Municipalities: The Heart of Canada

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As leaders, innovators and enablers, municipalities are on the front lines, finding novel solutions to national challenges. We are transforming this great country.

Thank you to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for bringing together cities and towns, mayors and councillors from across this great nation. Thank you as well for organizing the recent conference which was an extraordinary learning and meeting opportunity.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual congress offers unparalleled learning experience

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Earlier this week I had the opportunity to participate with over 1600 local elected officials from across the country in the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The theme of this years’ gathering was “Municipalities, The Heart of Canada.” I could not agree more with that statement. Our cities and towns, large and small, urban and rural, are where we live, work and play. We are the level of government closest to citizens and most responsive to their needs.
Neighbourly mayors and councillors: Dida Berku, Allan J. Levine, Marvin Rotrand, Russell Copeman, William Steinberg, Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

Neighbourly mayors and councillors: Dida Berku, Allan J. Levine, Marvin Rotrand, Russell Copeman, William Steinberg, Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

This was an unparalleled opportunity to engage with elected representatives from municipal governments in all ten provinces and all three territories. It was a chance to hear from experts in many social sectors and industries.
CSL Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi at FCM 2016

CSL Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi at FCM 2016

I attended a workshop dealing with effective engagement with local first responders. The panel included outstanding professionals including Cathy Palmer, a member of the Calgary police force who serves on police governance associations across Canada, former Saskatoon Fire Chief Dan Paulson and Winnipeg Police Service Chief Devon Clunis. The three were highly informative and very instructive. Also in attendance was Stephanie Durant, Director General of Public Safety Canada.
Winnipeg Police car decorated for the Pride parade

Winnipeg Police car decorated for the Pride parade

Chief Clunis stressed the importance of having outside bodies to come in and measure the efficiency of municipal operations.

I was particularly pleased by comments by Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Service Chief John Lane who said, residential sprinklers are a minimal investment and the long-term benefits are very significant. “This is the right way to go. You need the political fortitude to get this done in your communities,” he said.
I’m proud to have pressed for a residential sprinkler law in Cote Saint-Luc, an early adopter in Quebec. Our city is much safer thanks to this bylaw.
Winnipeg Fire Chief John Lane leads his service in the Pride parade

Winnipeg Fire Chief John Lane leads his service in the Pride parade

 

There was a very moving and emotional “Tribute to Fort McMurray.” The delegates thanked the first responders and elected representatives of the surrounding municipalities for stepping up to meet the urgent and immediate needs of those residing in the Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the regional government encompassing Fort McMurray. The assembly reached out to salute and recognize all Albertans and Canadians for pitching in with relief aid.
The following musical video tribute was presented to a standing ovation:
A tearful Councillor Allan Glenn Vinni from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo thanked the FCM delegates for support and encouragement and lots and lots of cash assistance. “We will get the job done and rebuild,” Vinni said, adding it will take between three and five years to recover.
The mayor of sister city Lac la Biche said the Fort McMurray disaster became a cause for all municipalities from coast to coast. “You should all be proud. You’ve shown the world what we can do.”
FCM 2016 Fort McMurray Tribute
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said, “The response of municipalities has been extraordinary. They received tens of thousands of ‘refugees’. Small communities doubled their population overnight. It was the smaller communities that stood up in an extraordinary way. Response erupted in a local way,” the mayor said. Iveson pointed out that his city had to cope with hundreds of unscheduled evacuation flights. “The arrival of South African firefighters, singing in the airport, was a very powerful moment.”
“Hoteliers gave rooms for free. Apartment owners gave rooms for free. Moms cooked meals. Bus drivers drove evacuees. Firefighters volunteered to go to the epicentre,” Iveson said of the extraordinary efforts of everyday Canadians.
To great applause, Tree Canada’s executive director, Michael Rosen, announced the “re-greening” of Fort McMurray.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the FCM 2016 delegation in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the FCM 2016 delegation in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signaled the important partnership that municipalities will play under a Liberal government in Ottawa.
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May addresses the FCM 2016

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May addresses the FCM 2016

Green Party leader Elizabeth May as referred to as “one the most influential women in the world,” according to Newsweek.
This isn’t a time to build pipelines, May said. It’s time for an “orderly liquidation of fossil fuels” she said, quoting an industry analysts in last week’s Globe and Mail.
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen at FCM 2016

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen at FCM 2016

“It makes a lot of sense for municipal leadership at the local level to have  a role in national discussions when so much of that discussion involves municipal life,” May said. “Municipal government has proven they are agile even with one hand tied behind your back. Keep passing resolutions demanding change regarding climate change,” she said.
Gala dinner FCM 2016 - Standing: Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Sam Goldbloom, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, Elaine Brownstein, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Doris Steinberg. Seated: Cllr. Dida Berku, Jacob Kincler, Tree Canada Executive Director Michael Rozen, Mayor William Steinberg.

Gala dinner FCM 2016 – Standing: Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Sam Goldbloom, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, Elaine Brownstein, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Doris Steinberg. Seated: Cllr. Dida Berku, Jacob Kincler, Tree Canada Executive Director Michael Rosen, Mayor William Steinberg.

Great respect and sensitivity was paid to First Nation communities throughout Canada. Winnipeg, it was pointed out, is the homeland of the Métis. It is a ‘Treaty Territory’ at the fork of the Assiniboine River and Red River.
One of the indigenous leaders was invited to bring a blessing to the assembly. He thanked ‘Mother Earth’ for the food and water and delivered a special greeting to the women who have exceptional blessings of the aboriginal leaders, for having ‘open minds and open spirits and for celebrating life”. The traditional wishes ended with “Mig’wich”.
We were fortunate to meet Winnipeg Councillor Marty Marantz (representing Tuxedo) and his wife Lisa. Marty represents a constituency most similar to Cote Saint-Luc in terms of Jewish community with many families in his town having links to families in ours.
St. Leonard Borough Mayor Michel Bissonet, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. nashen, Jacob Kincler and Cllr. Sam Goldbloom at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg

St. Leonard Borough Mayor Michel Bissonet, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. nashen, Jacob Kincler and Cllr. Sam Goldbloom at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg

Winnipeg is also home to the only national museum outside of Ottawa. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is an architectural marvel and educational castle. It was an extraordinary experience to gather with all FCM delegates in this amazing national treasure and to learn about Canada’s brighter and darker chapters in human rights.

Canadian Museum of Human Rights 2

Speaking of human rights, it also happened to be International Pride Day, and the extremely festive and lively parade made its way right under Winnipeg’s new and spacious RBC Convention Centre. FCM delegates poured into the streets to cheer on the thousands of revelers including major city services.

Hi 5 to Winnipeg EMS showing their pride

Hi 5 to Winnipeg EMS showing their pride

 

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor and Councillors proud to salute those participating in Winnipeg's Pride Parade

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor and Councillors proud to salute those participating in Winnipeg’s Pride Parade

The FCM Trade Show is an incredible learning opportunity with displays by well over one hundred exhibitors from national organizations, corporations, municipal suppliers and federal government agencies. The information gleaned in these venues enables us to learn about best practices, emerging technologies and to be educated by federal department staff and non-profit experts.
Sun Country representatives promoted electric vehicle (EV) possibilities for municipal fleets and EV charging stations. CSL will soon install its first EV charging stations.

Sun Country representatives promoted electric vehicle (EV) possibilities for municipal fleets and EV charging stations. CSL will soon install its first EV charging stations.

 

Overall, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is an incredible organization representing cities and towns from coast to coast to coast. It has served as the national voice of municipalities since 1901. Cote Saint-Luc benefits greatly by its membership and participation in its annual conferences.
maniitobaplate
The City of Winnipeg under the leadership of Mayor Brian Bowman is to be congratulated for its sensational hosting of FCM 2016. Winnipeg’s city staff were out in full force assisting in every aspect and always with a smile. It is very clear why it’s called “Friendly Manitoba.”
The Manitoba Legislature with the Golden Boy atop and the Manitoba Law Courts with its green dome as photographed from the RBC Convention Centre

Setting Sun in Winnipeg: The Manitoba Legislature with the Golden Boy atop and the Manitoba Law Courts with its green dome as photographed from the RBC Convention Centre.

CSL votes 4-2 to sell land for new B’nai Brith residence

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The Suburban | Nov. 19, 2014 | Click to enlarge

The Suburban | Nov. 19, 2014 | Click to enlarge

Learning from Canada’s best at FCM

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Close to 2000 of Canada’s municipal leaders gathered last week at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Annual Conference and Trade Show in Niagara Region. They had opportunities to learn from experts, attend workshops on a variety of issues, and network with colleagues. There was a lot of discussion on how to influence the federal government to ensure that Canadians have the quality of life they deserve, and enabling the innovation that creates jobs and growth in this country.

Pleased to join my colleagues Councillors Mitchell Brwonstein, Ruth Kovac, Sam Goldbloom (with wife Beverly) and Allan Levine at FCM conference

Pleased to join my colleagues Councillors Mitchell Brownstein, Ruth Kovac, Sam Goldbloom (with wife Beverly) and Allan Levine at FCM conference

From investing in our roads, bridges, transit and water system to making sure all Canadians have a decent pace to live, we know many of the solutions lie in strengthening our hometowns and their ability to be innovative and responsive.

From the largest cities to the tightest knit communities across Canada, more than 2000 member municipalities share a common passion and a belief in building a strong Canada from the ground up. Much of the discussion revolved around the frontline role municipalities play in delivering key services to Canadians.

Delegates also had the opportunity to hear from, and influence speakers, representing all parties including three leaders of opposition parties (Liberals, NDP and the Green Party) and two federal ministers.

Municipal leaders left the conference with knowledge, resources and a strong commitment to champion municipalities and the key services they provide to Canadians.

I always spot interesting and helpful road signs when I travel. This would be a neat safety feature around Montreal.

I always spot interesting and helpful road signs when I travel. This would be a neat safety feature around Montreal.

We are leaving the Niagara Region with a united message that a strong Canada begins with strong hometowns. These are the services Canadians rely on and we know that they want to see all levels of government cooperate to make our hometowns stronger.

In fact, municipal leaders from coast to coast will be pushing that message to the top of the agenda in the next federal election.

Continuously seeking new ideas to improve the quality and delivery of local services requires learning and networking on the part of the administration and elected officials. The FCM does an extraordinary job of bringing together mayors, councillors, reeves, wardens, commissioners and other local elected officials from across the country to advance the cause of where we live: home.

My fascination with ending dependency on fossil fuels continues. I hope to see electric vehicles tested in the Cote Saint-Luc fleet soon.

My fascination with ending dependency on fossil fuels continues. I hope to see electric vehicles tested in the Cote Saint-Luc fleet soon.

I have benefited greatly from experts and fellow councillors who have immense experience in disaster readiness, urban planning, public safety and all aspects of municipal life and services. It is incredibly informative to discuss how other elected officials from other cities and towns deal with issues of doing more for their constituents without relying on more taxes, for example.

The session on extreme weather and how it is affecting all of our communities was an eye opener. Dr. Blair Feltmate from University of Waterloo demonstrated that there are techniques in urban development that all cities should be engaging in to safeguard current and future residents as our country, and indeed the world, continues to grow in population, well beyond a sustainable threshold.

Experts urging immediate action by municipalities to mitigate extreme weather disasters

Experts urging immediate action by municipalities to mitigate extreme weather disasters

Experts in emergency preparedness, public safety and rail safety instructed delegates in always being prepared, in constant planning and most of all, ‘practice, practice, practice.’ Disasters are not remote possibilities. They will occur, sooner or later. The experts all say that. This is not news to Cote Saint-Luc or to me, having dedicated most of my life to this area of civic engagement.

Calgary Mayor Nahid Nenshi is a masterful communicator with younger voters thru his use of social media. It's nice to see Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre following Nenshi's lead.

Calgary Mayor Nahid Nenshi is a masterful communicator with younger voters thru his use of social media. It’s nice to see Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre following Nenshi’s lead.

I salute outgoing FCM President and Lachine Borough Mayor Clause Dauphin, whom I have observed for many years. Claude is a talented, energetic and charismatic leader who has led FCM for the past year with determination and purpose. I am amazed how he championed the FCM, ran for reelection in Lachine and still managed time for constituents, family and himself in just one year. Bravo to Claude for his public service.

I appreciate the opportunities to meet with mayors from across town and around the country. Councillor Kovac and I had an interesting chat with the dynamically talented Town of Mount Royal Mayor Philippe Roy.

I appreciate the opportunities to meet with mayors from across town and around the country. Councillor Kovac and I had an interesting chat with the dynamically talented Town of Mount Royal Mayor Philippe Roy.

Thank you FCM for this marvelous opportunity in becoming better educated and informed about major issues affecting all of our hometowns. I am better equipped to serve my constituents having learned from Canada’s leading experts.

Always dediacted to prototing first aid and CPR training I was thrilled to bump into this Toronto Pearson International Airport firefighter in the departure area

Always dedicated to promoting first aid and CPR training I was thrilled to bump into this Toronto Pearson International Airport firefighter in the departure area

 

Bell utility boxes camouflaged, eyesore beautified

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Nature-like decals camouflage utility boxes

Nature-like decals camouflage utility boxes

A few years ago I was attending a conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Halifax. While exploring the city and its infrastructure I noticed some odd, artistic designs of birds on branches and nature landscapes. What was odd is that these canvasses were actually covering utility boxes along the sidewalk that probably belonged to the telephone, cable or electrical utilities. They blended into the surroundings and were rather pleasant to look at.  Curiosity got the better of me so I snapped some photos and sent them off to our chief engineer in Cote Saint-Luc for further investigation.

What we discovered is that various public utilities had begun to partner with municipalities in designing these decals to beautify Canadian cities. My inquiry began to take shape and these camouflage canvasses are now covering otherwise dull, even ugly, metal boxes throughout Cote Saint-Luc.

Another 'hidden' Bell Canada box along Kildare Ave

Another ‘hidden’ Bell Canada box along Kildare Ave

Cote Saint-Luc is partnering with Bell on nine different utility box locations in the city, covering them with camouflage decals that blend in with the surroundings. Many thanks to Bell for working with us to make our city look even better.

Bell boxes along Guelph Road in Yitzhak Rabin Park camouflaged with greenery

Bell boxes along Guelph Road in Yitzhak Rabin Park camouflaged with greenery

There has been no graffiti on the boxes and the feedback from the community has been positive.  The plan is to continue to encourage companies like Videotron to do the same.

2013-10-23 005 utility box decal camouflage

I am very pleased that Cote Saint-Luc City Council and Administration are always open to exploring new opportunities and ideas that are progressive and innovative. Mayor Housefather strongly encourages innovation and believes that continuing education through conferences, seminars and courses for staff and elected officials alike help to improve local services and the quality of life for all residents. I completely agree.

 

Safety Setbacks Could Make Meadowbrook Residential Development Impossible

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The following article was written by Cote Saint-Luc Councillor Dida Berku and appeared in the Autumn 2013 Les Amis de Meadowbrook Newsletter.

I have supported Dida Berku from the outset in the quest to preserve Meadowbrook. You can get all the background info on this 25 year effort by searching “Meadowbrook” on this blog.

Dida’s efforts may very well benefit not only those of us who advocate to keep this invaluable piece of land as green space in perpetuity for all to enjoy, but many other spaces across the country.

Français ci-dessous

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Safety Setbacks Could Make Meadowbrook Residential Development Impossible

By Dida Berku

It is now clear that the catastrophic derailment in Lac Mégantic last July helped convince Montreal’s political leaders of the need for safety setbacks to protect new residences from the hazards of adjacent railways.

Last month, Montreal City Council and the mayors of all Island suburbs unanimously adopted a resolution directing the city’s urban planning department to integrate the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) proximity guidelines into the new urban plan of the Island of Montreal, scheduled to be adopted in 2014.

These guidelines were established by the FCM, which represents all cities across the country, and the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), which represents all its railway companies. The guidelines, first written a decade ago and updated in 2013, propose 30-metre setbacks from railway main lines and 300-metre setbacks from rail yards for all new housing projects.

Meadowbrook is 300 metres wide at the Cote St. Luc entrance and narrows to a point at the boundary of Lachine and Montreal West. Since Meadowbrook is adjacent to the CP yards in Cote St. Luc and the Sortin yards in Lachine, which houses AMT commuter railway repair shops, the adoption of these guidelines in Montreal’s new urban plan would make it practically impossible for any new homes to be built on this site.

For many years, Les Amis has advocated against building housing in proximity to the extensive rail lines and yards near the golf course. The adoption of these guidelines is a major step towards establishing Meadowbrook as a buffer zone between rail activities and housing.

I drafted the proposed resolution, and I can honestly say that this is one of the most gratifying accomplishments of my political career, and a critical milestone in the long journey to save Meadowbrook from development and transform it into a park.

Montreal will be the first city in Canada to embrace these guidelines and will be in a good position to ask the railways to improve the safety and security of their activities in our communities.

Now, let’s all see how we can leverage this resolution in our efforts to protect this precious green space. Meanwhile, Les Amis will continue to monitor and push for these guidelines to be adopted and integrated into the Island of Montreal’s new urban plan.

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Les retraits de sécurité pourraient rendre impossible le développement de Meadowbrook

par Dida Berku

La catastrophe de Lac Mégantic en juillet dernier a finalement convaincu les élus montréalais qu’il fallait des retraits de sécurité afin de protéger les nouvelles résidences des accidents ferroviaires.

Le mois denier, le conseil municipal de Montréal et les maires des villes de banlieue de l’île de Montréal ont unanimement adopté une résolution enjoignant au service d’urbanisme d’intégrer les directives de la Fédération canadienne des municipalités (FCM) dans le nouveau plan d’urbanisme de l’île de Montréal qui doit être adopté en 2014.

Ces directives ont été établies par la FCM, qui représente toutes les villes canadiennes, et l’Association des chemins de fer du Canada (ACFC), qui représente toutes les compagnies ferroviaires. Ces directives, rédigées il y a une dizaine d’années et mises à jour en 2013, proposent que tout nouveau projet résidentiel soit éloigné de 30 mètres des voies ferrées et de 300 mètres des gares de triage.

Meadowbrook fait 300 mètres de largeur à l’entrée de Côte St. Luc et se termine en pointe à la limite de Lachine et Montréal-Ouest. Puisque Meadowbrook voisine la gare de triage du CP à Côte St. Luc et la gare de triage Sortin à Lachine, où se trouvent les ateliers de l’AMT, l’adoption de ces directives rendrait à toutes fins impossible la construction de nouvelles maisons sur le site.

Depuis plusieurs années, Les Amis fait des représentations contre la construction de résidences à proximité des voies ferrées et des gares de triage près du terrain de golf. L’adoption de ces directives marque un grand pas pour faire de Meadowbrook une zone tampon entre les activités ferroviaires et l’habitation.

J’ai rédigé la résolution et je peux dire qu’il s’agit de l’une des réalisations les plus gratifiantes de ma carrière politique et d’un jalon important pour sauver Meadowbrook du développement et le transformer en parc.

Montréal est la première ville canadienne à appuyer ces directives et sera ainsi mieux positionnée pour demander aux compagnies ferroviaires d’améliorer la sécurité de leurs opérations dans nos collectivités.

Voyons maintenant comment nous pouvons utiliser cette résolution pour protéger ce précieux espace vert. Les Amis continuera de surveiller et de pousser l’adoption de ces directives et leur intégration au nouveau plan d’urbanisme de l’île de Montréal.

City council: New rules would prevent construction near tracks, railway yards

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City council: New rules would prevent construction near tracks, railway yards. (Montreal Gazette) Link removed.

In brief:

  • Montreal has adopted new rules that would forbid the construction of new buildings within 30 metres of busy train tracks and 300 metres of a railway yard.
  • The new rules would also outline steps that could be taken to improve safety and reduce nuisances like noise and vibrations from rail operations, such as installing safety fences, berms and noise barriers.
  • Montreal city council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the new guidelines, drawn up by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Railway Association of Canada. They would be included in Montreal’s new urban plan, which must be adopted by the end of 2014.
  • Montreal’s agglomeration council is also expected to approve them Thursday, extending them across the island of Montreal.
  • Côte-St-Luc city councillor Dida Berku has been calling for more than 20 years for municipalities to adopt railway setback guidelines for development and said she was “elated” when Montreal city council adopted them.
  • The new guidelines could mean the controversial development of the west-end Meadowbrook golf course would not be allowed to proceed. The golf course, which is in Lachine and Côte-St-Luc, has a train yard on its north and west side, with train tracks running east-west through the golf course itself. Several housing developments have been proposed for the site over the past 25 years. Montreal has said building municipal infrastructure for the site is too costly.

This is excellent news.  I have supported this theory in order to safeguard residents living near rail lines and yards for 20 years and I’ve echoed Dida Berku’s call to protect Meadowbrook, in large part, because of this potential danger.

It is sad that this position by the City of Montreal had to follow such a horrible tragedy but Lac Megantic has served as a wake up call for municipalities across Canada.

Cote Saint-Luc has been very progressive in assuring Meadowbrook’s future as a green space. This resolution, soon to be presented to the Montreal Agglomeration Council will give greater assurance on its ultimate preservation.

 

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