Residents angry at Bourelle comments; questions arise on Cogeco withdrawal
With files from Beryl Wajsman, Editor
Controversy continues to swirl in Beaconsfield even after the announcement that Cogeco Metromedia’s planned electronic billboard (EBB) will not go ahead. Beaconsfield Mayor Georges Bourelle sparked anger in the days following a public consultation meeting held May 25. That anger continues unabated.
Apart from the passionate opposition of some 140 plus residents who attended the consultation on the 25th, matters were made worse that night when Bourelle’s administration issued a press release about the results of the consultation while it was ongoing.
The meeting lasted until 9:15 p.m., but at about 8 p.m. members of the media received the release that indicated a calm exchange of ideas had occurred. The reality was far different.
Not one of the residents attending supported the billboard plan. They voiced their opposition as to policy and process particularly in what struck many as a lack of transparency and a fait accompli being presented.
After Daniel Mongeau held up an iPhone on which the premature release was visible and questioned the goodwill of the proceedings, longtime resident and sound wall activist Derrick Pounds said to the mayor, “You should be ashamed of yourself, sending out a release prior to the end of the meeting.”
At that point Mayor Bourelle exclaimed, “Derrick do you want to be removed?” to which Pounds responded, “Go ahead,” and another resident said, “I guess we should all be kicked out,” at which point all attendees but six left the chamber.
Bourelle compounded the anger and controversy in the following days when he denigrated the 140 plus attendees as not being a “true representation of residents,” who in his mind were the “silent majority who had politely called and e-mailed” rather than coming to the consultation, as he told local media.
“Does this mean that hostile to the council residents are not real concerned citizens? What’s the message being sent here?” wondered resident and public consultation attendee Dennis Partington.
“As one of the residents who attended the public consultation Monday night, I am appalled and offended by Mayor Bourelle’s denigrating comment about those 140 committed residents who took the time to attend the public consultation to voice their concerns,” explained resident and lawyer Brigitte Garceau.
Adding to this already volatile mix, Bourelle then called an emergency council caucus meeting for Wednesday morning. The press release from that meeting caused even more public confusion and questions.
The release stated that Cogeco and the city had reached a “mutual agreement” to withdraw the billboard proposal. Bourelle later said that Beaconsfield and Cogeco had come to this decision in the face of “the overwhelming number of e-mails and phone messages received after the presentation Monday.”
No sooner had that release and statement been issued than Beaconsfield Councillor Pierre Demers gave quite another version of the emergency meeting stating that for the “sake of transparency, it should be noted that the decision by Beaconsfield Council to withdraw the EBB proposition had much more to do with Cogeco’s decision to withdraw its offer to the city than ‘the overwhelming number of e-mails and phone messages received after the presentation Monday.”
Michel Guay, who was also at the May 25 EBB consultation, believes that Bourelle was less than forthright by stating the city and Cogeco had come to a mutual agreement to withdraw the EBB proposal and “pretending that it was the residents who aided in the final decision when it was Cogeco that pulled out first.
“The mayor is misleading the people,” Guay told The Suburban. “Where is the transparency in that?” Guay believes the press release suggesting that the city and Cogeco agreed on matters of “social acceptability” was simply Mayor Bourelle “trying to save face.”
“If the statements made by Councillor Demers are accurate, then the mayor has misled the public and lost credibility,” Brigitte Garceau added.
Because of the mayor’s lack of clarity and transparency on the issue of Cogeco and the billboard contract, resident Karoline Laforest made a reference on Facebook likening Bourelle’s conduct in the affair to the fable of the “Emperor’s new clothes”, to which the mayor of Beaconsfield astonishingly responded “Long live the Emperor.”