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

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

By Councillor Mike Cohen | 23 Mar 2017

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

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

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

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

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It was standing room only at the event.

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

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

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

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

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Fleet to flow at 40 km/h

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Cote Saint-Luc and Hampstead have agreed to harmonize the speed along Fleet in both towns to 40 km/h and to enhance the signage and street line marking at crosswalks. This cooperative project is aimed at ensuring greater safety of pedestrians.

Currently, the speed varies between 50 km/h in CSL to 50 km/h and 30 km/h in Hampstead.

Hampstead and CSL will install 40 km/h speed limit signs on Fleet between Cavendish and Dufferin Road on their respective territories. The cities will also collaborate to do their utmost to ensure that the traffic lights on Fleet Road, on their respective territories, are synchronized.

No_left_Fleet_Hampstead_2013a    No_left_Fleet_Hampstead_2013b

They will also work together to create a simplified plan as related to the wording on the signs for the no left turn policy on the streets running perpendicular to Fleet Road, namely, Netherwood, Finchley, Dufferin Road. This has been a serious source of frustration for motorists from both cities, many of whom have been ticketed for turning left off of Fleet, unable to decipher the confusing signage. The confusing road signs were also cited by a Montreal Court judge in dismissing a ticket to a Hampstead motorist (posted elsewhere on this blog).

Free Press, May 23. 2012

Free Press, May 23. 2012

Hampstead has also agreed to provide greater visibility for the unprotected cross walk between Queen Mary Road and Netherwood.

This synchronization plan is good news for West End motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. While Fleet is not wide enough for a dedicated bike lane the slower traffic will improve the safety of those on bikes and walking across the street. It is intended that crosswalks will be even more visible by better street line markings and signage will be installed in high visibility colours.

As the one who called for the initial meeting to discuss this project with Hampstead Mayor Steinberg I am very pleased with the cooperation between our two municipalities. Councillor Dida Berku and I along with CSL Urban Development Director Charles Senekal met with Mayor Steinberg and members of his administration last winter to discuss common concerns and ideas to reduce risk.

Two weeks ago I met again with Mayor Steinberg, CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and members of council along with CDN-NDG Mayor Russell Copeman and Councillor Marvin Rotrand at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Winnipeg. We had a productive working meeting where we touched upon the Fleet –  Van Horne corridor among other subjects. Copeman and Rotrand are also open to the idea of synchronizing Van Horne between Hampstead and Decarie to 40 km/h as well.

Safer at 40 km/h speed sign

In addition I’ve asked Councillor Rotrand to have his staff repair the significant depressions in the roadway on Van Horne to ensure a steady flow of two lanes of traffic during rush hour and to have police enforce the no stopping regulation which often causes a bottleneck, blocking the flow of traffic and the 161 bus.

Thank you to the three municipal administraions and especially mayors Steinberg, Copeman and Brownstein for demonstrating a genuine interest in cooperation and collaboration.

Do you have ideas to improve this thoroughfare? Please share your ideas here.

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.
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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.

CDN-NDG Copeman and CSL agree on Cavendish extension, “bombastic” Searle sows hysteria

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While CDN-NDG Borough Mayor Russell Copeman’s recent comments on Global News are in line with the vision in Cote Saint-Luc that’s not so for the “bombastic” remarks uttered by local Cllr. Jeremy Searle. Copeman called Searle’s comments on Cavendish “hyteria.”

All level’s of government seem to favour the project that has been in the headlines for more than 50 years. Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather highlighted the need to complete the extension in his inaugural address in the House of Commons. Newly elected Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein also favours the link moving forward as quickly as possible with important funding coming from the federal infrastructure grants.

Read more on the Cote Saint-Luc Cavendish extension here.

Green light for Cavendish extension, Housefather says

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Côte-St-Luc mayor optimistic project will begin by 2019

Op-ed submission to The Gazette re: Montreal Firefighters Association and CSL EMS

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Op-ed submission to The Gazette

November 29, 2007

By Anthony Housefather and Glenn J. Nashen

In The Gazette of November 28, 2007, the Montreal Firefighters Association published an open letter to Russell Copeman, MNA, in which it claimed that Côte Saint-Luc Emergency Medical Services (EMS) first responders have “much slower response times than Montreal firefighters.” It went on to urge Mr. Copeman to consult the official figures from Urgences-santé.

The City of Côte Saint-Luc has consulted those figures and they demonstrate that the claims of the Montreal Firefighters Association are completely false.

For the first eight periods of 2007-2008 as measured by Urgences-santé, the average response time of our superb EMS volunteers was 6 minutes and 18 seconds from the time that a call was received at the Urgences-santé communication centre until EMS arrived at the scene. In comparison, the average time for the Montreal firefighters was 8 minutes and 24 seconds. In short, on average the fire department was 2 minutes and 6 seconds slower than Cote Saint-Luc EMS.

The numbers are all the more staggering when one looks at the average response time for the firefighters in our neighbouring Town of Hampstead, where their average response time was 9 minutes. Meaning that they were 2 minutes and 42 seconds slower than Côte Saint-Luc EMS.

It is disappointing that the firefighters union is so nervous about having a service on the island whose numbers can be compared with theirs, that they choose to mislead the public as to the facts.

Côte Saint-Luc is proud to have had a superb EMS service that we have run for the last 27 years. While we are very happy that the firefighters will provide these services to the rest of the island of Montreal, we have no desire to see our excellent service that meets the needs of our municipality replaced by the firefighters. We are very thankful that the Minister of Municipal Affairs has recognized the value of our service and allowed us to retain it in the draft of Bill 22 she presented and we will continue to fight to retain our service.

While we have no desire to attack the fire department, we will respond to the distortions and misleading information that are coming continually from the Montreal Firefighters Association.

Anthony Housefather is mayor of Côte Saint-Luc. Glenn J. Nashen is the councillor responsible for public safety.