Since his return to politics, at the municipal level, Russell Copeman has lent himself as a friend to the English-speaking Black community, advocating on our behalf when the opportunity calls.
As borough mayor of Cote des Neiges-Notre Dame de Grace, Copeman made it his business to offer support to the many individuals and groups that reach out to him on a regular basis.
As a senior member of the Denis Coderre administration at City Hall, he is proud of its track record and always proves to be a capable spokesman and defender of their past years in office.
However, always it gives him pause when he tries to address his administration or any of the past ones at city hall’s record on helping to elevate minority communities, especially the English-speaking Blacks, out of their current morass .
“Unfortunately, it’s an issue that we’re still trying to get a handle on,” he told the CONTACT. “And I fully understand the high level of cynicism in these communities that feel they’re not getting their fair share of all that the city has to offer.”
Copeman says he also knows that city council does not “sufficiently reflect the faces” of all Montrealers, but he testifies about “a clear and strong commitment” on the part of his administration to bring change.
He says what’s needed to fast forward the issue are agents of change and points to the candidacy of Tiffany Callender and Gabriel Retta as going in the right direction.
“I need those two individuals with me at City Hall to help advocate for change.”
Copeman, who sits on the City’s Executive Committee, and is responsible for housing, urban planning, buildings, real estate transactions and strategies, and the Office of Public Consultation, was also the Liberal MNA for Notre Dame de Grace between 1994 and 2008.
He says there’s a clear choice for Montreal in the upcoming municipal vote.
“The way I see it, there are four ways to make your choice, leadership, record, platform and team, and Team Coderre is way ahead of the other parties on all counts.”
He says mayor Denis Coderre has shown himself to be an effective and decisive leader that ended the paralysis at City Hall.
“Also, Montrealers can say with assurance that they are better off today than they were four years ago.”
Copeman also talked about the promise of building a better Montreal for all, pointing to 5000 social housing units that are going to be built by his administration, touting the $94 million that will come from Quebec City along with the new housing portfolio.
“And as far as the team is concerned: look at the group I’ve put together in Cote de Neiges – NDG linguistically and culturally diverse,” he says.
Copeman stands assured that their administration represents the future of Montreal.
Tiffany Callender will be a conduit between City Hall and community groups
In the month or so that Tiffany Callender has been on the campaign trail, doing the door-to-door routine, soliciting votes on street corners and standing outside metro stations, attending events and coordinating with volunteers, she has come to know the true meaning of exhaustion.
But she will not be deterred she says, because everyday she draws from her source of inspiration, which are her three children ages nine, six and two.
“My family means the world to me and part of the reason why I chose to enter municipal politics is to ensure that all families benefit from the family-friendly policies that have been put in place by the current administration.”
She points to the Politique de L’Enfant, a municipal government program that promises support for children in and around Montreal between the ages of 0 to 17 in areas such as health education and leisure.
“I think Mayor Coderre and his administration have created a great environment for families and I look forward to an opportunity to make sure that people in my district benefit from these services.”
Callender, who spent many of her formative years at the NDG Black Community Association before becoming the executive director of the Cote des Neiges Black Community Association (CDNBCA), says she intends to be a conduit between City Hall and Montrealers.
“As a community worker and advocate, I learned to listen to those in need of assistance and I intend to continue to do that, but I’m also prepared to work with the many individuals and groups in my district that might not be aware of available services.”
In the weeks that she has been out and about meeting voters in the Cote des Neiges area, Callender says the feedback has been very encouraging and she really values her chances of unseating her main rival Madga Popeanu, a political stalwart and one of the founders of the opposition Projet Montreal.
“What I hear from those that I’ve met is that the ethnocultural communities really love Denis Coderre as do the French voters, while the English-speakers are strong supporters of borough mayor, Russell Copeman, so I feel as if I’m in good company.”
Callender says it will be a privilege to represent Cote des Neiges, a district in which she has been working for many years and one that distinguishes itself with its extremely big student population attending the many universities and colleges in the area.
Among the many issues that she has been able to identify is a need for adequate housing for students and more Bixi ports to address their quest for easier transportation and mobility.
She says the administration also has an extensive development plan for businesses in the area, part of which involves trying to encourage the army of tourists that visit the St. Joseph Oratory every year to walk the area, and support the entrepreneurs in the vicinity.
Callender’s candidacy represents a landmark for the English-speaking Black community that has yet to find any representation among the 65 candidates at City Hall.
As she gives it her all in making this much-needed political breakthrough, she is hoping that her campaign can mobilize the community as she calls on us to lend our support.
Her campaign is looking for financial support and volunteers. And there’re several ways to help: If you live in any of the 19 boroughs that make up the city of Montreal, you can donate up to $200 and receive an 80% tax receipt. If you live outside of Montreal you can make a contribution of $25.
Tiffany Callender’s Campaign Office: 6570 Cote des Neiges Road, Montreal.
Errol Johnson acclaimed again in DDO
The one thing that keeps Errol Johnson at the forefront of the poitical coversations in the west island borough of Dollard des Ormeaux is his ability to connect with voters.
“Over the years, what I found to be most important for them (voters) has been to deliver on what you say you will,” he says.
Whatever the formula, Johnson continues to maintain a hold on voters in DDO’s District 2, winning the seat by acclaimmation for the second consecutive year.
When he was last challenged in 2009, he easily surpassed his opponent by the biggest margin in that year’s municipal election, 1,143 votes to 193.
Johnson told the CONTACT that he doesn’t take any of it for granted.
“ Voters know they can count on me do what’s best not only for the district but for the entire borough,” he says. “ I live here I and I’m prepared towork with whomever it takes to improve the quality of life for everyone in Dollard des Ormeaux.”
He says they know also that he has consistent in his commitment and that he is in it for the long haul.
When Johnson first threw his hat in the ring of municipal politics 20-something years ago, voters were not very receptive. In fact, he was rejected on two occassions before being elected in 1997.
“They saw how determined and committed I was, they eventually respoded positively.”
Before making the move to politics, Johnson had built a successful business as a financial security advisor and helped his three daughters find pathways into successful careers.
So his decision to seek election as a city councillor was a personal quest answering to his long held craving to impact on the lives of others and serve his community through political involvement.
“When I left Jamaica, my hope was to return one day and get involved in politics, which didn’t happen because I chose to build my life here but that desire for politics never left.”
From the get-go his foray to win elected office was fraught with challenges, the biggest of which might have been the fact that he was a Black man running in a district that was predominantly white.
“I knew in order to win the confodence of my voters I had to show myself to be competent and trust-worthy, which wasn’t difficult to do because I had a good track record.”
Once elected Johnson realized that the most effective way of getting things done in his municipality is to work with his fellow city councillors and the mayor.
“It’s a lesson I learned real early in the game and I used it to my advantage.”
Today he stands as one of DDO’s most recognized poiticians having also developed a strong national profile working with the Progresasive Conservative Party in the 1980s and 90s.
In 2003, Johnson merged two of his lasting passions, music and community deveopment when he founded the West Island Blues Festival, which emerged as an annual showcase of Canadian musical taent and a signature event on Montreeal’s cultural calender.
Over the past 14 years the festival has donated more than $150,000 to various West Island charities including the West Island Black Community Association (WIBCA), the West Island Women’s Shelter and Call of the Wild and AJOI, an organization serving displaced youth in the region.
About $100,000 of the donations went to WIBCA, which provides a range of services to our community including to seniors and students.
As he walks easily into his sixth term of office in DDO, Johnson remains convinced that politics must be made to work for families and communities and that remains his motivation.
I’ll always try to deliver on anything I promise,” he reiterated.
Candidate in the Loyola district
Gabriel Retta comes WITH an overload of political acumen
The term political animal might be an apt description of Gabriel Retta’s drive and determination in the arena of public service.
After 15 years in politics, working at the three levels of government, the ultimate back-room guy is ready to take the goldmine of experience that he has accumulated to City Hall and put it to work on behalf of residents of the Loyola district in the Cote-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grace borough.
He says there are many individuals and groups in his district and in our community who are still in the dark when it comes to programs and services to enhance their lives in Montreal.
“I feel a sense of duty to do all in my power to inform and engage residents on the available programs in place for employment, entrepreneurs and community development.”
And those who know will tell you that few are as equipped as Retta to guide Montrealers through the maze of services and projects that the municipal government has in place.
In the decade and a half that he has been on the political scene, the Italian-born Ethiopian Canadian has been a political attaché to former NDG-Lachine MP Marlene Jennings and Marguerite Blais, MNA for Saint-Henri-Sainte-Anne between 2002 and 2013.
Over the past four years he was serving as a policy advisor in the Office of the Mayor and the Executive Committee of the City of Montréal.
Retta says his commitment to families across Montreal is unwavering but he is especially focused on helping young people take advantage of the opportunities that are available to them.
“It’s disappointing to see the number of young people in our community who are unemployed or under-employed when in fact many of them can easily take their places in public sector jobs such as in the fire services and the police department,” he says. “They need proper guidance.”
And Retta will be the first to tell you that he is the right person to get them pointed in the right direction.
He speaks five languages (French, English, Italian Spanish and Amharic (Ethiopian) and has been active in groups such as Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi NDG;
Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi Marquette (Lachine), CDEC, CDN-NDG, RESO and the Board of Trade of Southwest Montréal.
“My objective is to inform and engage young people on Municipal politics,” he says. “After I’m elected on November 5, I’ll make my cell phone available to any young person and all residents of the Loyola district who wants it. And I answer my phone.”
Gabriel Retta Constituent Office is at 6140 Sherbrooke Street W. in NDG.
Running in Loyola…
Keeton Clarke: building from the bottom up
After 30 years of community activism Keeton Clarke is ready to take it to the next level, that’s why he has thrown his hat in the ring for the Nov. 5 municipal elections as a candidate for Coalition Montreal in the Loyola district.
“I’m doing it because for too long there’s been a disparity in the distribution of resources and in access to opportunities for minority communities, so I’m hoping to speak on their behalf at City Hall,” he told the CONTACT in a recent interview.
Also, although his party might be going into the elections without a mayoral candidate (it’s registered leader, Jean Fortier, pulled out of the campaign on Wednesday, October 17), Clarke still hopes that Coalition Montreal can be a viable alternative to the two parties, Team Coderre and Valerie Plante’s Projet Montreal.
“Too many issues that are important to residents in the borough of Cote des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grace are not making it to City Hall and I think it’s because there’s a big disconnect between those who are in office and the people.”
Clarke says after knocking on hundreds, maybe thousands of doors, he has been able identify a long list of lingering issues in Loyola, including what he describes as disparities in street lights in areas such as Somerled and Fielding streets.
He says the inadequate lighting on Fielding sometimes leads to faulty perceptions of their street and the over-policing that comes with it.
Clarke says his many years of community work, which include involvement with community groups in LaSalle, Little Burgundy, Cote des Neiges and with the Negro Community Centre, enhanced his ability to recognize and advocate for better community development.
He sees his potential role as an important one because this is the way he sees it, “community development is quite low on the priority list of the borough administration, so as things are, we need elected officials who can build bridges or make a difference in the lives of families,” he says.
“We can’t always wait on policies coming from the top. When I look at what’s needed in the Loyola district, I think I’m better able to work from the ground up.”
Reach Keeton Clarke at email@example.com (438) 764-1410.
Maureen Chin runs in Cote des Neiges district
On guard to help families and build communities
Maureen Chin stands as one of the candidates vying for the Cote Neiges district in the November 5 municipal elections, running with Real Change For Montreal (Vrai Changement Pour Montreal).
One of the reasons she’s in the race, she says, is because she is her best self when she’s helping others. And as she sees it, there are a lot of families needing help in Cote Des Neiges.
And right off the top she listed a number of those areas that need improvement:
* Social housing is definitely on my agenda
* Better coordination of road works to reduce congestion
* More community gardens to go along with the city’s exciting plans for a greener environment
* Exemption of taxes for churches and spaces of religious worship.
Chin, a coordinator in the psychiatric unit at the McGill University Center, who served for three years as vice-president of the Employees Union at the Montreal General Hospital, relishes her role working on behalf people who are on the outside.
As such, she was one of the founding members of Café Boustifable, a community kitchen project in the southwest district providing meals to displaced individuals and helping disadvantaged youth with on-the-job training.
“I come from a long line of political types, with several of my uncles and aunts involved in politics in Jamaica,” she told the CONTACT. “I sincerely believe that I can make a difference.”
Also, as a chartered real estate agent she has deep rooted interest in social housing, which she says remains an outstanding issue in the district.
“I think that I have feasible ideas to bring to the discussion.”
She says she chose to run with Real Change For Montreal (Vrai Changement Pour Montreal) because of its progressive and community-oriented policies.
And whatever the outcome of the elections she will continue to be interested in development of family and communities.
Vrai Changement Pour Montreal public meeting and fundraiser
Vrai Changement Pour Montreal will host a public meeting and fundraiser in the CDN district at the Centre de Ressources Communautaire de Côte-des-Neiges, Grande Salle, 6767 Côte-des-Neiges Rd, on Wednesday, October 25, between 7-9pm. Entrance fee is $5 minimum.