Wednesday Night #1651

Written by  //  October 23, 2013  //  Wednesday Nights  //  1 Comment

WN 1651 Melanie Joly and Damien Silès Photo by Alan Hustak

As was expected, a very large (SRO) and highly participatory crowd came to meet the three political candidates.
A very warm welcome was extended to returnees Bert Revenaz – a surprise visitor from Vancouver;  Diana’s former colleague from IATA, Huguette Allard; Pedro Gregorio , IT and Robotics specialist, currently building a satellite, and Julia Deutsch who has just entered McGill Law after spending the summer as a Jamie Anderson parliamentary intern in the office of the Hon. Michelle Rempel. Ron Meisels introduced journalist and vice president of the Montreal Press Club Linda Renaud, who has recently returned to Montreal after many years working as an investigative journalist in Los Angeles.
Damien Silès, was introduced by his campaign manager Noah Redler as the “future City Councillor for the district of Peter McGill”. Since 2008, Damien has been CEO of the Société de développement social de Ville-Marie (SDSVM) an  innovative “social brokerage” that bridges the gap between social and private sectors and with its diverse partners has established a service centre with a specific focus on helping the homeless to integrate. He pointed out that statistics belie our traditional views of the homeless person. Today, 28% are immigrants;  50% have a university degree; 20% are under 30; and 25% have a child.
Five SDSVM centres are to be established at major metros stations including one in the Atwater Metro. Damien is the point person and spokesman for the Équipe Denis Coderre on social issues and he believes that building on the success of the SDSVM,  Montreal can become a model of intelligent, humane municipal social policy. The demonstrated success of this innovative approach, combined with his passion and clear-headed approach give every indication that these hopes will become reality.
Why is he running with Denis Coderre? Montreal needs a mayor who has not only political experience, but the ability to speak strongly to other levels of government on behalf of the city.
Why are there no campaign posters for the Équipe Denis Coderre? Because it is more important to get out and meet and learn from the people.
Should the size of City Council be reduced? Yes.

With the arrival of Mélanie Joly, who is on a very tight campaign schedule, the focus switched to her reasons for running for Mayor of Montreal. Having traveled and lived abroad, she is a passionate Montrealer who has chosen to return to the city who values its strengths and diversity. She is running because of her frustration with the administration: the quality of the population is not matched by the quality of the politicians. Believing that cities are the most important and influential levels of government in today’s society, she wants to put her talents as a lawyer and entrepreneur to work, espousing ideas and seeing them through to realization. Hers is not a legacy party, therefore the team has researched best practices from cities around the world in order to formulate their program and validate it with community leaders and people on the ground.
Problem #1 is corruption. The solution to the culture of corruption is through transparency – access to information for all citizens. Therefore the need to establish the post of Chief Digital Officer for the city.
Congestion needs to be addressed with a comprehensive plan for public transport based on the creation of BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) to complement the metro and unify the city from one end to the other.
The first four posts to be filled in a Joly administration will be: the Digital Director – chief digital officer; Economic Development Director to reduce red tape, ensure that processes are clear and offer one-stop shopping for entrepreneurs; Director of InfraMontréal to implement clear, transparent procedures for budgeting and award of all municipal construction contracts; and a Public Art Curator, responsible for preserving and enhancing existing public art and the development public spaces as venues for art and culture.
Q. Given her youth and political inexperience, how will Mme Joly manage the city’s and boroughs’ entrenched structures and individuals who have many years of political/bureaucratic experience?
A. First, (noting that in the past 10 years, Montreal has had 11 DGs) with the aid of a highly qualified City General Manager, to whom the general managers of all boroughs will report. This individual and the four Directors previously mentioned will be key. The goal is to reflect the demographics of Montreal, attract new, young blood into the municipal service, people with varied professional qualifications, fresh ideas and a real desire to work for the good of the city and its citizens.
Q. How will you reestablish the influence, image and voice of Montreal on the international scene?
A. First, obtain special status for Montreal and obtain .5% of the PST that is generated within its territory ($300 million). Montreal is a property-tax junkie – some 70% of its budget comes from property taxes in contrast to Toronto (39%) and other large North American cities (average 18%), and there is therefore little inducement for economic development. In the first year of her administration, Mayor Joly will undertake a personal campaign with the other regions of Quebec to convince them of the importance of Montreal as the economic motor of all Quebec and to obtain their support for the métropole. Third, she will work to ensure that Montreal is consulted before any Quebec budget is finalized.
Q. Many people come from Laval, the South Shore and other communities, use the services of Montreal (roads, transportation, etc.), but pay taxes in their own communities. How would you solve this problem?
A. With the percentage of the PST
Q. But all cities (and levels of government) want a percentage of PST or GST – negotiating it will not be easy.
A. The 10-year pact between Quebec and its cities expires in 2014 and now is the time to renegotiate.
Q. There are thousands of people who commute to Montreal every day; they spend money on all types of goods and services and generate far more taxable revenue for Montreal than would the PST. (#27)
Q. The custom/rule of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder makes no sense; do you foresee creating other criteria such as environment friendly, quality of materials, esthetics, compatibility with the surroundings? (#27)

T H E  P R O L O G U E

Melanie Joly and Marie Claude Johnson
We are absolutely delighted to have Mélanie Joly and her co-listee (in NDG), Marie-Claude Johnson, with us this Wednesday, as well as Damien Silès, who is running for Denis Coderre in our district of Peter McGill, so the imminent Montreal municipal elections (and, no doubt, Jean-François Lisée’s opinions) will be at the top of the agenda.
Also joining us will be Rachel Bendayan, Norton Rose associate who practises in the area of litigation and international arbitration She serves as legal and constitutional adviser to the Liberal Party of Canada and among many other activities, also teaches the Canadian and Quebec Charters to high school students.

We are thrilled to pass on to you the wonderful news from Nigel Penney: “Westmount Science has been invited to establish a kids camp at McGill in 2014 and beyond. It has the support of the dean of science, Prof. Martin Grant; the deputy provost (student life and learning), Prof. Ollivier Dyens; and the Tomlinson chair, Prof. David Harpp. It will be partially funded by McGill, and will fit into their mission of developing meaningful society programs.”

A sigh of relief (or perhaps a collective exhale) was heard around the world with the cliff-hanger resolution of the U.S. government debt ceiling and partial shutdown crisis, but the damage has been done and not only to the Republicans. Will the reputation of the U.S. as the world’s super power continue to diminish; was the  congressional shutdown a tipping point indicating the advent of a new world order? James Laxer presents a credible argument that Post-shutdown America is on the verge of outright civil conflict – is he right?
Having just read a post about the new sniper rifle that aims itself  (from Texas of course) we are leaning towards Professor Laxer’s viewpoint. There are some terrifyingly sick elements of American society.

Latest news about the technical glitches for those trying to sign up for Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) – blame it on Canada or, more correctly, CGI

International news focuses on the continuing humanitarian crisis in the Middle East where Syria’s neighbours are ill-equipped to care for the over 2 million refugees who have left their country; the Israel versus Iran propaganda war; China’s smog disaster and Australia’s devastating bush fires that threaten Sydney. However, a compelling newly public topic is that of the 30 million slaves throughout the world. The Atlantic points to the first edition of the Global Slavery Index, reminding us that “slavery includes all kinds of forced labor, from hereditary bondage in Mauritania to forced sexual exploitation, including the arranged marriage of minors.”

The CN derailment in Alberta has again raised concerns about rail transport of oil and gas, giving credibility to arguments of pipeline supporters. Meantime, in New Brunswick, the Elsipogtog First Nation is contesting fracking at a potential shale gas development site on traditional lands, claiming that there has been a failure to consult. The story has made headlines in The Guardian whose analysis of the harsh realities of the situation is a Must Read. Canada is a long way from balancing energy, environment and First Nations issues – we’ll save discussion of the Arctic for another day.

Politics is at the top of most Canadians’ agenda, starting with municipal – not only for Montrealers – Albertans vote this Monday . While Mayor Nenshi was in no danger, there are other issues of interest – but of course nothing like Montreal’s high drama, where Mme Harel has just proposed adding  a language watchdog to the Executive Committee – sigh!  Please see Montreal seeks a Mayor for much more on the current campaign.

Moving up the ladder to Quebec, the PLQ is moving into pre-election high gear, or at least out of neutral; Daniel Johnson will chair the campaign committee. Mme Marois is of course outraged by the news of Stephen Harper’s decision to join in the fight against Bill 99; M. Couillard isn’t happy either, but for, he says, different reasons. Even Denis Lebel doesn’t seem to support the move. Will this development put the referendum issue back on the table for the next provincial election? WHY is Stephen Harper doing this – and why now?

Mr. Harper has his CETA, though details remain to be ironed out over the next years. Given that all political factions and provinces (well, maybe not the PQ) are on side, this story will likely not capture the public’s imagination for long and will not distract media attention from other troublesome items. (See CETA is a big win for Harper, but not a political panacea for good analysis, e.g. “It could not have come at a better time, from a Tory political perspective. Nevertheless it may not be enough to get the governing party re-elected in two years’ time. The reason is Canada’s newly monochromatic political culture, in which everyone agrees, more or less, about everything that matters.”)
Indeed, as might be expected, on Monday Mr. Harper staved off new questions about Senator Mike Duffy (who seems determined to bring the PMO down with him) by talking about CETA  The Mike Duffy story got bigger and more acrimonious on Tuesday (see: The Mike Duffy-Stephen Harper credibility war — A plot twist in the Senate expenses scandal puts PM on the defensive)  The opposition will continue to hammer away at the senate scandal, while taking a breath to enquire about the nomination of Justice Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court. We continue to be mystified by the Justice Nadon story – surely someone saw the problems coming?
The four by-elections announced for November 25th should provide additional entertainment, particularly Toronto Centre where Chrystia Freeland is up against the NDP’s Linda McQuaig. The race to replace Denis Coderre in Montreal’s Bourassa riding pales by comparison.

There is a new wave in politics – and society in general – of talented young people who are more than ready to take up the heavy burdens that our generation has not handled all that well. NO, we are not including the 43-year old junior senator from Texas sometimes referred to as the Cruz Missile.
This Wednesday, we are delighted to celebrate some of this courageous group and to offer you the opportunity to meet and question some of them.
Heading the list is Montreal mayoralty candidate Mélanie Joly,  and her NDG co-listee Marie-Claude Johnson, daughter and granddaughter respectively of Quebec premiers Pierre Marc and Daniel Sr. Two intelligent, attractive young women who have already acquired impressive credentials and demonstrate a commitment to fixing what is wrong with Montreal – a tall order.  Also joining us is the highly qualified and focused Damien Silès, who is running for Denis Coderre in our district of Peter McGill.
[We would add to the list of worthy young candidates,  Kyle Matthews’ good friend  Sandega Yeba in Mile-End, who without doubt has the most engaging smile of any candidate.]
Like her friend and fellow long-time Liberal Désirée McGraw, international arbitration expert Rachel Bendayan is preparing to campaign for a federal Liberal nomination; both are vocal long-time Liberal ‘reformers’; others of their generation with equally impressive qualifications will soon follow.
Céline Cooper (just Google her) has not revealed political ambitions – yet -, but her critical op-eds in The Gazette are always a joy to read and have attracted the attention – if not ire – of Jean-François Lisée, among others. Writing in July about the mayoralty race: Next mayor must put Montreal in a global context

Some reading for you:
Mélanie Joly sort de l’ombre
La candidate à la mairie de Montréal Mélanie Joly a suscité la surprise cette semaine en se hissant en deuxième place des sondages. Étoile montante ou filante ? Pour ses proches collaborateurs, son ascension est le fruit d’une stratégie de visibilité élaborée depuis plusieurs mois. Et même si elle n’était pas planifiée, il y a fort à parier qu’après la controverse entourant le choix d’avoir une ex-escorte dans son équipe, la majorité des Montréalais sauront désormais qui est Mélanie Joly.
Céline Cooper: Make-believe crisis of national identity has potential for genuine harm
You know, it really was a brilliant political strategy. You have to at least give them that.
Since Democratic Institutions Minister Bernard Drainville officially launched his government’s proposed Charter of Quebec Values on Sept. 10, Quebecers have talked about little else. …
The debate has colonized the media landscape. Manifestos, petitions and open letters both for and against the charter have poured into Le Devoir, Journal de Montréal, La Presse and right here in the pages of The Gazette. Obligatorily, grand warhorses like Jacques Parizeau and Bernard Landry have come out to have their say. The blogosphere and Twitterverse are abuzz with the #charte. Meanwhile, real problems fester.
Rachel Bendayan: It’s dangerous to give religious freedom short shrift
(Gazette op-ed) Of all the fundamental rights enjoyed by citizens of modern democratic societies, religious freedom is fast becoming the runt of the litter.
Virtually none of us question the importance of free speech or assembly, or the right to privacy or security of the person. We accept that these rights are not absolute, and that when one of them rubs up against another in a particular context, a choice between them must be made. Yet the essential value of these freedoms is all-but-universally acknowledged, even when limits are imposed.
When it comes to freedom of religion, however, recent history has shown a tendency to view this right as less legitimate than other rights. Premier Pauline Marois said so explicitly in an interview on Radio-Canada last month, affirming that gender equality is “the more fundamental” freedom when compared with freedom of religion, which, she allowed, will “also be possible.”
Female senators shake up Washington
The impact of female politicians on U.S. politics holds lessons for Canada, write NANCY PECKFORD and RAYLENE LANG-DION.
As the world watched last week to see if the fragile negotiations inside the United States Senate would finally stick and avert the irreparable harm forecasted to the global economy in the event of a U.S. loan default, Time Magazine reported that “Women are the only adults left in Washington.” Really? Well, yes, as it turns out. A small group of gutsy and resilient women from both sides of the Senate was key to turning an entrenched and dangerous stalemate into an opportunity for meaningful negotiations focused on pragmatic outcomes.

One Comment on "Wednesday Night #1651"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson October 24, 2013 at 11:03 am · Reply

    — enlightening Wednesday evening at the Nicholsons’… thanks to David and Diana for assembling some of the most articulate candidates for the municipal election, including Melanie Joly, Marie-Claude Johnson and Damien Silès.
    — I have met in small groups with politicians over the years, … but have never been so inspired as I have with those whom I met last evening. It is to be hoped that their youthful determination and demonstrated compassion for the underprivileged will usher in a new era. Should they succeed, it will have uncovered a goldmine of toughness and integrity in the younger generation that appears to have been lacking in their predecessors. Godspeed!!!!
    — Thank you for letting me see Mélanie Joly and Marie-Claude Johnson up close and personal. I am proud of these young women, their smarts and their composure. I’m even prouder of the people around the room who, through their questions and comments, revealed a depth of understanding regarding the issues which was both impressive and, unfortunately, disheartening.

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