• John Jantak

Hawa defects unsubstantiated accusations regarding temporary Exit 41 access road


JOHN JANTAK

Ste. Anne de Bellevue Mayor Paola Hawa said that recent personal attacks made against her by some residents during recent council meetings may lead to procedural changes to prevent people from using the forum to grandstand and make unsubstantiated derogatory comments towards council members.

While many Ste. Anne de Bellevue and off -island residents may be pleased that the city opened a temporary road to access southbound Boulevard des Anciens Combattants from Exit 41 along the westbound Highway 40 service road, some residents are taking Mayor Paola Hawa to task for apparently misleading the public about the traffic situation at the interchange.

The matter led to a testy exchange between Hawa and resident Michel Belleau who raised the issue during question period at last week’s council meeting on Wednesday, October 16, accusing the mayor of lying to the public regarding the severity of the traffic situation on the boulevard which also connects to Chemin St. Marie.

Belleau said that reports in regional newspapers including one published in the September 11th edition of Your Local Journal in which Hawa told council at the time that the temporary road will prevent further accidents from occurring because drivers will no longer have to make an illegal U-turn at the bottom of Chemin Ste. Marie to access southbound Boulevard des Anciens Combattants, are not true. Hawa said several accidents occurred at the U-turn in the past three and-a-half years because of the closure of the original access ramp in early 2012.

Belleau disputed Hawa’s assertion and said that a recent call he made to Police Station 1 revealed that no accidents were reported in 2013 and that one injury accident occurred earlier this year on Boulevard des Anciens Combattants near the fire station. In an interview with the Commander of Police Station 1, Richard Thouin told Your Local Journal that it’s impossible to provide accurate statistics on the number of accidents that may have happened at the U-Turn because minor incidents do not have to be reported to the police.

“If it’s a small accident, the drivers will resolve the situation themselves by filling out a joint accident report,” said Thouin. “The only time police are called is if there are injuries or if the cars are badly damaged and impeding the flow of traffic.” Thouin said that police have been on location several times to issue dangerous driving tickets to motorists who made illegal U-turns at the bottom of Chemin Ste. Marie before the temporary road was opened last month because of safety concerns and complaints made by area residents.

The police officers involved in the ticketing operation also noted that since the opening, the road safety aspect for motorists who use the interchange has greatly improved, added Thouin. For Hawa, question period in Ste. Anne’s is no longer about residents asking questions and getting an answer from the mayor or councillors – it’s about a small group of citizens who are using the forum to ask questions, and then follow up with unwanted commentary and unsubstantiated accusations if they don’t like the answer they receive.

“That’s the conundrum,” Hawa told Your Local Journal. “I firmly believe that everybody has the right to speak and everybody has the right to receive an answer. I even said citizens are welcome to ask any question they want, but these accusations and insults which is turning question period into a mockery of democracy, has to stop. “At one point, Mr. Belleau stood up and said, ‘You’re a liar. You’re misleading people. I’m going to work to get you off council.’ Those are not questions; those are attacks, personal attacks.

It’s as if they don’t see the difference between asking a question as part of a democratic process and insulting someone personally, so where do you draw the line?” Hawa said she may decide to follow Beaconsfield’s lead and limit the number of questions citizens can ask. Last November, new elected Mayor Georges Bourelle limited question period at Beaconsfield council to 30 minutes and each resident is allowed to ask only one question.

Bourelle imposed the new rules to prevent a similar situation from occurring during his current mandate, as happened regularly during the administration of former Mayor David Pollock when the question period would often degenerate into heated debates with police presence requested on at least two occasions.

“I don’t want to infringe on the rights of people who have a legitimate question, so what do you do?” asked Hawa. “Some other council members are saying this is not productive anymore. Question period should be an intelligent exchange where we find solutions together. That’s what it’s supposed to be about.”

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