Ste. Anne’s Braerob acquisition divides council loyalties
Four Ste. Anne de Bellevue councillors voted to propose dropping the money that had been previously allocated in the city’s triennial 2016-18 budget for Braerob’s renovation and the purchase of the surrounding land.
Ongoing divisions among Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa and the city’s six councillors prompted two residents to ask whether they could resolve their differences in order to adequately serve the needs of all residents as a cohesive unit, during question period at the April 11 Monday evening council meeting.
The tension was palpable as several motions were added to the agenda at the start of the meeting dealing with the restoration of the Maison Michel-Robillard, the former Braerob farmhouse on Chemin Ste. Marie. The resolutions asked that correspondence and a study related to the project be released for public scrutiny.
Councillors Daniel Boyer, Yvon Labelle, Michel Boudreault and Francis Juneau, who voted in favour of adopting the resolutions, also unanimously voted to propose dropping the money that had been previously allocated in the city’s triennial 2016-18 budget for Braerob’s renovation and the purchase of the surrounding land at the March council meeting. Councillors Dana Chevalier, Ryan Young and Mayor Hawa voted against.
Hawa disputed the assertion made by Boudreault that $2 million had been set aside, saying the figure was misleading and that the cost was $1.7 million. She also questioned why the dissenting councillors had suddenly changed their support for the project recently, especially since council voted unanimously to adopt the 2015 PPU (Programme particulier d'urbanisme) which included the Braerob restoration and land purchase as an integral part of the city’s development plan.
She added that the cost of the project would be shouldered by the City of Montreal who would release the funds to Ste. Anne under the provision that it purchase the structure and land before it can receive the subsidies.
Young said he didn’t see any problem with making the documents public and that it would dispel any misconceptions that the city has something to hide. He added that he doubted he would support a future urban plan that didn’t include the Braerob restoration project.
But for Boudreault, the project is not in line with the current financial reality the town is facing with the expected loss of tax revenue with the transfer of Ste. Anne’s Hospital from federal to provincial control and with other more pressing issues that have to be addressed.
Another contentious issue was the veto proposed by Hawa at the March council meeting which was meant to keep the code of ethics clause intact for citizens who volunteer their time on the city’s urban consultation committee which she says was put in place to keep sensitive confidential information from being leaked publicly.
All six councillors voted unanimously to drop the veto, saying that a municipal conflict of interest provision should be enough to ensure members act in a professional manner. Hawa supported the veto saying the provision does nothing to prevent anyone from leaking confidential information.
When asked whether council would be able to work together as requested by the citizens, Boudreault was skeptical. “For me it’s obvious since the beginning of this mandate, it’s often her way or no way, and as soon as you don’t agree with things or want to change things that she wants to push forward, then you become a person who’s against her,” he said.
“I know because I paid the price last year when she convinced council to expel me (from caucus). After a couple of months, some of the council members realized it was a mistake, that what they heard from her was not the truth. Then they came to me and asked me to rejoin caucus. Now we’re four councillors who agree and make things happen and the mayor doesn’t like that, but that’s democracy. That’s the way it goes,” said Boudreault.
Hawa was a bit more pragmatic with her response. “One of the citizens asked isn’t it time we stopped washing our dirty laundry in public? I absolutely agree. I replied that when people come here and make public statements that accuse, belittle and disrespect and behave in an uncivil manner and with four journalists sitting here tonight, what do you think is going to happen?
“We have great things coming up at the end of this month and over the summer,” Hawa added. “My biggest fear is that these things will take a back seat to the dirt. How does this serve our city? People are talking about filling up empty store fronts. Who’s going to be interested in our city if we look dysfunctional? Does it really serve our city? ‘Is that why you were elected as councillor; to serve your ego,’ as one person said.”