Hampstead mayor William Steinberg, left, is served papers by a baliff in Montreal on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019.
Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette
Hampstead mayor William Steinberg was served a lawyer’s letter on Thursday claiming he used an illegal veto to postpone the council vote on the controversial housing project tenants have been protesting against since June.Two affordable housing buildings on Côte-St-Luc Rd. are slated to be demolished to make way for a 10-storey, 90-unit apartment complex — a project that has devastated the current buildings’ tenants and surrounding homeowners.At a council meeting on July 15, a majority of Hampstead councillors voted against the project, but Steinberg vetoed the decision, saying he wanted to postpone the vote to when a missing councillor would be present. At the following meeting on Aug. 5, three councillors voted for and three voted against the project.Steinberg broke the tie by voting in favour.The letter, which represents the tenants of the buildings slated to be torn down, says that according to Section 53 of the Cities and Towns Act, the mayor has the power to veto a resolution that was adopted, not one that was rejected.According to the letter, Steinberg’s veto was therefore invalid, which would mean the vote that followed — the vote that would move the project forward — was also invalid.“It’s always important to be careful; it’s not because a person in power says something that it’s right or true,” Maryse Lapointe, the lawyer who penned the letter, told the Montreal Gazette. “People make mistakes and sometimes misunderstand things.”But Steinberg said after having his town clerk and an outside lawyer look over the letter, he was informed that rejected resolutions are just as subject to his veto as adopted resolutions.Lapointe, on the other hand, said: “I am of the opinion that the law is clear, the mayor cannot veto a non-decision.”“I have vetoed resolutions a number of times, maybe 10 at the most in 14 years,” Steinberg told the Montreal Gazette. “There are different reasons for vetoing resolutions. In some cases, and this was the case on July 15, we didn’t have a full council. So the vote went one way, but I knew — or strongly suspected — that the vote would have gone in the opposite direction.”At the July 15 meeting, Steinberg told the audience: “I think it’s a good project for the town, but not for the people who are going to have to move. That’s my opinion, and that’s not the one that counts.”Related
Since the mayor was the tiebreaker on Aug. 5, some residents interpreted his decision to veto as a sneaky move to push forward an agenda.Some wonder why he proceeded with the initial vote at all if he thought all councillors should be present.“They went against their own bylaw, they went against their own vote, so basically, they went against the law,” Marie Pontini, a longtime tenant in one of the buildings, told the Montreal Gazette after the council meeting on Aug. 5.When asked about his decision to postpone the vote, Steinberg said: “Isn’t it right that all the elected councillors should make a decision as important as this, and not a minority?”Pontini, who needs a 4 1/2-room apartment to accommodate her needs, said she has been looking up other apartments but can’t find anything in her price range. All the listings she could find were upward of $800 — for a 1 1/2.“I have a mobility scooter, two manual wheelchairs … Just that would be the whole room,” she said. “I need a 4 1/2.”firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter.com/katelynvthomas