CSL budgets modest tax increase

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At last night’s public meeting, Côte Saint-Luc City Council adopted its 2013 budget for local and agglomeration operating expenses.  An average single family home (valued at $470,000) will see a modest increase of $78 in taxes or 1.32 percent, well below the rate of inflation.

The total budget amounts to $65M which breaks down as $37M in local costs and $28M in island wide agglomeration costs.

The City will continue to invest in critical infrastructure (water distribution network, roads, sidewalks, etc.) as well as in rejuvenating its oldest park equipment.

As Councillor responsible for Public Safety I am quite pleased that the city will continue its important investments in this area ensuring top quality volunteer EMS response, the steady expansion of the volunteer Citizens on Patrol as well as Public Security, Emergency Communications and Emergency Preparedness.

Also, the CSL Cycles program will continue to roll out with new bike lanes stretching from Cavendish, along Baily toward the Cote Saint-Luc Shopping Centre, to tie in to the NDG network running up West Broadway.  A new lane will also be painted along Kildare Road from Westminster to Shalom and through Ruth Kovac Park to reach the Cavendish Mall.

Unfortunately, Cote Saint-Luc is obliged to spend about half-a-million dollars on the Montreal Metropolitan Community, an added level of regional government for which we have very little input and see very questionable results.  I concur with the Gazette’s civic affairs columnist Henry Aubin who has argued for years that the Montreal region is overburdened with layers of bureaucracy from multiple transit authorities, government departments and agencies, all adding to our tax burden at one level or another.

Fortunately, with the municipal demergers in 2005, Cote Saint-Luc controls well over half its local taxes and sets priorities locally on services closest to the resident.

Here is a detailed copy of the CSL 2013 budget presentation.

New law imperils English in suburbs

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Henry Aubin: New law imperils English in suburbs

Loss of bilingual status is a devastating blow and a barrier to business


The Marois government’s proposed law to tighten the Charter of the French Language would deal a truly devastating blow to most of the 65 municipalities in Quebec that possess official bilingual status. The bill would strip this designation from a town if fewer than 50 per cent of its residents have English as their mother tongue.

Six of the 12 suburbs on Montreal Island that now offer services in French and English would lose the legal ability to continue to do so in English. They are Côte-St-Luc, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Dorval, Kirkland, Mont-Royal and Senneville. (See table.)

Four other suburbs, whose English mother-tongue residents are steadily declining and now represent less than 55 per cent of the population, are on course to falling under the threshold within a few years. They are Baie d’Urfé, Beaconsfield, Pointe-Claire and Westmount. Hampstead and Montreal West, both of which are near the 60-per-cent mark, are safer ground. (The island’s two remaining suburbs, Montréal-Est and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, do not have bilingual status.)

Municipalities not on the island would tend to lose their status at a considerably higher rate. Many of these mostly rural towns or villages have aging anglo communities.

(The government would determine whether a city or town is above or below the 50 per cent bar on the basis of Statistic Canada’s census. However, it is unclear how the government would define people with English as their mother tongue. Most people have only one language as their mother tongue, but others list two or even more on the census form, depending the circumstances of their infancy. The table gives figures for both options.)

The proposed law, Bill 14, tabled this week by the minister responsible for language, Diane De Courcy, comes completely out of the blue. It’s been a long time since language has been a notable issue in the island’s suburbs or in the more distant places. You have to wonder what the problem is that De Courcy set out to fix.

To be sure, the presence of English has become a hot political issue, but that controversy has been confined do Montreal’s central core, especially the shopping areas. De Courcy’s measure gives the core a free pass — the bill can’t revoke Montreal’s bilingual status because the city doesn’t have one.

Removing the suburbs’ bilingual standing would also be curious because it would reduce the attractiveness of Montreal for knowledge workers from English-speaking countries. When they move here, these workers often choose to live in a bilingual suburb where — as is only normal — they feel more linguistically hospitable.

The Mercer 2012 Quality of Living Index of cities — an annual ranking to help multinational companies and organizations make decisions — came out the day before De Courcy tabled the bill. It rated Montreal well behind Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. If the minority government succeeds in making Bill 14 law, it’s not going to help the economy.

Peter Trent, the Westmount mayor and leader of the island’s suburban mayors, is a moderate on language issues. He calls the measure “completely unacceptable” to anglo communities. As well, he notes an additional curiosity about the bill: “It wouldn’t help the cause of preserving French one jot.”

Trent notes a final curiosity about the bill: Those suburbs whose majority of English mother-tongue residents are rapidly shrinking might have no interest in attracting those newcomers who would further dilute the English mother-tongue presence. The law might thus have the perverse effect of making francophones unwelcome.

This measure might make short-term political sense: Riling the anglos is often a surefire way to boost the PQ in anglophobes’ eyes.

But as a step to advance the interests of francophones, the bill shoots itself in the foot. In the end, it would harm everybody.

Read more:http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Henry+Aubin+imperils+English+suburbs/7669480/story.html#ixzz2EUfHTkUV


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.




© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette



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

Henry Aubin: Loud silence on merger milestone


Another brilliant column by the Gazette’s Henry Aubin (link below) who has been on the case of municipal mergers and other government blunders affecting our cities.  Aubin wrote about the mergers well before they took place 10 years ago and predicted what a colossal mistake this would be.  He cited examples from across North America and Europe.

This week marks 10 years since this ill-advised event took effect.  Since then we have seen Montreal costs run amuck and the sucking of local/suburban city taxes to feed the insatiable centre city.

We lost our local Fire Department that served our community well in two languages, conducted hundreds of inspections every year, attended every local event and cooperated with our Public Security department and EMS.

With mergers we have experienced a Montreal Fire department with years of labour strife and disinterest in communicating in English on their website despite numerous requests from our Council, unwillingness to cooperate with our Public Security, refusing to advise them of fire calls in CSL, preventing our city from providing maximum services to our residents not to mention a firefighter union that worked hard yet failed to terminate CSL’s all-star volunteer EMS.

We have had almost no fire inspections at all despite pleas by our Council to improve on this dismal and dangerous record.

These are just a few examples of our city’s experience with a single service since merger.  There are so many more examples as oft cited at our Council meetings.

While we are lucky to have broken free from much of the merger disadvantages several continue to haunt us as revealed by Henry Aubin in this Gazette column:  Henry Aubin: Loud silence on merger milestone.

Is Montreal ready for emergencies?

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Is Montreal ready for emergencies?

City deserves credit for getting ready to cope with weather extremes, but Chicago shows it might be wise to do even more


The Gazette May 26, 2011

The Richelieu Valley’s freak flooding, causing mayhem for hundreds of homeowners, shows what can happen when municipalities don’t anticipate the sort of extreme weather events that climatologists say could become much more common.

Chicago, having learned its lesson from a 1995 heat wave that contributed to the deaths of about 500 people, has become a leader among North American cities in preparedness against various kinds of extreme weather. Is Montreal doing enough?

This city’s vulnerability to weather extremes is plain. Last July’s heat wave, according to public-health authorities, precipitated the deaths of 106 people. Also last summer, tornadoes – ultraweak and undestructive – were spotted in Ste. Anne de Bellevue and the northern suburb Mascouche. No one will forget the 1997 rainstorm and the 1998 ice storm. And lest anyone smugly assume that the city’s remoteness from the coast gives it immunity to those increasingly severe hurricanes, bear in mind that Hurricane Hazel in 1954 blasted a city far more inland than us, Toronto, drenching it with 11 inches of rain and causing 83 deaths.

To be sure, no single weather event, including the Richelieu River’s overflow, can be blamed on human-made greenhouse-gas emissions, but most scientists say increasing emissions contribute to the overall trend.

The Tremblay administration – in particular, the executive committee’s Alan DeSousa – deserves credit for taking various steps to adapt to changing weather conditions (as distinct from taking steps to reduce greenhousegas emissions). The city is:

–Building four water-retention basins to keep sewers from overflowing during storms. (The four are in Ahuntsic, Lachine, Griffintown and St. Laurent.)

–Banning construction of new buildings on Montreal Island within 10 metres of the St. Lawrence River and the Rivière des Milles Îles. (Time will tell if 10 metres is enough.)

–Extending water-intake pipes farther into the St. Lawrence River in anticipation of lower water levels.

–Repairing leaking under-ground pipes carrying drinking water. This will, among other things, help in the event of future water shortages. DeSousa estimates that leakage caused the loss of 40 per cent of water a decade ago, that this is now down to 30 per cent, and that it should be at about 20 per cent by 2015.

–Obliging all new-building and renovated basements to install backwater valves, according to a bylaw effective in July. At times of heavy rain, these devices prevent sewers from backing up.

–Planting more shade trees to cool the territory and absorb rainwater, and encouraging vegetation on roofs.

–Bracing for the latest in-vasive species, the ash borer beetle, by ceasing as of last spring to plant its favourite food, ash trees, along Montreal streets. The insect has already killed tens of millions of such trees in the U.S., and warmer weather has brought it to southern Quebec. Ash trees are second only to maples as the most common tree on streets and in parks.

–Imposing new rules for off-street parking spaces in St. Laurent, where DeSousa is borough mayor. Asphalt parking lots absorb heat and don’t absorb rainwater, contributing to flooding. A 2009 borough bylaw reduces the number of parking spots required per building (thus also encouraging use of public transit), shrinks the size of each spot by five per cent, requires shade trees to cover 40 per cent of new spots and authorizes the use of permeable paving to replace asphalt.

Chicago is doing some of the same things as Montreal, such as building underground storage tanks for rainwater. But, as the New York Times reports, it is also doing a lot of other things.

In anticipation of a hotter future, it has stopped planting native Illinois species of trees and is replacing them with varieties from the southern U.S. It is planting those trees a foot or so below the surface sidewalks so that rainwater can readily drain into them. It is also seeding these sunken areas with special weeds that resist drought, absorb water and filter de-icing salts.

Most ambitiously, Chicago is also redesigning its streets. When it builds bike lanes and parking lanes, it introduces light-reflecting surfaces that reduce heat. Fragments of recycled tires are in this asphalt, allowing the pavement to contract in winter without cracking, and expand in summer without buckling.

Chicago gets a lot hotter than Montreal, which helps explain its being in the vanguard. But if the climatologists are right, Montreal can expect to get much, much hotter, too. Getting more prepared is a sound investment; Millions spent today can save billions down the road.

Demerger doomsayers proven wrong

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Demerger doomsayers proven wrong.

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