A New Adventure

This is the first post in my new blog. For years, I have written stories, books and articles or ‘produced content’ (can you tell I don’t like that phrase?) for various partners. This is the beginning of a new life as a publisher, in a more interactive format than I’ve had the privilege to participate in before.

Most of my work will continue to be distributed by important partners, including Ulysses and the Suburban, but this venue will give me a chance to explore topics and profile people who don’t generally make the news. I plan to explore the many styles of non-fiction shorts, including reportage, opinion, reviews and quotes.

If I can hold back my intense serious nature a bit, perhaps I’ll also be able to explore humour too; since I’m usually the one who giggles at others, though, perhaps I’ll just lead you to funny people I love.

As you can see, I also plan to produce a local calendar of events, most of which are produced by local non-profit citizen groups. These are the people who don’t get mentioned much in the daily press, primarily because they don’t have the presence or influence of bigger players. They are crucial actors in a vibrant community, however, so I really want to learn more about them.

If you have any topics you want addressed, please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Residents Question Verdun’s Loosened Demolition Rules

Commercial property owners in Verdun will soon be able demolish heritage buildings in a bad state of repair or at the back of a property without a Site Planning and Architectural Integration (SPAI) review.

“Is this not an invitation to all landlords to stop maintaining their buildings so that they can develop the land for one project or another,” said Gilles Laberge. “There has not been an inventory of buildings in the back of lots, so I’m surprised that the city is so ready to purge them.”

The amendment to bylaw 1700-88 was initially presented to Verdun’s urban planning, housing and heritage committee. Ann Guy, Benoit Malette and Pascale Tremblay sit on the committee. Researcher David Lamontagne-Métivier was also present at the meeting.

The public heard about the change during a 15-minute public consultation prior to the last Borough Council Meeting, February 7. Ann Guy was the only elected official who heard resident comments. She and her colleagues passed the bylaw unanimously less than half an hour later. The change takes effect after the city of Montreal approves it, perhaps next month. (The issue doesn’t appear on March agendas for city council, the executive committee nor the agglomeration council.)

In addition to his comments about owners, Laberge, who is a historian, raised concerns about whether the bylaw amendment would allow the Douglas Institute to tear down an unused root cellar that is one of the last remaining agricultural buildings in Verdun. He didn’t get an answer.

In a later email to the Suburban, Verdun spokesperson Francine Morin wrote that the borough “has established that no 100% commercially used building on its territory has any heritage value.”

She also confirmed that the Douglas Institute applied for a permit to tear the root cellar down in 2010, but Verdun’s planning advisory committee refused the request.

Marie France Coutu, a communications officer with the Douglas Institute, says the organization no longer plans to demolish the circa-1920 building. “In our mandate, there is no money set aside for heritage buildings, but we are conscious that these buildings have value to the community,” she said. “Our intention is to leave it as it is. It’s locked and secured. We don’t want to get rid of it.”

Residents are relieved that an important Verdun landmark might still be saved, but some still complain about the way Verdun handled the public consultation.

“How can we have faith in our elected officials when they treat us like this,” said Fabiola Renaud. “They invite us for one subject and when we arrive, they present something different. The avis told us that the Mayor would explain the changes to the bylaw, but he wasn’t even there. Then after they made us work, M. Malette didn’t even have time to tell them what we said before they passed the amendment anyway. They’re laughing at us.”

(A version of this article appeared on March 14 on page 7 of The Suburban’s City Edition.)

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Calm Meeting at Manoir Roger Bernard

Sixty-two tenants attended the annual tenants’ association meeting at Manoir Roger Bernard in Pierrefonds on Tuesday afternoon, January 31. This is the association that tenant Daniel Palladini has been questioning in the last year. Palladini did attend the meeting, but he didn’t speak.

A budget with revenues of $17,426.55 and expenses of $18,383.14, was presented and unanimously approved, with questions and comments in English, French and some Chinese. Five officers, including the president, Carol Padulo, were acclaimed in their positions.

Members of the press were requested to remain in the hall during the meeting so that tenants could choose to close the door if discussions became heated, but that didn’t happen. Few people questioned the budget and one tenant tried to make a motion to pass it before the agenda for the meeting was accepted.

The most contentious question came from a tenant who asked how members could trust the figures in the budget.

“Administrators with the OMHM [Office Municipal d’Habitation du Montreal] audit the tenants’ association budget,” said meeting moderator, Stéphan Corriveau. Corriveau is a community organiser with the Féderation des locataires d’habitations à loyer modique du Quebec, which represents tenants in subsidized housing throughout Quebec. “This is normal and something that all associations in Quebec face.”

After that, the treasurer, Anne Belisle, spoke about the figures in detail. The two highest figures were more than $3,000 each: fees for six dinners and a grant of $17 per unit, minus fifty cents for insurance. The rest of the income consisted of fees for the community kitchen meals ($2 each for 400 meals), six dinners, two lunches, two brunches, trips, a craft sale and rental of space to Elections Canada.

Expenses included the cost of a new bingo machine, transportation for trips to Mont Tremblant and a sugar shack and kitchen expenses. The swimming pool is operated by a separate members’ association, so expenses for it were not mentioned.

“What difference from three years ago, when I was here last,” said Corriveau, after the meeting. “Three years ago, there were 100 people in the room, but the feeling wasn’t positive. The general trend now is positive. There are lots of activities, even beyond the ones that influenced the budget. People are involved. They have a good team here.”

Note: This article appeared in the West Island edition of the Suburban yesterday.

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OMHM Lawyer Objects to Court Delay for Senior Seeking Medical Treatment

On January 23, Marc Charland wrote a letter to the scheduling agent at the Quebec Rental Board asking him or her to ignore a January 18 letter from Daniel Palladini.

“En effet, il apparait que ladite lettre de M. Palladini, laquelle n’est aucunement corroboré par quelque pièce justificative, est tout à fait inadmissible et dilatoire,” [In fact, it appears that the aforementioned letter from M. Palladini, which is corroborated by no evidence, is completely inadmissible and dilatory.] wrote Charland in a letter signed by someone with the initials ‘KS’. “En consequence, nous vous prions de ne pas tenir compte de ladite lettre de M. Palladine et de fixer la continuation de l’audition le plus rapidement possible.” [Therefore, please pay no attention to the aforementioned letter by Mr. Palladini and set a date for the continuation of the hearing as soon as possible.]

Palladini is a 70-year-old facing eviction from the Manoir Bernard, a subsidized residence in Pierrefonds. Charland, a principle partner at Charland & Séguin in Montreal North, is representing the Office Municipal d’Habitation de Montreal (OMHM) in the case.

The two last saw each other on January 12th, when Commissioner Rosario Nobile charged them with agreeing to two specific dates for the hearing to continue.

Palladini’s letter, in which says that he will be out of the country until March 5, was addressed and faxed to M. Charland personally and copied to the Regie du Logement and Nobile.

Charland’s letter is addressed to the “Maitre des Roles” at the rental board. He did not send a copy to Palladini, who picked it up himself from the Regie when he went to get audio copies of four days of testimony that’s taken place in the hearing so far.

The move is the latest frustration for Palladini, who is trying to plan a trip to Cuba to have dental work and eyelid surgery done.

For three years, he’s combined medical treatment with a vacation in the sun. He says he pays less than half for the combination than he would have to pay for subsidized dental work at home.

“I’m exhausted and I want to have medical treatment at the same time,” said Palladini. “The lawyer has never contacted me. I spoke to him at this time last year when I rushed back from Cuba. I sent him a letter asking for a copy of the evidence and he said he’d give it to me when the hearing commenced. He gave Maitre Beauchamps (Palladini’s then-lawyer) a 40-page document at the beginning of the hearing and she’s supposed to represent me. This is not a typical landlord tenant squabble.”

(This article appeared in the West Island and city editions of the Suburban yesterday.)

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