Suburban exclusive: Remerger threat still exists: CSL mayor

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Suburban exclusive: Remerger threat still exists: CSL mayor
CSL council candidates watch the proceedings at Or Hahayim Synagogue.

An underlying threat still exists that could see demerged municipalities again merged into the Montreal megacity, as took place between 2002 and 2005, says Côte St. Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein.

Residents in municipalities like Côte St. Luc, Hampstead, Montreal West and Westmount voted to demerge in 2004.

“There is still, and always, a threat of remerger, there is always that threat,” Brownstein told an election event at the Or Hahayim Synagogue. “It’s still spoken about at the higher levels, and there are those who believe we would be better off as part of the City of Montreal. So if you want a mayor who, I guarantee you, will fight to keep us independent no matter what, vote for me.”

Brownstein made the statement during a mostly French-language election event Sept. 26. Also on hand were mayoral candidate Robert Libman and nearly all of the candidates for council seats. Demerger was a central topic of the evening. Brownstein was a demerger leader and Libman opposed demerging because of the conditions involved in Quebec’s Bill 9, which he said would not give municipalities sufficient powers and independence

Later, The Suburban asked Brownstein for more details on his contention.

“The threat is not imminent,” the Mayor said. “But there have been Mayors who have told me that they’ve heard discussions of the possibility. I wouldn’t want to say more because I don’t want it to happen. I haven’t heard it from the provincial level. I heard it at the municipal level. Certain people at the municipal level would like that to happen, and I guess they would have to go to the province to push it forward.”

Brownstein declined to reveal further details.

Asked about the issue, Libman said all he heard was from going door-to-door, that Brownstein “told them I want to re-merge Côte St. Luc with Montreal, which is completely false.”

“I never said that,” Brownstein countered.

We also asked Councillor Dida Berku what she has heard.

“There’s kind of a movement at the City of Montreal with regard to centralization of power,” she said. “Mayor Coderre centralized a lot of power with regard to snowclearing. I don’t feel it in terms of remerger. But the mayors are nervous about it, yes — maybe they have information… Who knows? If the PQ came back to power, we don’t know what would happen.”

The election event as a whole was feisty, especially when audience members asked questions — it was akin to an in-person version of the frequently fractious debates on the Let’s Chat CSL Facebook page. Accusations ranged from cyberbullying to overlong vacations to opportunism.

Moderator Charles Barchechath moderated the event with strictness and humour, keeping council candidate statements to two minutes and audience involvement to questions on local issues.

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In my opinion:

The possibility of remerging with Montreal is a very scary thought. Cote Saint-Lucers don’t want it. 90% voted to leave Montreal Mega-City. Why would we risk returning to this position that would weaken our glorious city?

Want to ensure that we stay the great suburban city that we are today? Want to have complete confidence that your elected representatives stay the course and speak out loudly and keep their promises on this thorny issue? Vote Mitchell Brownstein for Mayor and Glenn J. Nashen for City Councillor of District 6.

Trusted Leadership and Proven Experience.

CSL election battle intensifies over 2004 demerger vote

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The Côte St. Luc election race just heated up greatly, all over the position of some current incumbents during the lead-up to the 2004 demerger referendum.

The demergers of municipalities whose residents voted to do so took effect Jan. 1, 2006.

As The Suburban reported last week, CSL mayoral candidate Robert Libman criticized incumbent Mayor Mitchell Brownstein for, during the latter’s campaign, denouncing Libman for his stance on the mergers. Libman said last week he did not oppose demergers per se, but the Charest government’s Bill 9, “which would have stripped us of clout and political power and forced us into a ‘taxation without representation’ straitjacket.’” The law was since changed. Brownstein countered that Bill 9 gave Côte St. Luc and others the opportunity to demerge.

Libman also contended that incumbents Dida Berku, Mike Cohen and Allan Levine supported Côte St. Luc remaining in the megacity. Brownstein replied that Cohen and Levine voted for demerger.

Berku says she was majority leader in the megacity, but still signed the register, enabling people to vote in the 2004 referendum. Cohen told us that he worked as a communications consultant for the Côte St. Luc-Hampstead-Montreal West borough, and remained neutral. He signed the register and voted in the referendum.

Levine said he signed the register, opposed the stripping of powers from the demerged cities, and “personally supported demergers,” saying it benefits services for residents, such as Emergency Medical Services, in the current City of Côte St. Luc.

That’s where we were last week. But this story has taken on a couple of new twists.

•••

Last Wednesday morning, Libman sent The Suburban a 2004 flyer counselling a vote against demerging, which he said was circulated a week before that year’s demerger referendum.

In it, there’s a picture of then-former councillor Allan Levine, and the following quote: “I believe that a unified City of Montreal is the best way to solve the Cavendish extension issue, the preservation of Meadowbrook Golf Course and the protection of our Emergency Medical Services. That’s why I am voting NO.”

We contacted Levine and sent him a copy of the 2004 flyer. In one of a series of replies, he described it as a “cut and paste that I never saw nor wrote!”

In a second reply, Levine said that the reference in the flyer to EMS “is totally absurd as the City of Montreal uses their fire department [as first responders], which would have killed EMS.

“I knew it then and EMS is my passion, as is Meadowbrook We as a demerged city fought and won to preserve EMS. And this is a major reason why demerger was so wonderful for Côte St. Luc. Also, I never favoured a direct Cavendish-Cavendish link so the claim on Cavendish is ridiculous! Finally, as a demerged city, we have been able to preserve Meadowbrook.

“So the flyer was obviously not my quotes!…We had this discussion 16 years ago and a few times since and my reply was and remains, always the same. Never authorized and never said! What I do say is that ‘demerger was the best thing to happen to Côte St. Luc.’”

We then contacted Libman for his reply to Levine’s response. The mayoral candidate sent us the entire flyer, which includes quotes from several Côte St. Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West residents.

“I don’t do ‘cut and paste’ jobs, or fake endorsements. I found [the flyer] in a demerger document from 2004,” Libman told The Suburban. “A lot of people were very concerned about Bill 9, as [Levine] obviously was, because he cares about his community.”

Libman also responded to Cohen’s statement to us last week, that he never publicly took a position on the demerger issue and remained neutral.

“Emails from Mike Cohen at the time agreeing with my position also expressed similar sentiments and concern about the impact of Bill 9 on our city,” Libman said. “People who looked at the structural and taxation aspects of Bill 9, allowing Montreal to tax us directly, were very concerned. In our hearts everyone was for demerger, but in our heads, Bill 9 was an attack on municipal governance and taxation.”

We then asked Cohen for a reply.

“I was hired by Robert to handle all media relations for the borough,” the District 2 councillor said. “He was my direct superior and as such he corresponded with me a lot during the referendum period and I completed work he assigned to me. I am sure there are some points of view he had I agreed with at the time, and the same goes for Anthony Housefather, whom as a borough councillor at the time communicated with me regularly as well.” (Housefather was a leader of the de-merger movement).

“But I was not an elected official nor was I part of a pro or anti-merger team. I had no choice but to stay out of the public debate. I did sign the register because I believed in the importance of the public deciding on our future. Once I saw the results, it was clear to me that the will to stay in Montreal was not there. It is for that reason I voted to demerge, but I kept that personal as I still had to work with Robert for another year and a half. Anthony Housefather felt confident enough in me to support my candidacy in 2005, go door to door with me and ended up becoming a very close friend.”

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In my opinion:

The irrefutable FACT is that Anthony Housefather, Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac and I co-chaired the demerger campaign and succeeded in getting our city of Cote Saint-Luc back.(There’s plenty of posts on that subject right here on this blog).  Had we not done so, CSLers would be voting in the Montreal elections this Nov. 5, would be sending all of our tax dollars to Montreal, would have no life-saving volunteer service, would have lost our police and fire stations in CSL, to mention just a few examples.

I have no interest in risking being remerged into Montreal. Don’t you agree?

You can rest assured that Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and I (not to mention Councillor Ruth Kovac and others) will fight tooth and nail to ensure that Cote Saint-Luc remains its own proud and independent city with excellent services and close proximity to its residents.

CSL demerger co-chairs, 10 years later: Mitchell Brownstein, Anthony Housefather, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

The Demerger Decision: Did CSL Make the Right Choice?

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The Demerger Team, Ten Years Later: Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Peter Trent, Ruth Kovac, Anthony Housefather

The Demerger Team, Ten Years Later: Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Peter Trent, Ruth Kovac, Anthony Housefather

Powerless under the country’s constitution, Canadian municipal governments often find themselves in conflict with their provincial masters. In 2002, the Province of Quebec forcibly merged all cities on the Island of Montreal into a single municipality – a decision that was partially reversed in 2006. The first book-length study of the series of mergers imposed by the Parti Québécois government, The Merger Delusion is a sharp and insightful critique by a key player in anti-merger politics.

Peter Trent, mayor of the City of Westmount, foresaw the numerous financial and institutional problems posed by amalgamating municipalities into megacities. In his book, he presents a stirring and detailed account of the battle he led against the provincial government, the City of Montreal, the Board of Trade, and many of his former colleagues. Describing how he took the struggle all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, Trent demonstrates the ways in which de-mergers resonated with voters and eventually helped the Quebec Liberal Party win the 2003 provincial election.

As the cost and pitfalls of forced mergers become clearer in hindsight, The Merger Delusion recounts a compelling case study with broad implications for cities across the globe.

Mayor Peter Trent was the keynote speaker at the annual luncheon of the Cote Saint-Luc Senior Mens Club that took place yesterday at the CSL Gymnasium. Mayor Trent presented his case in excerpts from his book and in news clippings specifically targeting the battle that developed between two former council colleagues, then Councillor Anthony Housefather and Borough Mayor Robert Libman.

The Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Co-Chairs, Anthony Housefather, Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac and myself listened on with keen interest.

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

Trent read from the November 2001 election platform of the Borough Council made up of Libman, Housefather and Dida Berku. “We have consistently opposed the creation of the Mega-city (…) We will support the decision of residents in any referendum held by a future Quebec government to reverse the forced merger.”

Said Trent, “Housefather and Libman made the same promises. Housefather kept his!”

Trent recounted how Libman told the Montreal Gazette in October 2001, “I share the resentment, the anger, and the frustration, and I am very much against this forced merger. We are fighting this to the nth degree.”

“How much a month – and an Executive Committee membership – can change things,” Trent emphasized, in questioning Libman’s about-face on the demerger issue.

Before a full audience of CSL seniors with sharp memories of the merger years of 2001 to 2005, Trent recounted how Libman made the case for demerger only to flip-flop after his appointment to Megacity Montreal Mayor Tremblay’s Executive Committee.

“We were sold a bag of goods,” he said, stating that smaller is better in terms of controlling finances and expenses and ensuring protection against corruption. Sure there were a handful of small municipalities that were singled out for illegal practices. But these cases were caught quickly and corrected because “citizens like you, and councils like yours,” are closely watching over everything. That wasn’t the case in Montreal, he said, where corruption ran amuck for a very, very long time.

Mayor Trent went on, “Anthony Housefather is known for his intelligence. He was front and centre during the Charter of Values debate and has the respect of all of the mayors.”

Trent made the case from several perspectives how the promises of the merger did not hold up and how Cote Saint-Luc is infinitely better off now than those former suburbs that failed to demerge. Outremont controls 22% of its budget and is dependent upon handouts from the megacity, Trent stated, while CSL controls 59% of its budget.

As for your demerger choice,” Trent concluded, “Congratulations!”

For more, see Mike Cohen’s blog.

Mayor Housefather delights in results of decade old demerger

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CTV News report:

One municipality that did not miss the demerger train was Cote St. Luc, where the mayor says he is delighted with the results.

“It’s vastly different. We have far better services and much better control over our costs,” Cote St. Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather told CTV Montreal Friday.

He says that residents have reaped the benefits in everything from snow clearing services to new facilities.

“We built a new indoor swimming pool, we never would have had the money to do that if we were in Montreal, our sports services, we kept our ems service which would have been lost if we stayed in Montreal.”

Read more: http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/anjou-mulling-demerger-others-to-fight-cuts-from-within-1.1983737#ixzz3C7PPerZu

http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/anjou-mulling-demerger-others-to-fight-cuts-from-within-1.1983737

Bowser and Blue – 10 years after demerger

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CSL demerger co-chairs, 10 years later: Mitchell Brownstein, Anthony Housefather, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

CSL demerger co-chairs, 10 years later: Mitchell Brownstein, Anthony Housefather, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac (Photo Elaine Brownstein)

Bright sunshine greeted hundreds of happy residents of Cote Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West last Sunday at the concert marking the 10 year anniversary of the demerger from the megacity. The feature performers were political-comic-balladeers Bowser and Blue.

The mayors and councillors took to the stage to revel in regaining their cities and touted the virtues of lower taxes, better services and happier residents than during the PQ government imposed four-year mega-merger fiasco.

Mayor Anthony Housefather is joined by councillors and Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg and Montreal West Mayor Beny Masela to celebrate 10 years of demerger from Montreal mega-city

Mayor Anthony Housefather is joined by councillors and Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg and Montreal West Mayor Beny Masela to celebrate 10 years of demerger from Montreal mega-city (Photo Elaine Brownstein)

George Bowser and Rick Blue entertained in their usual, clever and witty way, poking fun at Anglophones, Francophones, Montrealers, Quebecers and Canadians. They laughed at Montreal’s state of street repairs and crumbling overpasses, the Champlain Bridge and at our various accents and unique ways of saying Bonjour/Hi to begin a conversation with strangers.

 

George Bowser and Rick Blue perform in CSL Trudeau Park

George Bowser and Rick Blue perform in CSL Trudeau Park (Photo Peter Dascal)

Last week the three communities placed blue ribbons along their main streets as a reminder of the campaign that took place a decade earlier whereby the ribbons served as a symbol for those seeking to demerge. Then Borough Councillor Anthony Housefather served with Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac and myself as the CSL Demerger co-chairs. We worked tirelessly, with an army of dedicated volunteers, in an election-style battle like we had never seen.

Mayors Beny Masela (Montreal West), Bill Steinberg (Hampstead), Anthony Housefather (Cote Saint-Luc, Peter Trent (Westmount)

Mayors Beny Masela (Montreal West), Bill Steinberg (Hampstead), Anthony Housefather (Cote Saint-Luc), Peter Trent (Westmount) (Photo Elaine Brownstein)

Despite the difficulties the Liberal government introduced to regain our cities we succeeded with a successful referendum with the yes vote placing in the high 90% range. Cote Saint-Luc and its neighbouring towns, along with a handful of other suburbs were legally demerged from Montreal to carry on as autonomous municipalities, as was the case for nearly a century.

 

CBC News

Celebrate a decade since Blue Ribbon Demerger Campaign

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Bowser June 15 2014

 

 

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

 

 

Aubin: An eye-opener on what ails the city

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Thanks to the Charbonneau inquiry, we’re waking up to long-ignored corruption. The Merger Delusion has the potential to help open society’s eyes to misplanned government structures. The longer we ignore this reality, the longer Montreal will overspend and drift.

This opinion piece by Gazette columnist Henry Aubin is an excellent overview of Mayor Peter Trent’s just-released book “The Merger Delusion: How Swallowing Its Suburbs Made an Even Bigger Mess of Montreal.” 

Aubin: An eye-opener on what ails the city.

Henry Aubin: Demerger has served suburbs well

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Henry Aubin: Demerger has served suburbs well

 

Support is growing for the re-consolidation of Montreal: Here’s why doing so makes no sense whatsoever

 

By HENRY AUBIN, The Gazette February 14, 2012

 

 

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Henry+Aubin+Demerger+served+suburbs+well/6148032/story.html#ixzz1mPbnkkVh

 

Jean-Paul L’Allier is one of most esteemed figures in urban affairs in Quebec. The stunningly ambitious and beautiful transformation of Quebec City’s old quarter took place largely during his lengthy stint as mayor (1989-2005). He’s Mr. anti-immobilisme.

 

So it’s interesting to know what he thinks of municipal government in Montreal.

 

In a speech Sunday at a meeting of Projet Montréal, he said the megacity’s 2006 demerger has “weakened Montreal.” L’Allier, who oversaw the relatively successful merger of Quebec City, says Montreal’s demerger of 15 towns and the simultaneous decentralization of power to the city’s remaining 19 boroughs prevent Montreal Island from bringing all its players (“forces vives”) together. “Some day,” he said, “this must be corrected.”

 

L’Allier thus lends more respectability to the wacky notion of a forced re-merger. Vision Montréal’s Louise Harel, who designed the original merger when she was municipal affairs minister, adores the idea. A popular La Presse columnist is touting it. I’m also starting to hear ordinary Montrealers scapegoating the demerger for the city’s problems and favouring re-merger.

 

This reminds me of how the whole merger concept began more than a decade ago. A few politicians spoke up for it; most people paid little attention because the idea seemed preposterous. Then the francophone media embraced the bigger-is-better premise, the politicians got bolder and before you knew it, whamo, it was done.

 

There was no public debate then. Promoters spewed nonsense (“economies of scale,” “lower taxes”) and refused to respond to fact-based counter-arguments (that have since proven accurate). They dealt with critics by ignoring them.

 

And that’s what’s happening all over again as the remergerites try to build public support. They deal with contrary arguments by pretending they don’t exist.

 

I invite these promoters not to hide from such critiques but to address them. Here are some:

 

–The demerger itself is not a problem. The megacity still claims 87 per cent of the island’s people, and the megacity can impose its will on the remaining 13 per cent when it comes to all intra-municipal matters (police, transit, arteries, fiscal help to poor areas, etc.). Note that not even Jean Drapeau, the most powerful Montreal mayor of our time, had such clout over the entire island.

 

–Granted, because of the decentralization of power to the boroughs, a mayor of Montreal has less power than his predecessors over the city proper. Borough power has created certain problems not in the public interest (for example, duplicated jobs, policies that are not co-ordinated with neighbouring boroughs). But it has also brought real benefits (citizens have a greater voice, services are better tailored to neighbourhoods’ needs). True reform would entail prudent, nuanced adjustments – not a wholesale return to centralization.

 

–Don’t blame the immobilisme on the demerger or on decentralization. The central city has had its hand in virtually all the major projects that have been stopped or delayed: the Casino, Griffintown, the extension of Cavendish Blvd., the covering of the Ville Marie Expressway, the modernizing of Notre Dame St.

 

–Empowered boroughs and demerged towns have almost nothing to do with the scandals staining Montreal. The waterworks contract, the SHDM mess, city hall’s roof and the auditor-general’s emails all reflect on the central city. That’s where the main rot is.

 

–The megacity’s first four years – that is, the time before the demerger – were no Golden Age. Operating expenses grew by 16.3 per cent, 2½ times the inflation rate. Real World 101: Units of governance get more inefficient the bigger they are. Demerged suburbs are using small size to make economies. Why stop them?

 

–What people expect most from municipal government is decent services. Angus Reid polls have shown that residents of demerged suburbs are consistently happier with their services than are residents of areas that were merged into Montreal. That’s no accident: Small units of government not only deliver services more cheaply, but better, too. They have closer supervision.

 

The case could be made that many people might gain if Montreal were to allow a further demerger.

 

That would make for a stimulating debate.

 

But we’ll never see one, not so long as serious, thoughtful deliberation over Montreal’s governance is taboo.

 

haubin@montrealgazette.com

 

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

 

 

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Henry+Aubin+Demerger+served+suburbs+well/6148032/story.html#ixzz1mPbdN1oy

Gerard Deltell: Montréal est ingouvernable

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This article in La Presse about the ADQ leader’s desire to reopen the municipal merger debate is very worrisome.  The idea of re-centralizing power in Montreal, at the expense of the boroughs, and potentially the demerged suburbs would be foolish at many levels.  Politically, the public mood has moved well beyond mergers and demergers.  Financially, the analysis has shown that mergers did not achieve any of the stated goals and objectives and served to do damage the citizen’s attachment to their local government.  If anything, those interested in examining municipal structures ought to consider how to decentralize to a greater extent since the local level of government is best equipped at service delivery, not the other way around.

 

 

Gerard Deltell: Montréal est ingouvernable
Karim Benessaieh
La Presse, 14 octobre 2011

Montréal compte trop d’élus, trop d’arrondissements, trop de pouvoirs qui échappent à son maire. Ce verdict sans détour, c’est celui du chef de l’Action démocratique du Québec, Gérard Deltell. Cinq ans après les défusions, selon lui, la preuve est faite: «Montréal est ingouvernable.»
C’est la première fois qu’un parti politique provincial prend position de façon aussi claire dans ce débat, a souligné M. Deltell lors d’une entrevue avec La Presse dans ses bureaux du Vieux-Montréal. «J’invite le Parti québécois, le Parti libéral, Québec solidaire à prendre une position claire là-dessus […] Il faut une nouvelle gouvernance, qui permettrait au maire et à l’exécutif d’avoir de véritables pouvoirs, plutôt que d’être perpétuellement otages des conseils d’arrondissement qui ankylosent l’action du maire.»

Le mois dernier, le parti de l’opposition Vision Montréal, dirigé par Louise Harel, a proposé de réduire le nombre de conseillers municipaux, qui est de 103. Ce geste impliquerait la fusion de quelques-uns des 19 arrondissements. La motion a été battue au conseil municipal par 36 voix contre 23.

Mais le débat n’est pas mort, estime le chef de l’ADQ. «Tout cet épisode de fusions-défusions nous a coûté un demi-milliard de dollars et, au bout du compte, on se retrouve avec les mêmes préoccupations. Ce qu’on a voulu éliminer avec les fusions municipales, les batailles sans fin entre roitelets, on l’a recréé avec les arrondissements.»

Le feuilleton du Plateau
Combien d’élus faut-il? Quels arrondissements devraient disparaître? Questionné sur les détails de cette réforme, M. Deltell affirme ne pas vouloir imposer ses vues. «On veut que le débat se fasse. Ce n’est pas à nous, à Québec, de dire qu’il y aura tant d’échevins, tant de conseils d’arrondissement. Laissons les gens en place décider.» Quand on lui rappelle que la démarche ne plaira pas aux anciennes banlieues, il réplique en invoquant le devoir de «veiller au meilleur intérêt des citoyens». «En fin de compte, on n’est pas là pour protéger des structures. On pense que les citoyens seront mieux desservis avec un conseil central qui a plus de pouvoirs que par des conseils d’arrondissement qui peuvent faire ce qu’ils veulent dans leur coin.»

Le feuilleton de la circulation sur le Plateau-Mont-Royal, les frictions chaque hiver entre les arrondissements et la Ville sur le déneigement, voilà deux exemples qui démontrent que les Montréalais ont besoin d’une administration centrale plus forte, soutient M. Deltell. «La métropole, c’est la moitié de la province, c’est le poumon économique du Québec. Quand la moitié de la province souffre, c’est toute la province qui en paie le prix.»

Il rappelle la proposition de son parti de nommer un ministre dont la seule responsabilité serait Montréal. «Quand on est ministre des Finances, on en a pas mal sur les épaules, on a pas mal de dossiers à gérer. Il est clair que dans la situation actuelle de Montréal, il faut prendre le taureau par les cornes. Et ce n’est pas un luxe que d’avoir un ministre qui se consacre à plein aux questions montréalaises.»

How did it come to this?

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How did it come to this? (Henry Aubin, Montreal Gazette)

The verdict on the mergers is in: Things are worse

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The verdict on the mergers is in: Things are worse  (Henry Aubin, Montreal Gazette)

Taking powers from boroughs would be hard to do, Gazette

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Taking powers from boroughs would be hard to do

16 May 2009, The Gazette, HENRY AUBIN

The 2004 referendums were fought on decentralizing of power from city

A growing chorus of critics is arguing that Montreal has become ungovernable thanks the decentralization of power to boroughs.

Vision Montréal’s Benoît Labonté, Projet Montréal’s Richard Bergeron, megacity founder Louise Harel and many pundits cite the declining quality of snow clearance, street repair and other services for which boroughs are mostly responsible. They also say boroughs’ overly powerful mayors contribute to the inability of the mayor of Montreal to give strong leadership to the city as a whole.

I agree with much of this complaint. But what I reject is the widespread assumption that fixing things will be easy. The circumstances by which Montreal became decentralized could make it tough to reverse the process.

It’s worth recalling the runup to the 2004 referendums on demerging from Quebec’s forced amalgamation of all Montreal Island’s municipalities in 2002.

The Quebec Liberal government tried six months before those referendums to take the steam out of the demerger movement with a law, Bill 9, that offered a carrot to those people opting to stay in the megacity and a stick to those wanting to secede.

The carrot was the granting of a high degree of autonomy to boroughs. This turned them into what Harel now derides as “quasi-cities” with the power to levy taxes, manage urban planning, run many services and even elect their own mayors. The stick was putting demergerites on notice that any parts of the island that did bolt would never regain the powers of normal towns. They’d still be under Montreal’s yoke.

The question posed in the referendums of June 2004 referred explicitly to that law. The question was: “Are you in favour of the de-amalgamation of Ville de Montreal and the constitution of (insert the name of your part of town here), in accordance with the act” – that is, Bill 9.

In the weeks prior to the referendum, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay campaigned largely on the basis of Bill 9: If you want your part of town to have a high degree of self-rule, he argued, it’s better off staying in mega-Montreal. Tremblay and the Charest government told the public that the law was chiseled in granite.

To claw back a significant amount of this self-rule now, as the critics now demand, would be to tell megacity residents: “Oops, we’re going to take away much of the borough autonomy that was used to woo you.” Bait and switch. It would violate the solemn terms on which the referendums were fought.

I don’t know if such change would be legal. But it would be grossly undemocratic.

Now, however, that a consensus is emerging that a clawback would be good for Montreal, the question is how to do this in a just manner.

I see three options. The simplest would be to hold a citywide referendum asking in effect, “Is it OK to make the following changes to Bill 9?”

Some people, however. might object. They’d say, “If that had been the deal that had existed in 2004, my part of town would likely have voted to demerge. We deserve a second demerger referendum.”

getimage.aspxThere could be quite a clamour for this. The table shows seven ex-suburbs in which the demergerites racked up far more than the simple majority of Yes votes required for secession. (They failed to demerge only because of a high-hurdle second requirement: To quit the megacity, 35 per cent of all eligible voters in a part of the city had to vote to demerge.)

Note, too, that the populous ex-suburbs of Lachine, St. Léonard and Verdun held no referendums in part because their political leaders had traded their earlier antimerger stances for seats on Montreal’s executive committee.

The megacity has compiled a disappointing record of inertia, inefficiency and sleaze since the first referendum. So given the chance, more parts of Montreal might well quit.

This second option would be the last thing any megacity politician would want. It would put the city through another divisive debate.

And yet the demand would be legitimate. If you want to change a contract you have to renegotiate it.

The third option would be to ask Quebec to change the law willy-nilly without going to the people.

But there’d be a problem with that, too. Tremblay and Quebec have insisted they cannot make substantial changes in the way Bill 9 lets Montreal hold the demerged suburbs in an autocratic grip, because that would be unfair to those people whom the law’s stick intimidated and who stayed loyal to the megacity.

But if you change Bill 9 to recentralize power in the megacity, the law is no longer sacrosanct and unalterable. You can change it for the suburbs, too. The granite slab becomes, then, a can of worms.

Tremblay, more than anyone, must know how the boroughs’ great power weakens his city. Yet he is the only mayoral contender not seeking to curb borough power. Strange? No. I suspect he knows just how excruciating it would be to fix this mess.

In my opinion:  Terrific article, as usual, by Henry Aubin. More evidence that CSLers made the right choice in demerger. He sums up what Anthony Housefather, Ruth Kovac, Mitchell Brownstein and I have told you all along.  As the leaders of the CSL Demerger Committee we said that only in a smaller, autonomous unit, independent of the City of Montreal megacity, could we run an efficient, dynamic municipal organization at a reasonable tax rate.  Montrealers are starting to realize this too!

Firefighters wrong about first responders, Letter – The Gazette

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Firefighters wrong about first responders
Letter
The Gazette
Friday, December 07, 2007

The Montreal Firefighters Association published a paid ad in The Gazette on Nov. 28 stating volunteer first responders in Côte St. Luc have a slower response time than the new service offered by the fire department. In fact, the opposite is true.

According to Urgences santé statistics, so far in 2007-2008 the average response time of Côte St. Luc first responders is six minutes, 18 seconds. The average response time of fire department first responders is eight minutes, 24 seconds. That means our EMS is, on average, two minutes, six seconds faster.

We don’t understand why the firefighters’ union is trying to undermine a service that’s strongly supported by the public and the directors of several hospital emergency departments.

Perhaps the firefighters’ union feels threatened by – and doesn’t want to be compared with – a well-run volunteer service whose members have twice as many hours of training, can communicate in more languages and are motivated to serve by a love of community.

Instead of spending union dues on inaccurate newspaper ads, we encourage the Firefighters Association to study our pioneering service in greater detail.

Mayor Anthony Housefather and Councillor Glenn J. Nashen
Côte St. Luc

EMS decision a great save, West End Chronicle

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EMS decision a great save
West End Chronicle, Editorial
July 4, 2007

Saving PDQ9, Editorial Cartoon West End Chronicle

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Editorial Cartoon
West End Chronicle
April 25, 2007

Gather ’round pahdners, and see if Sheriff Housefather and his posse can save Station 9 …

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