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The annual St. Patrick’s Day Ball took place recently, kicking of the March salute to Montreal’s Irish which will culminate with this Sunday’s big parade. St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal President Scott Phelan is seen here with the Queen, Kathleen Brown-Vandecruys and he court of princesses Taylor Pogue, Olivia O’Keeffe Landry Lauren Tracey and Darragh Kilkenny-Mondoux.. Please see Mike Cohen’s column and his blog for much more and the story on page A4.

Barrette opens Westmount’s ‘Super-Clinic’

During last week’s hastily-organized press conference, Health Minister Gaétan Barette took the time to meet friends and supporters before he unveiled yet another one of his ‘Super-Clinics’ this time in Westmount Square.

“The opening of this new ‘Super-Clinic’ is a reflection of our determination to improve the population’s access to local front-line medical care,” said Dr. Barrette. “Not only do the new clinics provide us with better care options, but they also provide us with better opportunities to prevent future health problems that will promote a better quality of life amid the population.”

As ever, the government’s subsidy ($82 867) means that Westmount’s new ‘Super-Clinic’ will be open for 12 hours per day during which staff can offer front-line medical services along with (proximity) digital imagery services (IE: X-rays) and lab work. As the government’s new clinics provide routine medical services to (Priority) P4 and P5 patients, Barrette told his audience that recent numbers indicate that the government’s new clinics are already beginning to help reduce emergency room numbers throughout the province.

Although the numbers fall far short of the fifty new clinics that were originally promised during the last election, Barrette also mentioned that the city’s 11 new clinics were an important part of the Couillard administration’s plan to reform and improve Québec’s front-line health-care services. Aside from a few questions about how much the province was willing to pay its (medical) specialists for their services, the minister also mentioned that the province’s new consolidated purchasing policies were saving millions of dollars that were now being spent on assorted medical research projects.

“Every dollar saved is a dollar that goes into research,” said Barrette.

According to Martin Coiteux – Québec’s Minister of Public Security and Municipal Affairs – the new clinics are a positive reflection of the government’s determination to provide modern and (especially) accessible health care throughout the province.

“These clinics,” he said, “… represent a concrete initiative that will provide a better quality of healthcare for the city’s residents as well as answer to the growing demands of the island’s population.”

Joel Goldenberg / Joel Goldenberg Photo 

Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather speaks with Waldorf resident Ruth Horwitz, who became 105 years old Monday.

LaSalle’s appreciation for Manon Barbe

LaSalle Borough Mayor Manon Barbe has seemed so comfortable her new webcasted meetings, it’s hard to imagine she ever resisted the move.

“I’m happy to have web diffusion at last after nine years of asking in the courts,” said Éric Tremblay, one of three LaSalle residents who took the borough to Quebec Superior Court to ask for official recordings of council meetings. “At last we’re there.”

Barbe says she always intended to webcast council meetings, but simply wanted to ensure that the rules allow her to do so.

“Many other boroughs webcast meetings contrary to their own bylaws,” she said. “That’s not how we do things here in LaSalle.”

If Barbe’s insistence on doing things in her own way frustrates others, they should remember that her methods invariably prove effective. Barbe has been on the right side of every major wave in municipal politics in Montreal since her first election as a city councillor in 1995.

She’s used to making history.

Her sweep back into power with 55% of the vote last November makes her LaSalle’s longest serving Mayor, beating her predecessor and mentor Michel Leduc by half a mandate. She broke two glass ceilings earlier by becoming LaSalle’s first woman leader seventeen years ago and its first woman mayor in 2003.

She says that throughout her career, she’s focussed on making LaSalle resident lives better.

“I’m a grass-roots kind of person,” she said. “I’m a woman who likes to be close to citizens. When you are in the position of a city councillor or mayor, people can come to you with their problem or their concern and you try to find a solution. You know the contact inside the city hall and you know who to talk to or how to resolve the concern of the person…So, I realized with time that this is really what I’m good at to be able to listen to the citizens to find out what it is they’re concerned about, because you know we are in a position to change things. But when you change things, you have to make sure you improve things.”

The recent election was Barbe’s fifth mandate as mayor, and the second time she ran under her own independent banner. Both times, observers thought she couldn’t win. Both times, she handily won not only her own seat, but that of her running mates too.

As an independent, she could change her speaking points as needed. Early in the campaign when Coderre had the lead, Barbe and her team were so complimentary, opponents complained that residents thought she ran on his team. By the end of the campaign, Barbe officially announced her support of Valerie Plante, a risky move that demonstrated courage and political astuteness.

After Barbe won every seat in the borough, Plante reappointed her to chair Montreal’s agglomeration council. She’s also head of the permanent commission that oversees the Inspector General of Montréal office, which ensures the city awards contracts fairly.

Despite Plante and Barbe’s mutual appreciation for one another, Barbe has already differentiated herself from the administration twice.

First, she cut her local budget significantly so that residents in LaSalle face a 0.7% tax increase in 2018 instead of the 3.3% average across the city.

Then she voted against Montreal’s decision to ban sweet drinks.

“I don’t think it’s up to us to tell people how to live,” she said. “We have to be listening to the citizens and stay courageous to take a stand on our position. We are not elected to please everyone; we are elected to serve the needs of everyone. Some concerns are particularly wishful thinking you know, and we are not there to fulfill that.”

Photo: C.C. Weiss / New Atlas 

Hyundai’s new four-door concept previews the Korean automaker’s future design language.

Photo: Kristine Berey / The Suburban 

The season begins in September, with Giuseppe Verdi’s timeless classic Rigoletto, with soprano Myriam Leblanc as the innocent Gilda.

Rob Taussig The Suburban 

“We had five players missing today, so that was hard, but they played really hard,” said BKRA head coach Sophie Lepage. “They skated hard, played really well the entire game, they played as a team and they were good teammates.”