Toronto cop weighs in on “armed police for hire” debate

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Toronto cop weighs in on armed police for hire debate
Toronto police sergeant Lawrence Sager, Facebook

Toronto police sergeant Lawrence Sager weighed in regarding a Suburban report that Hampstead is pressing for local Montreal Torah Centre congregants to be able to hire armed off-duty SPVM police officers to provide security.

“Police Paid Duties have always been an extremely effective way to provide security to an event,” Sgt. Sager wrote on Facebook this past weekend. “Few would try and cause trouble with highly visible uniformed police officers present. The only pitfall is the cost.”

As we reported, Hampstead councillor Harvey Shaffer was told by the SPVM that the MTC congregants would not be allowed to hire officers. The SPVM declined to comment to The Suburban, when asked the reason for the refusal. Mayor William Steinberg is working on the matter as well, in light of recent shootings in synagogues in the U.S. and religious institutions around the world.

Sgt. Sager posted as part of a Facebook discussion on our article initiated by former Côte St. Luc councillor Glenn Nashen.

“Toronto Police have done paid duties at synagogues for many decades, as well as funerals and many other large private events,” the sergeant, who attended Wagar High School in Côte St. Luc, explained. “The paid duty office determines the number of officers required, depending on the venue and can also provide cruisers for funeral escorts.

“The drawback is that paid duty officers are quite expensive,” he added. “You get what you pay for. A police officer is armed, well trained, has other use of force options and is equipped with a police radio, in touch with the police dispatcher, capable of calling for immediate police backup without delay. We actually have difficulty filling all the paid duty requests due to manpower shortages.”

Nashen responded to Sager by saying that paid armed off-duty officers “would be a viable option in Montreal for those that can afford it. Unfortunately, the cost couldn’t be sustained by community organizations already struggling.”

Sgt. Sager further wrote that he does not know why Montreal police have not provided the service, “but I suspect it has to do with the Quebec Police Act.

“In Ontario, it’s called the Ontario Police Service Act and every province has its own laws governing what their police can do,” he wrote. “Toronto Police do paid duties in order to bolster our numbers rather than using on-duty officers and it’s allowed in Ontario.

Sgt. Sager also pointed out that the Toronto police’s 32 Division “has the largest Jewish community in Toronto with many synagogues.

“During the High Holidays, there were so many paid duties that they filled its own binder. Once no more could be given out because we ran out of officers to do them, they were offered to the rest of the service outside our division. …. Despite the high cost, there’s no shortage of requests and in many cases insurance companies require that paid duty officers be hired.

Prodding Hydro Quebec to Tweet in English pays off

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After a few years of continuous urging, Hydro Quebec has finally decided to respect its English-speaking customers by Tweeting in English.

Previously, the public utility would only Tweet in English when they deemed the message to be an emergency and even then they required reminders or requests to do so. Information about power outages, general information and power saving tips, promotions and other info is now available on Twitter at @hydro_customer.

I had written to Hydro Quebec on occasion (search my blog for more about this) about the fact that they only Tweet out their power failure and other public messages in French only. This seemed totally counterproductive to me. There is hardly a good reason for a critical infrastructure public utility to restrict their messaging to French only. They could easily have created two Twitter feeds, in both languages, from the outset. Their response to me was that they only Tweet out emergencies in English. Di satisfied, I pursued this matter until they finally created their English Twitter feed.

Despite this step forward in providing information to customers in English, questions about your bill, electricity use or services will only be responded to from Mon. to Fri. (8 a.m.-8:30 p.m.) & on weekends (9 a.m.-5 p.m) on Hydro’s French Twitter feed @client_hydro.

Hydro also has an excellent mobile app to report and monitor power outages and useful tools on its website, all available in English.

The assistance of D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum and his tireless Chief of Staff Elisabeth Prass was instrumental in advocating with the minister and bureaucrats in Quebec City on behalf of constituents. They take this responsibility very seriously and on behalf of my constituents I wish to express my gratitude to them both.

Also of importance is the continuing coverage of language related issues brought to the attention of the public by local reporter Joel Goldenberg in the Suburban Newspaper. Joel’s reporting of language rights and the reluctance of certain city and provincial departments, as well as private companies, to show proper respect to English-speaking Quebecers as well as other Canadians and tourists has been very helpful.

Joel has been reporting on the exemplary work of Cote Saint-Luc Councillor Ruth Kovac and Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss in their relentless pursuit of respect for English-speaking Quebecers. I hope Joel continues to demonstrate local journalistic advocacy which is proving to be beneficial, one step at a time.

Now this is  call to all you Twitterers out there. There are only 150 followers on Hydro’s Twitter feed as of this date. Please click @hydro_customer now and follow them. Let’s see how quickly we can double this number. And let all of your followers know as well and we’ll increase it even more and send a message to the utility that this was a necessary and positive initiative.

So thank you Hydro Quebec for doing what was right and sensible. Their positive actions should shine as an example to be followed by other agencies and departments. Merci beaucoup.






Read your local paper, before it’s ‘too late’


The Suburban Newspaper

By Joel Goldenberg, June 19th, 2013

When I have referred to “council regulars” in my numerous stories on council meetings in the west end in the past 24 years, those identified should wear the designation as a badge of honour.

People like Irving Itman and Dr. Bernard Tonchin in Côte St. Luc; Rachel Genziuk, Lisa Hollinger and Lorne Gold in Hampstead; Daniel Markuze in Montreal West; and Sofia Vriniotis and Charles Benchimol in St. Laurent not only bring up issues of interest and concern to the wider community, they also obviously keep up with the latest news in the local press.

They say knowledge is power, and in local politics, that means knowing about important projects and initiatives, such as the attempt to build a high-rise condo in Hampstead, the planned compost facility in St. Laurent, the housing development on the Cavendish Mall site in Côte St. Luc and the Pharmaprix project in Montreal West, among many others. In all of these cases, many residents intervened on these and other issues at council meetings and public consultations.

But the latest opposition from some residents to a new McDonald’s restaurant planned for the Côte St. Luc Centre’s parking lot is a negative development – and this is not a reference to the argument as to whether there should be an outlet in that location or not.

I’m referring to a growing tendency – in many of the communities I cover – for residents to express opposition to a project, after it has already been approved. This is part of an unfortunate growing tendency of shrinking attendance at some council meetings in the past year, especially in Côte St. Luc and even the once very lively Hampstead. I’m hearing on numerous occasions, especially in Côte St. Luc and St. Laurent, that residents opposed to a project had the opportunity to participate in sometimes as many as two consultation meetings held months before.

“Well, I didn’t know,” I hear too many times.

Residents who want to be informed of what’s happening in their community should look at their local newspapers, not only for the stories from council meetings (we reported on the plans for a drive-thru restaurant on the Côte St. Luc Shopping Centre last July), but also the public notices posted by municipalities. They contain announcements of important bylaws, and information on signing a register to spur a referendum on a potential project. Valuable information can also be seen on the websites of all of the municipalities and boroughs. And on many occasions, invitations for important local gatherings are sent to residents’ homes.

Be informed, before it’s “too late.” Apathy is not the way to go.


In my opinion:  Joel Goldenberg is right on in his message. As residents of our city we need to be informed and participate in our collective future. I personally attended public council meetings regularly for 10 years before running for office. I’ve also created this blog to inform my constituents and all residents and neighbours interested in matters concerning our civic administration and local issues. Get informed. Ask questions. Offer opinions. It’s our city – together!

Candidates debate in the Mount Royal riding

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The City of Côte Saint-Luc, B’nai Brith Canada-Quebec, and Congregation Beth Zion are co-sponsoring a debate on Thursday, April 28, 2011 between candidates wishing to represent the Mount Royal riding in the House of Commons.

The debate takes place that evening from 7 pm to 8:30 pm at Congregation Beth Zion, 5740 Hudson Avenue, corner Kildare Avenue.

The candidates participating in the debate are: Irwin Cotler, Liberal Party of Canada; Jeff Itcush, New Democratic Party of Canada; Brian Sarwer-Foner, Green Party of Canada; and Saulie Zajdel, Conservative Party of Canada.

A portion of the debate will be devoted to written questions from audience members. The debate is being moderated by Anthony Housefather, Mayor of Côte Saint-Luc, and Beryl Wajsman, editor of The Suburban newspaper.

The federal general election takes place on Monday, May 2, 2011. Visit or call 1-800-463-6868 for information on voting eligibility.

Le débat des candidats de la circonscription de Mont-Royal

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La Ville de Côte Saint-Luc, B’nai Brith Canada-Québec et la Congrégation Beth Zion coparrainent le débat qui aura lieu le jeudi 28 avril 2011 et auquel prendront part les candidats souhaitant représenter la circonscription de Mont-Royal à la Chambre des communes.

Le débat se déroulera de 19 h à 20 h 30 à la Congrégation Beth Zion, située au 5740, avenue Hudson, à l’intersection du chemin Kildare.

Les candidats participant au débat sont les suivants : Irwin Cotler (Parti libéral du Canada), Jeff Itcush (Nouveau Parti démocratique du Canada), Brian Sarwer-Foner (Parti Vert du Canada) et Saulie Zajdel (Parti conservateur du Canada).

Une partie du débat, qui sera présidé par Anthony Housefather, maire de la Ville de Côte Saint Luc, et Beryl Wajsman, rédacteur en chef du journal The Suburban, sera consacrée aux questions écrites des membres de l’auditoire.

L’élection générale fédérale aura lieu le lundi 2 mai 2011. Pour obtenir des renseignements sur l’admissibilité à voter, rendez-vous à l’adresse ou composez le 1-800-463-6868.

CSL council portfolios

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CSL council portfolios

The Suburban Newspapers, November 18, 2009

By Joel Goldenberg

Côte St. Luc’s 2009-2013 council may have all the same people as in 2005-2009, but mayor Anthony Housefather announced some changes last week in the portfolios they represent.

Housefather introduced the concept of portfolios for Côte St. Luc when he was first elected mayor in 2005, and the councils of municipalities like Montreal West and Hampstead also assign portfolios to council members, including the mayor. In Côte St. Luc for 2009, some portfolios remain the same, while others have shifted.

In federal and provincial politics, when shuffles take place among ministers, they are usually perceived as being the result of some dissatisfaction with the work of some of the ministers. But councillor Dida Berku says this is not at all the case in Côte St. Luc.

“I think it’s good to refresh the mandate,” she said Thursday. “Everyone was doing a good job. When we’re preparing budgets and priorities, each councillor is fighting for his or her portfolio. If councillors are familiar with more than one portfolio, the councillors are more knowledgeable about all the portfolios.

“It makes sense in terms of serving the public interest for councillors to serve in more than one portfolio, when they advocate. They have a much deeper understanding.”

According to a city statement, Housefather will be responsible for issues related to human resources, legal matters, purchasing, information technology, and for relations with the Agglomeration of Montreal and other levels of government; Berku will be responsible for finance, the Cavendish Mall re-development (along with councillor Ruth Kovac), the environment — including the preservation of Meadowbrook, the implementation of a code of ethics, and the Cavendish Blvd. extension; councillor Mitchell Brownstein will be responsible for parks and recreation and the construction of a hoped-for Intergenerational and Aquatic Centre (with Kovac); and councillor Mike Cohen will be responsible for corporate identity and communication, sponsorship, and inter-community relations.

Also, councillor Steven Erdelyi will be responsible for public works and engineering; councillor Sam Goldbloom will be responsible for the Eleanor London Library and culture; Kovac will be responsible for city planning as chairperson of the planning advisory committee, the Cavendish Mall re-development (with Berku), and Intergenerational and Aquatic Centre (with Brownstein); councillor Allan Levine will be responsible for issues related to seniors, the Royal Canadian Legion, the potential establishment of an English-language public high school by the English Montreal School Board (EMSB), the rail yards, the Côte St. Luc Tennis Club, the construction of tennis courts at Rembrandt Park, and a feasibility study on the construction of indoor tennis facilities by the city or in partnership with a third party; and councillor Glenn Nashen will be responsible for issues related to traffic, and public safety — “which includes the EMS first responder service, public security, vCOP (volunteer Citizens on Patrol), emergency preparedness, and fire prevention.”

The more notable shuffles include that of Erdelyi, who used to be responsible for library issues; Goldbloom, who used to be responsible for traffic and seniors; Levine, who used to be responsible for town planning and Cavendish Mall’s redevelopment; Brownstein, who used to be responsible for public works; and Kovac, who used to be responsible for recreation.

Berku said it was decided to merge traffic with the public safety portfolio.

“Contrary to what they appear to be, such as traffic, it is a very heavy portfolio and very demanding. We decided to put it together with public security, because it’s always the same players — police, public security — so they might as well all do it at the same time.” She added that the code of ethics portfolio is new to council.

“The mayor decided it was time to have one,” he said.