By Robert Frank
It wasn’t a record, but it felt like it.
Mayor George Bourelle coasted through his first council meeting as Beaconsfield’s new mayor in 32 minutes, Nov. 18. Raucous city council meetings under the preceding administration, in contrast, could last for hours into the night.
Bourelle set the tone for his administration at the outset by reading a strict “code of good conduct” that he imposed. “Question period will be rigorously held to a maximum of 30 minutes,” he insisted, “Citizens are not to make statements and will be limited to one question. There will be no questions during the ensuing council meeting.”
Bourelle highlighted one exception: “If your urban planning file is being touched upon, you are welcome to ask any questions you want.”
Residents John Watmore and Gilles Perron subsequently implored the mayor to reconsider his strictures, to no avail. The council entertained one more question from James Bonnell, who placed third opposing Bourelle in the Nov. 3 election for mayor, and has already announced his intention to run again in 2017. The council chamber then fell stonily silent—uncharacteristic of the hitherto-boisterous crowd of regulars. The remainder of the meeting proceeded uninterrupted, at a brisk pace.
Bourelle announced that the first priority of his administration will be the city’s finances, followed by his “strategy to save Angell Woods”.
The mayor backtracked on statements he made during a weekend television interview, blaming the previous council’s plan for Angel Woods for Montreal backing out of negotiations to buy the privately owned land in Angell Woods.
Only after an investigation by The Suburban this summer revealed that no negotiations had taken place did Montreal officials scramble to open a dialogue with the owners—a process that previous councilors had been assured had been going on since January.
Bourelle nonetheless remained confident that his negotiating skills will permit him to strike a deal with the metropolis and the landowners to purchase the remaining privately held parts of the woods.
“It needs to be win-win,” he asserted. “We don’t expect the owners to get an unfair price. I expect that Montreal will find the funds to come through. That’s our objective. All members of the new city council are on the same page on this issue.”
City manager Patrice Boileau reported that the new council is starting out with a surplus of more than $1 million, having received more revenue than it anticipated from the welcome tax, investment income and sales of immovables.
Councilor Karen Messier, an ardent animal rights activist, was elected to chair the city’s environment committee, and Councilor David Pelletier will chair the demolition committee.
Councilor Pierre Demers will head Beaconsfield’s urban planning committee.
Before the new administrations first meeting wrapped up, Councilor Roger Moss introduced a motion opposing the Parti québécois government’s controversial values charter, a law which—besides limiting conspicuous expressions of religion—would also make French a fundamental right, like gender and racial equality. Beaconsfield thus joins a chorus of Montreal municipalities that have taken a stand against the charter.
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