de gens qui travaillent jusqu’à 75 ou 80 ans aient droit à des crédits d’impôt.»

«On veut améliorer l’aide aux proches aidants, on veut augmenter l’accès aux soins de santé avec les CLSC», affirme pour sa part M. Kumuyange. «Nous voulons plus de médecins de famille, réduire le temps d’attente dans les salles d’urgence et les Maisons des aînés, qui sont vraiment nécessaires», ajoute Mélodie Cohn.

Le Parti québécois et sa candidate dans D’Arcy-McGee, Eliane Pion, n’ont pas répondu aux demandes d’entrevue de Métro.

Candidats 2018

  • Jérémis Alarco (Parti vert)
  • David Birnbaum (PLQ)
  • Mélodie Cohn (CAQ)
  • Diane Johnston (PMLQ)
  • Jean-Claude Kumuyange (QS)
  • Yaniv Loran (PCQ)
  • Eliane Pion (PQ)
  • Leigh Smit (NPDQ)

Résultats 2014

  • David Birnbaum (PLQ) 92,15%
  • Elizabeth Smart (CAQ) 2,45%
  • Suzanne Dufresne (QS) 2,06%
  • Eliane Pion (PQ) 1,79%
  • Abraham Weizfield (Parti vert) 1,55%

No way out: Recent gas leak highlights Côte Saint-Luc’s need for Cavendish Extension

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‘We definitely need another route out,’ says Mayor Mitchell Brownstein as negotiations continue

The Sept. 6 gas leak in Côte Saint-Luc caused major gridlock throughout Montreal’s west end, making it a struggle to get in and out for motorists and emergency crews alike.(Navneet Pall)

Côte Saint-Luc resident Michael Litvack woke on Sept. 6 to discover his bedside clock had stopped working at around 8:15 a.m.

It quickly became apparent he was among the more than 10,000 Hydro-Québec customers in Montreal’s west end without power after authorities shut it off due to a gas leak near the intersection of Kildare Road and Cavendish Boulevard.

As a crew repaired the broken gas pipe and nearby residences were evacuated, the Cavendish Boulevard underpass — one of just two ways out of Côte Saint-Luc — was only accessible by side streets.

The main part of Côte Saint-Luc is surrounded by train tracks and a rail yard, making the underpasses on Cavendish and Westminster Avenue the only two routes out of a suburban municipality of more than 30,000 people.

Côte Saint-Luc’s roads are generally quiet but, with one underpass partially blocked, the gas leak ignited a traffic nightmare. Gridlock around both underpasses lasted for several hours despite the Montreal fire department’s request that motorists avoid the area.

“People in my part of Côte Saint-Luc were stuck,” said Litvack, who struggled to get a blood test that day. “Businesses had to close. Schools had to close. Doctors appointments had to be rescheduled.”

Côte Saint-Luc’s Cavendish Boulevard underpass is regularly busy with motorists, trucks, buses and pedestrians as it is one of the only ways out of the city. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

It served as a stark reminder of how Côte Saint-Luc’s design leaves it vulnerable, he said.

The municipality has seen big changes in the last decade as new homes and residential buildings are added every year. Several large-scale, multi-storey apartment complexes are currently under construction and there is talk of more on the way.

“It’s going to get worse,” Litvak said. “As the cars increase and the people increase, the problems will increase.”

The Westminster Avenue underpass is one of Côte Saint-Luc’s two access points. (Isaac Olson/CBC)

There are four emergency gates that allow vehicles to drive over train tracks, but opening them requires coordination with the train companies.

The best solution, most say, would be a third exit to the north, heading to Montreal’s Saint-Laurent borough and the Town of Mount Royal, but the so-called Cavendish Extension has been firmly anchored in the discussion phase for some five decades — those discussions were delayed two more years earlier this week.

Mayor says Cavendish Extension is in the works

After the gas leak, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has been reminding residents that he is working hard on bringing the Cavendish Extension to life.

“We definitely need another route out,” he told CBC News.

It is no longer a question of if, it is a question of when, said Brownstein, noting he’s made it a top priority since assuming office in 2016.

The project has been in Montreal’s capital work budget since 2015 with a completion date originally set for 2020. Currently, Montreal has $13 million earmarked for the cause and money is set aside at the provincial level as well.

While Canadian Pacific (CP) is asking for a costly tunnel under the entire rail yard, Brownstein said he, along with the other levels of government, is pushing for two underpasses under the two separate tracks just north of Cavendish Boulevard.

Rather than being an alternate to the nearby Decarie Expressway, it would be a quieter, ground-level roadway that, fitting with the neighbourhood’s character, connects Côte Saint-Luc to Mount Royal’s Royalmount Avenue and St-Laurent’s section of Cavendish Boulevard.

The indirect route would follow a to-be-built, fenced-in road through the rail yard and a small portion of private land owned by the property developer, Olymbec.

The properties owned by Olymbec are in the starred area. (Google Maps)

Montreal reserved that undeveloped land for expropriation and, on Thursday, the agglomeration council extended the reserve for another two years, to buy time for Montreal to continue its negotiations with CP.

The future of the Cavendish Extension hinges on those negotiations — negotiations that have been ongoing for a number of years.

“We just need to keep pushing to get the proper road built that isn’t a highway, but allows us a way out of our city,” said Brownstein. The renewed two-year extension on the reserved land, he added, means “everybody is on a timeline.”

A stretch of Cavendish Boulevard in Côte Saint-Luc was closed due to a Sept. 6 gas leak that created a traffic jam so bad that Montreal’s fire department struggled to access the site. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

However, Montreal also extended negotiations by another two years Tuesday and MNA David Birnbaum described that decision as “disappointing” because it green lights further delays.

“We have always said and continue to say, we will be absolutely and fundamentally involved in the development of the Cavendish Extension,” he said, describing it as not only important for the safety of residents, but also for the economy.

He said he’s called meetings between all the players involved to accelerate the process and the province has been offering support.

“We’re all ready to be a major part of this project and it’s time for it to move forward.”

For that to happen, he concluded, Montreal needs to complete negotiations with CP.

CBC reached out to CP for comment, but didn’t hear back in time for publication.

To help push the project forward, Côte Saint-Luc Coun. David Tordjman is encouraging residents to raise their own voices to the cause as, he said, the gas leak brought safety to the forefront of the discussion.

With Quebec’s general election heating up and Canada’s election just around the corner, he said, “We need more firm action from all levels of government.”

Birnbaum announces a new Liberal government will support relocation, expansion of Montreal Holocaust Museum

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

D’Arcy-McGee Liberal MNA and candidate David Birnbaum confirmed that a re-elected Liberal government will be a financial partner in the planned relocation and expansion of the Montreal Holocaust Museum. The Museum leadership has already secured a major lead donation and completed a feasibility study for the ambitious project, evaluated at about $45 million. The Museum, Canada’s only one uniquely focused on Holocaust remembrance and human rights education, is recognized the world over for the quality of its exhibits and its outreach programs. It has also long been recognized that the museum needs more space than available at its current location in the Jewish Community Campus on Côte Ste-Catherine Rd.

“I am so proud that the Premier has made this commitment, which is profoundly important to our Jewish community but also significant for all Quebecers,” Birnbaum noted. He first briefed the Premier on the project in late Spring. “The Museum, with the help of courageous survivors, reaches out to schools, in French and English, to ensure that the terrible lessons of the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated.’’ Montreal is home to the third-largest population of Holocaust survivors and children of survivors in the world.

Mr. Couillard, whose own family was deeply implicated in the French resistance, had a brief discussion about the project with Museum Director Alice Herscovitch when he accompanied Mr. Birnbaum for the second time during this mandate to the annual commemorative service on Yom Hashoah at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Synagogue.

“We are very encouraged by this news,’’ said Alice Herscovitch, Executive Director. “It is deeply important that all Quebecers have access to a modern and accessible museum that embodies messages of courage in the face of inhumanity and helps Quebecers and people the world over understand the importance and responsibility we all have to prevent racism and genocide. Our museum will be so much more able to deliver those messages to schools and adults alike through an expansion.”

Quebec Liberal leader Dr. Philippe Couillard introduces D’Arcy McGee candidate David Birnbaum (2014)

The Museum is seeking a site in downtown Montreal, and the support of all levels of government. Treasury Board President and Mont-Royal-Outremont candidate Pierre Arcand currently serves the territory where the museum is situated. It will find itself in D’Arcy-McGee after the election.

“In my ministerial role, I see and evaluate each day the many difficult and important choices a government must make in allocating public funds. Of course, schools, health care and other services are essential but so are the Quebec institutions that identify and transmit our vision of humanity, of our responsibility to each other and to the wider world. This commitment is a meaningful example of that vision.”

Birnbaum noted that an initial analysis of the Museum project is already underway by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, with the details and modalities of the provincial government partnership still to be determined.

Cavendish Boulevard extension may be a pipe dream

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Global News reports that the Cavendish extension dream may fade completely in 2 years from now. After endless discussion, pronouncements and media opportunities over the last 50 years we may be down to the wire on whether this project will come to fruition.

Montreal city council passed a motion last Tuesday to extend the negotiation deadline with CN and CP Rail by two years, according to Global News.

This means city officials have 24 months to reach a deal with the rail companies to allow for the extension of the boulevard over their tracks — but no more extensions will be granted after that period.

So what’s the problem?

Cote Saint-Luc has wanted to see this plan come about since the late 1990s. It was a major promise in the merger debacle of the early 2000s. The former City of Saint-Laurent and current Borough of the same name (and same mayor) is also in favour. Local Members of the National Assembly have been on board for years as has the Member of Parliament, notably Anthony Housefather is his capacities of Borough Councillor, CSL Mayor and MP for Mount-Royal.

But Montreal and the province have been mired in construction gridlock across the Island. Resources have been prioritized elsewhere and municipal, provincial and federal funding has been allocated for years to come. Turcot will be a mess for several more years. The REM project will keep us tied up for the next 5 years too. And those are just some of the biggies.

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante is no friend to motorists! And the upcoming Quebec election dust will have to settle for us to know what new priorities lie ahead.

This will not be an easy time for Mayors Brownstein and de Sousa who must get the necessary major players around the table to make things happen. The project cannot advance without the next Quebec premier and the Mayor of Montreal giving the nod of approval.

Time may be running out on this critical infrastructure plan and 50 years of dreaming may go up in smoke without concrete action, and fast.

 

Global News:  Cavendish Boulevard extension faces deadline

For more information on the history of the Cavendish extension , search this blog.

Tempo question is a hot potato

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In my words: The issue of whether to permit tempos in Cote Saint-Luc has dogged City Council for decades. Mayor Bernard Lang was always opposed, citing an unsightly neighbourhood. Early in my mandate I argued that the hardship for those homeowners without a garage (pretty much west of Leger Ave all the way to Wentworth, in District 5) required extra consideration beyond aesthetics. Council agreed and this specific exception was granted.In my years of polling residents, door by door in District 6, a significant minority spoke out in favour of these wind-flapping tarpaulin tunnels for their street. But the majority, at least 3 out of 4 homeowners, were not favourable to the idea.Times have changed, there are more cars than ever in CSL and who likes to shovel anyhow?

This issue will be a political hot-potato, pitting one resident against another. There are no easy answers and everyone is right in their own case. But the bigger question is who will be right for the entire neighbourhood?

Just asking the question is fraught with political risk. You cannot please everyone and will likely annoy many. Breaking into an unprecedented 73 zones will mean some areas will wiggle through while many more will attain the 12 requisite signatures to call for a politically-undesirable referendum.

The matter of tempos was left dormant for many years since allowing just a few, in a specific neighbourhood to break with the rule. Perhaps it should be left alone for few more years.

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Tempo question to be put to CSLers in 73 zones

The City of Côte St. Luc will publish a notice Oct. 3 informing residents in 73 zones that they will have an opportunity to ask for a register if they oppose a proposed bylaw to generally allow temporary car shelters (tempos) in most of the territory.

Currently, tempos are allowed if a resident does not have a carport or garage. Several residents with garages were also able to have them by providing the city with a doctor’s note.

Council passed a second draft bylaw last week on tempos during the regular public meeting. In each of the 73 zones, 12 signatures would be required for there to be a register to ask for a referendum. Residents will have eight days to sign the register if they oppose allowing more tempos.

“It’s a hard one,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein told a well-attended public consultation meeting on the issue the same night. “We know there’s a movement in certain areas of the city where people wants tempos, and certain areas where they don’t want tempos.”

“I am not, at any point, going to recommend that this council proceed with a referendum — it’s a very expensive procedure and it causes division within the community,” the Mayor added. “But if I see within the 73 zones that there are many in a particular district that got 12 signatures — and it’s not very hard to get 12 signatures — I want the council to see through this process which zones are going to be in favour or not.

“I have a feeling, in areas where the homes are more expensive, where people have two-car garages, they’re going to get the 12 signatures pretty quickly and send the message to council.”

Brownstein also said he believes that in areas with no or one-car garages, or smaller homes, the residents will be more inclined to want tempos, and not sign for a register.

During the more than half-hour public consultation, residents came out passionately for and against the proposed tempo bylaw, citing aesthetics, security (for those against) and the city’s harsh winters and senior population (for those in favour). Judging by the applause in the room, most of those attending were in favour of expanding tempo use.

“In the wintertime, utility sometimes outstrips aesthetics,” said a resident. “I support it… I will definitely solicit for tempos.”

According to the city’s website, the new rules would allow “no more than one [tempo] on an existing, conforming driveway,” they “can only be in place between Nov. 1 and April 15,” and they “must be translucent white canvas with clear windows, fitted with a dismantable tubular metallic frame.”

Brownstein later acknowledged to The Suburban that council could have some tough decisions to make area by area.

Councillor Ruth Kovac, who represents District 8, said one of her concerns is disputes between neighbours.

“They’re going to come to the city looking for us to resolve those disputes, and we’re going to be in the middle of it,” she said. “It’s one thing to legislate, and it’s another to deal with the fallout. I’m very comfortable with what we have done — give permission by exception.”

 

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Read more:

CSL to relook at tempo policy, The Suburban 2009

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