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.

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

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%

Not ruling out law on riding change criteria: Couillard

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Not ruling out law on riding change criteria: Couillard

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard spoke Friday to a full audience of the Côte St. Luc Men’s Club at that city’s Aquatic and Community Centre.

The Premier spoke and answered questions about various issues, including health care, court case delays and seniors issues. He was also asked about the planned provincial riding changes for the next election, including the elimination of the Mont Royal riding as part of a merger with the Outremont riding, and the expansion of the D’Arcy McGee riding eastward.

Local politicians and activists have argued these changes violate the Election Commission’s own guidelines that ridings’ “natural communities” should be respected. Local ethnic communities say they will be split between ridings.

A citizens committee, chaired by Suburban editor-in-chief Beryl Wajsman and former NDG-Lachine MP Marlene Jennings, has hired constitutional lawyer Julius Grey to handle the legal case. Wajsman has been spearheading the fundraising effort for the legal case having raised over $6,000 in crowd funding. He took the opportunity to inform the Premier that the legal challenge will be filed in court before the end of the month.

Couillard told the gathering that the riding issue is not restricted to Montreal, but also affects the Mauricie where two ridings are also set to merge.

“People are not very happy there — it’s not related to language, it’s related to representation [in that area] on a very large territory,” the Premier said.

Couillard explained that it was decided years ago to enable the independent, non-partisan Quebec Electoral Commission to decide on riding changes “to remove petty politics and partisanship from the issue.

“The only way for us to act on [riding changes considered to be unjust] is to change the criteria on which the commission bases itself to make decisions, and for this we need to change electoral law.

“I’m not ruling this out. We’re going to have significant discussions. I know legal recourse has been tabled by the community here on this, and people should exercise their rights. That’s something that should be done.”

Couillard said he is concerned about representation by number.

“On the island of Montreal, the issue is numbers, because you say ‘why is our vote less important, apparently at least than in other parts of Quebec with a smaller population?’”

The Premier said he is also worried about the quality of representation, in relation to the rural ridings, because of their massive size distance-wise.

“We have MNAs who have to literally drive for full days and they don’t even see the whole of their community.”

Numerous dignitaries attended Friday’s speech. Couillard was introduced by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum and thanked by Côte St. Luc mayor Mitchell Brownstein, and other attendees included Israeli Consul-General Ziv Nevo Kulman, Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather and his chief of staff Bonnie Feigenbaum, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, and other MNAs — including Mont Royal’s Pierre Arcand — and Côte St. Luc council members, amongst many others.

CSL City Council supports legal contestation of D’Arcy McGee boundary changes

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Cote Saint-Luc City Council adopted a resolution to support the legal challenge of the electoral divisions of Québec seeking that the electoral map maintain the current divisions of Mount-Royal, Outremont and D’Arcy McGee ridings.

On March 2, 2017, the Quebec Electoral Commission published the final version of the electoral map which substantially altered the boundaries of the electoral riding of D’Arcy-McGee and seriously undermines public confidence in the objectivity and independence of the Commission. The electoral riding of D’Arcy-McGee will have around 56,000 voters, making it one of the most populous constituencies in Quebec and will, therefore, seriously dilute the political weight of the residents of the City of Côte Saint-Luc.

The Commission also decided to merge the electoral divisions of Mount Royal and Outremont. All of these changes will result in the loss of an electoral riding on the Island of Montréal and dilute the political weight of all the residents living on the Island.

Other affected municipalities such as the Town of Mount Royal and the Town of Hampstead have already agreed to financially contribute to a legal contestation being filed by Me Julius Grey.

It is in the interest of the residents of the City of Côte Saint-Luc to oppose the decision and to financially contribute to its legal contestation. Therefore the City agreed to support the legal challenge and authorized an expenditure of $7,000 to this challenge. Additionally, the City will match up to $3,000 from contributions of its residents.

Residents interested in supporting the challenge can make their cheques payable to Julius Grey, In Trust, and drop off or mail to the City of Cote Saint-Luc, 5801 Cavendish Blvd., CSL, QC  H4W 2C2.

Elimination of Mount Royal perversely penalizes communities, A letter by Anthony Housefather, M.P.

 

Elimination of Mont-Royal perversely penalizes natural communities

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By: Anthony Housefather, M.P. for Mount-Royal

Published in The Suburban, Mar 22, 2017
I want to express my gratitude to the Cote Des Neiges/NDG Borough Council, the Cote Saint-Luc City Council, The Town of Mount Royal town council and the Hampstead town council for their leadership on this important issue opposing the proposed electoral map changes. I join with them and our MNAs Pierre Arcand and David Birnbaum on a matter that negatively impacts the population I represent at the federal level as well as other minority communities in Quebec.

The Director General of Elections has produced a map that unfairly penalizes everyone living on the island of Montreal by eliminating a riding on the island while preserving rural ridings with much smaller populations. This means that a vote on the island is worth less than a vote in other parts of the province. The situation is exacerbated by the choice of ridings they are eliminating. The decision to eliminate the provincial riding of Mont-Royal effectively makes the most diverse riding in the province disappear. Its merger with Outremont creates a riding of almost 57,000 voters, approximately twice the population of the smallest rural riding. More importantly it disproportionately and negatively impacts English speaking cultural communities including but not limited to the Filipino and Bangladeshi communities who wielded important influence in Mont-Royal and now are split between D’Arcy McGee and the newly created Mont-Royal/Outremont riding. Perversely the size of the territory added to D’Arcy McGee now also makes that riding one of the most heavily populated ridings in the province and negatively impacts the Jewish community and the entire English speaking community whose voices are diluted by the added territory. This is not even to address the unfair split of the Hassidic community between the new Mont-Royal-Outremont and Mercier ridings and the unfair split of the Greek community in Laval.
Why natural communities, especially minority language and cultural communities were so disregarded in the new map proposed by the Quebec Director General of Elections is puzzling and somewhat shocking and I want to join my voice to those of my own constituents and others who are denouncing this in the strongest terms. As there appears to be no means other than a court challenge to undo the perverse and negative effects of the electoral map I want to congratulate Beryl Wajsman the editor of the Suburban newspaper who has been raising funds for such a challenge. I pledge to make a personal financial contribution to any such challenge and ask those who can afford to do so to join me in doing so. Our voices are not lost if we join together to fight.

Anthony Housefather,MP

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Thank you to our ever-present Member of Parliament for taking a strong position and effectively communicating (as he always does) right across the region.

Municipal leaders band together to fight Quebec Electoral Representation Commission’s senseless decision

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Municipal leaders band together to fight Quebec Electoral Representation Commission’s senseless decision

By Councillor Mike Cohen | 23 Mar 2017

As a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc, I always appreciate opportunities to work together with other elected officials in neighbouring municipalities. Such was the case on March 21 when the borough of Côte des Neiges-NDG spearheaded an energizing public meeting at their Community Centre to protest the senseless decision arrived by the Quebec Electoral Representation Commission. This unelected body, which answers to absolutely nobody, inexplicably reversed its February 7, 2017 second report on the electoral map that proposed to maintain the Mont Royal, Outremont and D’Arcy McGee ridings without any change. When the next provincial election takes place in October 2018, Mont Royal and Outremont will be merged and D’Arcy McGee unnecessarily larger in size.

ElectoralQuebec

Dida Berku and Ruth Kovac join other political leaders at the event.

Snowdon Councillor Marvin Rotrand and Suburban Newspaper editor Beryl Wajsman led the charge, first with a press conference and then with this impressive public meeting. Rotrand was joined at the head table by Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, TMR Councillor Erin Kennedy (representing Mayor Philippe Roy), CSL Councillor Ruth Kovac (representing Mayor Mitchell Brownstein) and Outremont Councillor Mindy Pollak (representing Mayor Marie Cinq Mars) English Montreal School Board Chairman Angela Mancini spoke, with Vice Chair Sylvia Lo Bianco, Commissioner Julien Feldman and Parent Commissioner Joanne Charron in attendance. Allan J. Levine, Dida Berku and I were the other CSL councillors on hand. I saw several of my constituents.

If the Electoral Map had been adopted by Members of the National Assembly, I am certain that the passion and clear facts set out at this meeting would have resulted in an about face. Regrettably, there is nothing elected officials seem to be able to do. In fact, Mont Royal and Outremont are represented by cabinet ministers Pierre Arcand and Helene David. One of them will have to find a new place to run or retire.
I spoke to lawyer Peter Villani after the meeting and we both agreed that the Electoral Representation Commission still has an opportunity to correct this terrible wrong, admit it made a mistake and allow the status quo to prevail.

CrowdCDN

It was standing room only at the event.

The room was packed, something which elated fireball Rotrand. “The large attendance we witnessed speaks to the public interest in opposing the loss of representation that our communities will suffer if the map decreed by the Electoral Representation Commission stands,” he said. “The meeting essentially came together in a very short time so I believe the turnout reflects a broad consensus in our part of the island.”
Now unless the Commission shows some class, this decision will have to be fought in court and initiated by citizens. Ideally, an injunction can be sought. Wajsman has taken the lead by collecting funds for an eventual contestation and former NDG-Lachine Liberal Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings stepped forward to set up a blue ribbon panel. Jennings was chosen by the Quebec English School Boards Association to do the same when the provincial government tried to push through Bill 86 – aimed at abolishing elected school commissioners. The government backed off and they did so because they answer to the public; the Electoral Representation Commission simply marches to the beat of its own drum.

Each of the boroughs and municipal councils in the area has or will soon adopt a motion in opposition to the electoral map. All feel that the Commission’s map will mean a serious loss of representation for their citizens, lacks respect for natural communities and does not provide the effective representation that the electoral law indicates must be the basis of any final decision.
The mayors have shared a legal decision written last September by Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens, Dean of the University of Montreal Law School, which indicated that the Commission’s proposal of 2015 to merge Mont Royal and Outremont and change D’Arcy McGee was highly questionable. As the Commission’s final decision has reverted to the 2015 plan, the mayors feel the Commission’s proposal will not stand up to a legal challenge.
“We are strongly concerned about the diminished political weight of the island of Montreal,” said Copeman, a former Liberal MNA for NDG. “Our political weight has been reduced in every riding redistribution since 1992 which merged Westmount and Saint-Louis. We have lost four ridings over the decades.
“The merger of Mont-Royal and Outremont creates a very large riding which is expected to see robust demographic growth over the next five years which we anticipate will take it over the legal maximum number of voters allowed by the electoral law.”
The Commission proposes to maintain 125 electoral ridings in the National Assembly with the average number of voters being 48,952 per riding. The electoral law allows ridings to be as much as 25 percent more or less than the average, a maximum of 61,190 or a minimum of 36,714 voters. This legal disparity of up to 24,476 voters or up to a 69 percent legal difference of voters per riding gives some voters in Quebec far more power than others.
While the mayors believe such a disparity in number of voters per riding should only be allowed in the rarest cases, there are many examples in the map of small ridings in the 37,000 to 40,000 range while many others approach the upper limits. Ridings like Duplessis, Dubuc, Rousseau, Megantic and Nicolet-Betancour all have far fewer voters than Montreal ridings such as Nelligan, Saint Laurent, Robert Baldwin or the new D’Arcy McGee or merged Mont Royal – Outremont which have between 55,000 and 59,000 voters each.
“Worse of all is that the Commission proposes six ridings that are exceptions to the law beyond the Iles de la Madeleine, the only exception the law actually permits,” says Mayor Brownstein. “These ridings including Abitibi-Est, Abitibi Ouest, Bonaventure, Gaspe, René Levesque and Ungava have between 26.8 and 44 percent fewer voters than the electoral map average and are below the legal minimum of voters. How do we explain to voters that D’Arcy McGee will now have boundaries that will no longer resemble its historic territory and have 56,245 voters while Gaspe, a riding that will have fewer voters in 2018 than at the 2014 elections, will have a Member of the National Assembly with only 30,048 electors?”
The mayors note that the new map cuts the large Filipino community that had real clout in Mont Royal in half with a large part of the community residing west of Côte des Neiges Road shifted to D’Arcy McGee. The large Orthodox Jewish community in the former Outremont riding is also diluted with those living east of Hutchinson moved into Mercier.

Councillor Kovac presented a strong statement from Mayor Brownstein at the public meeting. Natural communities should be kept together in order to give minority groups a stronger voice,” she said. And yet helping natural communities is not what has happened in the commission’s report. We have the worst of both worlds – they are removing representation from the island of Montreal, making ridings bigger, and breaking apart natural communities. Maybe we don’t need the exact same strict equality rules as they have in the United States. But can we at least apply the same fairness as they have Macedonia, or Yemen, or Belarus?
“When you increase the size of a riding like D’Arcy McGee, you weaken the voice of its natural communities. Allophones, Anglophones, Italian, Filipino, Jewish communities and others will no longer have as strong representation as they did when the riding of D’Arcy McGee was of a reasonable size. Further Mount Royal brought one more vote to the National Assembly for these communities and other minority communities. As the largest city in Quebec continues to grow its voice should not be weakened. It’s up to Quebecers to raise our voices, open their wallets, and help challenge in court decisions that hurt our community. I sincerely hope the Commission reverses its decision without the need for a legal challenge.”

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I agree completely with my esteemed colleague and friend Cllr. Mike Cohen in this excellent resume of this past week’s meeting over local electoral reform. We must not remain silent in the face of this injustice to our linguistic and cultural communities. Thank you to our local elected officials for speaking up on our behalf, spearheaded by Cllr. Marvin Rotrand and supported by editor Beryl Wajsman.

Birnbaum calls for cancellation of proposed modifications to D’Arcy-McGee, surrounding ridings

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Changes to electoral map would compromise rights of English-speaking, Jewish communities

David Birnbaum, MNA for D'Arcy McGee

David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy McGee

 

David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy-McGee, argued before the Commission de l’Assemblée nationale today that proposed changes to Québec’s electoral map would compromise the democratic rights of three ‘natural communities’ within the riding – English-speaking, Jewish and senior citizens – by diluting their numbers within new riding borders.

“The changes being proposed would have a pronounced and negative impact on the riding of D’Arcy-McGee,” Birnbaum noted. “I am very proud to be the MNA for all D’Arcy-McGee residents, for those of all languages, all religions and all ages. But I am equally proud to be the sole MNA from Québec’s Jewish community and keenly aware of the additional and solemn responsibility imposed upon me by that reality. And, I am respectful and proud of my obligation to give voice to the majority English-speaking community as well as the particular and pressing concerns of the thousands of senior citizens who form a natural community in D’Arcy-McGee.”

The wide-ranging proposal from the Commission de la représentation électorale would extend D’Arcy-McGee’s borders to include all of Snowdon district as well as roughly one-third of Côte-des-Neiges district. It would add 14,000 voters to the riding. The proportion of Jewish residents in those additional areas is only one-third of that in D’Arcy-McGee as it stands; the proportion of English-speaking residents only one-half.

Birnbaum referred frequently to a legal opinion on the changes submitted to the Commission de l’Assemblée nationale by Université de Montréal Law professor Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens. That opinion suggests that many of the changes proposed could be unconstitutional in that they compromise the principle of effective representation and could have the effect of limiting the democratic representation of minority communities. Birnbaum also called for the reversal of the proposed merging of neighboring Mont-Royal and Outremont ridings, for similar reasons.

He concluded the presentation by listing the guiding principles for electoral change. “Adherence to these principles should be clear in each of the Commission’s proposed changes:

  • Voter confidence: is the voter’s understanding of the electoral map, identification to the riding and access to the right to vote reinforced or strengthened by these changes?
  • Is the equitable weight of each vote protected by the change?
  • Have the caution and judgment prescribed by the Canadian and Québec Charters of Rights and Freedoms and the extensive jurisprudence been duly respected by these changes?

“With all due respect,” Birnbaum told Commission President François Ouimet, “the answer to these three questions is ‘no’.”

Following a five-day debate in the National Assembly, a final version of the electoral map will be issued in February 2017 and implemented immediately. Birnbaum expressed cautious optimism that the modifications to D’Arcy-McGee and surrounding ridings would be reversed. He was one of 37 Liberal MNAs to appear before the Commission.

Birnbaum hosts Finance Minister

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Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Cllr. Allan J. Levine, MNA David Birnbaum, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, Cllr. Dida Berku, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Cllr. Allan J. Levine, MNA David Birnbaum, Finance Minister Carlos Leitao, Cllr. Dida Berku, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen

Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitão was the guest speaker at a reception hosted by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum earlier this week. The event, a Liberal Party gathering, was held at Ecole de la Mosaique on McMurray Ave in Cote Saint-Luc. For decades the building housed the PSBGM’s Westminster School. A new, government funded wing was the locale for the get-together.

Leitao stressed that despite being labeled with the negative term of “Austerity” what the Liberal government has been doing in repairing the economy is far from austere. “Austerity is what is going on in Greece and Spain,” the minister said, indicating that the term refers to reduced government spending. “What we are doing in Quebec is ensuring that we don’t spend more than we have.”

The minister cited the recent rating by Standard and Poors. Despite having the highest ratio of debt to GDP, at nearly 55%, and the highest taxes on the continent, Quebec had its ratings improve for three reasons, the minister said.

First we have strong control of spending. Second we have excellent professional management of our finance department, the best staff anywhere in North America. And third, the economy is doing very well, Leitao said.

David Birnbaum, greeted the assembly as his friends, family and supporters, expressing appreciation for the confidence and trust placed in him. In his usual eloquent and soft-spoken style he welcomed the minister to the riding.

D'Arcy McGee Chief of Staff, Elisabeth Prass, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

D’Arcy McGee Chief of Staff, Elisabeth Prass, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

Leitao described Birnbaum, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Education, as being tenacious in keeping the cabinet focused and on track.

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein along with Councillors Ruth Kovac, Allan J. Levine, Mike Cohen and I were in attendance along with Liberal riding president Orna Hillberger, CSL Men’s Club President Syd Kronish, past president Sidney Margles, and several more community leaders and supporters.

The mayor pressed the minister to act now on the Cavendish extension. This long anticipated project has become a top priority for council as all levels of government have come onside. 

Birnbaum assured us that he is listening to his constituency and that our voice is being heard in Quebec City. The constituency office is expertly managed by Chief of Staff Elisabeth Prass, Chris Savard and Fran Guttman.

Premier Couillard speaks to D’Arcy McGee residents in MNA David Birnbaum’s video

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Birnbaum Couillard 2016-03

The progressive and innovative Member of the National Assembly for D’Arcy McGee, David Birnbaum, has launched an impressive short video destined specifically for the residents of the riding encompassing Cote Saint-Luc, Hampstead and the western section of Snowdon.

The bilingual production features Premier Philippe Couillard touting an “inclusive Quebec inside Canada”.  “We’re all Quebecers,” says Couillard and we must “erase divisions.”

These are all very welcome words for D’Arcy McGee residents and indeed all Quebecers. I look forward to the premier putting these brave and inspiring words into action.

The closing remarks pay tribute to former D’Arcy McGee MNA, Dr. Victor Goldbloom, who passed away two weeks ago. The premier’s comments are touching.

Congratulations, once again, to our energetic MNA for this excellent communication effort with his constituents.

Remembering Dr. Victor Goldbloom

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For a humble, modest and soft spoken pediatrician Dr. Victor Goldbloom was a giant in Quebec society. I have known Dr. Goldbloom my entire life. In fact, he was my first pediatrician and made house calls to care for my brothers and me. We remained in contact ever since. I followed his career from medicine to politics to community services and he followed mine.

Years later I would be invited to serve on the board of Jewish Immigrant Aid Services together with Dr. Goldbloom. I would look forward to each meeting and listening to his eloquent and wise counsel.

Our paths would cross time and again. I wrote to him about language issues while he served as Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada. I spoke with him when he chaired the Regional Health Agency. I met with him during his leadership of organizations such as Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region. At every community event we both attended there was always a friendly embrace, a kind word of regard to my parents and brothers.

I received several hand written letters from Dr. Goldbloom through the years noting significant achievements in my professional and personal life.  I was always so touched by these kind and personal gestures.

In a letter to me in December 2012 Dr. Goldbloom wrote, “Pediatricians develop a quasi-parental relationship with some of the young people they help bring up, and I take continuing pride in the outstanding job you are doing for the hospital.”

He was truly a remarkable individual. He made enormous contributions to my family and to Quebec and Canadian society.

Two years ago Pope Benedict XVI conferred papal honours upon Dr. Goldbloom at Temple Emanuel in Westmount in tribute to the exceptional role that he played in reinforcing the values that define us as Canadians. How extraordinary.

Victor_Goldbloom

Dr. Victor Goldbloom, CC, O.Q., M.D., was made a Knight of the Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvestre, one of five Orders of Knighthood awarded directly by the Pope as Supreme Pontiff and head of the Catholic Church and as the Head of State of Vatican City. By receiving Dr. Goldbloom into the ranks of one of the oldest and most esteemed of the papal orders, Pope Benedict XVI honoured his exceptional dedication and service to the cause of promoting dialogue and understanding between Christians and Jews. He became one of a handful of non-Christians ever to be knighted by the papacy.

Dr. Goldbloom helped to transform our understanding of “the other” and greatly contributed to the elimination of the social, religious and institutional barriers that divided Christians and Jews for centuries.

Dr. Goldbloom is a Companion of the Order of Canada and an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. He was born and educated in Montreal, graduated in 1945 from McGill University and became a pediatrician. He practiced and taught his specialty for many years, and was actively involved in the Quebec Association of Pediatricians, the Quebec Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association. In 1962 he was elected a Governor of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Quebec.

In 1966 Victor Goldbloom was elected to Quebec’s National Assembly, for the riding of D’Arcy McGee, and reelected in 1970, 1973 and 1976.  He served as Liberal MNA until  1979.  He was Quebec’s first Minister of the Environment, and later Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister Responsible for the Olympic Installations Board. He was also the first member of the Jewish community to serve as a cabinet minister.

In 1972 and again in 1976, he was one of Canada’s delegates to United Nations conferences on the environment. He resigned his seat to become President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. From 1982 to 1990 he was also President of the International Council of Christians and Jews. He is founding president of Christian-Jewish Relations Canada and of L’Amitié judéo-musulmane du Québec.

He headed Quebec’s Environmental Public Hearings Board and was Executive Director of the Quebec Health Research Foundation. From 1991 to 1999, he was Canada’s fourth Commissioner of Official Languages. Dr. Goldbloom chaired the board of the Health and Social Services Agency of Montreal. He was a founding director of the Jules and Paul-Émile Léger Foundation in 1981 and was its president from 2000 to 2003. He held honourary degrees from five Canadian universities: Toronto, McGill, Concordia, Ottawa and Sainte-Anne.

In October 2013 Global News featured the Goldblooms. Click here to watch the episode.

I have been a big fan of Dr. Goldbloom my entire life and found him to be one of the most remarkably accomplished individuals I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. His dedication and commitment to improving society was extraordinary. His compassion for people of all walks of life was inspiring. He was a true gentleman and a remarkable scholar. And, he was the best pediatrician a kid could ever have! Dr. Goldbloom will be sorely missed. His accomplishments in enriching our society will be everlasting.

I speak for my entire family in extending heartfelt condolences to his wife Sheila and his children, Michael, Jonathan and Susan.

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In memorium (JGH.ca)

Veuillez trouver le lien, ci-dessous, à la motion déposée par David Birnbaum le 18 février, 2016 à l’Assemblée Nationale à l’hommage du Victor Goldbloom au nom du gouvernement libéral du Québec.

Below is a link to a motion deposited by David Birnbaum at the National Assembly on Thursday, February 18, 2016 in tribute to Victor Goldbloom on behalf of the Quebec Liberal Government.

https://www.facebook.com/birnbaumdarcymcgee/videos/vb.596140027139426/960354647384627/?type=2&theater

CSL opposes illogical riding changes

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Côte St. Luc council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night expressing opposition to a proposal by Quebec’s Electoral Commission to change the boundaries of provincial west end ridings.

The commission proposes the merging of Outremont and Mont Royal into one provincial riding, and the result would change the D’Arcy McGee boundary.

D’Arcy McGee currently includes Côte St. Luc, Hampstead, and Snowdon east to Decarie Blvd. The proposed change would involve expanding the eastern limit of the riding past Decarie to Côte des Neiges.

As well, a section of Outremont populated with Hasidic Jewish community members would be transferred to Mercier, represented by Québec Solidaire’s Amir Khadir.

A resolution read by Councillor Mitchell Brownstein said the proposed changes to the ridings would:

• “compromise the electoral influence of the Quebec English-speaking community.”

• Violate the “legislative and legally-confirmed requirement that natural communities be respected,” and “dilute the distinct character of the sociological and demographic natural communities which are presently represented within their respective boundaries.”

The resolution also asks that Côte St. Luc representatives be invited to make their case to the electoral commission.

“When you’re merging two ridings, particularly those that have such a significant English population, you’re taking away rights from the English community,” Brownstein said. “We find this is an offensive move towards our community, and it’s quite serious. We have to all get together and oppose it. The three ridings are very important and distinct, and should be maintained. They might modify the boundaries, but the distinct ridings should continue to exist.”

Pro-mayor Dida Berku urged the public to express their opposition by going to the bilingual site,http://lacarte.electionsquebec.qc.ca/, and writing their opinion.

“D’Arcy McGee is composed of Côte St. Luc and Hampstead, which is a distinct community,” she added. “We like it that way. The change would dilute the natural community of D’Arcy McGee.”

Birnbaum campaign kicks off at Cavendish Mall

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David Birnbaum

David Birnbaum

David Birnbaum kicked off his campaign to succeed Lawrence Bergman as the Member of the National Assembly for D’Arcy McGee Tuesday evening at his local headquarters in the Cavendish Mall. A packed crowd of local officials filled the old SAQ store including CSL Mayor Anthony Housefather along with Councillors Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac, Sam Goldbloom and me, Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg along with Councillor Michael Goldwax, Mount Royal MNA Pierre Arcand, Nelligan MNA Geoff Kelley and former MNAs Clifford Lincoln, Robert Libman and Maximilian Pollack.

Birnbaum said how humbled he was to have been picked by liberal leader Philippe Couillard for this seat and praised outgoing MNA Lawrence Bergman for his 20 years of service to the community, the riding and all of Quebec.

I wish David the very best in this election and as our soon-to-be MNA. I look forward to working with him on behalf of our common constituents in creating a tolerant, inclusive Quebec where we can live as proud Canadians displaying our provincial and national flags, speak and work in both official languages without concern for language police and freely practice any religion without fear of losing ones job. The real issues we agree upon are building a strong economy, creating jobs and wealth, improving our healthcare system and strengthening our schools and universities.

Quebec Liberal leader Dr. Philippe Couillard introduces D'Arcy McGee candidate David Birnbaum

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

“I am very happy to welcome onto my team a man whom has given so much for so long to his community. His background leads me to believe that he will accomplish excellent work for the constituents of D’Arcy-McGee as their future Member of the National Assembly” – Philippe Couillard.

Birnbaum’s platform includes:

Building Bridges: Following in the footsteps of Liberal stalwarts like Dr. Victor Goldbloom, Judge Herbert Marx and for the past 20 years, Lawrence Bergman, David Birnbaum is committed to being a strong voice for the residents of D’Arcy-McGee while building bridges of understanding across Quebec.

The real issues!: D’Arcy-McGee residents are concerned about the future. They are proud Quebecers and Canadians, and they want a secure, prosperous and growing Quebec within Canada. That is David Birnbaum’s priority, too. With Philippe Couillard as Quebec’s next Premier, we will see an end to division and disunity, and begin a new start together.

Experience: David Birnbaum has devoted his entire career to advocating for minorities, with a view towards mutual respect and tolerance.

David Birnbaum will work for a strong and open Quebec within a united Canada.

 

A salute to Lawrence Bergman

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Lawrence Bergman, MNA for D'Arcy McGee

Lawrence Bergman, MNA for D’Arcy McGee

It’s unusual to praise someone who gets you fired from a job. But that’s what this post is about. Praising a man who, notwithstanding my abrupt departure from the office of the MNA for D’Arcy McGee, has contributed enormously to the constituents of this West End riding.

Back in 1994, after I served two years in the Cavendish Mall offices of then Member of the National Assembly Robert Libman, a little-known Lawrence Bergman swept to power in the general elections as the new liberal MNA. Such is life in politics and despite loving my full time job as Chief of Staff it was time to vacate the office and make way for Lawrence to move in to the locale that had once housed former MNA Herbert Marx.

Lawrence quickly learned his constituency by attending community events, meeting one-on-one with community leaders and dealing with important dossiers representing us in Quebec City. So devoted was he to his community that he often transcended his immediate borders of the riding to take up matters of importance to the greater Jewish community as well as advocating for the Jewish General Hospital where I’ve worked as Director of Public Affairs and Communications for the past 13 years.

Crucial to the progress of the JGH’s new critical care wing, Pavilion K, was the contribution of Lawrence Bergman who provided valuable insight for years into ways in which the hospital’s many strengths could benefit Quebec’s healthcare system. Mr. Bergman has helped the JGH better understand how to work more closely and efficiently with the civil service to bring Pavilion K to life.

For his accomplishments Mr. Bergman merited the hospital’s highest recognition, the Distinguished Service Award, an honour he accepted “with deep humility” in 2012, adding that he is just “a little link in the chain of success,” compared to healthcare professionals who save lives every day.

We are fortunate to have a dedicated and compassionate Member of the National Assembly such as Lawrence Bergman. I am fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with Lawrence.  He is a friend to all Cote Saint-Lucers. - Nous sommes chanceux d'avoir un membre dévoué et compatissant de l'Assemblée nationale comme Lawrence Bergman. Je suis hereux d'avoir une excellente relation de travail avec Lawrence. Il est un ami à tous les Cote Saint-Lucois.

We are fortunate to have had a dedicated and compassionate Member of the National Assembly such as Lawrence Bergman. – Nous sommes chanceux d’avoir eu un membre dévoué et compatissant de l’Assemblée nationale comme Lawrence Bergman.

Born and raised in Montreal, Mr. Bergman earned his law degree from the University of Montreal in 1964.  He became a Member of the Board of Notaries in 1965 and after being elected to the National Assembly in 1994 he continued to practice as a notary until 2003. He served in government in various senior capacities, notably as Minister of Revenue from 2003 to 2007, and as Chair of the Government Caucus from 2008 to 2012.

Once elected, Mr. Bergman became fully aware of what he calls “the culture of excellence” at the JGH. Ironically, the hospital is not in his riding, but since it serves most of his constituents, he quickly became involved as an advocate on its behalf. I recall at an event marking the launch of the paediatric psychology building on Cote Saint-Catherine Road that Mount-Royal MNA Pierre Arcand, the actual representative of the hospital neighbourhood declared tongue in cheek, that Bergman was so adept at representing the hospital’s needs that the area should be ceded to D’Arcy McGee.

On the Cote Saint-Luc scene my most memorable work together with Lawrence was saving our remarkable, all-volunteer Emergency Medical Services. With the mega-municipal mergers in 2002 Montreal planned to shutter our life-saving organization, known throughout the region as a model volunteer first responder service. Having joined as a young recruit out of high school back in 1980, EMS became a passion of mine. 20 years later, having devoted a significant part of my life to this organization any suggestion of closing it down and handing over the service to the Montreal Fire Department was unimaginable, perhaps even worse than the idiotic mergers themselves.

I worked tirelessly with Ruth Kovac, Anthony Housefather and Lawrence Bergman to consolidate community support and draft the necessary resolutions. Lawrence worked feverishly at the National Assembly and eventually presented a special law for Cote Saint-Luc that received consent and paved the way for EMS to be saved. Countless lives have been touched profoundly over the last decade because of Lawrence’s critical intervention.

Lawrence_Bergman_VE_Day_CSL

So too was his interest in working with City Council to ensure the necessary funding for the Aquatic and Community Centre. This project could not have happened if it were not for the vision and political leadership of Lawrence Bergman and Anthony Housefather.

Councillors Sam Goldbloom, Mike Cohen, Dida Berku, Glenn J. Nashen and Allan J. Levine with MNA Lawrence Bergman

Councillors Sam Goldbloom, Mike Cohen, Dida Berku, Glenn J. Nashen and Allan J. Levine with MNA Lawrence Bergman at his nomination last autumn

He is also noted for, and proud of, convincing the National Assembly to adopt a day, each and every year, marking Yom Hashoah, a day of remembrance for the Holocaust.

Lawrence’s lists of accomplishments for D’Arcy McGee, the Jewish community and all Quebecers is significant and will become political lore and be remembered for generations.

I take this opportunity to thank Mr. Bergman for all this on behalf of my family and my constituents. Indeed, thanks to his success in 1994 and my new career orientations, I too was pushed to new heights and accomplishments. I wish him much happiness and good health as he enters this new stage. And I know, given his love for his community, we will be seeing him around and involved in new capacities for a very long time.  

May Lawrence continue to be an inspiration to the community and as he so often cited the words of the sages, may he too go from strength to strength.

Read more on Mike Cohen’s blog

Quebec election: Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman won’t run

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Quebec election: Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman won’t run. (Montreal Gazette)

CÔTE-ST-LUC — Longtime Liberal MNA Lawrence Bergman made it official Friday that he will not run in next month’s election.

Bergman, 73, has represented D’Arcy McGee since 1994 and was revenue minister in Premier Jean Charest’s government.

At a press conference in his Cavendish Blvd. office, Bergman said he could not confirm whether David Birnbaum, executive director of the Quebec English School Boards Association, will be the riding’s next Liberal candidate, adding he knew no more than what he has read in the newspaper.

“I’ll always be a Liberal,” Bergman said, adding that he has full confidence Liberal leader Philippe Couillard will lead the party to a majority by focusing on the economy and health care in the campaign.

Tearing up as he reminisced about his 20-year political career, Bergman, who has two sons and four grandchildren, said he wants to focus on family and his partner after not having taken a holiday in two decades. He boasted of achievements including the building of a new wing of the Jewish General Hospital — emphasizing that 77 per cent of patients are non-Jews — and construction of the Shriners’ hospital on the site of the McGill University Health Centre.

Another senior Liberal — Verdun’s Henri-François Gautrin — has also retired, while Vaudreuil Liberal MNA Yvon Marcoux, 72, announced he would not be seeking re-election. He was the MNA there for 16 years.

Bergman was chair of the Liberal Party caucus and a major fundraiser in the Jewish community who won by a 20,000-vote majority in the last campaign.

mascot@montrealgazette.com

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