Cote Saint-Luc mayoral race shaping up to be a battle between Mitchell Brownstein and Robert Libman

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Côte-St-Luc, Que., Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, surrounded by supporters, makes his re-election bid official on June 9. JANICE ARNOLD PHOTO

He hasn’t yet decided whether he would try to get his old job back as mayor of Côte-St-Luc, Que., but Robert Libman has come out swinging against incumbent Mitchell Brownstein, for his and his supporters’ criticism of how Libman handled the municipal demerger issue more than a decade ago.

Libman suggests that federal partisan politics are motivating the “attack.”

At a press conference held at a kosher restaurant on June 9, Brownstein officially announced that he is seeking re-election in November. A longtime councillor, Brownstein was acclaimed mayor in March 2016, following the resignation of Anthony Housefather, who was elected as the federal Liberal MP for Mount Royal the previous fall.

Housefather, who had been mayor for 10 years, was on hand to endorse Brownstein’s candidacy. Friends for more than 20 years, Housefather said Brownstein is “probably the person I have asked advice of more than any other.”

He and Brownstein were leaders of the Côte-St-Luc demerger campaign from 2002 to 2004.

Also present were Peter Trent, former mayor of Westmount, Que., and former chair of the Association of Suburban Mayors, and Lawrence Bergman, who was an MNA for the riding of D’Arcy-McGee for 19 years.

READ: PROPOSED NEW SHUL DIVIDES LARGELY JEWISH MONTREAL SUBURB

Both praised Brownstein for, as Bergman put it, his “blue-chip integrity.”

Brownstein, 56, has also received the endorsement of all eight councillors, each of whom will be seeking re-election.

The decision by residents of Côte-St-Luc to fight the forced creation of the island-wide city of Montreal, which was finally achieved through a referendum in 2004, has proven to be the right one, Housefather said.

“I’ve not heard one person say, ‘Why did we not stay in Montreal? What a terrible decision we made’.”

Then Housefather turned his sights on Libman, the former provincial Equality Party leader and MNA, who was acclaimed Côte-St-Luc mayor in 1998 and then borough mayor of Côte-St-Luc-Hampstead-Montreal West in 2001.

At the time, he was named to the Montreal Executive Committee, which is responsible for urban planning, and supported continuing as part of the megacity (with some nuances). He quit municipal politics in 2005.

In the 2015 federal election, he ran unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in Mount Royal against Housefather.

Housefather, a borough councillor at the time, said winning on the demerger issue was a hard struggle, and Libman a tough opponent.

A blue ribbon became the symbol of the demerger campaign, he recalled. “Libman called them shmatte and ordered the ribbons taken down from public property, where they were legally, and from private property.

“Mitchell reacted calmly and simply said ‘put them back up,’ which we did over one weekend.”

Libman, 56, responded with a statement: “I haven’t even decided yet if I am running … yet the current mayor and other local politicians decided to come out and attack me … with falsehoods and exaggerations. This odd spectacle was bizarre and over the top, but I’ve always been up against this Liberal establishment mentality that is so condescending towards our community and which constantly takes us for granted and tells us how we have to vote.

“Their comments about demerger were disingenuous. About half of the current Côte-St-Luc council supported the same position that I did at time.…It was an intellectual debate about municipal structures and taxation. I wasn’t against true demerger, but opposed the (Quebec) government’s Bill 9 … the so-called demerger legislation was a ‘dog’s breakfast’ allowing former suburbs to supposedly demerge according to a controversial voting formula but also stripped them of any clout and political power and forcing them into a ‘taxation without representation’ straitjacket.”

A lawyer by profession, Brownstein said he would continue to be a full-time mayor, if re-elected.

“Our finances have never been better,” he said. “This year, we had a surplus of over $1 million and we will be paying $2.4 million less to the Montreal agglomeration council over the next three years for island-wide services.”

Libman begs to differ. “Côte-St-Luc is a great community in which to live, but we can do much better with stronger leadership,” he said. “We have the second-highest tax rate of all 35 cities and boroughs on the island of Montreal. This was unheard of when I was mayor.”

Brownstein, first elected to council in 1990, was also praised as a “consensus” builder.

Sidney Benizri, the city’s first francophone Sephardic councillor, who was elected in a byelection last year, said, “I was immediately welcomed by Mayor Brownstein as part of the team. I appreciate his openness to all communities.… Mitchell has a capacity for united people and this characterizes his strong leadership skills.”

Mitchell Brownstein announces plans to run for re-election

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Global News Montreal

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein formally announced that he will be throwing

his hat in the ring and will be running for re-election in this year’s November elections

On Friday morning, current mayor of Côte St-Luc, Mitchell Brownstein, announced that he was putting in his candidacy to run for another term as mayor of the city.

At the Elna Bistro press conference, Brownstein made the announcement with the support of six city councillors present and with statements read from two other city councillors who were unable to attend.

He was also supported by Anthony Housefather, member of Parliament for Mount Royal, Lawrence Bergman, former minister of revenue, and Peter Trent, former mayor of Westmount and former president of the Association of Suburban Mayors.

“Mitchell has the capacity of reuniting people and this characterizes his strong leadership skills,” city Coun. Sidney Benizri said.

When Trent spoke, he mentioned that he had originally written a speech that focused on Brownstein’s accomplishments but since he learned yesterday that another candidate would be running, he decided he needed to speak about Brownstein’s potential opponent.

“I didn’t want to use the L-word at that point,” Trent said.

“But then yesterday, I discovered that Mr. Robert Libman has decided to put his toe in the water to see the temperature with regard to running again as the mayor of Côte St-Luc.

And I thought it was important that I give some context to this rather strange desire on the part of Mr. Libman to come back.”

Trent said that during 2002 and 2004, he led the de-merger movement.

“And my comrades in arms were Anthony Housefather and Mitch.”

Trent placed his hand on Brownstein’s shoulder as he spoke.

“I have seen them fight for their city which I think is important that potential electors realize,” Trent said.

Trent explained that five weeks before the 2001 election, Libman thought the mega-city would be a “bureaucratic monster” and that Libman was “completely against it”.

But, Trent said, then he changed his mind.

“From then on, he became the biggest cheerleader for the mega city, to the point that when we managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and have a chance at de-merging, he actually argued against de-merging,” Kent said.

According to Trent, the de-merger is the most important thing to happen to Côte St-Luc.

“You can judge a person’s character on how they behave during a tough time,” Kent said.

Trent added that Brownstein has the capacity to “do the right thing when times are tough” and that history has proven that Brownstein can stay the course and fulfils his promises.

Housefather said that you can tell a lot about a man from what he does when the chips are down, and told a story about how Brownstein lifted him – and others – up.

Housefather reminded the crowd about how difficult it was to bring the de-merger to life back then.

“There was not an incentive from the government for us to de-merge,” Housefather said. “They put a process in place that was exceptionally difficult.”

He explained that at the time the symbol used to support the concept of a de-merger was a blue ribbon and told a story about how, one weekend, they all went out and put up blue ribbons on both public property, and the private property of those who requested it, across the city.

He said he was shocked and discouraged when he heard that then-mayor, Libman, was on the news opposing the ribbons and had Public Works crews out taking down all their blue ribbons.

This year, his first year as mayor, they ran a surplus of over a million dollars, he says, but with the Association of Suburban Mayors, they were able to negotiate a deal with Montreal where the city of Côte St-Luc will be paying $2.4 million less, phased in over three years, in order to support island-wide services.

“That is really who I want to be as mayor,” Brownstein said at the press conference when it was his time to speak.

“Someone who could create consensus, who can work together for what the people want.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Côte-St-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein to run again

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Côte-St-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein announced Friday morning during a news conference he will be running again for mayor in the municipal election in November.

Last year, the former Côte-St-Luc councilman won unopposed, but could face more opposition this year. Former mayor of Côte-St-Luc Robert Libman said he is considering a return to municipal politics.

Libman, who became mayor in 1998, left municipal politics in 2005 after the demerger from the megacity of Montreal. He had a stint in federal politics from 2014 to 2015. Originally opposed to the forced merger, Libman became a member of mayor Gerald Tremblay’s new megacity executive committee. Libman angered many of his constituents when he campaigned in favour of the merged city during the June 2004 referendum on demergers.

When asked about the possibility of Libman returning to municipal politics, Brownstein was surprised he would consider it, calling him the “enemy of Côte-St-Luc.”

“No one on council wants him, not one of the councillors, the association of suburban mayors are surely not going to want that guy sitting around the table with them … all those cities who demerged. The community doesn’t want somebody who turned their back on them,” Brownstein said.

“If someone was to run against me, Robert Libman is the least (threatening).”

Libman said Côte-St-Luc needs stronger leadership, citing the city has the second-highest tax rate in Montreal.

“Seems that they’re scared of the possibility of me running,” he said of Brownstein’s news conference, “otherwise, they wouldn’t have gone to this extent.”

Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

City of Côte-St-Luc eyes CP rail yards for development

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Shaun Michaud, Montreal Gazette

The Canadian Pacific rail yards take up about one-third of Côte St-Luc — land that the city would like to re-purpose.
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein says owning that land “would be a great boon for the city,” which “desperately needs” the land for housing and business development. 
The railway company has owned the land well over 100 years, and Brownstein said CP could make a profit by selling. 
“I do believe that it’s a reality that could happen in the next five to 10 years with the proper plan,” the mayor said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette, adding developments similar to the future Quinze40 shopping complex in Town of Mount Royal and a residential redevelopment of the former Blue Bonnets racetrack on Décarie Blvd. in the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough could increase the value of the rail yard land.

Brownstein, who has been in office since April, said during that time he has met with CP to discuss moving the train yard off island to Les Cèdres near Vaudreuil, and that the company wouldn’t be opposed to the idea as long as a reasonable development project were proposed. Brownstein said CP could make a financial gain by selling the land and relocating. 
But the Coalition for the Relocation of the St-Luc Rail Yards — a non-profit organization led by a former mayor of Côte-St-Luc and former MNA for D’Arcy-McGee, Robert Libman — says city hall isn’t doing enough, “and this is why citizens felt the need to create something to make it happen.”
“(The rail yards) are located at the geographic epicentre of the island of Montreal,” said Libman, an architect and real estate lobbyist. “It’s somewhat of an obstacle to economic development.”
If train operations were moved off the island, Libman said, Côte-St-Luc would find itself with 2.04 million square metres (though the city estimated it at 1.6 million square metres) of land in a prime location, which he valued at least $1 billion. Libman, who now runs Libcorp, an urban-planning consulting firm, said he has no intention of becoming personally involved in developing the land.
“The even number I used was based on the relative value of residential land in that area, which about $50 a square foot,” he said in an interview.
The city said it couldn’t confirm the land’s potential value. Potential developers would buy the land directly from CP.  
“Côte-St-Luc has right now the second-highest tax rate on the island,” Libman said. “And one way to expand Côte-St-Luc’s tax base would be to allow the rail yards to leave.”
Libman’s coalition has asked a class of graduate students at McGill University’s School of Urban Planning to come up with a redevelopment plan and feasibility study for moving the yards, including possible decontamination. In the meantime, the coalition sent a letter to CP Rail in mid-July to present its vision. CP hasn’t responded yet, Libman said. 
***

The CP rail yard in Côte-St-Luc is one of largest in Canada, linking Eastern Canada to the West and the United States. A variety of products, including wood, chemicals, plastic, metals, minerals, consumer products and oil pass through the yards, which also border St-Laurent, Lachine and the CN-owned Taschereau yards. 
Since the Lac-Mégantic disaster of 2013, which saw 47 people killed after a runaway oil train jumped the tracks and blew up in the centre of town, several cities have expressed concern about hazardous materials being shipped through their territories by rail. 
Libman’s group call the rail yards in Côte-St-Luc “a threat to safety and security” because of the dangerous elements that are handled there.
Mauricio Guitta lives on Wentworth Ave. close to the freight cars. He considers the move a welcome proposal. 
“My friend … he (lives) right in front of the trains. The whole house shakes and the lights shake and everything,” he said.
Still, not everyone in the neighbourhood agrees.
Yao Liu said he’d never heard of the idea and would rather keep the yards because they block off traffic and provide security to the family-friendly area.
“We don’t have a lot of traffic on our side,” he said. “Even in summertime when I open the windows, I hear nothing.”
The city’s communications manager, Darryl Levine, said the city would work with developers by re-zoning parts of the new district for both residential and commercial buildings. He added that Côte-St-Luc hopes property taxes from new business and homeowners would make up for losing revenue from CP’s property taxes CP.
As well, Levine said, the rail yards have for years stalled progress on a plan to connect Cavendish Blvd. from Côte St-Luc to St-Laurent.
“You have to build an overpass to go over all the tracks that are in the CP rail yard and you may also have to build an underpass beneath some of them and that’s hugely expensive,” Levine said. “It’s an important missing link in the road network.”
This summer, the city of Montreal put a reserve on a parcel of land adjacent to the yards necessary to build the missing link of Cavendish Blvd. and allay traffic woes in the area.
Yet the city would encourage potential developers to create a neighbourhood built around people rather than around cars, Levine said.
***
CP Rail would not confirm or deny holding relocation talks with Brownstein, but emailed The Montreal Gazette a pamphlet of its relocation policy, which describes the moving of rail lines out of a city as a “complex and serious issue,” requiring an extensive review to “determine the impact to customer service and the full cost to all stakeholders, which will be significant.”
Three Canadian prairie cities that are among the fastest growing metro centres in the country are similarly eyeing such spaces for development.
Regina is working on plans to redevelop the site of a former CP rail yard located in the heart of the city. Saskatoon is considering the possibility of relocating its rail yard. And the Manitoba provincial government even hired former Quebec premier Jean Charest to head a task force to analyze rail yard relocation efforts in Winnipeg. 
smichaud@postmedia.com
Twitter.com/shaun_mic

City of Côte-St-Luc lobbies Canadian Pacific to move its rail yards off island

Federal election leaves Côte-St-Luc without a mayor

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The election last month of Anthony Housefather as the MP for Mount Royal riding has created a vacancy that may interest as many as three sitting members of council.

Housefather, 45, mayor since 2005, resigned Wednesday after winning the federal seat in Mount Royal for the Liberals. He’d been acclaimed in the last two municipal elections in 2009 and 2013. With the next one not scheduled until November 2017, the city is required by provincial law to call a by-election to replace him.

If a single candidate is nominated, he or she will be acclaimed. But there appear to be more aspirants this time around.

Councillor Allan J. Levine confirmed to the Montreal Gazette he is running.

“I feel the city needs a new direction on finance,” he said. “The debt ratio is high and Côte-St-Luc, with the second highest tax mill rate on the island, needs someone with a tough stand on taxes.”

Mitchell Brownstein, who worked on the Housefather election campaign and was president of the Liberal riding association in Mount Royal, has already obtained the support of fellow councillors Mike Cohen and Sam Goldbloom without stating his intentions so far.

Brownstein said he’ll be attending Housefather’s swearing-in at Ottawa next week and won’t make any announcement before then, but did say “I’m seriously considering it” and  “I’m very appreciative of the overwhelming support I’m getting from the public.”

Councillor Dida Berku said she’s thinking about it as well “but I don’t know yet. I’m not ruling it out.”

Berku, who ran once for mayor against  Bernard Lang in 1994, said her choice would have been for city to function with a succession of acting mayors until the next scheduled election in 2017.

“We’ve just come out of a very divisive (federal) election. Nobody has an appetite for another election now, in the middle of winter. We get along well, it’s a good team, there’s a lot of collaboration. If we could continue to run it that way, collectively, that would be my preference.”

Robert Libman,  who ran second to Housefather as the Conservative candidate in Mount Royal and preceded him as Côte-St-Luc mayor, also has been mentioned as a possible mayoralty candidate.

“A lot of people approached me about it, but it’s not in my plans right now. I’m going back to my career as an architect and planner,” Libman said.

If an election is needed, the municipality likely will ask the province for permission to delay it until April, in part because so many of its residents are snowbirds who winter in warmer climes. It’s one of the topics on the agenda for the first council meeting without Housefather on Monday night.

Housefather holds Mount Royal for the Liberals – The Canadian Jewish News

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Mount Royal was the riding the Conservatives had pinned their hopes on for making a breakthrough in Montreal. But in the end, it wasn’t even close.

Source: Housefather holds Mount Royal for the Liberals – The Canadian Jewish News

Acrimony and recriminations mark election battle in Mount Royal riding

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Libman’s Mount Royal Conservative team have run the nastiest campaign, smearing the impeccable reputation of Professor Irwin Cotler, misrepresenting statements by Liberal Candidate Anthony Housefather and shamefully distributing deceptive postcards making it look like they came from the Liberals when they did not. This behaviour disrespects all voters and the democratic process. I have heard from supporters, Conservatives, Liberals and NDP, who find this action to be reprehensible.

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