Half of Hampstead’s councillors blasted Mayor William Steinberg regarding a letter he wrote to residents advocating for the replacement of 5781 and 5783 Côte St. Luc Road,where many vulnerable people live, with a 10-storey luxury apartment building.
During last week’s council meeting, it was announced that there will be a register Oct. 2 to call for a referendum on the spot zoning allowing the new project to take place. A sufficient amount of eligible residents signed the petition from all affected zones save one, which was only a church.
It was also revealed during the meeting that councillors Michael Goldwax and Warren Budning resigned from the three-member demolition committee. The other committee member is the mayor.
During the meeting, Councillor Jack Edery, who opposes the spot zoning, criticized Steinberg for the latter’s message to residents, which appeared on the town’s website and was mailed out to residents.
Edery referred to the letter’s last paragraph, which implied that he, and councillors Budning and Goldwax are anti-development on CSL Road. The letter said those who voted in favour are for development on CSL Road.
“It’s one thing to say we voted for or against a particular resolution, but to say we’re against development of CSL Road is, at best, misleading, because we are not,” the councillor added. “I want to do it in a fair way for the people on CSL Road, and for people who live on Queen Mary Road so they’re not adversely affected.
“To write this is to misrepresent our point of view.”
Much applause followed from the audience.
“That is your opinion,” said Steinberg. “The letter states MY opinion.”
“No, you’re saying my opinion,” Edery shot back. “If you want to say there was a vote and this is the outcome, that’s a statement of fact. Anything else is opinion.”
Steinberg responded that the letter had been on the town’s website for more than a week, and there was no objection until the letters were mailed.
“You say you are pro-development, but the development you are in favour of is six storeys, yes or no?” said Steinberg, referring to a height developers feel would not be economically feasible.
“The development I’m in favour of protects people on CSL Road, to the best of the ability of the developers, and is reasonable, and protects the integrity of the town,” Edery responded. “I just don’t like having my position misrepresented, and I especially don’t like having taxpayer money misrepresenting me.... You don’t have the right to make public statements on the public purse with regards to my opinion, and erroneously on top of that.”
Later, Steinberg told Edery, “you’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to mine, and in my opinion, based on what you clarified, you cannot say you’re pro-development, because, because...”
Goldwax then intervened.
“Mr. Mayor, that is not fair to say because that is not true,” the councillor said.
“Excuse me, I’ll get to you [later],” Steinberg shot back.
Several minutes later, Budning intervened.
“I just completely disagree with your assessment we’re all anti-development,” the councillor told Steinberg. “It doesn’t make sense. For a living, I’m a real estate investor and developer! How can you write a public statement saying we’re anti-development when that’s how I make a living?!”
Steinberg countered that Budning first voted for the zoning change, and opposed it in a subsequent vote.
“I absolutely did [vote in favour] the first time, and then I listened to my constituents!” Budning shot back. “I heard what they had to say and reassessed my opinion. The people elected us to sit around this table and listen to them, to make decisions that respect the electorate!”
Loud applause followed.
Steinberg asked if any other councillors wanted to speak.
“Am I being dealt with?” Goldwax said. “I wholeheartedly back every statement [Budning and Edery] made. Had we not been happy with [your letter before it was published], would you have changed what appeared on the website?”
“Absolutely not,” said Steinberg.
“There’s my answer,” said Goldwax.
NDG-Westmount Conservative candidate Neil Drabkin and Liberal Transport Minister and incumbent MP Marc Garneau battled it out on several subjects during a federal election debate held last Friday at Montreal West Town Hall.
The Rotary Club of Montreal West and NDG put on the event, and on hand were MoWest Mayor Beny Masella and members of the town council, and former MP Marlene Jennings. CJAD talk show host Elias Makos moderated.
The candidates, including Garneau and Drabkin, André Valiquette (People’s Party of Canada), Jennifer Jetté (BQ) and Robert Green (Green Party of Canada) debated several subjects, including immigration, the environment, the economy, health care and others. The NDP was nominating its candidate that night and could not be present, the large audience was informed.
But tension was highest during the debate on ethics. Drabkin blasted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — and by extension Garneau — in light of the recent ethics report finding that Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act in his and the PMO’s efforts to pressure former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybauld to have SNC-Lavalin avoid prosecution for bribing Libyan officials years ago and instead pay a fine.
Drabkin, a lawyer by profession, sharply went on the offensive.
“One of the most fundamental principles we have in our democracy is the rule of law,” he said. “That means everyone is equal before the law. What the Prime Minister of this country attempted to do was interfere in a criminal prosecution. This is unprecedented! And he was found guilty of that by the Ethics Commissioner. And he fired his Justice Minister when she tried to fight back! Mr. Garneau thought it was a good idea for the Justice Minister to be ejected from the caucus. No one is above the law, including Justin Trudeau. He has to be held accountable, and he will be held accountable Oct. 21.”
“Hear, hear!” said an audience member.
Garneau denied that the Liberal government is “cozy with big business.”
“We saw the [Ethics Commissioner’s] report, who took the view that it was not acceptable to have any contact with the Attorney General on this particular matter,” he said. “We disagree with that. We were motivated by the fact that there were a lot of jobs at stake here. There are some corporate leaders within SNC-Lavalin who are alleged to have committed crimes about 10-15 years ago who must stand trial or go through a deferred prosecution agreement, which is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card. But not to be able to interact within cabinet with your fellow members, to us, is not the way governments actually operate.
“From our point of view, it was perfectly legitimate for us to explore the possibility of a deferred prosecution agreement to ensure innocent people would not be punished, along with those who are actually guilty.”
“Is there no limit to Liberal arrogance?!” he said. “Did you hear Mr. Garneau say he disagreed with the verdict of the Ethics Commissioner? For God’s sake, even Justin Trudeau said he accepted that. Maybe you should get up to speed on that. This is unprecedented in the history of our country. For a Prime Minister to think he can interfere with the criminal justice system for political gain... he told the former Justice Minister, ‘I’m a Quebec MP, remember?’, implying she needed to make the right decision. She said No — why couldn’t he take that for an answer?! No means No, Mr. Trudeau!
“Mr. Garneau, you’re just as complicit as he is in this whole affair because you’re denying the verdict of the Ethics Commissioner. Shame on you!”